Hebrew Syntax., 2 Sam 15:37

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Apr 18 12:15:29 EDT 2002

Dear Dave,

Se my reply below,

>Rolf wrote: "The reason for the yiqtol rather than a wayyiqtol in [2 Kings
>3:26], is the negation before it which even has a prefixed waw."
>DKS: I believe the last clause of 3:26 is X-QATAL.  The YIQTOL of *YKL*
>would be *YW.KAL*.  Thus this examples actually supports the traditional
>understanding that X-QATAL is the counterpart to WAYYIQTOL.  That is, when
>the writer needs to move an element to the front of a clause that would
>otherwise be WAYYIQTOL, the result is X-QATAL.  In my dissertation
>exploring whether negative clauses could be on-line, I observed hundreds if
>not thousands of cases where a negative X-QATAL clause is within a string
>of WAYYIQTOL clauses.  Your claim to the contrary simply doesn't account
>for the vast majority of the evidence.

You are correct that the form is QATAL rather than YIQTOL. I have 
recently rehearsed  my students several times regarding the 
difference in parsing between the form YKL in Aramaic and Hebrew; I 
should not have overlooked this, and I regret this error. Your 
observations of hundreds of X-QATAL in strings of YIQTOLs are 
correct, but it does not tell os anything about their meaning only 
about linguistic convention.

>Rolf wrote: "One can hardly argue that the plurality of the yiqtols
>indicates iterativity, habituality or progression, for the same argument
>could be used regarding the wayyiqtols since they are plural as well."
>DKS: It is not from the plurality of the forms that I would argue
>iterativity, but from the forms of the clauses themselves.  X-YIQTOL and
>WEQATAL are often used for the iterative or habitual sense.  The idea here
>is that as they went, the Israelites were continually destroying the land.

Regarding 1 Kings 3:24-26 you have a problem with your concept 
"continually". I think we agree regarding what did happen, the 
soldiers used some time to destroy this city and that city, they used 
some time to fill this water spring and that water spring, until 
everything was ruined. They could not do this destruction several 
times because there were a limited number of cities, trees and water 
springs. These actions are described with YIQTOLs ( and one WEQATAL)

Are the actions described by WAYYIQTOLs in verses 21-24 different? 
Hardly! The Moabites were gathered together, one after the other (v 
21), and they stood there (not "had been standing" - focus on the 
continuing state). They marched one after the other to the camp of 
Israel (v 24), and the israelites rose, one after the other,and 
Israel struck the Moabites, one after the other. Then the Moabites 
fled and Israel again killed Moabites, one after the other. There 
were probably more Moabites that were killed than the number of 
cities and springs that were destroyed according to verse 25. If the 
actions described by the YIQTOLs are imperfective, the WAYYIQTOLs 
must be imperfective as well. I will illustrate this.

  2 Kings 3.21,23-26 "(21) And all Moab heard (QATAL) that the kings 
had come up (QATAL) to fight against them. So every man young and old 
were called up (WAYYIQTOL),and they stood (WAYYIQTOL) at the 
boundary... (24) When they came (WAYYIQTOL) into the camp of Israel, 
the Israelites rose up (WAYYIQTOL) and struck (WAYYIQTOL) the 
Moabites, and they fled (WAYYIQTOL) before them. And they entered 
(WAYYIQTOL) the land and struck (WAYYIQTOL) the Moabites.  (25) And 
the cities they destroyed (YIQTOL), and on every good tract of land 
each man threw  (ŠYIQTOL) a stone  and it was filled (YIQTOL), and 
all water springs they stopped up (YIQTOL), and every good tree they 
felled (YIQTOL), until only Kir Hareset was left (QATAL) with its 
stones. But men armed with slings surrounded it (WAYYIQTOL)  and 
attacked it (WAYYIQTO) as well. (26) When the king of Moab saw 
(WAYYIQTO) that the battle was too strong (QATAL) for him, he took 
(WAYYIQTOL) with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through 
(infinitive) to the king of Edom, but they were not able to do so 

First take a look at the verses above, and then on the clauses below. 
Many of the events are telic because the subjects or objects are 
singular/definite or definite (in number):

21 - all Moab heard (QATAL)
21 - every man were called up (WAYYIQTOL)
24 - the israelites struck the Moabites (WAYYIQTOL)
25 - the cities (of Moab) they destroyed (YIQTOL)
25 - every good tract of land ... was filled (WEQATAL)
25 - every good tree they felled (YIQTOL)

I have problems with your word about "they were continually..." in 
all these clauses. Please look at the English clauses below.

(1) She was/is eating three apples/all the apples

(2) She had/has eaten three apples/all the apples.

Both (1) and (2) are dynamic and telic, and the lexical meaning and 
Aktionsart are the same. The difference is one of aspect (English 
aspect), because (1) is imperfective whereas (2) is perfective. Let 
us now introduce the "continually"-adverb into these clauses.

(3) She was continually eating three apples/all the apples

(4) She had/has continually eaten three apples/all the apples.

I am not a native speaker of English so I may be wrong, but my 
intuition tells me that whereas at least the part of (3) and (4) 
focusing on "three apples" are grammatically correct, their meanings 
are somewhat strange, and it is different from the meaning of (1) and 
(2). My interpretation of (3) and (4) is that she over and over again 
is/was eating three apples/all the apples, or that she over and over 
again has/had eaten three apples/all the apples. It seems to me that 
the word "continually" is grammatically incorrect if the object is 
"all the apples". I even doubt that the weaker expression "continued 
to" will solve this problem, as in (5) and (6)

(5) She continues/continued to eat all the apples.

(6) She has/had continued to eat all the apples.

The real problem is the "all"-proposition of the telic clauses; the 
expressions "continued to" and "continually" simple do not collocate 
with telic "all"-propositions, as they do with non-telic 
propositions, as  in (7) and (8).

(7) She continues/continued to eat apples.

(8) She has/had continued to eat apples.

If we apply the examples (1) - (8) and their comments to the telic 
phrases of verses 21,24, and 25 above, we realize that to introduce 
"continually" ("the israelites were continually destroying the land") 
means that they destroyed alle the cities, filled every good tract of 
land, and felled every good tree over and over again, but that is of 
course impossible.

It is my experiance that even some of the best scholars of Semitics 
have not grasped the meaning of the concept "aspect" because they 
have never studied it in depth. Not seldom are Aktionsart terms used, 
it is believed that the aspect (particularly the imperfective one) 
gives a verb phrase a special force. What is important for the 
interpretation of verb phrases are the lexical meanings of the words 
and their Aktionsart; aspect never introduces anything new, it just 
makes visible a part of what already is there. Let us then apply the 
imperfective aspect to a telic "all"-proposition, as in (9).

(9) She is/was in the process of demolishing the whole house.

In (9) reference time intersects event time at the nucleus; the lady 
is focussed upon while she is demolishing and before the whole house 
is ruined. If the YIQTOLs of the telic verb phrases in vv 21,24,25 
are imperfective, as we agree to, reference time MUST also intersect 
each of them at the nucleus. But the same must be true with the telic 
verb phrases of the WAYYIQTOLs of vv 21 and 24, because they are 
constructed in exactly the same way: Actions including many 
individuals/things and a measure of time is seen both in the YIQTOLs 
and the WAYYIQTOLs. The only place where there *could" be iteration 
is in connection with the YIQTOL describing "each man throwing a 
stone", but even here this notion is not necessary.

>Rolf wrote: "To argue on the basis of a special theory of discourse that
>the YIQTOL does not portray an avent of this world but rather of an
>imagined world is in my view very misleading. Something that is unfounded
>is read into the text."
>DKS: Do you not also have your own "special theory"?  The challenge is
>which theory best accounts for the majority of the evidence with the fewest
>unexplained cases.  If the X-YIQTOL's in Exod 19:19 are not iterative, they
>are admittedly anomalous in my theory of DA (Schneider treated them
>specially, calling them "actualizing" YIQTOL's).  But for every one case
>like this you have to explain the hundreds of X-QATAL's in the midst of
>WAYYIQTOL's -- e.g., in the vicinity of your examples, Exod 19:18; Judg
>8:3; 2 Sam 15:11; 16:1.  As far as the "imagined world" is concerned, any
>theory of language has to account for irrealis, whether it be negation or

I agree that the best theory accounts for most (or all) of the 
evidence. The difference in my approach and many others (including 
discourse analysts) is that  I work from the bottom and up, while 
discours analysis work from the top an down. My theory is very 
simple: A difference in morphology indicates a difference in meaning. 
In unpointed texts there are visible just two different finite forms, 
the prefix-forms and the suffix-forms. In order to substantiate that 
the prefix-forms and the suffix-forms with prefixed WAW have a 
different meaning from those without the WAW, *all* the forms must be 
analysed and semantic differences must be domonstrated on the basis 
of their time references and the intersection of event time by 
reference time. Verb meaning can never be established by a study of 
the foreground/background functions of a few thousand forms occurring 
in narrative contexts.

>Dave Stabnow
>Bible Translation Editor
>Broadman & Holman Publishers
>Nashville, Tennessee
>david.stabnow at lifeway.com
>     Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
>do everything for God's glory.  (1 Cor 10:31, HCSB)



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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