Verb trial thesis

Trevor Peterson 06PETERSON at
Thu Apr 4 14:51:39 EST 2002

>===== Original Message From "Rodney K. Duke" <dukerk at> =====
>I am not convinced by the standard paradigms of verb tense/aspect/mood:
>whereby wayyiqtol = qatal or a prefixed conjugation preterite, and
>weqatal SOMETIMES = yiqtol.  Such equations make no sense of some of the
>discourse patterns that we find.  Does a weqatal in a string of
>wayyiqtols or a wayyiqtol in a past-tense weqatal sequence present no
>meaningful distinction?  Moreover, in these standard paradigms yiqtols
>are sometimes modal and sometimes not.  Is there no consistency?

I think there is, but I agree that it doesn't appear in the presentation 
you're describing above.

>What if our notion of modality is foreign to the Semitic mindset?  Could
>the notion of volitive versus non-volitive be a concept that we are
>forcing on the verbal system?  Also, is it possible that the two
>prefixed forms share some similar semantic notion?  (If not, or if their
>original distinction was not blurred over time, then the following
>thesis probably fails.)

Are you suggesting a model that, for instance, finds another semantic 
explanation for the imperative form? I guess I'm just not sure how far you 
intend to carry this non-modal idea. I think it's probably a legitimate 
question to ask how modality would be communicated, if it has nothing to do 
with the tense-forms. As for the relationship of the prefix forms, I think it 
is relevant to the discussion that in other Semitic languages (Akkadian comes 
to mind) there are well-preserved distinct prefixal forms that have some 
pretty strong semantic differences. (Akkadian, for instance, has at least 
three distinct forms that take the same prefix and affix combinations. These 
forms are generally identified as preterite, durative, and perfect. Whatever 
disagreement there may be about their semantic force, I suspect everyone would 
agree that they are semantically different.) If we acknowledge two prefixal 
forms in Hebrew, I think it would be reasonable to expect them to have 
different semantic roles.
>Trial thesis:
>Here is a thesis I would like to test further and would appreciate your
>feedback as to whether or not it “works” historically and pragmatically:
>1) Yiqtols appear to express action in its immediacy in respect to the
>moment of the narrator's narrative or the speaker's speech.  That is to
>say that they have an inherent reference “time” and “mood” of “nowness”
>from the presentation perspective of the speaker.

Then why are commands constructed with yiqtols? The negative counterpart to 
the imperative does this, as do certain command formulas. The distinction in 
positive commands seems to be that yiqtols look *beyond* the immediate speech 
situation. (Not "do this right now" but "do this in general.")
>A yiqtol as mainline wayyiqtol in what we call “historical narrative”
>has a dramatic tone of immediacy like using the “historical present” in
>Greek.  (I have no trouble translating them into past tense for English

But wouldn't a "dramatic tone of immediacy" suggest pragmatic marking? It 
seems that the normal mainline form in past narrative would not be marked in 
this way.

Trevor Peterson

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