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

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Sat Mar 13 12:56:04 EST 2004

Dear Bryan,

I am glad that you understand my position better, and I have some 
comments below.

>Rolf, thanks for your reply.  I really feel that I understand your model
>better now than ever, mostly as a result of your comments about Psa
>107:19-20 specifically.
>You wrote:
><noted and snipped>
>>  So to verses 19-20 that you ask about. I interpret the verbs like this:
>>  19. the WAYYIQTOL- imperfective "they began calling",
>>  19.
>For years now--can you believe how time flies?-- this has been a difficult
>feature of your model for me to swallow: that a wayyiqtol that you alledge
>to be imperfective is used most often in a context that features the advance
>of time.  In my understanding of aspect, the advance of time would favor, if
>not require, a perfective form.  But I may be understanding you.  Let me see
>if I can explain, in your view, how an imperfective form can be used in a
passage where story time advances.

>Wayyiqtol refers to a situation that obtains (essentially saying that it
>begins) but the verb form doesn't by itself indicate anything about the
>situation's completion.  The verb form leaves, in and of itself, the
>situation open on the anterior end, because it is imperfective.  Then, in a
>text, along comes the next wayyiqtol, a new beginning.  A new beginning
>usually (but not necessarily) *implies* the ending of the previous
>situation.  IOW, one situation is now usually *inferred* to be complete
>simply because a new one has obtained or begun.

Given the traditional definition of perfectivity and imperfectivity I 
agree that we would expect perfective verbs in past narrative, as you 
describe it above.  However, I neither accept "incomplete" as a 
definition of the imperfective aspect, nor "complete" or "completed" 
for the perfective one. These are vague generalizations which does 
not fit hundreds, or even thousands of verbs, and scholars are just 
using these definitions without systematically having studyied the 
very nature of aspect.

Mary Broman Olsen is an exception, and her work with the English 
verbal system is excellent; she accounts for the whole system by the 
interplay of three fundamental factors, the deictic centre, event 
time, and reference time. In other words, she accounts for the whole 
system by describing the interplay of tense and aspect, without 
seeking recourse in the so-called relative tenses. This is excellent, 
because she has used fundamental linguistic concepts to explain tense 
and aspect, and she has not just given vague definitions which is not 
linked to such concepts!  She also shows how Comrie goes wrong, but 
she herself errs because she claims that her model is universal. What 
I have done is, on the basis of the mentioned fundamental concepts, 
which stems from Reichenbach (1949), and which Comrie and Olsen uses 
(though Olsen clarifies them), to develop a model for a deeper 
analysis of the mentioned concepts. In this way the vagueness of the 
traditional views of the concept "aspect" vanishes, and aspect can 
now be defined by help of the fundamental linguistic factors, though 
language specific.

In order to *illustrate* how imperfective verbs (imperfectivity 
defined by the intersection of ET by RT) can be used in narrative, 
without being strange at all, I give two examples below. I translate 
without trying to mark simultaneous action, and I note the Hebrew 
verb forms.

(1) and seven priests carrying (part) seven rams' horns walked (part+ 
inf. abs) before the ark; and they blew (WEQATAL) their horns. And 
the war-equipped men went (part) ahead of them, and the rear guard 
followed (part) the ark of YHWH, and they blew (part+inf. abs) on the 
horns. Josh 6:13

(2) And Moses got up (WAYYIQTOL) and went (WAYYIQTOL)  to Datan and 
Abiram, and the older men of Israel went (WAYYIQTOL) with him. 
Numbers 16:25

Examples (1) and (2) are not typically narrative with one action 
following when the previous is completed. But the examples are quite 
similar in nature and can be used to illustrate my point.

All the finite and infinite verbs have past reference. The usual 
explanation of the WAYYIQTOLs of (2) is that each represent 
punctiliar (perfective) past events, and that his is signalled by 
each *form*. But what about the two participles and two 
participles/inf. abs. of (1), all having past reference, and the 
events being terminated at speech time (the deictic centre)? Why can 
we say that they have past reference and that their actions were 
terminated? On the basis of the form? No! But on the basis of the 
context! Where does reference time intersect event time in the 
infinite forms of (2)? In the two examples of part/inf. abs. I would 
say that a small part in the middle is intersected or made visible; 
they were walking and they were blowing, and given the nature of the 
participle, I would say that the same is the case with each of the 
single participles: a small part of the walking event is made visible 
by the form, but the end of each walking event is not made visible by 
each of the finite forms but simply by the context. Thus we have four 
examples of infinite forms which are not perfective, and which can 
portray events that objectively were past and terminated at speech 

The convention of the use of finite forms does not allow them to 
generally be used in narrative contexts just as WAYYIQTOLs are used. 
But the examples above show that they *can* be used in quite similar 
contexts.  This shows that non-perfective forms can be used in such 
contexts, and that is the way I explain the WAYYIQTOLs.  The biggest 
obstacle for accepting the WAYYIQTOLs as imperfective is the 
traditional definition of imperfectivity and perfectivity. But if we 
accept that the Hebrew aspects are nothing more than peepholes 
through which a small or big part of the action, with or without 
details, in different angles and in different breadths are made 
visible, the use of imperfectivity in past contexts in no way is 
strange. My point, therefore, is that RT does not intersect ET at the 
coda in the WAYYIQTOLs, but at other places, such as a) before the 
beginning (conative), b) including the beginning and a small part of 
the action (ingressive), c) a small part of the action after the 
beginning and before the end, d) a small part imediately before the 
end (egressive), and e) the state after the end of the action 
(resultative). Example (3) below is conative, (4) is ingressive, (5) 
is egressive (or possibly future), and (6) is resultative.

(3) And the magicians tried to do (WAYYIQTOL) the same with their 
secret arts, in order to bring forth gnats, but they could not  (Ex 

4) And in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of 
Israel had come out of Egypt...Solomon... began to build (WAYYIQTOL) 
the temple of YHWH. 1 Kings 6:1

(5)  They have thrown him into a cistern, and he is on the point of 
loosing his life because of the famine.  Jer 38:9

(6)  And he fell (WAYYIQTOL) on his face to the earth before the ark 
of YHWH until the evening. Joshua 7:6 (NB, the sense "fallen down" 
found in some lexicons is not a *lexical meaning* of the word but an 
aspectual one.)

>This view of wayyiqtol seems rather like that of S.R. Driver, no?

No. S.R. Driver interpreted WAYYIQTOL  as nascent, but that is just 
one of the possible alternatives I list.

>>.the use of a 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).
>Rolf, You seem to be accepting a difference between wayyiqtol and weyiqtol
>after all, if not a semantic difference, a pragmatic difference, that is, at
>least most of the time, *rightly coded by Masoretic pointing*.  I am
>understanding you correctly?

I use WAYYIQTOL  and WEYIQTOL  only in a graphic sense and neither in 
a semantic or even a pragmatic sense.  In my view they represent 
exactly the same form, but the Masoretes pointed some WAW+YIQTOLs 
that were used in one way as WAYYIQTOL and others used in another way 
as WEYIQTOLs.  In my view there are just two hebrew conjugations.

>Thanks again, Bryan

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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