Wayyiqtol origins/phonology (was: die Flucht ins Prasens, Peter)

Henry Churchyard churchyh at ccwf.cc.utexas.edu
Wed Jun 9 06:32:40 EDT 1999

> Subject: Re: Wayyiqtol origins/phonology (was: die Flucht ins Prasens, Peter)
> From: Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>
> Date: Sat, 5 Jun 1999 12:24:06 +0200

> Henry Churchyard wrote:

>> in the older languages, the "non-volitive yaqtul tense" does show
>> definite morphological distinctness from any other "non-volitive".
>> It is only with the late 2nd. millennium B.C. loss of word-final
>> short-vowels in Hebrew that the original "yaqtul" and "yaqtulu"
>> forms began to be phonologically homophonous in many (but by no
>> means all) cases.  Furthermore, the "non-volitive yaqtul tense" is
>> found in languages which simply don't have a yaqtulu (which is
>> apparently not an old common Semitic form, while yaqtul is).  (I
>> use the neutral term "non-volitive yaqtul tense" to allow you to
>> call it whatever you want to call it, if you don't like the term
>> "preterite".)  In any case, various phonological phenomena in
>> attested Tiberian Hebrew (stress differences, apocopation in
>> lamedh-he, the difference between the final syllables of Hiph`il
>> wayyaqtel vs. yaqtil, etc.) are strong phonological indications
>> that Hebrew wayyiqtol goes back to an original *yaqtul form with
>> shorter endings than the *yaqtulu which is the source of Hebrew
>> non-consecutive yiqtol, as discussed in my dissertation (compressed
>> PDF of chapter 4 is included in the file to be downloaded at
>> http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~churchyh/c1-4xcpt.zip ).

> I have read your chapter 4 with great interest


> I am not negative to the term "preterite", but I insist on
> differentiating between "preterite" (which means a grammaticalized
> past tense) and "past meaning" (which may include preterites and
> forms which are time-indifferent).  My concern regarding WAYYIQTOL
> and WEQATAL is primarily semantical and only secondarily
> phonological.  At this point I do not want to try to dispute any of
> your conclusions, but I want to focus on one of your assumptions,
> namely that there in the older Semitic languages existed a preterite
> to which WAYYIQTOL goes back.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody
> has ever made a systematic study of whether the widespread past use
> of the short prefix-forms in different Semitic languages is
> pragmatic or semantic.

I have no idea how the meanings of the Akkadian preterite or the
Arabic pseudo-jussive after _lam_, etc. were established, but in
Akkadian, for example, there's no yaqtulu around to complicate things.

> Granted that the conclusions in your last paragraph above are
> correct, would it make any difference if the short YAQTUL form to
> which WAYYIQTOL goes back was not a tense but a mood? To state it
> differently: if we assume that tense is not grammaticalized in any
> of the old Semitic verbal systems, but the long/short forms
> represent modal differences, and these are manifest in the long
> YIQTOL versus the short YIQTOL/WAYYIQTOL in Hebrew, would that be
> harmonious with the phonological conclusions of your thesis?

It would make no difference to the phonological side of things in
Hebrew; but in comparative terms, if you're implying that there is
some ancient and deep connection between *yaqtulu and non-volitive
*yaqtul, that doesn't seem to be the case; yaqtulu is an innovation,
and some languages have non-volitive yaqtul without having yaqtulu.

> Another question: In the verb MWT the WAYYIQTOL form is normally
> WAYYFMOT with penultimate stress. In 1 kings 21:10 and Judges 6:30
> we find WEYIQTOL forms of the same verb as WEYFMOT with ultimate
> stress.  Is it not the WA/WE difference in the first syllable that
> influences the stress

Not phonologically (as I briefly discuss in sections 4.0 and 4.5 of my
dissertation chapter) -- w at yamot is jussive, and shows perfectly
regular stress for Hebrew (on the final syllable of a synchronically
underlyingly consonant-final form), while wayyamot shows morphologized

> However, in Ezra 1:3 we find the WEYIQTOLS of BNH and (LH with
> penultimate stress as in the case with the WAYYIQTOLS of the same
> verbs. Are these forms strange in your view?

These are jussives too.  It's a fact (which must be accommodated in
any theory) that lamedh-he roots show apocopation and stress shift in
the jussive (and the 3rd.masc.sg. imperative), while other types of
roots do not show stress-shifts in these morphological categories
(except for the very few relic forms discussed in the chapter).  But
these particular apocopated jussive forms w at ya`al and w at yibhen are not
individually peculiar, no...

> One last question: Could shewa and patax be pronounced similarly by the
> masoretes?

With regards to vowel quality alone, yes, in some circumstances -- but
there's a strong phonological difference between w at y- and wayy- which
demands a very specific explanation.  (In other cases of such
geminates in Hebrew, generally a consonant has assimilated.)

         --Henry Churchyard     churchyh at ccwf.cc.utexas.edu

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