[b-hebrew] Kamatz katan; Ashkenazi pronunciation; was: Translating

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Oct 5 11:10:11 EDT 2006

Dear Rivka,

See my comments below,
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: YODAN 
  To: 'Rolf Furuli' ; b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org 
  Sent: Wednesday, October 04, 2006 9:52 PM
  Subject: RE: [b-hebrew] Kamatz katan

  Shalom Rolf,


  I looked at the section you mentioned and saw a few WEYIQTOLs but didn't find a WAYYIQTOL;  I must have missed it.  Can you give a chapter/verse please?


  In the mentioned book  vol II, p. 23, after the refrence Daniel 11:15-17,  Kahle says: "Die Hs. hat die folgenen Imperfecta als Imperfecta consecutiva aufgefasst und waw mit a vokalisiert."


  In any event, are you saying that a word like vaYAkom (with kamatz katan as the last vowel) is a form of yaKOM (with holam as the last syllable) or yaKUM (with kubutz or shuruk as the last syllable) to which VAV was added?  If so, I agree and I believe this is the accepted explanation of these forms.  This is also an example of a HOLAM turning into Kamatz Katan or, better yet, an earlier SHURUK or KUBUTZ that later (sometimes) into Holam (in imperfect verbs) or into kamatz katan (when the VAV was added and the accentuation changed).  Do you agree with this?


  My approach to the vowel points of the Masoretes is basically phonemic (semantic distinction by the use of vowels) and not so much phonetic (descriptive use of vowel). Of course I cannot avoid starting with a phonetic analysis, but I think it is difficult to be certain as to which vowels turned into which vowels. If I understand your words above correctly, I have no objection to them.


  I'm interested in the point about 2 and 4 conjunctions.  Can you please elaborate on this?


  When we look at the MT from a morphological standpoint (vowel points included) we find five different groups of verbs (YIQTOLs, WEYIQTOLs, WAYYIQTOLs, QATALs, and WEQATALs). At present this is believed to represent four different conjugations (A Niccacci has five, since he views WEYIQTOLs as an independent semantic unit), since the WEYIQTOLs are viewed as YIQTOLs with a prefixed conjugation and WEQATALs with past reference (357 examples) are believed to be QATALs with a prefixed conjunction (Nicacci again is consistent and view all WEQATALs as one group).

  The important question, which seldom have been scrutinized, is: The morphological distinction, is it semantic (different semantic groups are distinguished) or is it pragmatic (basically represening function, i.e. past, present, and future reference /not "tense," which would be a semantic term/ and modality? The answer stands and falls with the view of WAYYIQTOL. As a matter of fact, the WAYYIQTOL did not exist before the Masoretes! By that I mean that it is impossible to distinguish between WEYIQTOLs and WAYYIQTOLs in the DSS since many WEYIQTOLs in the MT are apocopated just as are many WAYYIQTOLs. In the transcriptions of Origen´s Hexapla the WAYYIQTOLs and WEYIQTOLs are transcribed similarly (no gemination and the prefix transcribed as OU). The Masoretes obviously distingusihed between YIQTOLs/WEYIQTOLs on the one hand and WAYYIQTOLs on the other. But again, was this in their mind a semantic or a pragmatic distinction? And, if there is no trace of this distinction before them, on which basis did they make the distinction?

  The Masoretes introduced their pointing (vowels and accents) on the basis of the recitation they heard in the synagogue, and they would not dream of adding or subtractiong a single dot to the text. They were not grammarians and did not understand much grammar at all, so they would not make sweeping grammatical changes in the text. In order to be short, I will say that a basic problem for the Masoretes may have been to distinguish between shewa, whose default pronunciation was an "a"-sound, and patah, whose default pronunciation was an "a"-sound as well. Therefore, the least likely vowels to use to make a *semantic* distinction would be shewa versus patah. Whether these two vowels were pronounced differently in the synagogue we do not know, but is is likely that the stress in the recitation of narrative texts was different compared with texts with future and modal reference. Thus, the narrative form with prefixed vaw would have a retracted stress, and future and modal forms would not. In this way the distinction was made. Narrative YIQTOLs with prefixed WAW had penultimate stress (and an "a"-vowel), and applying their phonetical rules the result would be WAYYIQTOL forms. Non-narrative YIWTOLs with prefixed WAW had normal stress (and an "a"-vowel) and applying their phonetical rules the result would be WEYIQTOL forms. (An interesting study can be made of the vacillation in pointing and stress by WEYIQTOLs/WAYYIQTOLs in non-narrative texts.)

  The Masoretes would not dream of adding a single dot to the text, but they had to choose different vowels. Thus, the five groups that we see in their text were made on functional and phonetic grounds. However, grammarians from the Middle Ages who did not distinguish between semantic and pragmatic factors interpreted the pragmatic distinction made by the Masorets as a semantic distinction, and the four component model with WAYYIQTOL, YIQTOL, WEQATAL, and QATAL was born. It is an exception that modern grammarians working with Semitic languages distingusih between semantic and pragmatic questions, so the 1000 year old four-component model still stands. I have analysed all the 70.000 finite and infinite verbs of classival Hebrew and written a dissertation about these, and my conclusion is that YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL, and WEYIQTOL represent the imperfective aspect and QATAL and WEQATAL represent the perfective aspect. Perfectivity and imperfectivity is defined on the basis of reference time and event time and the definitions are different from the ordinary definitions.

  Best regards,

  Rolf Furuli

  University of OSLO


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list