evolution of the suffixed forms

Bryan Rocine brocine at earthlink.net
Wed Jun 16 09:21:35 EDT 1999

Hi John,

Thanks very much for your thoughtful questions.

You wrote:

> Dear Bryan,
> If the qatal form was originally a tenseless attributive,
it seems to this ameteur
> theorist that it might help explain how it ended up as
both past and future (weqatal)
> by analogy with yiqtol/wayyiqtol (BTW - no one nowadays
says the waw "converts"
> anything, do they?).

Oh my, yes!  See Waltke and O'Connor 32.1.3e for their
qualified definition of "waw-conversive" and the suffixed
form.  Many of the most widely used teaching grammars still
teach "conversion."

But when this development occurred (i.e. wayyiqtol being
> reserved for past, yiqtol for future/habitual), it seems
to me there would be a vacuum
> that qatal would irresistably get sucked into.  I.e. how
many languages are there
> where you can say "and he did" (wayya`as) but you can't
say simply "he did" (isn't
> this what your model is saying?), or "he did not do" (do
you disagree that lo' qatal
> is the negative of wayyiqtol?).

I agree that the attributive qatal is quite compatible with
past since the subject's coming into this state does most
often takes place prior to the speaker's time, i.e. int he
past.  And clearly, the qatal does ultimately evolve into a
past.  However, there are so many uses of the qatal in a
non-past reference in the Tanakh, the evolution from an
essentially attributive form into a past form does not seem
to have occurred yet at the time of the Tanakh's being
written.  As for your good question about "AND he did"
versus "he did":  I think vayya`as says them both.  `asah
says something different.  In other words, the vav plus
gemination of the wayyiqtol is more of a signal than and
lexical "and."  I do not think that lo' qatal is the
negative of wayyiqtol, at least not generally.  I would say
that a negated proposition represents the irreal world
rather than the real as a wayyiqtol represents.   Although I
do not deny that a negated qatal can sometimes represent an
event on the mainline, I generally consider the construction
as irrealis and off-the-line and "stative."

> Some other questions that occur to me up in thinking of
qatal as only an attributive
> (all asked with an open mind):
> To go back to Gen 1:5 - are all the translations since LXX
which use the same verb
> form to translate both wayyira' and qara' (i.e. probably
all translations except yours
> and Young's so-called literal translation) wrong?

What kind of iconoclast do you imagine me to be?  ;-)

The translations are terrific!
Seriously.  But they're not Hebrew.  Are we learning Hebrew
when we can translate the Tanakh precisely as our favorite
translators already have?  Hope not.  Why are we are
taking all this time, effort and expense to learn BH?  One
reason for me is, if possible, to
access and talk about those nuances of BH which
may be difficult to signify in English or another target
language.  For instance, I think there is a difference in
meaning between a wayyiqtol and a qatal, as I have
explained, but it is rarely captured in English.  I often
use this "-er" translation of the qatal to try to capture
its meaning
as an attribution.  I admit the attempt is somewhat feeble,
but the good thing about it is that it reminds us that the
qatal is different than the wayyiqtol.  I think it
encourages us to stop and appreciate that English is not BH
and BH is not English.

Another point:  The traditions for how to translate the BH
forms into English were already so firmly entrenched in the
tradition created by the revered English (and other)
translations by the time comparative Semitics and modern
linguistics come on the scene, that we can hardly claim that
comparative Semitics or modern linguistics are allowed to
have a really unhampered
effect on *how* to translate BH.  What do you think?

> If qatal is attributive, why would it necessarily be
durative - i.e. why couldn't
> *rats* mean "he was one that ran" rather than "he was a
runner" (the first doesn't
> sound much different from a simple past tense)?

I'm taking your question as being about translating the
qatal.  I think I mentioned before that an English "-er"
word does not necessarily express habit or repetitive
action.  One only needs to commit a single crime to be
rightly called a criminal.  So Cain was a murderER having
killed once, his righteous brother.  On the other hand, the
English '-er' word is (to say the least) quite compatible
with a
habitual or repetitive sense as, I think, is also the BH
qatal when used in its gnomic sense.  BTW, I think "he was
the one that ran" gives a fair sense for Hebrew *rats*, but
your use of a cleft construction presents another problem
within the pragmatic frameworks of BH vs. English.  If the H
had been *hu' rats*, I might be even more inclined to accept
your translation.

> Is qatal redundant with hayah plus participle (eg Deut
9:22, 24)?  Are there places
> where qatal can be shown to be the equivalent of hayah
plus participle?
> How does hayah get translated as an attributive?  Qatal

I do not view hyh as a mere copulative.  It is closer to
Greek GINOMAI than EIMI.  So hyh is only "quasi stative" as
a root.
I have trouble translating qatal of hyh.  I often use "had
become" and often settle for the English copulative.

Qatal statives:  I express them a couple ways, most often as
predicate adjectives, e.g.
qatal: qatonti  "I am (was) small."
wayyiqtol: va'eqtan  "I became small (as in disrespected)."

The stative root 'hb is a little different:
qatal:  veyisra'el 'ahav 'et yoseph
"and Israel was a lover of Joseph," or
"it was Israel who was a lover of Joseph"
wayyiqtol:   veye'ehab 'isha benaxal soreq
"then he [Samson] fell in love with a woman of Wadi Soreq."

There are lots of ways to express stativity in BH.  Some
roots are stative.  We don't always need an "-er" word to
express stative roots as attributions as shown above because
the corresponding English is also "stative" attributive.
The "passive" stems often have a stative or attributive
sense.  Niphal
qatal of mts':  nimtsa'
"he is (was, had been) found."
Niphal wayyiqtol:  vayyimmatse'
"then he was found"
So again, the English passive expression is attributive, so
we don't need the "-er" word.  The distinction between
the qatal and wayyiqtol is perfect and past perfecTIVE,
respectively, the two of which sometimes translate
equivalently in English.

> So I guess what I'm saying is it seems to me that the
answer to your question
> concerning time line development of qatal from attributive
to simple past tense would
> be that the process would have to start pretty early or
else you'd have the "vaccum" I
> mentioned above - just my 2 cents.

The evolution started early? Sure.  But when was it
complete?  Perhaps later than we often think.


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

(office) 315.437.6744
(home) 315.479.8267

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list