Modality of yiqtol

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Sep 28 16:21:15 EDT 1999

Bob Hoberman wrote

>One interesting thing in relation to Hatav's idea that BH yiqtol is modal
>is that in Mishnaic Hebrew yiqtol is certainly modal, as I think M.H.
>Segal pointed out. I seem to remember that this was discussed by Rundgren.
>Hatav's approach could lead to an interesting reexamination of the
>diachronic shifts in the verbal system on the way to post-BiblicaI Hebrew.

Dear Bob,

A reexamination of diachronic shifts in the verbal system to the extent
this is possible, would be a fine objective. I teach a course in Mishnaic
Hebrew this semester, based on Avoth and on Segal's grammar. However, I
find little difference in the use of modality (in the traditional sense) in
MH compared with Biblical Hebrew. The cohortative ending of the YIQTOLs and
imperatives has disappeared and the apocopated YIQTOL (jussive) is found
only occationally (MHS § 155). This means that the normal YIQTOL must cover
a greater area, but this is a matter of quantity rather than quality.

The big difference between the 	use of YIQTOL in BH and in MH is that of
tense. The basic function of YIQTOL in MH is its role as a future tense (as
is the case in Modern Hebrew as well). While YIQTOL  in BH can represent
the past, present and future, it almost exclusively refer to the future in
MH. Segal describes this principal use in § 314 and continues with other
uses in §§ 315-321. A morphological difference of YIQTOL in BH and MH is
evident, but I am not sure that there is a semantic difference in the use
of modality. A study of this would, however, be very interesting.

A noteworthy side of Galia's work is that she defines modality different
from the traditional grammars. At the outset we can learn from this that we
need to study the concepts we are using to see if they need a readjustment.
In my mag. art. thesis from 1995 I suggested such a redefinition of the
borders of modality in BH without drawing the final conclusions. It seems
to me that the line of demarcation between indicative and subjunctive in BH
does not *definitely* go between the real world and a hypothetical/imagined
world but some "real world"-situations are subsumed under the subjunctive
and some "hypothetical world" situations are subsumed under the indicative.
Different schemes can be drawn up, but at present I would distinguish
between a future tense in the indicative and modal forms which refer to the
future or have other references.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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