[b-hebrew] word order

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Thu Dec 1 08:38:21 EST 2005

On 01/12/2005 05:57, David Kummerow wrote:

> Hi Peter,
> What would you say the "prehistory" of the wayyiqtol form might be, ie 
> its process of grammaticalisation?

Very tentatively, either conjunction vav + short yaqtul (with doubled 
first consonant developing to maintain the distinction from WEYIQTOL at 
the time when final short vowels were being lost), or conjunction vav + 
definite marker (originally HAL?) + short yaqtul. Yes, I too remain on a 
fence here.

> I'm still sitting on the fence regarding this issue, but here's some 
> of my thoughts. I understand prefixes to have often once been 
> independent words. If this is true of wayyiqtol (I'm not decided yet), 
> the entire form is now bound, sure, but once it may not have been. In 
> other words, the fact that the form is now bound, even with a marker 
> of definiteness, does not really prove one way or the other regarding 
> whether an independent word (whether a marker of definiteness or 
> something else) has become attached through regular use to the verb or 
> not.

I take your point. The same is presumably true of the personal prefixes 
in the "prefix" conjugations, which were probably originally personal 
pronouns, but this goes back before proto-Semitic as all Semitic 
languages have the prefix and suffix conjugation distinction. It is the 
word order of biblical Hebrew that we are studying, not that of some 
unknown ancestor of proto-Semitic in which the prefixes and suffixes 
were not yet attached. I would not claim that the definiteness marker on 
the verb was already attached in proto-Semitic, but it was already 
attached in the common ancestor of Hebrew and Moabite (for there are 
WAYYIQTOLs on the Mesha Stele) and so many centuries before standard 
biblical Hebrew. And that is the language we are studying, not some 
earlier language which may have had a different basic word order.

> Now the grammaticalisation path of definite markers seems to be from 
> anaphoric demonstratives. Since these deictic words are independent in 
> Hebrew, this may point to a time when the prefix was not attached to 
> the verb. This would probably be the case for whatever hypothesised 
> word, eg 'az etc.

Well, I guess Herman would dispute this. But I would accept that the 
definite marker may have a common ancestry with the plural demonstrative 
'ELLE or sometimes 'EL. However, again this is prehistory and so of 
little relevance to the word order of biblical Hebrew.

> Further, the matter may depend on at what stage wayyiqtol became 
> grammaticalised, ie before or after the definite article in Hebrew 
> (I'm here assuming this article theory for the sake of argument). If 
> before, I think we would have to say that an independent word has 
> become bound; but if after, we could say that the definite article 
> came to be applied to the preterite\jussive verb.

But surely here there is nothing we can do more than speculate about. At 
best we have very patchy inscriptional evidence for pre-biblical Hebrew 
and other Canaanite.

> Anyway, there's some thoughts. In the end, I'm not sure if we can 
> prove the point from our texts. But stugying this area typologically 
> would probably be fruitful. Cynthia Miller has some interesting things 
> to say using a typological argument on the emergence of the definite 
> article West Semitic; see:
> Miller, Cynthia L. "Methodological Issues in Reconstructing Language 
> Systems from Epigraphic Fragments." Pages 281-305 in The Future of 
> Biblical Archaeology: Reassessing Methodologies and Assumptions. 
> Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Alan Millard. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
> 2004.
I'm sure this would be interesting, but I don't have easy access.

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

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