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

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Nov 28 12:25:28 EST 2004

Dear Bryan,

See my comments below.

B. M. Rocine wrote:

> snip
> Let me refer again to my earlier post:
>>> Hopper gives the following example from Russian:
>>> ...Peasants returning from the city whipped (impfv.) their horses 
>>> and rushed by (impfv.) in silence past these regualarly distributed 
>>> figures with their highly felonious appearance.  The soxoz managers 
>>> and the authorities rumbled by (impfv.) on carts and demostrably 
>>> showed (impfv.) the colonists their double-barrelled and sawed-off 
>>> shotguns, while people on foot stopped (impfv.) at the bridge and 
>>> waited (impfv.) for other travellers.
>>> While I was around the colonists never misbehaved (impfv.) or 
>>> bothered (impfv.) the travellers, but when I wasn't they allowed 
>>> (impfv.) themselves some dirty tricks, so that soon Zadarov refused 
>>> (pfv.) to take the revolver and demanded (pfv.) that I absolutely 
>>> had to spend time out on the road.  So I began (pfv.) to go out with 
>>> every detachment, but still gave (impfv.) the revolver to Zadorov, 
>>> so as not to deprive him of deserved pleasure.
>>> Hopper's comment, "The habitual actions here do not come to an end 
>>> with the event verbs 'refused', 'demanded', and 'began', but are 
>>> thought of as on-going.  The three perfective verbs, however, are 
>>> sequenced among themselves, and in fact the morphological difference 
>>> between perfective and imperfective is a clear signal that these, 
>>> and only these, events are presented as sequenced, and that they are 
>>> not sequenced with respect to the imperfective verbs."
>>> p. 10 "Aspect Between Discourse and Grammar" from   _Tense-Aspect: 
>>> Between Semantics and Pragmatics_, ed. Hopper.  Amsterdam/Phila.: 
>>> John Benjamins, 1982.
> You responded:
>> I am very sceptical to Russian examples used to illuminate classical 
>> Hebrew, because what is called the imperfective and perfective 
>> aspects in Russian are more like Aktionsart than aspects.  For 
>> example, "habituality" is not an aspectual quality in my definition 
>> of Hebrew aspects, but is a function of aspect + Aktionsart +possibly 
>> context.  Peter Kirk may have more to say about this, because he 
>> knows both Russian and Hebrew.
> I think your response about Hopper's example may be making my point. 
> Hopper's example shows that a perfective form may be used in Russian 
> to communicate an embedded sequence in a context where one might 
> predict a perfective form could not appear.  It can appear because of 
> some combination of Aktionsart and/or context.  The basic perfective 
> meaning of the form remains intact.  The so-called perfective forms in 
> his example do not prove that the Russian perfective form is not 
> really perfective.  We do not have to rewrite the Russian grammar 
> books because of his example.  Likewise, maybe your 998 non-past 
> wayyiqtols do not prove that the wayyiqtol is not perfective. 

I agree that the 998 examples of non-past WAYYIQTOLs do not prove, or 
even suggest that WAYYIQTOL is imperfective, and neither do I use them 
this way in my dissertation.  What they do show, however, on the basis 
of the hypo-deductic falsification principle is that WAYYIQTOL does not 
code for past tense (grammaticalized location in the past).  This is the 
way I use these examples.

Before I will accept the Russian examples, a systematic study of the 
relationship between event time and reference time in Russian is needed, 
and also a study of how Aktionsart is expressed in Russian.  Only if the 
use of these properties are rather similar in Hebrew and Russian do the 
Russian examples illuminte Hebrew use.

In order to present evidence in favor of the meaning of WAYYIQTOL I use 
two approaches in my dissertation: 1) I marshal a huge amount of 
evidence showing that there is no difference between WAYYIQTOL and 
YIQTOL, and 2) I show that WAYYIQTOL has imperfective properties.

1a)  The basic reason why WAYYIQTOL is viewed either as preterit of 
perfective is that most of the occurrences have past reference.  The 
universal view has been, and is that only perfective verbs or preterits 
can systematically be used with past reference.  But this is an example 
of how the linguistic views of the scholars are forced upon Hebrew.  
This is also based on anerroneous definition of Hebrew 
perfective/imperfective as completed/complete versus incomplete.  The 
new definition of the imperfective aspect that emerges from a systematic 
study of the relationship between reference time and event time in 
Hebrew, allows imperfective verbs to express past terminated events.

In my dissertation I discuss 2,198 participles, 900 infinitives, and 
1,027 YIQTOLs that function as finite verbs and express past terminated 
actions.  Applying the same viewpoint to these 4,125 forms as to the    
WAYYIQTOLs, all these forms must be perfective as well!  But nobody 
would argue that way, and these examples show that forms in great 
numbers that neither are perfective nor preterit can be used for past 
terminated actions.  Thus, the basic assumption behind the 
preterit/perfective view of WAYYIQTOL is shown to be invalid.

As for the 1,027 YIQTOLs expressing past terminated actions or states, 
896 has some word element preceding, and a great number of these 
elements have a prefixed  WAW.  It is shown that the reason for the 
choice of YIQTOL in most of the 896 cases is word order: When the author 
wants a subject, object, adverbial,  particle etc precede the verb, he 
had to choose a YIQTOL rather than a WAYYIQTOL.  If the word order were 
reversed and the verb was sentence initial, the YIQTOL would be changed 

Many other points are discussed which show that WAYYIQTOL is nothing by 
a YIQTOL with the prefixed conjunction WAW

2a)  In order to show that WAYYIQTOL  has imperfective characteristics  
I discuss four important areas, and a few minor ones.  The important 
examples are 1) conative situations, i.e. an action in the past is 
attempted but not carried out; 2) the beginning and first part of an 
event is made visible, and this is only caused by the verb form without 
the context playing any role; 3) the resultant state is made visible in 
verbs which are viewed as punctiliar; and 4) an action intersects an 
action expressed by WAYYIQTOL and  a small part of the progressive 
action is made visible (e.g. When Jill was reading the paper, John 
entered the room).

I conclude that the application of perfectivity to WAYYIQTOL has no 
Hebrew foundation whatsoever, but simply is based on an analogy with 
non-Semitic languages.  I further conclude that among my 89,574 verbs I 
have found no reason whatsoever to distinguish semantically between 
YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL.  And I conclude that there are several hundred 
passages that clearly suggest that WAYYIQTOL has imperfective properties.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo


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