[b-hebrew] WAV Conjunction

wattswestmaas wattswestmaas at eircom.net
Thu Jun 3 09:20:26 EDT 2004

I am so glad that you wrote this.  Thankyou.  Chris.

   Hi Chris!

  As you've picked up, the WAW CONSECUTIVE is a very prickly subject in
Biblical Hebrew. The problems do not all come down to the WAW CONSECUTIVE,
though -- there are other peripheral issues involved.

  Essentially, let me outline the old school of thought, and then outline
some new currents.

  There are two basic tenses: Perfect (completed action) and Imperfect
(uncompleted action). The WAW CONSECUTIVE attached to a verb inverts the
tense (hence it is often called the waw-conversive: it gives you the
converse tense). Hence, WAW + PATAH + IMPERFECT = past tense; WAW + SHEWA +
PERFECT = future tense.

  Scholars are beginning to realise that there are many problems with the
old school approach. For example, it does not explain why III-Heh verbs
suddenly lose the III-Heh when a waw-consecutive is attached, and why the
accent changes. It also doesn't explain why some WAW + SHEWA + PERFECT
constructions do not indicate future tense.

  I believe that what we have is not the imperfect with a waw-consecutive at
all. Rather, we need to recognise a totally new 'tense' or verbal
conjugation, known as the Preterite (past tense). This means that the
WAW-CONSECUTIVE is not inverting the tense of the verb at all. Rather, the
past tense is part of the meaning of the Preterite verb. This explains the
shorter form and differing accent when compared with the normal imperfect.
(C. L. Seow, in his second edition Hebrew Grammar acknowledges the
Pretetrite, but is still sufficiently entrenched in the Old School that he
does not pursue its leads.)

  The WAW-CONSECUTIVE is, however, playing a certain syntactical role,
namely adding momentum to a narrative text -- advancing the plot-line --
kind of like a camera moving during a scene.

  That is a very simplistic explanation of some complex issues. There is far
more that needs to be said. Rolf Furuli will also give you a new view that
has departed from the old school of thought. It's similar to my explanation
here, but differs at certain points. You might like to get him to explain it
in a short form. I'm sure some monographs and articles will be written on it
in the near future, and you will see a shift occur in the Hebrew Grammar
books that are produced. I certainly look forward to seeing the deficiencies
of the old old system overcome with more watertight grammars.

  Best Regards,

  Fellow Chairman, B-Hebrew Forum

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: wattswestmaas
    To: B-Hebrew
    Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2004 12:57 AM
    Subject: [b-hebrew] WAV Conjunction

    Hello board members,  I do not want to open a fiery debate about the
    infamous use of the WAV conjunction/consecutive since I have read many
    your hot debates about this matter.

    What I really would like to appreciate is this: WHY is the tense of the
    classical hebrew verb, for the greater part, dictated by this one letter
    prefix.  While I understand that classical hebrew really only exists in
    PERFECT and IMPERFECT 'idea'  --  I wondered if there was some
    for the central position that this WAV occupies in the hebraic thinking
    'time'?  Past, present and future tenses seem such a logical way to
    ravel  --  but is this really a MODERN CONCEPT in language?

    I know that context plays a part in determining 'time' but this
'context' is
    an emphasis used in the translation process.  The hebrews did not need
    translate but simply 'understand'.  The WAV plays a hugely important
    and one that IRONICALLY leads to quite some debate rather than clarity

    I will appreciate all your comments.

    Thankyou - Chris.

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