veqatal and adverbs

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at
Sat Sep 2 18:45:50 EDT 2000

In answering a point about Genesis 29.1-3 Rolf Furuli referred to 1 Sam
>How do we know that the WEQATAL W(LH in v 3 is
>iterative? Because of the adverbial MYMYM YMYMH. If this adverbial was
>lacking and no other element in the context indicated it, the only
>interpretation of the WEQATAL would be that the travel happened just once.

"Only possible interpretation of the WEQATAL would be that the travel
happened just once" !? 
Yes, we live in different worlds. veqatal does not need an adverb to be
habitual, just a past context, and ve`alah would NOT normally mean that the
travel happened just once, unless in the future, since the default meaning
of future is singulative/non-habitual. The one-time past would have been
vayya`al. Instead, ve`alah was correctly used here as more appropriate with
miyyamim yamima. 

what you said about yiqtol (yashqu) in Gen 29.2 actually applies to the
veqatal of 1 sam 1.3, too: 
>However, even without the adverbial, iterativity
>would be considered as a possible interpretation because we have a YIQTOL
[and veqatal, too, at 1Sm1.3--RB]
>with past meaning. 

Yes. and perhaps more importantly,
with Genesis 29.1-3, the veqatal is habitual and there are no adverbs. Your
yiqtol statement would help you with the veqatals in 29.3, but you will
refused to do so. (Perhaps because you would end up learning Hebrew? See 

Instead you pproposed something that is exactly backwards from biblical
>I agree that we should interpret all the four actions as habitual. Why?
>because of the aspect (of WEQATAL), but because of our knowledge of the
>world. All we need to do to cancel the habitual interpretation of the four
>to change "flocks" with "the army" (or something similar).
> "and when all the army was gathered (WEQATAL) there, the soldiers rolled
>(WEQATAL) the stone from the mouth of the well, and the gave water
>(WEQATAL) to the prisoners, and then they put (WEQATAL) the stone back in
>its place upon the mouth of the well."
> We know that an army do not habitually come to a particular well to drink
>water, and therefore we would interpret the WEQATALs as non-habitual.

Your example is a nice self-refutation. You need to look at it from two

first-- in your example with the same verb forms, the army would still be
doing habitual activities. 
Why? Because of the past context and the chosen verb forms. The
interpretation is still habitual. Such an army might be a strange one but
language is perfectly capable of talking about improbabilities.
Please note: the RSV 'was gathered' is a poor translation for reflecting
Hebrew verb categories, "used to gather" is better for communicaqting the
TAM, both for the biblical text and the "army" example. 

If you wanted to say (single occurrence) 'the army
gathered...rolled...watered...returned", you would say, 
"vayye'asfu ... vayyagollu ... vayyashqu ... vayyashivu ..." 

Second: You accept the probability that "yashqu" in 29.2 refers to a
habitual action. 
True. We are agreed. And it's Hebrew.
And you go on to claim that worldknowledge alone leads to a habitual
interpretation of the following four events. 
That cannot be true. For one, that would make it impossible to refer to a
specific historical sequence. What if the story teller wanted to list four
historical events right there in the story?
Now watch carefully what happens if we 'rewrite' the continuation of the
sheep and shepherds with all special prefix verbs:
"vayye'asfu ... 
vayyagolu ... 
vayyashqu ... 
vayyashivu ..." 
This would lead a reader to reject the habitual interpretation! (I assume
that you can see this, at least according to MT grammar?)
The same world knowledge does not lead to the same interpretation. 
and now we have a description of a specific historical sequence. This
interpretation is brought about by using a different verb form, a kind of
prefix verb. 

Let me rephrase this as a minimal contrast:

Which Hebrew sequence refers to a habitual description?
a.                                                        b. 
  vene'esfu ...                                          vayye'asfu ... 
  vegalalu  ...                                           vayyagollu ...
  vehishqu ...                                          vayyashqu ...
  veheshivu ...                                        vayyashivu ... 
                         Correct answer: "a"

Which Hebrew sequence refers to a one-time description?
a.                                                        b. 
  vene'esfu ...                                          vayye'asfu ... 
  vegalalu  ...                                           vayyagollu ...
  vehishqu ...                                          vayyashqu ...
  veheshivu ...                                        vayyashivu ... 
                         Correct answer: "b"

Your only 'logical' defense is to say that "b" was equally habitual for
sheep in the first question and that "a" was equally "one-time" for sheep
in the second question. You already rejected this last option in your post.
If you want to reclaim this option, then you will continue to unlearn

This is where using a language, even being fluent, is helpful. You become
aware of self-inconsistencies. Your previous theories are going to lead you
to make 90% wrong predictions, like the example above. And at some point
you will get tired of making wrong or convoluted predictions and will start
to follow the language norms. And then, when following the language norms,
you'll start to feel what you have not been willing to admit on the basis
of apriori theory. (And I say apriori theory, because your view of the
semantic AND morphological equality of vayyiqtol and veyiqtol has been
disproved, on list, so many times, yet you just go on with your mantra:
"This can't be. I have a perfectly fine semantic theory that allows all
verbs to mean any time or completed state. So it can't be".) 

So maybe your redemption will come from listening to gen 29.1-3.

Randall Buth, PhD
Jerusalem Univeristy College
and Hebrew University 

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