[b-hebrew] Psa 107:19-21 (was WAYYIQTOL)

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Sat Mar 13 02:51:28 EST 2004

Dear Bryan,

In order to give an adequate answer I need to point out some basic 
weaknesses in peoples' dealing with aspects. I have already claimed 
that a basic weakness in modern studies which argue that Semitic 
verbs represent tenses, is the lack of systematic distinction between 
past reference and past tense (and future as well). There is a 
similar basic weakness in studies which argue that Semitic verbs 
represent aspects, namely the lack of analysis of the concept 
"aspect". Very often, all that is done, is to use the vague and wrong 
definition of B. Comrie (He confuses Aktionsart and aspect), and this 
often leads to the view that the perfective and imperfective aspects 
are mutually exclusive.

In my thesis I define tense as the relationship between reference 
time and the deictic centre, and this is the traditional definition. 
Tenses, such, as past and future are mutually exclusive, but in many 
languages present can be used with past, present and future 
reference, and therefore is no tense.  I define aspect as the 
relationship between reference time and event time, and this means 
that aspect represents non-deictic time while tense represents 
deictic time. We should not be satisfied with the mentioned aspectual 
definition, but try to find the essence of aspect. In order to do 
that I have developed three parameters related to the intersection of 
event time by reference time by which to analyze aspect: the quality 
of focus, the angle of focus, and the breadth of focus. Because there 
are two aspects, we can by the help of the three parameters compare 
aspects in different languages in six different areas. A comparison 
of English and Hebrew aspects give the following result:

		The quality of focus   The angle of focus	The 
breadth of focus
The imperfective aspect	SIMILAR	                DIFFERENT 
The perfective aspect	SIMILAR		DIFFERENT		 DIFFERENT

The most important area is the angle of focus, where both aspects are 
different in the two languages. The consequence is that English and 
Hebrew aspects are fundamentally different, English aspects are 
objective, because the imperfective aspect shows that the event *is 
no*t terminated at reference time while the perfective aspect 
indicate that the event *is* terminated at reference time. Hebrew 
asepcts are subjective because both aspects can refer to incomplete 
and completed events, to  past, present, and future, and to 
indicative and modal events.

The last sentence does not indicate that there is linguistic anarchy 
in Hebrew, but rather that the aspects are not mutually exclusive, 
and that there are several areas where both aspects can be used 
without any distinction in meaning. It is the linguistic conventions 
that give meaning to the use of verbs. We can illustrate the case 
with the active participle and infinitive construct. These two forms 
have different meanings and different uses, but they are not mutually 
exclusive. Occasionally, therefore, an infinitive is used where we 
expect a participle, vice versa. But normally linguistic convention 
causes an orderly use of both.

When we communicate, we use different areas of precision. In one 
context it is enough to speak of "a thing," in another we use 
"vehicle," in a third "car," and in a fourth "Ford". The perfective 
and imperfective Hebrew aspects are similar in certain areas and 
different in others, and in in many contexts in the Tanakh there is 
no need to be more specific than "thing" or "vehicle," thus both 
aspects can be used. There may also be certain stylistic reasons for 
the use of both aspects. Psalm 2:1-2 is a fine example of a 
parallellistic use of both aspects (two YIQTOLs and two QATALs). Who 
will say that the author wanted to to signal two different time 
references or two different notions by the use of the two aspects? 
There are hundreds of similar examples. One of the most important 
chapters of my thesis is the one where I analyze a lot of examples 
where both aspects are used with no meaning difference and lots of 
others where the choice of one particular aspect is important, or 
even mandatory in order to convey a particular thought.

Then to Psalm 107, which I once used in a book on Bible translation 
as an example translation problems if the traditional view of the 
Hebrew conjugations are followed.

As to different translations I gave the following list (P=past, Pr= 
present, and F=future, Q= QATAL, WQ= WEQATAL, Y= YIQTOL, 

NRSV   P:2-20, PR: 23-42
NAB    P:1-42,                    F: 43
ASV:   P: 1-16,PR: 17-41, F: 43
NASB: P: 1-30, PR: 33-43
NIV:    P: 1-41, PR: 42-43
NJB:   P: 1-36, PR:37-43
NKJV: P: 1-20, PR: 23-43
RSV:   P: 1-30, PR: 33-43
TEV     P: 1-41, PR 42-43

We see that while the translations differ in their use of English 
tenses, they apply the same tense to all the verbs of particular 
sections of the Psalm. But look at all the different verb forms in 
each section:

Section 1: vv. 2-7:     Q:4, WY 2, Y: 3
      "     2 : vv 9-14:   Q: 5, WY:2, Y: 3
      "     3 : vv 16-20: Q: 2, WY:2, Y: 4,WEY: 2
      "     4 : vv 23-30: Q: 1, WY: 7, Y: 8, WEY:1
      "     5:  vv: 33-43 Q: 1, WY:12, Y: 4, WEY:3

The traditional four-component model causes linguistic anarchy, but 
the two-component model (YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL, and WEYIQTOL  all 
represent the imperfective aspect, and QATAL and WEQATAL represent 
the perfective aspect) with the dfinition of aspect outlined above, 
can explain everything without any problems.

So to verses 19-20 that you ask about. I interpret the verbs like this:

19. the WAYYIQTOL- imperfective "they began calling",
19.    the YIQTOL: (1) "he saved them," or (1) "he caused them to be 
saved," or (3) "he always saved them". the  imperfective aspect is 
used to expressed an action that was completed before the deictic 
centre. But where does reference time intersect event time? In a 
translation with ordinary people as the target group I would have 
used (1 or (3)). It is a myth that YIQTOL with past reference 
indicates the so-called "durative past" I would say that what is made 
visible by the YIQTOL either is a small part of the saving event (RT 
intersects ET at the nucleus (1)), or the habitual act of saving (2).

20: The one YIQTOL and the two WEYIQTOLs have the same imperfective 
force. I will translate either (1)  "He continued to send his word 
and heal them, and he rescued them from the pit, or (2) "He sent his 
word and healed them, and he rescued them from the pit." In (1) the 
habitual element is stressed, and (2) does not stress anything 
particular. I would say that what is made visible by the YIQTOL and 
the first WEYIQTOL is a small part in the middle with details visible 
(RT intersects ET at the nucleus); the last WEYIQTOL which is in the 
Piel stem, may be resultative (RT intersects ET after the end).

As to the WEYIQTOLs in the past context, I take them as an example of 
the problems the Masoretes had when they should differentiate between 
WAYYIQTOLs and WEYIQTOLs in poetic texts. It seems to me that the 
Masoretes would use WAY(Y)  in past contexts and WE(Y) in future and 
modal contexts. But when the temporal/modal reference was not clear, 
they often "erred" in relation to this scheme.

Best regards


Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

>Dear Rolf, couldn't you simply explain, from your view, how to read this
>brief passage?
>Thanks, Bryan
>you wrote:
>>  Dear Bryan and others,
>>  Those really interested in the Hebrew conjugations and the basis for
>>  Masoretic pointing should analyze all the 43 verses of this Psalm and
>>  compare them with modern Bible translations. Regardless of which
>>  temporal reference one applies to the different parts of this Psalm,
>  > it is impossible to get a coherent picture, if the traditional view
>>  is presumed - that WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL are different conjugations
>>  compared with YIQTOL and QATAL.
>>  Best regards
>>  Rolf
>>  Rolf Furuli
>>  University of Oslo
>>  >B-Haveray,
>>  >
>>  >I have a little passage here that may relate to our discussion of whether
>>  >wayyiqtol and weyiqtol are distinct.  I would be interested in your
>>  >about the use/meaning of the verb
>>  >forms and syntax in this passage, shown translated below in the JPS
>>  >
>>  >Psalm 107:19 In their adversity they cried (wayyiqtol) to the LORD and He
>  > >saved (X-yiqtol) them from their troubles. 20 He gave (yiqtol) an order
>>  >healed (weyiqtol) them; He delivered (weyiqtol) them from the pits. 21
>>  >them praise (clause-initial yiqtol) the LORD for His steadfast love
>>  >
>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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