[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs
furuli at online.no
Sat Jul 4 08:42:56 EDT 2009
I continue with examples of )MR.
First I would like to ask, "How did the father of
Hebrew grammar. S. R. Driver view the nature of
the WAYYIQTOL of )MR? In "A treatise on the Use
of Tenses in Hebrew and other Syntactical
Questions" (1892:71, 72) he writes (I use
asterisks where he has cursive):
"The Imperfect represent action as *nascent*;
accordingly, when combined with a conjunction
connecting the event introduced by it with a
point already reached by the narrative, it
represents it as the *continuation* or
*development* of the past which came before it.
WY)MR is thus properly not *and he said*, but
*and he proceeded-to-say."
Driver did not accept that the form "only could
be past perfective" as DK has claimed. Driver did
not use the modern parameters "deictic center,"
"event time," and "reference time", but his long
and thorough study of BH led him to the
mentioned conclusion. Let us now take a look at
some examples that Driver also considered (all
(1) Exodus 20:1
"God spoke (WAYYIQTOL) all these words, saying (infin.cons.):
(2) Exodus 19:19
"The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As
Moses spoke (YIQTOL), God answered (YIQTOL) him
In these verses there are three examples of
speak/answer, one as WAYYIQTOL and two as
YIQTOLs. The relationship between C and R is seen
in all three cases, so the events have past
reference. But what about tense/aspect? Is there
a semantic difference between the WAYYIQTOL and
the YIQTOLs? Such a difference is not visible.
But in both instances when the YIQTOLs are used,
there is a stated subject before them, and
because of this the verbs cannot be expressed as
WAYYIQTOLs. If the word order was changed and the
subject occurred after the verbs, they would
probably have become WAYYIQTOLs. In my
dissertation there are scores of examples of this
phenomenon: YIQTOLs with past reference are not
used to indicate the so-called "durative past,"
but they are used instead of WAYYIQTOLs when
some word element is placed before the verb. This
is so because the WAYYIQTOL is nothing but a
YIQTOL with a prefixed conjunction, as S. R.
Driver said. I will give a few examples below:
3) 1 Kings 21:6
He answered (WAYYIQTOL) her, "Because I said (YIQTOL) to Naboth the Jezreelite,
4) Judges 9:38
"Then Zebul said (WAYYIQTOL) to him, "Where is
your big talk now, you who said (YIQTOL)"
5) 1 KINGS 3:26
"The woman whose son was alive was filled with
compassion for her son and said (WAYYIQTOL) to
the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living
baby! Don't kill him!" ¶ But the other
6) HOSHEA 1:10
"In the place where it was said (YIQTOL) to them,
'You are not my people,' they will be called
(YIQTOL) 'sons of the living God.'
Here the same YIQTOL verb is used both with past and future reference.
(7) Lamentations 2:15
"Is this the city that was called (YIQTOL) the
perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?"
Please note the prefixed relative particle that
causes gemination of the YOD (2:15) just as does
the prefixed conjunction in WAYYIQTOL. No one
would say that the gemination after $ has any
semantic meaning, but that is what many say
regarding the gemination after WAW in WAYYIQTOL.
Examples 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 reveal no difference
between YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL used with past
reference. So my challenge to those who belive
there is such a difference, is: Please come with
the evidence. Do we have examples of YIQTOLs with
past reference where we can *see* a different
meaning compared with WAYYIQTOL?
Those who do not have any experience in analyzing
verbs in a dead language may wonder what factors
that can help us see the inner constituency of a
verb form, i.e., what the author wants to make
visible by using that form. One factor is a
knowledge of the world. This knowledge has no
bearing on lexicon, grammar, and syntax, so it
does not generate any new linguistic meaning. But
it can help us see the aspect of a verb (Another
factor may be different adverbials). Please look
at 8) and 9) below.
8) 1 Kings 6:1
"In the four hundred and eightieth year after the
Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth
year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month
of Ziv, the second month, he began to build
(WAYYIQTOL) the temple of the LORD."
9) Constructed example
"In the four hundred and eightieth year after the
Israelites had come out of Egypt, Solomon built
(WAYYIQTOL) a house for his queen."
In 9) we do not know how long it took to build
the house for the queen, so the relationship
between E and R is invisible, and we do not know
whether the beginning of the action, the
progressive action, or the action including its
end is what the author wanted to make visible.
But 8) is different, because we know that it took
many years to build the temple. Therefore, the
force of the WAYYIQTOL is ingressive, i.e., the
beginning and the small part of the action that
was performed that year is made visible. This is
an imperfective property.
The demand of DK to show that the WAYYIQTOL form
of )MR "is consistently imperfective throughout
the corpus" is of course impossible, because
there are so few examples of verbs where we can
see the relation between E and R. Such a demand
is tantamount to saying that God is not
omnipotent, because he cannot make a stone that
he is not able to carry."
But we may sum up the situation in the following way:
1) The past reference of so many WAYYIQTOLs does
not tell us anything about their aspect (cf.
2) There is absolutely no reason why the
WAY-element in WAYYIQTOL should be viewed as a
semantic element changing the force of the form
compared with the force of the YIQTOL - because
the element can be phonetically explained (cf.
the prefixed $ in Lamentations 2:15).
3) In no other Semitic language do a prefixed
element to a verb conjugation change its meaning
to the very opposite of the meaning without the
element. To the best of my knowledge, this is not
the case in any other living or dead language.
4) In Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and
Akkadian, the same conjugations can be used with
past, present, and future reference, just as in
5) As shown above, the YIQTOL form can be used
with exactly the same meaning as the WAYYITOL
form; and the choice of form depends on the word
order, whether there is a word element before the
verb or not.
Therefore we may turn the question around. I do
not ask for a demonstration of all WAYYIQTOLs of
)MR are perfective. But my question is: What is
the evidence that the verb form in Genesis 12:1
is perfective? And what is the definition of
University of Oslo
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