BH Syntax

Serge Lyosov lyosovs at
Sat Mar 31 13:45:57 EST 2001

  Thank you for answering me.
  Though I work mostly in Moscow, I am familiar with the evergrowing 
textlinguistic literature on BH. All the mentioned books of the Longacre 
school (and some more) happen to stand on my bookshelf, though I have not 
read all of them with equal attention. I started exploring the problem 5 
years ago, when I felt there is a certain “enigma” in BH waw. I had known 
Harald Weinrich’s Tempus since my Uni years (vom Haus aus I am a Romanist) 
and was excited to learn that his project of Textlinguistics was extensively 
used by W.Schneider and later by Nicacci. But my (hopefully unwarranted) 
suspicion is that this trend in BH studies is not unlike Literary Criticism 
in Biblical Studies, i.e. it is partially determined by gender-correct 
political (financial?) circumstances rather than by a meaningless pursuit of 
(uncapitalized) truth wherever it might lead.
   I am looking for fellow co-claimers to discuss, inter alia, two things.

  1. On a very concrete level, apposition (?) without waw in narrator’s 
speech, cf. 2 Sam 8:14; 1 Sam 6:12a; 14:15, 35; 17:13a, Gen 37:24b, etc. – 
about 50 contexts, mostly in Sam and the Story of Josef. (I have a full list 
of contexts in Gen through 2 Kings.) I labelled this “autocommentary” and I 
know of no specific treatment of the subject. Recently I came across a 
couple of “my” contexts in Gibson’s Syntax, and a colleague told me there 
was an article on what I call “autocommentary”: Livnat Z. and Sela M. 
"Apposition - the third relation?" Leshonenu 59 (1995) 57-70 (Hebrew). I 
have been as yet unable to get the text of this article. I feel this 
phenomenon of waw-less clauses in narrator’s speech  might be important for 
a understanding of BH syntax.
  2. On a very speculative level. I have never seen an explanation of how it 
became possible that narrative wyqtl was used (only) in Ancient Hebrew 
(epigraphic evidence), Old Aramaic, Deir-Alla, Moabite and in various 
Epigraphic Old South Arabian languages. In Ugaritic narrative waw-less 
Kurzform der Praefixkonjugation is extensively used (examples see in  
Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik, S.697 f.). I feel that since BH is no 
“language”, but rather a collection of texts whose language has little to do 
with languages actually spoken by the texts’ authors, one is destined to 
have hard time explaining the famous “enigma of the BH verbal system” in 
synchronic terms. Indeed, if narrative aoriste/preterite is a vestige of a 
Semitic linguistic state before the appearance of the “new perfect” 
(sometime in the first half of the II millennium BC?), how one explains its 
presence (verging on disappearance in favour of perfect), almost always with 
waw, in various languages of the first half- and mid- first millennium? Is 
there a consensus explanation of this phenomenon? I feel the real enigma is 
how nations who first obtained literacy (and actually writing systems) at 
the time when qtl must have long ago replaced (short) yqtl as THE past tense 
in their respective speech types, - how did they manage to  preserve this 

archaism in their late-born literary languages? Was it an independent 
development in each (or some) of these languages, or was it a shared 
heritage – of what? Or is there a third explanation possible?
  Ugaritic is (in this respect) of course, a separate, but still a burning 

Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list