[b-hebrew] 998 non-past wyyqtl's, Dave

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Wed Dec 1 14:47:00 EST 2004

Hi Bryan,

On Wednesday 01 December 2004 12:13, B. M. Rocine wrote:
> Hi Dave,
> I'm going to try to answer the questions from your post below in one
> continuous missive because I think it is easier for the forum to enjoy. 
> Let me know if I have left any important answers out.

That works for me.

> About the meaning of the "meaning" of forms  ;-)    :
> In talking about verbal semantics we are talking about the language rules
> native speakers have internalized.  In other words we are talking about
> rules for human behavior.  Human behavior is less mathmatically reliable
> and predictable than the rules by which we understand the orbits of
> heavenly bodies.

Agreed, except that I would extend this principle to include all of language 
and not just verbal semantics.  I have given this phenomenon the tentative 
name "social convention."  I believe this accounts for things like the 
"historic present" in Greek, as well as various reversals of meaning in 
English that we observe today.  But I could too easily digress on that, so 
I'll leave it there for now.

> Example:  If a being from another planet observed upstate New York drivers
> through his telescope, he could acurately deduce the meaning of the traffic
> signals and markings--white lines for road boundaries, red lights for stop,
> turn signals predict direction of movement, etc.  The markings and signals
> communicate in a rudimentary way to and between drivers, and the alien can
> learn the code by the 90+% of folks who follow the code 90+% of the time.
> (I am sure the alien would err on one point.  He would be sure that all
> speed signs mean about ten m.p.h. above what they read!)  When a driver, in
> order to go around someone who is waiting to make a left, goes outside the
> white line to get around the stopped car, the white line has not stopped
> *meaning* "here is the edge of the drivable space."  In fact, if an
> learner's permit holder were to drive outside that white line on his New
> York State driver's exam, he would fail the exam for not respecting the
> meaning of the line.  In spite of the meaning of the line, it is a common
> exception for drivers to vere into the shoulder of a road to get by a
> standing car.
> Likewise, perhaps wayyiqtols can retain their meaning as sequencers even
> though there are some explainable exceptions and even an occasionally
> unexplainable exception.  Speaking of unexplainable "violations," have you
> ever seen people ignore a traffic marking for no good reason?  It's the
> inevitable chaos that seems inherent to the fallen human race!  ;-)
> Take paraphrasing with wayyiqtol as an example of "crossing the white
> line." When a second wayyiqtol paraphrases or is identicle an earlier one,
> the writer and reader's shared world knowledge cooperate with the meaning
> of the wayyiqtol.  Writer and reader know the same event doesn't happen
> twice. Writer and reader both realize we are back-looping with the second
> wayyiqtol to cover the same sequence again.

Let me be sure of one thing here: are you indicating that such a "crossing" is 
deliberate on the part of the speaker or writer?  To continue your analogy, 
in general when someone crosses that line, they do it on purpose, and for 
what they consider to be a good reason (whether the other people on the road 
think it's a good reason is open to question, of course).  If we say the same 
thing about a case of "paraphrasing with wayyiqtol" (a term I like), then it 
is most likely a deliberate crossing of the boundary, and most likely for a 
particular reason.  The question would then become "why?"  For this 
discussion, how about we stick with Judges 12:11, which I think we agree is a 
clear example of the phenomenon that you call paraphrasing, if that's okay 
with you?  Assuming it is, the next logical question is "why did the writer 
do such a back-loop?"  I'll expand on this below.

> About the meaning of the wayyiqtol specifically:
> I think Hatav has said it as well an anyone.  It's meaning is to create a
> new R-time.  She has found something like 93-95% (I forget exactly)to do so
> in the typical prose corpus.  If she were to add other, most notably
> poetic, texts, I believe she would find nearly as high a percentage.

While I tend to agree that there is "divergent" grammar (I don't want to say 
"bad" grammar when referring to grammar that does something other than what 
we expect based on our understanding of the forms) in the HB, I also tend to 
think that, barring really strong reasons for divergence or "crossing the 
line," we do better to try and find some unified sense within the form that 
accounts for at least 99%+ of the data (poetry excepted; poetry does its own 
thing in every language).  As far as I know, the approach I have chosen does 
that.  In fact, I have yet to find a counter-example.  That's not to say I 
have it all figured out, but my "simple declarative" seems to account for an 
even higher percentage than Hatav's, even to the point of not only explaining 
her "sequence" examples but also her counter-examples.  Having said that, I 
do acknowledge that her data on modality has spun my head around a few times 
and set me on a much different course than before regarding some of the other 
forms.  Her monograph is one of the most profitable works on the subject that 
I have ever read.

> I don't believe the conclusion that wayyiqtol clauses are the "simple,
> active propositions" of BH quite accounts for the data satisfactorily.
> Critical to me is that the X-Qatal, the wayyiqtol's partner in
> story-telling, is not used as merely the alternative consctruction when the
> writer wants to promote an element to the first position of the clause.  We
> see that the X-qatal is strategically distributed within stories in places
> where context indicates non-sequence.  It makes sense therefore, that
> X-qatal's partner indicates the presence of sequence.

But here's where it gets into trouble in Judges 12:11, because it would be 
natural to expect X-qatal in the second clause.  I agree completely that the 
second wayyiqtol is a restatement/expansion of the first one; the question 
is, why did the writer choose to cross the line with a wayyiqtol there 
instead of using the more natural X-qatal?  I honestly can't think of a 
reason, because there doesn't seem to be anything particularly noteworthy or 
special about Elon's term: he judged Israel; he judged Israel for X number of 
years.  That's it.  So what would be the point of drawing extra attention to 
the number of years by using a "non-standard" wayyiqtol?  

> In your below letter, you ask for examples of explainable examples when
> wayyiqtol does not express a sequence.  I'll give them in another post.

OK.  I look forward to it.

> Shalom,
> Bryan
> You wrote:
> > On Monday 29 November 2004 16:15, B. M. Rocine wrote:
> >> Hi Dave,
> >>
> >> Thanks for your good question.  I am always pleased when we discuss
> >> specific
> >>
> >> texts on this forum.  You wrote:
> >> > On Sunday 28 November 2004 06:57, B. M. Rocine wrote:
> >> >
> >> > [snip]
> >> >
> >> >> Take your example of two wayyiqtols in Jer 51:29.  The consensus
> >> >> among the
> >> >> five or six modern translators I checked is that the wayyiqtols are
> >> >> non-past; they differ on whether to translate them as present or
> >> >> future.
> >> >> I
> >> >> quickly vote future with you.  I do not, however, think the text is
> >> >> evidence that the wayyiqtols are not perfective.  The perfectivity of
> >> >> the forms is utilized to explicitly embed sequentiality into the
> >> >> text. I think
> >> >> translations should use the word *then* or *so*:  "Then the land will
> >> >> quake, then it will writhe for the thoughts of YHWH stand against
> >> >> Babel."
> >> >
> >> > Bryan,
> >> > Would you insist that they use the word "then" or "so" in Judges
> >> > 12:9-14
> >> > as
> >> > well?
> >> >
> >> > --
> >> > Dave Washburn
> >>
> >> I suppose we might use "then," but I surely wouldn't insist on it or
> >> even recommend it in all cases in the passage.
> >
> > That's good, considering the mess it would cause :-)  Starting in v.8, we
> > would have "Ibzan...judged Israel...then he had thirty sons and
> > daughters, then he married them all off, then he judged Israel
> > [again!]...Elon judged,
> > then he judged [huh?]...Abdon judged, then he had 40 sons, then he judged
> > [he
> > must have been exhausted by the time he reached this second judgeship!]"
> >
> >> I think you may be asking whether I think wyyqtl always represents a
> >> sequence.  I do not, but I still the best explanation of the form is
> >> that it *means* sequence.  I do *not* think the meaning of a form is
> >> only that which is uncancelable.  Such a standard does not allow for the
> >> chaos which
> >> is bound to be evident in language use.  So I can tolerate a fair
> >> handful of exceptions to a verb form's meaning, especially if they are
> >> distributed
> >> in a regular manner (patterned chaos?  oy vey, have patience with me!).
> >
> > You correctly discern my real question.  Based on this paragraph, I'm not
> > sure
> > what your definition of "meaning" is.  I don't want to do a Clinton here,
> > but
> > it seems to me that you're defining "means" in a somewhat different way
> > than
> > several others here do.  So I could do with some clarification so I can
> > follow you correctly.  If "meaning" is not something uncancelable, what
> > are
> > the circumstances in which (by which?) that "meaning" of a form may be
> > canceled?  If sequence is encoded in the verb form, how does a speaker or
> > writer get around that?
> >If meaning is something other than something encoded
> > in the form, what exactly is it, and if it's not a hard-and-fast feature
> > of
> > the form, how can we discern that it's there at all?  These sorts of
> > questions are at the heart of my research, and I anxiously await your
> > input.
> >
> >> Take for instance Jdg 12:11 vayyishpot 'axarav 'et yisra'el 'eylon
> >> hazzebuloni vayyishpot 'et yisra'el `eser shanim
> >>
> >> The same story time is covered twice by two successive wayyiqtol
> >> clauses. In other words, stroy time does not move forward as we expect
> >> from a series
> >> of wayyiqtols.  It's easily negotiable for the reader though because
> >> both clauses have the same kernel witht he same subject.  If we have
> >> this series
> >> in English:
> >>
> >> Sam hit a homer.
> >> Bill hit one out of the park.
> >>
> >> we understand that first Sam hit a homer, and then Bill hit one.  If we
> >> have this series:
> >>
> >> Sam hit a homer.
> >> Sam hit one out of the park.
> >>
> >> we understand that the second clause is elaborating on the first, even
> >> though in English story telling, a second clause with a simple past verb
> >> usually moves forward story time.  (I am only speaking of English simple
> >> past as an analogy.  I am not equating the English simple past with the
> >> wayyiqtol, even though both are used as the mainlines of narrative in
> >> their
> >> respective languages.)
> >
> > So if I follow your reasoning correctly, sequence (at least in the
> > English simple clause) is more a semantic and pragmatic matter than a
> > syntactic one,
> > since in the first set we have a change of actor and in the second we
> > (presumably) don't.  Am I with you so far?
> >
> >> I think the majority of the wayyiqtols that do not advance story time
> >> may be found in one of the following three categories:
> >>
> >> 1.  wayyiqtol of 'mr after a wayyiqtol expressing a verbal event, like
> >> vayyiqr'a 'el YHVH vayyo'mer...
> >> 2.  a second wayyiqtol paraphrases the first, like many times in the
> >> flood
> >> narrative.
> >> 3.  an identicle wayyiqtol covers the same story time as a previous
> >> wayyiqtol.
> >
> > We have a reference for 3, Judges 12:11 above.  Could you just toss out
> > one
> > for each of the others so we have something more concrete to play with?
> >
> >> Such cases do not negate the basic meaning of the wayyiqtol as a
> >> sequencer.
> >
> > This is where I get bogged down in the question of what constitutes
> > "meaning"
> > and how it may be canceled.  Just to throw a couple of other grammarians
> > into
> > the pot, Hatav's view of the wayyiqtol is that it advances R-time.  The
> > Judges verse would seem to question that.  Waltke-O'Connor describe the
> > wayyiqtol as "usually successive and always subordinate to a preceding
> > statement."  F. I. Andersen, in his monograph "The Sentence in Biblical
> > Hebrew" way back in 1977, found profuse examples that call this into
> > question, particularly his "begin a new line of thought" use.  For that
> > matter, Jonah 1:1 might easily contradict this idea, though that one is a
> > WYHY, and the verb "to be" behaves in strange and unpredictable ways in
> > every
> > language with which I am familiar.  Anyway, my point is that these
> > various grammarians have sought to find a solid "meaning" in the form,
> > without real
> > success.  So I'm interested to see how you have gotten around this
> > problem with your idea of "meaning" (basic or otherwise ;-)
> >
> > Looking forward to your response,
> > --
> > Dave Washburn
> B. M. Rocine
> Living Word Church
> 6101 Court St. Rd.
> Syracuse, NY 13206
> ph: 315.437.6744
> fx: 315.437.6766
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Dave Washburn
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk

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