w+x+yqtl in a sequence of weqtl's

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at sogang.ac.kr
Sat Mar 9 20:37:13 EST 2002

Trever Peterson wrote to me off-list as follows. But I think this post
has shed light to the current issue. So, I would like to share it with the

D. Gropp's view is that, while w+subject+yiqtol can be and
often is a circumstantial clause off the main event line (essentially what
you outline below), w+X+yiqtol can also stay on the main event line as
he calls a parallel clause (and must do so, if X is anything but the
subject). The best way to explain a parallel clause is to show an example.
In Gen 18:6-7, Abraham gives Sarah instructions, then runs to the herd to
get a calf ready. Is v. 7 some background event? It doesn't seem so.
Probably all that is meant by the construction is that, while he left
to do her thing, he went off and did something else at the same time.
it could have been expressed in sequence; but the writer chose to stress
the parallel between the two sets of actions. I think that use would fit
in your passage.

This description also fits with Galia Hatav's theory in her book
"The Semantics of Aspect and Modality- Evidence from English and biblical
Hebrew". One axiom of her theory reads as follows:

(34) [p. 56] Rule of R-time (reference time ) Movement in BH
  Given the current R-time Rn, introduce a new R-time Rn+1 to
  include En+1, if the verb in the new claus is in WAYYQTOL or

In contrast, QATAL (i.e., W+X+QATAL) does NOT introduce a new R-time,
but uses the current R-time to express its situation, in a similar
manner as English perfect tense. It is "parasitic" on the current R-time
provided by the context. She does not talk about the R-time for YIQTOL
(i.e. W + X + YIQTOL) explicitly, but she would consider it as 
parasitic on the current R-time. 

She tested this hypothesis by using the narrative (Genesis through Kings),
excluding the poetry and prophets. In p. 57, she summarizes her findings.
There were 20% of the total of 2445  WAYYQTOL's whose sequentiality could
not be determined based on her knowledge. Among the remaining cases
(1951), the 6% was found not to be sequential.  There were 30.7% of the
total of 573 WQATAL's whose sequentiality could not be determined. Among
the remaining cases (397), the 6.5% was not sequential. Among 1190
QATAL's, the 7.5% are those whose sequentiality cannot be determined.
Among the remaining cases (1101), only 1% is sequential. Among 1121
YIQTOL's the 4.8% are those whose sequentiality cannot be determined.
Among the remaining cases (1067), only .65% is sequential.

She believes that this statistics justifies the Rule of R-time
Movement in BH. I think I can accept it as a hypothesis which should
be maintained until critical counter-examples are presented.

Now, the example of Gen 18:6-7 is similar to Gen 4:3-5, which Hatav
discusses in her book [p. 175].  

[NET Bibile} At the designated time9 Cain brought some of the fruit of the
ground for an offering10 to the Lord. 4:4 But Abel brought 11 some of the
firstborn of his flock—even the fattest12 of them. And the Lord was
pleased with13 Abel and his offering, 4:5 but with Cain and his offering
he was not pleased.14 So Cain became very angry,15 and his expression was

Hatav explains these examples saying that W+X+QATAL describes the 
situation simultaneous with the preceding situation described by
WAYYIQTOL. As you noted, though, the notion of simultaneity does not
seem to capture what is going on here. These examples describe parallel
situations which are often in contrast. But one thing which Hatav claims
seems to be valid. That is, the W+X+QATAL clause uses the current
reference time rather than introducing its own. This clause also contrasts
X with the corresponding element in the previous clause. But it fits with
the fact that both clauses have the same reference time. To compare two
things seem to require the same reference time. But considering other uses
of QATAL for describing background information or subnarratives, the
common factor of QATAL seems to be using the current reference time
rather than introducing its own.   

So, yes, it seems that Deut 30.8 is parallel to 30.7, with the reference
time of 30.8 the same as that of 30.7. There seems to be some "contrast"
between 30.7 and 30.8. But this contrast is derived from the fact that
the 30.8 uses the same reference time as 30.7. So, the speaker's
attention does not lie in the advancement of the storyline, but in the
"contrast" between the two players with respect to the same reference

For some people, the notion of the reference time may be too technical. 
But I believe that this notion is crucial to understand tense and aspect
of language, especially of narrative. 

Moon R. Jung
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea


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