Expository discourse "profile"

Bryan Rocine brocine at earthlink.net
Sun Sep 26 13:26:26 EDT 1999

Greetings Paul,

Thank you for your interest and your questions.  You wrote:

> --You see this text as expository discourse, whose task
(according to
> your grammar) is to "explain and/or argue a thesis."  Do
you see this as
> basically the same "thing" that Bob Longacre classified as
expository in
> _The Grammar of Discourse_?  I understand that he sees
this as a major
> subdivision of discourses marked by the unimportance of
the actual agent
> and sequence of events.

Yes, and as proposed by Longacre in "Discourse Perspective
on the Hebrew Verb: Affirmation and Restatement"
_Linguistics and BH_ ed. Bodine, pp. 188-189 and Dawson in
_Text-Linguistics and BH_, p. 116.  You are correct about
Expository Discourse being *minus-agent orientation* and
*minus-temporal consecutivity*.  It may be *plus* or
*minus-projection*, and Longacre suggests the possibility of
a forth parameter for distinguishing genres (discourse
types): tension.  Expository Discourse may be *plus* or

> --Because I am proposing that we have this colloquy
on-list, I think the
> next question is appropriate, because the term will
probably come up.
> When we talk about off-the-line (most of the time, the
term has been
> used in discussions of narratives), you have pictured the
concept as
> impeding or stopping the forward flow of the action (my
words, not
> yours).

Right, but let me put the statement in context.  "Stopping
the forward flow of action" applies to the genres that are
characterized by *plus-temporal consecutivity*, the
Historical and Predictive Narrative genres.

>Would "off-the-line" here mean impeding or stopping the
> flow of explanation or argument?  Would another
explanation of the term
> be that the reader/hearer would have to work or think a
bit harder about
> how this "off-the-line" item contributes positively to the
> purpose of the discourse?  I think that this applies in
the Is 44
> passage, because most of what we have here is
> Illustrations may make explanations and arguments
interesting, but they
> often need further explanation to clarify their

Right.  In this pragmatic approach, the genres are not
defined as literary types as might be the first thought when
we hear *genre*.  Rather they are quasi-behavioral types.
Each genre is distinguished, in part, by the *task* the
writer/speaker is trying to achieve.  A mainline clause
advances *directly* toward the achievement of the
writer/speaker's behavioral (not literary) goal.  The
off-the-line clauses are relevant and useful for the
writer/speaker to achieve his goal, of course.  However, the
off-the-line clauses do not proceed *directly* toward the
goal.  A couple for instances:

The behavioral goal in Historical Narrative is to "tell a
story set in the past."  We may say that the Historical
Narrative is designed to answer, "What happened?"  Mainline
clauses, such as most that are constructed with the
wayyiqtol, advance the story time by depicting
over-and-done-with events.  Off-the-line clauses such as the
X-qatal or verbless clause halt or retard the forward
movement of the story as they embellish and/or organize the
mainline of events.

In a non-narrative genre such as Expository Discourse, the
behavioral goal is "to argue or explain a thesis."
Expository Discourse answers the question "What *is*?" and
defaults for a present time meaning.  Mainline clauses in
this genre, often verbless clauses, will "make statements"
as opposed to "depict events."  Off-the-line clauses in this
genre, such as clauses constructed with wayyiqtol, may
embellish the mainline by giving anecdotal material that
supports the line of arguement/explanation (or as you say,
gives an illustration).

> Just a quick observation about your proposed translation:
Although I
> understand your proposal that the qatal tends more toward
description of
> the noun and farther away from the description of the
action than does
> the yiqtol, I find your phrase, "X is the Y-er of..." to
be overly
> misleading in this particular genre.  In my opinion, on
the "adjectival
> force/action" continuum, the participle seems to be even
closer to
> "adjectival force" than the qatal, implying that the qatal
does still
> carry a good bit of the concept of the action.  In this
genre where
> action is downplayed, your translation of the qatal sounds
just like
> many would translate the participle.  This gives more
force to these
> clauses in your translation than I believe the discourse
> warrants

I think the participle and the qatal may overlap in meaning
on occasion.  The nominal use of the participle has nominal
force, and is not at all like the qatal, e.g. vayar'
hashomer = "the guard saw."  The predicative participle
often has verbal force, and this use of the participle is
not at all like the qatal, e.g. qatal = "he is (was) a
killer" or "he has killed" and hu' qotel = "he is (was)
killing" or "he is about to kill" or "he kills."  But I also
admit that the predicative participle may have adjectival
force, and be practically indistinguishable from the qatal
as in Pro 22:2 `shir varash nipgashu `oseh kulam yhvh or Pro
8:36 vexot'i xomes napsho kol mesan'ay mavet.  Nearness of
meaning is in fact why I put the two clause types next to
each other in the tentative discourse profile scheme for
Expository Discourse. You may be correct that I should have
switched them in the scheme.  The problem is those
particularly verbal participles that seem to rank lower when
in Expository Discourse.


> Because most on the list have probably not written to you
yet to get a
> copy of your grammar, please allow me to include your
> Expository Discourse Profile Scheme" that you gave there.
> refers to the type of clauses which directly move the flow
of the
> discourse forward.  The higher the number of
"off-the-line" form, the
> more this type of clause impedes the forward flow of the
> Mainline: 1.  Verbless clause
>   Off-the-line
>            2.  Clauses with qatal of HAYAH
>                 3.   X-qatal of other roots
>                       4.  Clauses with a participle as
predicate, yiqtol
> with a present time
>                            reference, irrealis
>                           5.  Qatal and yiqtol in
dependent clauses
>                                6.  Embedded discourse
> Hope this takes off, because I agree that an understanding
of the
> expository discourse seems to be of greater importance to
> understanding of poetry than that of prose in BH.
> Paul
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Bryan Rocine <brocine at earthlink.net>
> To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
> Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 9:39 PM
> Subject: Isa 44:12-17
> > In his quest to falsify traditional explanation of BH
> > semantics, Rolf has brought up Isa 44:12-17.  Here's my
> > on the passage:
> >
> > First let me suggest a macro-structure for the passage.
> > passage *describes* the idolotrous labors of the Israeli
> > workmen for which they will be ashamed.
> >
> > The variety of verb forms used in the passage, together
> > the descriptive (as opposed to narrative) function of
> > passage as a whole suggests that the passage is
> > *expository*.  When we translate BH expository texts
> > English, we usually translate them as present tense or
> > present perfect.
> >
> > As an expository text, the passage describes the
> > behavior of the workmen.  *All* the BH verb forms are
> > in a passage that describes habitual behavior.  I
> > the yiqtols are fientive expressing what the workman
> > the qatals and weqatals are attributive expressing what
> > workman *is*; and the wayyiqtols fientive and
> > similar to the yiqtols but also expressing, by virtue of
> > their perfectivity, consequentiality.  Here is 12-15
line by
> > line to illustrate:
> >
> > O, the artisan of iron, a tool!
> > And he is a worker (weqatal) in the coals,
> > And it is with hammers that he forms (yiqtol) it.
> > And then he (even) works (wayyiqtol) it with his arm of
> > strength (i.e. he wears himself out working the idol);
> > He is even hungry and without strength (verbless);
> > But he is no drinker (qatal) of water, and so he faints
> > (wayyiqtol).
> >
> > O the artisan of wood!
> > He is a strecher forth (qatal) of rule;
> > He sketches (yiqtol) it with the stylus;
> > He makes (yiqtol) it with chisels;
> > And it is with the compass that he sketches (yiqtol) it.
> > And then he makes (wayyiqtol) it after the fashion of a
> > and after the glory of mankind to remain in its place.
> >
> > O for his pruning of cedars!
> > And then he takes (wayyiqtol) cypress and oak.
> > Then he strengthens (wayyiqtol) [them] for himself among
> > trees of the forest.
> > He is a planter (qatal) of fir,
> > And rain makes (yiqtol) [them] great.
> > It should be (weqatal) for man to burn (here weqatal of
> > signals a change in mood as it most often does).
> > So he would then take (wayyiqtol) from them,
> > And become warm (wayyiqtol).
> > Maybe he would kindle a fire (yiqtol),
> > And then be a baker (weqatal) of bread.
> > Rather, he makes (yiqtol) a god (we shift here back to
> > original mood),
> > And then he worships (wayyiqtol).
> > He is a maker (qatal) of it [into] an idol,
> > And then prostrates (wayyiqtol) to it.
> >
> > Notice how the qatals/weqatals are used in introductory
> > summary statements and wayyiqtol is used in continuative
> > statements as befits their meanings.
> >

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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