[b-hebrew] Basic observations on WAYYIQTOL

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Aug 16 19:03:53 EDT 2005

On 8/15/05, Peter Kirk wrote:
> I would like to bring some sanity to the recent discussions of WAYYIQTOL
> forms by explaining the situation as I understand it:
> 1) The traditional understanding of WAYYIQTOL is that when two or more
> WAYYIQTOLs follow one another in the text (with no other clause types
> intervening) they refer to a sequence of events - also that a WAYYIQTOL
> following a stative or continuing action (verbless or YIQTOL) clause
> refers to an event taking place while that state or continuing action is
> continuing.

I am looking over Eliezer Rubinstein's booklet and it seems that the
interpretation is different from his point of view, and as I was "merely 
rehashing" his description, I think that should be clarified: A QATAL 
following a WAYYIQTOL suggests past perfect.  But a WAYYIQTOL
following a QATAL suggests simple sequence.  So in Gen 18:1, Abraham
still sits down because that is the end state of the verb "to sit down."
When I ask you to sit down and you complete my request you are 
seated.  It would be a sort of smart-aleck response for you to sit
down and stand up and say "I sat down!"  A similar example is Gen
18:7 where Abraham ran to the cattle and then took a calf.

> 4) For others, such as Yitzhak and myself (although for rather different
> reasons) and probably in practice the majority of scholars, it is to be
> expected that even the best semantic rules will have some exceptions.
> For language is intrinsically dynamic and variable, and anyway the texts
> we have are not pure. We are not making any strong claims for the
> meaning of WAYYIQTOL which can be falsified by a few counter-examples,
> we are only outlining general meanings of verb forms which may be
> cancelled in specific contexts. The precise meaning in each case is
> determined not only by the verb form but by how it works in the context.

I am not sure what you mean by language being intrinsically variable, but
I offered the fact that the texts are not necessarily (and most likely not)
"pure" as a methodological flaw in taking a particular example that could
be the result of editorial conflation.

Yitzhak Sapir

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