Hebrew Syntax.

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Apr 12 13:37:15 EDT 2002

Dear Lee,

I appreciate your question because it reveals that I clipped and 
pasted a wrong example, one including a QATAL when I wanted to use a 
WAYYIQTOL. Examples (1) and (2) below may illustrate my point:

(1) Genesis 29:18 And Jacob loved (or, was in love with) Rachel

(2) Psalm 119.167 My soul keeps (QATAL) your statutes, for I love 
(WAYYIQTOL) them greatly

A few words for those on the list who are not familiar with the 
parameters for analysing aspect: We have to deal with two kinds of 
time, deictic and non-deictic time. Non-deictic time consists of two 
members, "event time" which is real time, and "reference time" which 
is conceptual time. The concept "tense" (= grammaticalization of 
location in time") is deictic and aspect is non-deictic.

When we speak or write about events we refer to them from a 
particular vantage-point that often is speech-time (or the time of 
writing). This vantage-point is called the "deictic point" (C). Tense 
is the relationship between the deictic point and the event, past 
tense - the event occurs before C, present tense - the event 
coincides with C, future tense - the events occurs after C. Note that 
past, present, and future *reference* is not necessarily past, 
present, and future *tense*. Only when a form has a particular 
function (e.g. past reference) and no other temporal function can it 
be called a tense. So, even though 90 % of the WAYYIQTOLs have past 
reference, they need not represent past *tense*.

An event takes some time, and this time from beginning to end is 
called "event time" (ET). This ET is non-deictic because it is not 
seen in relation to the deictic point (C), but only in relation to 
its own beginning and end. Both tense and event time represent real 
time. When we refer to events, not only do we describe them in 
relation to a deictic point, but we tend to make just a part of the 
event visible for the reader or listener. Two Examples (3) and (4) 
may illustrate the point:

(3) Jill was reading the Hebrew Bible.

(4) Jill has read the Hebrew Bible.

In (3), what is made visible is a small section of progressive 
reading, with no beginning or end being seen. In (4), only the end of 
the reading event is made visible and no progressive action is 
visible. Example (3) represents the imperfective aspect in English 
and (4) represents the perfective aspect. The conceptual time 
"reference time" can be compared to a pointing finger, either it 
points to the nucleus of the event and makes a part of the 
progressive event visible, or it points  to its coda, making the end 
visible. In a scientific language we can say that reference time 
intersects event time; when the perfective aspect is used in English, 
reference time intersects event time at the coda, and when the 
imperfective aspect is used, reference time intersects event time at 
the nucleus.

In English, the aspect used help us make an un-ambiguous 
interpretation of whether the event was terminated or not at RT. The 
Hebrew aspects are much more complex, and we cannot know on the basis 
of the aspect that is used whether an event is terminated or not at 
RT. However, if RT intersects ET at the nucleus, we can conclude that 
the verb is inperfective in Hebrew. Both in example (1) and (2) the 
love continued after RT, and it suggests that the two WAYYIQTOLs are 



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

>The only restrictions I have found after analysing the 60.000 
>finitie and infinite forms of the Tanach is that conative situations 
>(something is attempted but not carried out) and situastions where 
>one verb intersects another verb (as in "when John entered, Peter 
>was reading the paper") can only be expressed by the imperfective 
>aspect (YIQTOL, WEYIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL), and not with the perfective 
>aspect (QATAL and WEQATAL). (BTW. In most states expressed by a 
>WAYYIQTOL, the state is intersected in the middle (imperfective 
>aspect),and not at the end, as in (1). The point in (1) is not that 
>the slave "had loved" but that he "does" love. Even when the 
>reference of a state is past, the intersection is usually in the 
>(1) Deuteronomy 15:16 And it must occur (WAYYIQTOL) that in the case 
>he says (YIQTOL) to you, "I will not go out (YIQTOL) from your 
>company" because he does love (QATAL) you and your household
>Dear Rolf,
>I am not sure that I understand your point above, but I would point 
>out that Deut. 15:16 does not begin with Wayyiqtol; it begins with 
>Weqatal (WeHaYaH).  May I ask clarification? Which verb in Deut 
>15:16 is intersecting and which is being intersected? Thanks.
>Lee R. Martin
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