[b-hebrew] The mystery of vav-consecutive

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sun May 22 23:35:56 EDT 2005

On Sunday 22 May 2005 21:23, Steve Miller wrote:
> > On Sunday 22 May 2005 16:15, Steve Miller wrote:
> > > Can anyone give me 5 examples from the Pentateuch where the
> vav-consecutive
> > > is clearly NOT a tense reversal?
> From: "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at nyx.net> Sunday, May 22, 2005 7:55 PM
> > Reversal of what?  You're assuming an awful lot: that we know the tense
> > of
> the
> > other forms, that the intention of the waw-forms was to "reverse" one of
> the
> > other forms, that the tenses resulting from a particular structure are
> > deliberate and not incidental to some other factor in the verb form -
> > briefly, taking this approach ends up in massive circular reasoning and
> gets
> > nowhere.
> Dave,
> I mean reversal from imperfect to perfect and vice versa. I don't see how I
> am assuming all these things. As a boy in Hebrew school, I learned that the
> vav-consecutive reversed tense, but I have no vested interest either way. I
> just want to find out the truth from the usage in the Bible. And I won't be
> convinced unless I see it in the Bible.
> If I look at the Bible starting from Gen 1:1 and read far enough to cover
> 10 vav-consecutives, that will take me to verse 7 and includes 11
> vav-consecutive-imperfects . In these verses, 11 out of 11 vav-consecutives
> reverse the imperfect to perfect,
> while none of the non-vav-consecutives reverse.

There it is.  You're assuming that the form without the vav is imperfect.  We 
don't know that.  Some folks here are working on the view that the forms code 
tense.  Some take the aspect approach that you're describing.  Still others 
see varying forms and degrees of modality in the mix.  My own approach is 
based on syntactic connection.  So my point is, you're beginning with an 
assumption about the "bare" forms that may or may not be accurate.  In the 
case of Genesis 1, your description is only one way of viewing what the forms 
do.  It's also possible to see them as tensed in that chapter.  I see most 
aspectuality coded not in the syntactic form, but in the meanings of the 
verbs themselves, while tense is derived primarily from context and genre.

> However, in Gen 1:6, the only thing that makes וִיהִי not vav-consecutive
> is the vowels.

Not really.  Context makes it modal, since it is clearly continuing the 
jussive force of the previous verb.  We do know that the wayyiqtol is a 
non-modal form, so since this one is clearly modal/imperative in force, it 
wouldn't be a wayyiqtol.

> So that is why I ask, can anyone give me 5 counter examples from the
> Pentateuch, where the vav-consecutive does not reverse the imperfect to
> perfect?

Sure.  All of them.  Since we don't know for certain that yiqtol encodes 
imperfect aspect, we can't say with any certainty that wayyiqtol reverses it.  
QED.  Since Martin just showed us all how to google the archives, I suggest 
you spend some time there since we're basically covering ground here that's 
been covered half a dozen times in the past year or so...


Dave Washburn
Reality is what refuses to go away when
you stop believing in it.

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