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

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Tue Oct 10 12:22:18 EDT 2006

On 09/10/2006 08:12, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> ...
> 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
If I understand this correctly, and to restate it in terms more like 
Hebraists are used to, you are suggesting that the QATAL form in Hebrew 
derives from some kind of participle, with subject suffixes, with a 
perfective meaning. Apart from this, the distinction between perfective 
and imperfective was more one or word order, with WAYYIQTOL X as 
perfective and WE-X YIQTOL as imperfective. WE-X QATAL then came in as 
an alternative perfective form, and later WEYIQTOL X as imperfective by 
some kind of analogy. This kind of development process makes reasonable 
sense. But I don't quite understand what happened to YAQATTUL relative 
to YAQTUL: did they merge, or is one the ancestor of YIQTOL (not 
apocopated) and the other of WAYYIQTOL (mostly apocopated when this is 

So, this kind of process may have happened. But if it did, it must have 
happened way back in proto-Semitic history, as the distinction between 
prefix and suffix forms is found at least in all West Semitic languages 
(from memory). So what is the particular relevance to Hebrew? I suppose 
you could argue that this was the situation in proto-West Semitic 
languages, but WAYYIQTOL had been lost in all but Hebrew before the time 
of the earliest inscriptions. Is that in fact what you would suggest?

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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