"functional/communicative approach" (was re: vav conversive)

Bryan Rocine brocine at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 8 15:06:37 EDT 1999

Randall Buth wrote:
> maybe the time could be profitably spent by labelling and
> different basic positions on the vav ha-hippux.
> then persons could refer to positions by name/number,
saving time, bytes,
> smoke and hopefully contributing to clarity.

o.k., put me down for the discourse analytical approach (DA)
which should be understood as only marginally different from
Randy's functional/communicative approach (FC), which is
already discourse-sensitive.

> the tense/aspect/mood system of the biblical hebrew verb
is not absolute.
> it does not absolutely mark tense and it does not
absolutely mark aspect or
> mood.

I would like to think that while the forms may not be
locked-on for tense or aspect or mood, they may be locked-on
for something, a species of tense-aspect-mood (TAM) called
"writer's subjective viewpoint."


> (1) the default reference of the suffix-tense verb is past
>    it may also express "present perfect", "pluperfect" and
> "hereby...",
>    and in proper genre or context can describe events as
>    though they were past/perfective, even though they
weren't. [eg. ha-shem
> malax
>    "the Lord reigns"  past/present-perfect as habitual]

I detect a common thread in these uses of the suffix-tense
and its discourse situation with the wayyiqtol in narrative
(see below under 3).  More of the significance of the East
Semitic (Akkadian) suffix-form has been preserved than lost;
to wit, the BH qatal is attributive, the subject having
already entered into a state (or condition) referred to by
the verb at the speaker's time.

> (1/2) the default reference of the participle is present
time. its default
> word order is [X]-S-V
>    it can be used in any temporal context for
>    in-process events. [except 'nofel' which is
idiomatically complete :-) ]

agreed (except perhaps for 'nofel', which may mean "*lying*
fallen"  ;-)   just having fun!).  The key is "in process"
and precludes adjective and noun uses of the participle.  In
DA I call the discourse function of the verbal particple
"describing backgrounded activities."  This does not mean
unimportant activities.  It means activities that provide a
temporal background onto which the mainline is placed.  The
verbal participle is indeed locked-on for imperfectivity.


> (3) functionally, the vav-ha-hippux prefix tense carries
the thematic line
> of a sentence/narration.
>    semantically,  it is the tense-aspect-mood equivalent
of the suffix
> tense, i. e. past or perfective. [it arose as     a
historical accident
> from *yaqtul and is not the descendent of *yaqtulu.] it
implies "the next
> event in the
>    story" and its default word order is V-x-S-X.

Out of respect I really feel funny speaking up here, but
since we're trying to clarify positions, I will :  I do not
like the name vav-ha-hippux because I do not subscribe to an
equivalency between the qatal and wayyiqtol.  *In BH
discourse,* wayyiqtol and qatal do not have equivalent
*uses*.  This opposes many BH grammar books that tend to
assign meanings to the forms by examining only a sentence or
so at a time or even changing wayyiqtols to qatals
(Weingreen). I observe that qatal tends more to be used for
analistic information, introductory information, antecedent
information, summary, and clarification/elaboration.
Essentially we may notice in these uses that the forward
movement of story time is halted.  I think this *suggests* a
partnership between the wayyiqtol and qatal in discourse
rather than an equivalency in meaning.

Wayyiqtol is not used for precative or gnomic or (present,
past) perfect situations like the qatal (except in special
text-embedding situations), which also suggests qatal and
wayyiqtol are neither pragmatically *nor* semantically

For clarification' sake, I call the function of wayyiqtol
"mainline."  The wayyiqtol may even introduce a
narrative-type, one-event-after-another sense to an
otherwise imperfective discourse.


> significant features:
> a. nuanced tense/aspect (rejects "tense-only" and "aspect
> b. includes the 4 formal MT verb categories, (rejects
semantic equivalance
> of  veyiqtol=vayyiqtol),
> c. integrates communicative/textlinguistic rationale for
vav ha-hippux,
> d. accepts historical *yaqtul/*yaqtulu explanation of
origin of vav
> ha-hippux,
> e. equates semantics of qatal with vayyiqtol and yiqtol
with veqatalTA.

summary of my DA:

*form*        *meaning*       *function*
qatal/           attributive        genre sensitive
weqatal                                 e.g., in Historical
                                          Narrative the
                                          function of the
                                          qatal clause is
                                          text segmentation
                                          or elaboration.
                                          Predictive Narr.
                                          it (weqtal) is the

wayyiqtol    fientive/             mainline of
                    perfective        narrative

participle     imperfective      backgrounded activity

yiqtol/          fientive/             genre sensitive
volitional       modal

key features:
1.  The prefixed and suffixed forms have fixed meanings that
are very simple but functional/communicative.

2.  The TAM to which the forms refer is reliably conditioned
by simple rules for identifying the genres in which they are
being used (Dawson 1994, and my unpublished grammar).

3.  A writer/speaker is free to express a situation with the
forms he judges are best able to guide his reader through
the presentation ala Niccacci.  E.g. the same event can be
expresses as either an attribution *bere'shit bara' 'elohim
'et hashamayim* or a happening *vayibra' 'elohim 'et
hataninim* and may be decided on by nothing more than
pragmatic considerations.  This ispossible because of the
"subjective viewpoints" idea.

4.  As a generalization from which to begin, suffixed forms
are attributive while the prefixed are fientive(see Mats
Eskhult, 1990 as a start).


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

(office) 315.437.6744
(home) 315.479.8267

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