[b-hebrew] Past Tense in Ex. 12:13

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Oct 8 23:12:22 EDT 2006

On 10/9/06, George Athas wrote:

> No argument there, Yitzhak. I did say 'many', not 'most' grammarians.

But it was misleading :)

> And from a personal point of view, a conversive waw is a very odd
> grammatical peculiarity. Is it seen definitvely elsewhere?

I just read through most of a very interesting dissertation on Hebrew
pausal forms, based on the reconstruction of Tiberian phonology:

A very kind list member pointed me to the following message in the archives:

I would like to suggest a different theory.  In the article on
Afroasiatic in the
Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, Huehnergard
suggests that in West Semitic, the perfective adjective of the Proto Semitic
replaced the inherited Semitic form yaqtVl perfective form (contrasted
with the inherited Semitic form yaqattVl form).  Following the same lines
of argument as suggested by Goerwitz for noun vs verbal pausal forms, we
might suggest the following development:

1) the perfective adjective replaced the perfective verb in sentences of the
form: *bayta wathibna ("we lived in a house") from the previous: bayta
yawthVb.  this did not occur in sentences of the form: wayawthVb bayta
("and he lived in a house") because adjectives were not used as often at
the beginning of the word.
2) this created a situation in which yawthVb and yawaththVb at the middle
of the sentence were confused or reanalyzed as prefix-verbs contrasted
with "suffix verbs" which developed from the perfective adjective.
3) by analogy, the waw in such cases was analyzed as a waw conversive
and so applied to the adjective

Since this was a natural process, some vestiges of the original forms
remained, mostly in the sense of a waw conjunctive at the start of the
sentence, and an additional "archaic" imperfect at the middle-end.

Seen in this light, the waw is not so peculiar.  An explanation such as this
also ties in the form to the wider context of Semitics.  It might be problematic
in the face of wqatalti forms which are used as perfects in the same context
as wa)eqtol perfects in epigraphic Hebrew.  "wqatalti" is the only
truly artificial
form in the above scenario and its use prior to the breakdown of the verb
system in the late millenium BCE, when "waw consecutive" was still properly
used, would be problematic for this description.  By the way, just to make
it clear to any current or future readers, I am not a linguist, and I
am not even
sure if the above works out in the details.  I just presented it as a way to
combine Ken Penner's description with Goerwitz's description of the evolution
of "peculiar" forms.  It is probably best to stick to Ken Penner's
description :)

Besides the basic explanation for such "peculiar" developments in linguistics,
Goerwitz drives home the point about the need to analyze Tiberian vocalization
in light of recent studies.  A study claiming the waw consecutive is
artificial as
used by the Massoretes must make use of these studies.

So no, I did not bring evidence that it is definitely used.  Anything
I bring I suppose
can also be questioned.  But then, because you are challenging the consensus
the weight of proof is greater for you -- have you or Rolf found
evidence of perfect
wqatalti in epigraphic Hebrew or NWS when "waw consecutive" was still used?

Geoffrey Khan has successfully demonstrated the breakdown of vowel
lengths for Tiberian Hebrew, basing himself on evidence.  It is for this
reason that even if he is not yet a consensus, it is clear that his theory
is a clear challenge, and has many supporters.  In contrast, your or Rolf's or
other models do not seem to have clear evidence that makes them stand out
against the consensus nor even that makes one preferable to one another.

Yitzhak Sapir

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