[b-hebrew] VERBS. Was " masorete pointing v's LLX transliterations"

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue Jul 26 09:58:39 EDT 2005

On 26/07/2005 14:19, Shoshanna Walker wrote:

>Dear Shoshanna,
>I use the expression "verb form" to refer to any part of the verbal system
>that in one way ore another can be distinguished from other parts, e.g.
>YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL, qal, hiphil, participle, infinitive absolute etc.
>That's what I though.  So aren't there way more than 4 or 5?
Well, Rolf's use is slightly different from mine, but Rolf also uses the 
word "conjugation" which is confusing. But this usage of the word "form" 
is also confusing, because "form" usually means a specific set of 
letters, points etc., which I have called a "surface form" below. A 
better word would be a paradigm, each of which consists of separate 
(surface) forms for each person, number, gender etc.

Here is the picture as I understand it:

 From each Hebrew verb root there are up to seven binyanim, often 
referred to as "conjugations" (but this is not Rolf's terminology), such 
as qal, hiphil, piel. (Qal passive should probably be understood as a 
separate binyan, or else most binyanim can be divided into 
active/passive pairs.)

Then for each of those binyanim there are a number of forms or paradigms 
- in principle each of those forms occurs in each binyan. These forms 
can be divided into "infinite" forms, which are infinitives and 
participles, and "finite" forms. (But this terminology is misleading 
because the participle can also be used as a finite form, the present 
tense, although morphologically it is not finite because it does not 
have separate personal forms.) The imperative is technically a "finite" 
form but is not usually considered in the counting of two, four or five 
forms that we have been using.

And then for each "finite" form or paradigm of each binyan there are 
separate surface forms for each of the three persons in singular and 
plural, and sometimes also gender distinctions.

So, for each binyan we have a "perfect" form or QATAL, and at least one 
"imperfect" form or YIQTOL. In fact there seem to be two YIQTOL forms, 
the regular and full "imperfect", and the "jussive" which has a distinct 
modal meaning and sometimes, e.g. in "lamed-he" verbs and the hiphil 
binyan, also a set of surface forms which are shortened (apocopated) 
and/or have a shifted stress. ("Jussive" forms are nearly always third 
person; the relationship with the first person "cohortative" is 
complex.) And then for each of these there is the possibility of 
prefixing the conjunction WE-, i.e. vav with sheva. When WE- is prefixed 
to QATAL, the meaning, or at least the usage, seems to be different from 
"and" plus the regular QATAL.

And then there is the controversial WAYYIQTOL form or paradigm. In the 
consonantal form this looks identical to WE- followed by YIQTOL, almost 
always the shortened "jussive" version where there is a distinction (but 
WAYYIQTOL can be in all three persons). But the Masoretes pointed 
WAYYIQTOL distinctively, with patah and dagesh (or with qamats before 
alef in 1st person singular forms) rather than with sheva. This 
consistent distinction implies to me that this is a distinct verb form, 
which is likely, although not certain, to have distinct semantics. But 
Rolf and I disagree here.

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

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