yqtl patterns and Anson Rainey

Randall Buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Wed Jun 13 15:40:42 EDT 2001

Brian Tucker katav:
>Do you agree that Anson Rainey has been able to show that in Northwest
>Semitic languages the prefix forms (yqtl) expressed tenses rather than
>Rainey. The Prefix Conjugation Patterns of Early Northwest Semitic, in
>Abush, Z. et al. (eds.), Lingering Over Words, Atlanta, Georgia, pp.
>_____. Canaanite in the Amarna Tablets, a Linguistic Analysis of the Mixed
>Dialect Used by the Scribes from Canaan, vol. 2, pp. 221-264).
>Rainey sees two modes, the indicative (including preterite, imperfect, and
>energic forms) and the injunctive (including jussive, volitive, and
>energic forms).
>What do you think? Is this a good and helpful approach to BH verbal
>Brian Tucker<

Rainey knows Hebrew inside and out in its various stages. His approach is
certainly "good and helpful" and among the best in print.

As a further perspective, I do not think that a terminological dichotomy
between tense and
aspect is helpful for a verb system that only uses one major opposition. 

When the Hebrew writer/speaker needed to mark tense, the Hebrew verb
When the Hebrew writer/speaker needed to mark aspect, the Hebrew verb
(For those suddenly confused, perhaps the analogy of light being a particle
and a wave
may help.)

Most of the time, time is the dominant characteristic. 
For example, most prefix verbs and vav hahippux suffix verbs, 
when referring to the future, 
do not present an "imperfective" in-process event:  "he will be coming . .
but to a singulative, perfective, future event: "he will come".
That is, most of those verbs are not "aspectually imperfective", Hebrew 
does not mark "absolute aspect" or "absolute tense". 

This has been quite fun in demonstration this summer in the ulpan because
we can have students act out various scenarios and then describe what 
they have done or will do with appropriate Hebrew verbs. Inevitably,
ask, e.g., if the prefix/yiqtol is "future" and we say "not like English". 
They also find sequences like 
"qum Se min ha-Heder  ve`alitA ba-ma`alot ve`amadtA sham"
perplexing at first, though an assistant properly acts out the 
Then they hear a description of what happened:
"ha-ish qam vayeSe min ha-Heder vayA`al ba-ma`alot vaya`amod sham" . 
They understand how those verbs relate to the actions they have witnessed.

It is a good example of the universal rule of grammar:
"...because that's the way they do it." 

We can also say:
lexi el ha-qir le'at
Then while she is walking
we say "hi holexet veholexet veholexet veholexet ..."
And after she stops at the wall we say, 
"hi halxa el ha-qir"
And the students understand quite a bit and their understanding
keeps growing with all of the implementation. 
In acting out skits someone says to 'Yona': 
qra el elohexa
but 'Yona' says:
 lo 'uxal, ani voreaH mi-panav

Nice verbs building basic patterns. 

Randall Buth

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