[b-hebrew] The mystery of vav-consecutive

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue May 24 07:21:53 EDT 2005

On 24/05/2005 03:29, Ken Penner wrote:

>I think it's fair to say it was S. R. Driver's  _A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew and some other syntactical questions_ that popularized (in English) Ewald's idea that the Hebrew qatal and yiqtol were not past and future tenses but perfect and imperfect "aspects". I recommend the Eerdmans/Dove 1998 reprint with an introduction by W. Randall Garr.

I'm not sure that this is fair. Gesenius, or at least GKC (1910, section 
40a), says that "The verb has only two tense-forms, (Perfect and 
Imperfect...), besides an Imperative..., two Infinitives and a 
Participle". So it was not SR Driver who introduced or popularised in 
English the terms "perfect" and "imperfect", because they were already 
used by Gesenius or GKC some time earlier - in English and in the most 
widespread reference grammar. Of course GKC may have been dependent on 
Ewald (1803-1875).

Furthermore, in the note at section 47a, GKC writes "The Indo-Germanic 
scheme of three periods of time (past, present and future) is entirely 
foreign to the Semitic tense-idea, which regards an occurrence only from 
the point of view of completed or incomplete action". In other words, 
although GKC doesn't use the term "aspect", which was probably not yet 
in use in general grammatical description, it is aspect that they are 
describing as the distinction between Hebrew verb forms. And all of this 
some time before SR Driver, and in English, although perhaps dependent 
on Ewald.

So Driver's contribution seems to have been only to introduce the term 
"aspect" (but not the concept which was already known) into English 
language Hebrew grammatical studies.

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

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.322 / Virus Database: 266.11.15 - Release Date: 22/05/2005

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list