Biblical Hebrew Syntax

Trevor & Julie Peterson speederson at
Fri Apr 6 05:45:41 EDT 2001

Thanks for the clarification.  The way I've actually heard the explanation
of the two forms in Hebrew is with reference to the relative/subjunctive
ending -u exhibited in Akkadian.  Would that fit better morphologically?

Trevor Peterson

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Henry Churchyard [mailto:churchh at]
> Sent: Friday, April 06, 2001 12:21 AM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Biblical Hebrew Syntax
> > From: Rolf Furuli <furuli at>
> > Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 22:19:06 +0200
> >> From: "Serge Lyosov" <lyosovs at>
> >> 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.
> > When we theorize about the older stages of a language, we may be
> > closer to metaphysics than to linguistics.
> Actually, I find historical/comparative phonology to be quite
> unmetaphysical.  ;-)
> > Accadian stative: I am not aware of any evidence which should make
> > me believe that Hebrew QATAL developed from this form.
> What about fairly strong cognate parallels in morphology and
> phonology, combined with the fact that stative _qatal_s in attested
> Biblical Hebrew show a more diverse range of vowel patterns than
> non-stative _qatal_s?
> > I think that a semantic comparison between Hebrew QATAL and Accadian
> > perfect is more natural than a morphologic comparison between Hebrew
> > QATAL and Accadian stative.
> This might seem "natural" if you just look at synchronic semantics
> alone -- but once all the relevant facts are considered, such a
> comparison is quickly seen to be basically useless and irrelevant in
> diachronic/comparative terms (morphologically, the Akkadian perfect is
> a so-called "prefix" conjugation, and has a different phonological
> stem shape with a "t" infix).  Of course, you could compare the
> Akkadian perfect and the Hebrew _qatal_ in strictly non-comparative
> terms, i.e. purely typologically -- but any two languages whatever can
> also be compared in this way (regardless of whether or not they belong
> to the same language group), and such a comparison does not directly
> throw any light on historical relationships.
> > But even if we make a morphologic comparison, there are several
> > problems.  If we compare Ge'ez with Accadian, we find two
> > prefix-forms in each language (in Addition to the prefix-infixform
> > perfect in Accadian).  The long prefix-form in both languages is
> > believed to have present/future meaning
> Actually Akkadian has at least four different conjugations with
> non-stative-suffix type morphology: in the Grund/Qal binyan
> (exemplifying with root P-R-S), there is present _iparras_, perfect
> _iptaras_, past _iprus_, and modal _liprus_ etc.  Here _iparras_ and
> _iptaras_ are not relevant for direct comparison with Hebrew verbal
> forms -- and positing some kind of abstract schematic parallelism of
> the distinction between "long" Akkadian IPARRAS and "short" Akkadian
> IPRUS with the distinction between "long" Northwest Semitic YAQTULU
> and "short" Northwest Semitic YAQTUL is just not valid in comparative
> Semitic terms.  (Akkadian IPARRAS is simply not cognate to Northwest
> Semitic YAQTULU, and Northwest Semitic "long" forms are long because
> they have long endings, while if one chooses to call any ordinary
> non-ventive Akkadian forms "long", it will be because of stem-shape,
> not different verb endings -- so there is no real general
> cross-linguistic "long" vs. "short" distinction shared between
> Akkadian and Northwest Semitic which is valid in any diachronic or
> comparative-Semitic way.)
> > I am not aware of any compelling evidence showing the existence of a
> > preterite YIQTOL (a form YIQTOL which was a grammaticalized past
> > tense
> Well, "YIQTOL" specifically is a form with an attested-Hebrew
> vocalization, and is ambiguous as between earlier Semitic "yaqtulu"
> and earlier Semitic "yaqtul", so that the way you've phrased your
> statement is not entirely clear.
> However, there certainly are morphologically distinct "yaqtul" forms
> in Semitic languages which have predominantly past denotations
> (whether or not these forms are "true" preterites on the exalted plane
> of abstract philosophical "true" semantics is something I will leave
> up to your own metaphysical determination).  The very specific
> historical phonological factors by which penultimate stresses in
> WAYYIQTOL trace this form back to consonant-final earlier Semitic
> *yaqtul, while general final-syllable stress in YIQTOL traces that
> form back to vowel-final earlier Semitic *yaqtulu are to me much more
> important than vague purely-typological semantic (or "metaphysical")
> comparisons which do not follow the rules and methods of comparative
> linguistics and historical reconstruction.  My detailed reasoning is
> in Chapt. 4 of my dissertation, which is still at URL:
> (compressed
> PDF file, 350k).
> --
> Henry Churchyard   churchh at
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