[b-hebrew] Re:morpho-syntax, was Proverbs 5:16 - a declaration or a question ?

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Dec 31 12:22:32 EST 2004

Dear Bryan,

>"Not only does v. 16 not have any sign of a question, as George mentioned, it
>also features a clause-initial yiqtol form, which I think is highly unusual
>in an unmarked question, particularly in a question that is not parallel
>with a question.

HH: There is an unmarked interrogative with a yiqtol form in 1 Sam 
11:12. There is a noun subject that precedes it, as it does in some 
other cases, but I don't see that that is decisive.  GKC #150a lists 
Prov 5:16 as an interrogative sentence.

>   Neither does a clause-initial yiqtol favor indicative
>mood.  The vast majority of clause-initial yiqtols are volitional,
>preferring the "may" or "let" translation like the KJV uses.  I think
>context would have to be definite before we would prefer the interpretation
>of v. 16 as a question.  I will let you decide if you think it is "definite

HH: Many linguists consider the interrogative to be a mood.

>I think the above comment could be the key to understanding the 
>proverb, but I understand how such a comment can be overlooked.  The 
>comment just does not register sometimes.  Many students of BH have 
>not been trained to pay attention to the position of a finite verb 
>within its clause and the significance of word order.  However, I 
>believe that the ancients were very sensitive to this syntactical 
>feature, and I suspect it is at least partly responsible for the 
>likes of Rashi who interpreted Pro 5:16 as expressing the hope that 
>one's disciples would increase.
>(I personally find that the context in Pro 5:15ff. is not sufficient 
>to over-ride the syntax in v. 16.  I believe v. 16 expresses hope: 
>"may your fountains break forth streetwards, your irrigation canals 
>into the plazas." I do not find v. 17 to contradict.  I understand 
>that if the addressee is promiscuous, his issue would emerge from 
>sources that are not his alone. But v. 16 refers to *his* fountains 
>and *his* canals.  palgey mayim, in particular, is not an image of 
>unrestrained gushing forth such as the profligate man would produce. 
>In particular, palgey mayim are irrrigation ditches that are located 
>carefully and through which the flow of water is regulated.)

HH: I accept Gesenius. I cannot search for unmarked questions, but 
they occur now and then, based on context for the most part.

					Harold Holmyard

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