[b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Aug 13 13:01:04 EDT 2005

On 13/08/2005 07:26, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> ...
>And here is the important point: No study of Ugaritic of Akkadian verbs has
>systematically distinguished between past tense  and past reference!

There is a good reason for this, Rolf, and also why no study of biblical 
Hebrew other than yours has done so: it is impossible in principle to 
make such distinctions (even assuming that they are  theoretically valid 
distinctions) with a limited corpus in a dead language.

>... Moreover,
>the apocopation which is seen in many WAYYIQTOLs relates to the last root
>consonant and not to a final U. This means that if a short preterit was the
>antecedent of Hebrew WAYYIQTOL, either Ugaritic YAQTUL or Akkadian
>IPRUS could have been such an antecedent. Both forms hardly could be such an
>antecedent, because their shortness is different.

The phonological argument is that Hebrew lost all word final short 
vowels and so final -U of YAQTULU; but when the root ended in yod or vav 
(i.e. a lamed-he verb) the -U of the YAQTULU form merged with the final 
part of the root to form a long vowel, which was not lost. A distinction 
was also preserved in the Hiphil because the final -U affected the final 
vowel sound within the root. Thus full (non-apocopated) YIQTOL derives 
from YAQTULU, and apocopated YIQTOL from YAQTUL, in a phonologically 
coherent way.

The connection with IPARRAS is indeed less clear. But east Semitic is in 
general far more remote from Hebrew than are Ugaritic, Phoenician, 
Aramaic and Arabic, all of which have a short form like YAQTUL distinct 
from a longer form with a final -U and/or -N.

>Arabic resembles Ugaritic as far as the indicative/jussive distinctions are
>concerned. In Arabic we find the following forms: indicative YAQTULU,
>subjunctive: YAQTULA, jussive: YAQTUL, and energic: YAQTULAN(NA). So, the
>Ugaritic opposition YAQTUL/YAQTULU is seen in Arabic in the opposition
>between indicative and jussive. In Phoenician and Biblical Aramaic
>indicative has final N while jussive does not have this N. Thus, the
>indicative/jussive difference in these languages is between long and short
>forms as well.

Exactly as in Hebrew: the long form, derived from YAQTULU, is 
indicative, and the short form, derived from YAQTUL, is jussive.

It seems clear from the morphology that Hebrew WAYYIQTOL is derived from 
some prefix plus the short YIQTOL (remembering that only a very small 
proportion of WAYYIQTOLs are not apocopated where they could be). And 
this prefix is not simply the vav conjunction, because of the patah and 
especially the dagesh in the yod (or tav or nun). It seems to be a 
semantic innovation in Hebrew that this combination is used as an 
indicative mostly with past reference. But the basic verb form is not an 
innovation, but rather a product of the application of regular 
phonological changes to the common NW Semitic YAQTUL form.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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