veqatal and adverbs,2

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Mon Sep 4 09:25:15 EDT 2000

Dear Randall,

>vayyixtov rolf `al "veqatal and adverbs":
>>If you by "correct answer" mean what is the normal way that something is
>>expressed in the Tanach, I agree that the answer is "a" in the first place
>>and "b" in the second. We have no quarrel about the fact that WEQATAL
>>has a habitual meaning in past contexts. But this is not the point. We are
>>discussing the following question: Is iterativity a semantic part of the
>>WEQATAL form in past contexts, or is it pragmatic, that is, is it
>>upon the context?
>I beg to differ. That is exactly the point. Did the author use veqatal
>INSTEAD of vayyiqtol in order to signal habitual repetitive actions? We are
>not discussing your definition of semantics but the function of the hebrew
>verbs and structure. If the author used veqatal at Gn 29.1-3 instead of
>vayyiqtol in order to signal habitual action, it is 100% irrelevant (to me
>least) whether you call that a pragmatically-based signal or a
>semantically-based. The point is that the author got his point accross and
>effectively used the Hebrew verb morphology to do it.
>This is the bread and butter of biblical Hebrew that everyone learns to
>process as they learn the language, whether around a campfire 2500 years
>ago, in a synagogue 1500 years ago, or today.
>Your jump to 2K 18.4 is also irrelevant:
>>In order to  demonstrate that we need the
>>context to interpret WEQATALs as iterative, I must point to at least one
>>parallel to Genesis 29.1-3 where the WEQATALs definitely are not
>>We have such an example  in 2 Kings 18:4 (RSV).
>First, I accept that we need context to interpret a Hebrew verb. As I've
>said many times, a binary, two-way, differentiation in the Hebrew verb
>system creates a logical necessity of complex interaction with all
>potential and real literary worlds.  veqatal isn't simply '(past) habitual'
>but imperfective and future as well. One takes the whole potential verbal
>reference and fits it into the context, WHILE at the same time being aware
>of which verbal reference was NOT chosen. In gn 29.2 the past context
>brings out the imperfective (non-future) application of veqatal to the
>fore, and the immediate interpretation  of the 'imperfective' is habitual,
>even though there are occasional 'incomplete'-type applications, like Gn

In my view this is a good example of an arbitrary method which cannot be
falsified, not even tested. The method goes like this:

Assumption 1: The WAW  prefixed to QATALs is not a simple conjunction, but
QATAL  and WEQATAL have a different semantic meaning.
Assumption 2: This difference in meaning is one of aspect, so QATAL is
perfective and WEQATAL imperfective.
Assumption 3: The combination of WEQATAL and past reference is a mark of

If it should be possible to test these views, the minimal requirement would
be to produce *one* example of WEQATAL which *cannot* be given a perfective
interpretation. If just one such example is given, I will change my mind
immediately. If not, the view above must be based on the gut feeling of
someone (since we do not have living informants of Classical Hebrew) and
not on a careful scientific analysis.

Let me state that very clearly: I for one do not disagree with you
regarding the *use* of verbs, what is the more common use, and what is less
common. I do not disagree that the action in many clauses with WEQATAL in
past contexts is habitual. If the normal use was the bone of contention,
this whole discussion is unnecessary. However, the point were I disagreed
was your claim that WEQATALs with past reference was MARKED for iterativity.

As a matter of fact, both aspects can be used in clauses with iterative
meaning, so why claim that WEQATAL is iterative because it is used in
iterative clauses. Look at a few English examples.

(1) Every week Tim travelled to Jerusalem.

(2) Every week Tim has travelled to Jerusalem.

(3) Every week Tim was travelling to Jerusalem.

All the three examples signal habitual action. Example (1) is simple past
and non-aspectual, (2) is perfective, and (3) is imperfective. Thus we see
that habitual action can be expressed by both aspects in English. But is
there no difference? Yes, there is; not a difference related to
habituality-non-habituality, but one related to the nearness of the
actions. This can be seen if we add an adverbial.

(4) #Every week Tim travelled to Jerusalem for the last two years.

(5) Every week Tim has travelled to Jerusalem for the last two years.

(6) #Every week Tim was travelling to Jerusalem for the last two years.

Example (4) is odd because the simple past indicates that the travelling
had terminated and therefore could not be connected with the present
moment. English is not my mother tongue, but it seems to me that (3) is odd
as well, because the occurrence of the participle does not blot out the
fact that RT comes before C in the past-tense verb "was". To indicate
habitual action, which started in the past but which is connected with the
present, not the imperfective but the perfective aspect must bu used. If
the habitual action is wholly past, both aspects can be used. This is seen
in (3) which is imperfective and in (7) which is perfective

(7)  Every week Tim had travelled to Jerusalem.

I view the Hebrew aspects to be different from the English ones, but I see
no reason why the aspects of the WEQATALs in Gen 29;1-3 cannot be

>Up to here everything said is 'normal' and 'commonplace'.
>2 Kings 18.4 is a different question. And like your statistics show, there
>is a residue with Hebrew verbs. There are three different ways to approach
>1. Read what I consider the MT: "he removed" (perfective singulative of the
>action), followed by veqatal imperfectives, "and he was breaking apart...,
>and was cutting down..., and was smashing...". This is how the MT Hebrew
>reads, and I personally recommend reading this way. The transition from a
>perfective to the 'internal imperfective' is admittedly unexpected and not
>very common for the MT. The poles and altars are plural so they provide a
>natural application for the imperfective, but the snake is singular and
>requires an even rarer descent into an internal imperfect for one action.
>[However, for yourself almost every verse in the tana"x is exactly this
>irregular, since you call the vayyiqtol an internally viewed imperfective.
>So I live with this thing rarely, while you propose having it for breakfast
>lunch and dinner :-) It is your refusal to work with two morphological
>categories, vayyiqtol and yiqtol/veyiqtol, (supported, but not caused, by a
>brittle semantic theory that requires a 100% subjective semantic
>interpretation)  that leads you into getting this exactly inside
>2. Many would consider the text corrupt because of the unexpected singualr
>action at the end of the chain. One possible proposal is the narrative
>infinitive. that would preserve the same consonantal text and could explain
>the syntax and semantics because the infinitive is potentially ambiguous.
>(The narrative infinitive is an old standby of NWS, attested in an SV form
>in Amarna, Phoenician and 2xx in MT, plus a more frequent veQatol form as
>would be proposed here. This later is more common and even occurs in Qumran
>in Hebrew Tobit and 4QMMT but is still rare enough that its discourse
>functions are not completely clear.) So that is a possible option, but not
>the MT.
>3. Many others would call these simple qatal + simple vav. They would
>belong to that 'residue' that no one likes and that occasionally are
>attmepted to be attributed to LBH glosses. I personally don't like this
>option and do not consider it a responsible reading of the MT. In other
>words I would READ 2K18.4 according to #1 and the MT, even though #2 might
>have produced it, or  even remotely #3.
>But the main point is that Gn 29.1-3 represents commonplace Hebrew and the
>the author used the verb morphology veqatal to signal and lead the reader
>to the habitual sense.

If WEQATAL is imperfective, your interpretations of 2 Kings 18:4 except the
last one, are possible; if it is not imperfective, you are forcing new
meaning upon the text. Please consider Ezek 42:15

"Now when he had finished measuring (WEQATAL) the interior of the temple
area, he led (WEQATAL) me out by the gate which faced east, and measured
(WEQATAL) the temple area round about."

The first "measure"-event is expressed by a WEQATAL and an infinitive
construct. Was this event completed when the "leading-out"-event started?
In that case, how can it be imperfective?

Also consider 2Kings 21:6

And he burned (WEQATAL) his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying
(WEQATAL) and augury (WEQATAL), and dealt with mediums (WEQATAL) and with
wizards (WEQATAL). He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him
to anger.

There is nothing in the context which prevents me from interpreting the
WEQATALs as perfective, and there is nothing preventing you from
interpreting them as imperfective, except the first one. The "burn"-event
has a singular subject and singular object exactly as the "beating"-event
in 2 Kings 18:4. In your comments regarding 2 Kings 18:4 you say that I can
account for an imperfective interpretaion of the "beating"-event by help of
my model. But you cannot rely on my model and my method as long as you do
not accept them; you yourself must explain these events. The general view
regarding aspect is that if we have a singular definite subject and object,
an imperfective verb must signal habituality, frequency, of iterativity. So
please explain the two events with these characteristics.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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