Biblical Hebrew Syntax

Serge Lyosov lyosovs at
Mon Apr 2 19:28:40 EDT 2001

  David, Peter, and Trevor,
  1. Since qtl (“the new perfect”) is a shared West-Semitic innovation, 
distinguishing Akkadian/Eblaitic from all other Semitic languages, it must 
have arisen (according to standard Stammbau view) before the separation of 
West-Semitic into Central and South groups. Canaanite elements in Amarna 
correspondence (~XV BC) suggest a fully developed Canaanate language, 
distinct from Aramaic.  This brings West-Semitic linguistic unity early into 
the second millennium or so. I assume that as soon as the qtl developed out 
of stative, the question of distribution qtl vs. old preterite arose, - and 
eventually it led to the disappearance of preterite yqtl. This was the 
reasoning behind my question. – Hebrew and Moabite epigraphic show 
coexistence of qtl and waw-yqtl in the same narration, so it is natural to 
infer that waw-yqtl was becoming obsolete in the literary language, as 
R.Garr correctly stated in his Dialect Geography.
2. I am still very interested in getting bibliographical suggestions about 
“autocommentary”/asyndetic clauses in narrator’s speech. I do not think the 
phenomenon passed unnoticed by scholars. I do believe it has to do with 
pragmatic relief of narrative prose, as Dave mentions.
  I outlined a preliminary classification of narrator’s “aparts”, starting 
from asyndetic remarks to the reader, and then including (alas, guided more 
by intuition than by formal criteria) clauses introduced by al ken, raq, az 
– and some of ki causale. Examples adduced in an earlier posting were of the 
purest type: wehabbor req: `en bo mayim; or wayyaSem be`edom neCibim: bekol 
`edom Sam neCibim, i.e. (partly) tautological remarks, often containing a 
delta of information. The author’s rationale could be to single out a piece 
of information and – as it were – to revolve it in the direction of the 
reader, extracting it (by deleting waw) from the narrated world. There is a 
fine example of it in Yavneh-Yam inscription: wyqH `t bgd ‘bdk .. ..: lkH `t 
bgd ‘bdk, - exactly like in some passages of 1Sam! More examples: 1 S 14:15, 
1 Sam 17:13, Gen 18:11 (Hadal lihyot leSara `oraH kannaZim) 1 Sam 6:12. 
These are what I would call “unpredictable” autocommentaries = “purest 
type”.  Many more are formalized, depend on contents and are lexically and 
situationally predictable.
  This brings us to the next issue.
  Sure, Ju 1:21b might seem a Gegenbeispiel: wayyeZeb goes (contradictorily) 
with ‘ad hayyom hazzeh. But: 1. the author is free not to use the 
autocommentary format if it is optional, i.e. if “speech etiquette” does not 
make it obligatory. 2. This kind of phrase “they somethinged (closed list of 
possible contents) ‘ad hayyom hazzeh” always (as it seems) goes with waw. I 
noticed it and thought it might be an intentional combination of two 
pragmatic tasks – becoming a cliche. – At least, I know of no contexts like 
“yaZab/yeZeb bGN ‘ad hayyom hazzeh”.

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