[b-hebrew] verb forms - Isaiah 56:6-7 was dying you shall die
if at math.bu.edu
Mon Apr 16 19:18:20 EDT 2007
This is how I see it. QATAL as a stand-alone is a mere root with two
A-sounds added to make it pronounceable. It bears no reference to a
person or to time. QATAL becomes an act (verb) only when we come to
think of it as being caused by an agent or actor. Since the Hebrew
root describes a material state, we naturally think of the verb QATAL
as a fait accompli, or a past deed.
The statement QATALTI is essentially the mere combination QATAL-ATI,
where ATI is an obsolete form of ANI, 'I', corresponding to ATA,
'you'. This is so obvious that even such a cautious conservative as
Gesenius agrees with it (see GKC Section 44, page 119).
Gramaticalization assigned this form, of a root plus a post-
positioned personal pronoun, to represent a past action, while it
assigned YI-QTAL = HI-QTAL, with a pre-positioned pronoun, to
represent a future action.
Gramaticalization may be circumvented with such time markers as
yesterday, today, tomorrow, but we, clumsy mumbling mortals, are
taught to be careful and strictly adhere to the rules, lest we muddle
a practical message. Spoken Hebrew is now fully grammaticalized for
the intent of having a precisely formulated, unambiguous, well
defined and homogeneous language of clearly delineated time frames,
as is required of a language used in practical settings, and needing
instantaneous reception and ready understanding. Nowadays every
Hebrew schoolboy is exhorted to speak strictly in accordance with his
paradigm tables compiled and provided for every verb and noun.
But the Hebrew bible does not speak by the tables. The LO YADATI of
Genesis 4:9 is a reversion to the indefinite, timeless, "no know I"
of YADATI = YADA-ATI, of the root YD(, 'know', and the personal
pronoun ATI = ANI. It is only contextually that we understand that
Cain means "I don't know", and not "I did not know", by dint of our
understanding that knowledge is usually embedded in the mind for a
long time. You are right in implying that had he said LO RACAXTI =
RACAX-ATI, "no kill I" we would know to refer it to a past deed. This
is the miracle of human intelligence.
But it is not always so clear cut (and this is why we need grammar
teachers and the Writing 101 prerequisite course). Take for instance
Exodus 21:5 AHABTI ET ADONI ET ISHTI VeET BANAY, "I love my master,
my wife, and my children". Here AHABTI=AHAB+ATI is actually
ambiguous, as love may ebb and flow. Yet by dint of a deeper hunch we
will to understand it as meaning 'I loved, I am loving, I will ever
love". Relying on such healthy intuition is what allows the bible to
break the mold of symmetry and formality and use the minimal form of
AHABTI, 'love I' (but there is also AHABATI, 'my love') for the ever
ongoing act of AHB. A present-day father would certainly use instead
the grammatically "correct" active participle ANI OHEB.
Still, Gesenius is missing yet another fundamentally obvious (to me)
aspect of the Hebrew language, the other obvious fact that the 'O' in
YI-QTOL is a second personal pronoun, the universal HU = HI,
referring to the receiver of the action. Thus (his own examples): YI-
QCOR = HI-QC-HU-R 'he (HI) cut (short) him (HU), he will cut
something' (transitive), but YI-QCAR = HI-QCAR ' he short, he will be
short' (intransitive). In YIZBLENYI = HI-ZBL-HI-ANI of Genesis 30:20,
the second personal pronoun is pushed forward and a third one, namely
ANI, 'I', for the speaker is added.
Isaac Fried, Boston University
On Apr 12, 2007, at 4:03 PM, <michaelabernat9001 at sbcglobal.net>
<michaelabernat9001 at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> Gen 4:9.
> And the LORD said unto Cain: 'Where is Abel thy brother?' And he
> said: 'I
> KNOW not; am I my brother's keeper?'
> Michael Abernathy
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
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