Wayyiqtol - comparative Semitic, morphology, phonology

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Sep 16 14:48:14 EDT 2000

> >Rolf,
> >Sorry I took so long to reply to this.  I just found it buried in my
> >inbox...
> >
> >
> >> Regarding the Masoretes, we have about the same view. They were extremely
> >> faithful copyists who would not dream of changing the text in any way. They
> >> faithfully copied what they heard in the synagogue. When I speak of a
> >> possible  invention in connection with them, I just point out that we, in
> >> the Masoretic text, for the first time see the difference in vocalization
> >> between WAYYIQTOL  and WEYIQTOL*.This difference is the basis for the
> >> modern view that there are four conjugations. So the Masoretes invented
> >> *the points* which later were used to justify a four-component model, but I
> >> don't thing they had semantic motives. So I ask: This difference, ist it
> >> phonological, is it pragmatic, or is it semantic? What really surprises me,
> >> is that people who have strong convictions regarding the Hebrew
> >> conjugations never have asked this questions. And not only that, it has
> >> never occurred to them that such questions should to be asked. They are
> >> just parroting their teachers and their grammars!
> >
> >The answer is none of the above, Rolf.  The difference is syntactic.
> >That's the one BIG factor that is lacking in what you're doing.  You
> >talk about semantic properties, pragmatic, phonological, but you
> >don't mention anything about syntax.  The difference in the four
> >conjugations is a syntactic one, and I don't see you dealing with
> >that.
> Iam glad you brought up the point about syntax, because I do not neglect it
> at all (just think statistics of prothasis/apodosis). However, syntax comes
> under the heading "Pragmatics". 

I'm afraid we part company right here.  Pragmatics, as defined by 
Givon, several writers from SIL and others, is a completely different 
discipline than syntax.  Givon, to be sure, has tried to lump the two 
together and explain syntax by recourse to pragmatics, but IMO he 
hasn't done a very good job of it, and his ideas have never caught 
on.  Pragmatics deals with larger units of discourse and has to do 
with both internal and external contexts, whereas syntax deals with 
the structure of clauses and their immediate relationships to each 
other, so putting the two together is bound to produce some 
skewed results.

> In my view, Classical Hebrew has no tenses. All the finite verbs with and
> without prefixed WAW can be both indicative and jussive, so mood is not
> grammaticalized in these forms. 

Uh-uh.  I agree that there are no tenses, but Galia Hatav has 
shown conclusively that the latter statement is incorrect.

The infinite form imperative is a
> grammaticalized mood, and the short and extra long imperfect *may* code for
> modality. The basic difference among the finite verbs, in my view, is one
> of aspect- YIQTOL, WEYIQTOL, and WAYYIQTOL code for the imperfective aspect
> and QATAL  and WEQATAL code for the perfective one.

I'm afraid counter-examples abound; many have already been 
brought up on this list.  It has already been pointed out many, 
many times that the aspect model simply doesn't work.


Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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