Hebrew Syntax.

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Apr 12 05:12:35 EDT 2002

Dear Peter,

Se my answer below:

>Well, Rolf, it seems that you accept discourse analysis as evidence 
>of how forms are used. But if this evidence "can tell us nothing 
>about the meaning of YIQTOL, QATAL, WAYYIQTOL, and WEQATAL", what 
>can tell us about their meaning? We have no evidence other than the 
>text. So either we have to learn about the meaning from the patterns 
>we find in the text, or we have to conclude that we can have no idea 
>what the text means.

If we ask the question whether WAYYIQTOLs prefer apocopated roots, we 
cannot by looking at most of the WAYYIQTOLs get an answer, because 
most of them are not naturally apocopated. The get an answer we have 
to look at holllow verbs, lamed he verbs and the hiphil stem. And 
similarly with the aspects. We cannot in most instances look at the 
WAYYIQTOLs or WEQATALs and their contexts and by this know their 
aspects, but we must look for the special situations when their 
aspect becomes visible.

In order to answer your question about "what can tell us their 
meaning" I copy a part of the introduction to chapter three of my 
dissertation; the chapter is  entitled: "How many prefix- 
conjugations are there?"

First I will discuss 2.591 infinite forms (1.745 participles, 760 
infinitive constructs, and 86 infinitive absolutes) with past 
reference. Given the criteria used to show that the wayyiqtols are 
perfective, all these forms are perfective as well; but this of 
course is nonsense, and it seriously questions the criteria.

Second I will compare the 1.020 yiqtols with past reference with the 
12.500 wayyiqtols with past reference, and demonstrate that there is 
no difference in the aspectual meaning of the forms. The first part 
of this will be to show that the yiqtols with past reference fulfill 
the same criteria for perfectivity as do the infinite forms with past 
reference and the wayyiqtol.s The second part will be to analyse 
three clusters of yiqtols with past reference, showing that there are 
syntactical reasons for the use of these forms rather than 
wayyiqtols. The third part will be to compare the 470 verses in the 
MT which occur twice (or some even trice), demonstrating that yiqtols 
and wayyiqtols alternate in exactly the same verses without any 
evidence of a difference in meaning. The fourth part will be to 
discuss the two most numerous groups of wayyiqtols, namely verbs of 
speech ()MR, DBR, QR() and verbs of motion (BW), YC), )L(, YRD), 
which account for 29,5 % of all thewayyiqtols. Participles, 
infinitives and yiqtols with past reference of these words will be 
discussed, and it will be shown that the focus is not on the end but 
on the nucleus of these forms. While we cannot, on the basis of the 
context, know where the stress of the wayyiqtols of the same roots 
are, the stress on the nucleus of these other forms suggests that the 
same can be true with the wayyiqtols. The fifth part will be a 
discussion of 75 semelfactive and telic yiqtols with past reference, 
showing that these have exactly the same aspectual meaning as the 
same roots realized as wayyiqtols.

Third I will discuss the 53 weyiqtols with past reference showing 
that they fulfil the same criteria for perfectivity as do the 
wayyiqtols,  and I will show that the the weyiqtols are yiqtols with 
prefixed waw.

Fourth I will discuss those wayyiqtols where we can learn something 
of which part is focussed upon on the basis of the context. It will 
be shown that a reasonable number of the wayyiqtols have imperfective 
characteristics. The first part will be a discussion of stative 
wayyiqtols, showing that in all cases except those with pre-past 
reference, the focus is on the nucleus. The second part will discuss 
conative situations where wayyiqtols are used, thus showing the 
imperfectivity of the form. The third part will discuss examples of 
wayyiqtols that are intersected by other verbs, thus having the focus 
on their nucleus. The fourth part will discuss examples of wayyiqtol  
which indicate that the wa(y)- element is nothing but the conjunction 

>You then go on to invite me to reanalyse the text based on an 
>assumption of the results of that analysis. In particular you insist 
>that they assume that "the prefixed WAWs are just conjunctions", 
>although past studies have demonstrated that these prefixed WAWs 
>have specific discourse functions. That is methodologically 
>untenable. I agree that analysts should not assume the four 
>conjugation model either. But they should work with the real data 
>which they find in the text and not with presuppositions forced on 

Your words reveal exactly the circularity of discourse analysis (as 
it is applied to Hebrew verbs) that I criticize. It is a priori, 
without any foundation whatsoever, assumed that WAWs prefixed to 
verbs (WE+QATAL  and WA(Y)+YIQTOL) are more than conjunctions, and 
then one engage in discoursa analysis and demonstrate exactly what 
has been asumed: the WAWs+verbs have "specific discourse functions". 
My suggestion was to drop these presuppositions and deal with the 
WAWs in the light of what they fundamentally are - conjunctions. If 
you cannot start at the bottom and demonstrate on the basis of 
discourse analysis that the conjunction WAW+verb has "specific 
discourse functions" without the need of presuppositions, the method 
is of little use as far as morpho-syntactic *meaning* is concerned. A 
methodological problem is that if the WAW prefixed to a verb "has a 
specific discourse function" this should be true in ALL instances 
where the WAW is prefixed to the verb, but that is not claimed (and 
of course will not turn out to be true). Please look at (1) below (my 
translation) where I have marked the forms and the conjunctions.

(1) 2 Samuel 16.13 (AND) David and his men continued to walk 
(WAYYIQTOL) while (AND) Shimei was walking (PARTICIPLE) on the side 
of the mountain; (AND) he was cursing (WAYYIQTOL) (AND) went on 
throwing stones (WAYYIQTOL) at him while he was going (INFINITIVE 
ABSOLUTE) abreast of him; (AND) he caused (WEQATAL) a lot of dust.

a) Normally WAYYIQTOLs occur in a consecutive chain where one action 
occurs after the previous one. If this is viewed as a "specific 
discourse function" one would try hard to interprete the three 
WAYYIQTOLs in this verse as consecutive, but that is hardly the case. 
David and his men were walking on one side of the mountain and Shimei 
was at the same time walking (expressed by a participle) on the other 
side. While David and his men were walking (expressed by the first 
WAYYIQTOL) Shimei was cursing and throwing stones (expressed by the 
two other WAYYIQTOLs); also the infinitvive absolute may stress both 
the contemporaneousness as does the participle. Thus reference time 
intersects event time  in the middle of all three WAYYIQTOLs, and 
this is contrary to the traditional discourse model because it 
suggests that the WAYYIQTOLs are imperfective. Because the WEQATAL 
has an adverbial of the same root and is of the Piel stem, I take it 
as resultative, i.e. it expresses the result of the throwing of 
stones, that David became covered with dust or dirt. As to 
QATAL/WEQATAL and their "specific discourse functions" please 
consider (2)

(2) Zechariah 10:3 Against the shepherds by anger burns (QATAL), and 
I will punish the goats (YIQTOL), for (CONJUNCTION) YHWH of armies 
will turn his attention (QATAL) to his drove, the house of Judah,and 
(WEQATAL) he will make them like a proud hores in battle.

There can be little doubt that the temporal reference for all the 
verbs is future. The use of a QATAL and  a WEQATAL with future 
reference illustrates that the WE- of WEQATAL is a simple 
conjunction, because the reason why the QATAL does not have a 
prefixed WAW simply is that there is another conjunction preceding 
it. There are hundreds of similar cases, and there is not a single 
instance where the the WE- of WEQATAL cannot be translated by "and" 
or a similar conjunction.

The reason why "specific discourse functions" are ascribed to 
different verb forms simply is that Hebrew thinking was systematic, 
and particular patterns were followed. For example, almost all 
instances of first person singular of HYH  expressed as a YIQTOL, and 
in most instances HINNE is followed by a verb with future reference. 
This is linguistic convention and does not give these forms "specific 
discourse functions". Also, please consider the old view of Piel as 
an intensive form.It seemed to fit very well, but the present view is 
much better (W and O'C has an excellent discussion of Piel). So, what 
seems to fit, need not be the case when all factors are taken into 
consideration. So discourse analysis of Hebrew verbs based on the 
assumption that there are four different conjunctions can only give 
the result that there are four different conjugations.

>Peter Kirk


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo
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