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

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Nov 30 01:55:48 EST 2004

On Monday 29 November 2004 16:15, B. M. Rocine wrote:
> Hi Dave,
> Thanks for your good question.  I am always pleased when we discuss
> specific
> texts on this forum.  You wrote:
> > On Sunday 28 November 2004 06:57, B. M. Rocine wrote:
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> >> Take your example of two wayyiqtols in Jer 51:29.  The consensus among
> >> the
> >> five or six modern translators I checked is that the wayyiqtols are
> >> non-past; they differ on whether to translate them as present or future.
> >> I
> >> quickly vote future with you.  I do not, however, think the text is
> >> evidence that the wayyiqtols are not perfective.  The perfectivity of
> >> the forms is utilized to explicitly embed sequentiality into the text. 
> >> I think
> >> translations should use the word *then* or *so*:  "Then the land will
> >> quake, then it will writhe for the thoughts of YHWH stand against
> >> Babel."
> >
> > Bryan,
> > Would you insist that they use the word "then" or "so" in Judges 12:9-14
> > as
> > well?
> >
> > --
> > Dave Washburn
> I suppose we might use "then," but I surely wouldn't insist on it or even
> recommend it in all cases in the passage.

That's good, considering the mess it would cause :-)  Starting in v.8, we 
would have "Ibzan...judged Israel...then he had thirty sons and daughters, 
then he married them all off, then he judged Israel [again!]...Elon judged, 
then he judged [huh?]...Abdon judged, then he had 40 sons, then he judged [he 
must have been exhausted by the time he reached this second judgeship!]"

> I think you may be asking whether I think wyyqtl always represents a
> sequence.  I do not, but I still the best explanation of the form is that
> it *means* sequence.  I do *not* think the meaning of a form is only that
> which is uncancelable.  Such a standard does not allow for the chaos which
> is bound to be evident in language use.  So I can tolerate a fair handful
> of exceptions to a verb form's meaning, especially if they are distributed
> in a regular manner (patterned chaos?  oy vey, have patience with me!).

You correctly discern my real question.  Based on this paragraph, I'm not sure 
what your definition of "meaning" is.  I don't want to do a Clinton here, but 
it seems to me that you're defining "means" in a somewhat different way than 
several others here do.  So I could do with some clarification so I can 
follow you correctly.  If "meaning" is not something uncancelable, what are 
the circumstances in which (by which?) that "meaning" of a form may be 
canceled?  If sequence is encoded in the verb form, how does a speaker or 
writer get around that?  If meaning is something other than something encoded 
in the form, what exactly is it, and if it's not a hard-and-fast feature of 
the form, how can we discern that it's there at all?  These sorts of 
questions are at the heart of my research, and I anxiously await your input.

> Take for instance Jdg 12:11 vayyishpot 'axarav 'et yisra'el 'eylon
> hazzebuloni vayyishpot 'et yisra'el `eser shanim
> The same story time is covered twice by two successive wayyiqtol clauses.
> In other words, stroy time does not move forward as we expect from a series
> of wayyiqtols.  It's easily negotiable for the reader though because both
> clauses have the same kernel witht he same subject.  If we have this series
> in English:
> Sam hit a homer.
> Bill hit one out of the park.
> we understand that first Sam hit a homer, and then Bill hit one.  If we
> have this series:
> Sam hit a homer.
> Sam hit one out of the park.
> we understand that the second clause is elaborating on the first, even
> though in English story telling, a second clause with a simple past verb
> usually moves forward story time.  (I am only speaking of English simple
> past as an analogy.  I am not equating the English simple past with the
> wayyiqtol, even though both are used as the mainlines of narrative in their
> respective languages.)

So if I follow your reasoning correctly, sequence (at least in the English 
simple clause) is more a semantic and pragmatic matter than a syntactic one, 
since in the first set we have a change of actor and in the second we 
(presumably) don't.  Am I with you so far?

> I think the majority of the wayyiqtols that do not advance story time may
> be found in one of the following three categories:
> 1.  wayyiqtol of 'mr after a wayyiqtol expressing a verbal event, like
> vayyiqr'a 'el YHVH vayyo'mer...
> 2.  a second wayyiqtol paraphrases the first, like many times in the flood
> narrative.
> 3.  an identicle wayyiqtol covers the same story time as a previous
> wayyiqtol.

We have a reference for 3, Judges 12:11 above.  Could you just toss out one 
for each of the others so we have something more concrete to play with?

> Such cases do not negate the basic meaning of the wayyiqtol as a sequencer.

This is where I get bogged down in the question of what constitutes "meaning" 
and how it may be canceled.  Just to throw a couple of other grammarians into 
the pot, Hatav's view of the wayyiqtol is that it advances R-time.  The 
Judges verse would seem to question that.  Waltke-O'Connor describe the 
wayyiqtol as "usually successive and always subordinate to a preceding 
statement."  F. I. Andersen, in his monograph "The Sentence in Biblical 
Hebrew" way back in 1977, found profuse examples that call this into 
question, particularly his "begin a new line of thought" use.  For that 
matter, Jonah 1:1 might easily contradict this idea, though that one is a 
WYHY, and the verb "to be" behaves in strange and unpredictable ways in every 
language with which I am familiar.  Anyway, my point is that these various 
grammarians have sought to find a solid "meaning" in the form, without real 
success.  So I'm interested to see how you have gotten around this problem 
with your idea of "meaning" (basic or otherwise ;-)

Looking forward to your response,
Dave Washburn
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk

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