[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Jul 6 10:29:38 EDT 2009

>Hi James,
>Well, I'd like for you to explain how it may be analysed imperfectively.
>As far I take the default construal of wayyo'mer in Gen 12:1 in its
>context, event time is prior to the deictic centre, thus past. The
>action refers to the whole of the speech event, not some part of it, so
>therefore perfective. (God said all of what he said, not part of it.)
>Like I said, please explain how this verb could possibly be taken as
>imperfective in its context.
>David Kummerow.

DK has demonstrated that he still does not 
understand the basic parameters used by 
Reichenbach, Comrie, Broman Olsen and myself. 
Tense is the relationship between reference time 
and the deictic center, not between event time 
and the deictic center. This is so because event 
time can start before the deictic center and 
continue after it. But OK, I agree that the whole 
event time in Gen 12:1 is prior to the deictic 
center. This shows that the reference is past, 
but not that the WAYYIQTOL is past tense. And 
there is no way to look inside the verb and know 
whether the whole or a part is made visible.

But what about I Genesis 41:1-7?  In these verses 
we find 9 WAYYIQTOLs and 6 participles. In all 
instances event time comes before the deictic 
center. On the basis of the the definition above, 
the participles should also be perfective. Is 
that correct?  And what about the hundreds of 
YIQTOLs where event time is prior the the deictic 
center? Are they also perfective? If not, how can 
we know?

In the analysis of the verses below, let us start 
with )MD (to stand) in verses 1 (participle) and 
3 (WAYYIQTOL). To stand is a state, and a state 
has a beginning and an end; the state holds 
between beginning and end, and every part of a 
state is similar to any other part and to the 
state as a whole. Let us now apply the parameters 
reference time (R) and event time (E) to the 
states of the two verses. Please keep in mind 
that E is the time of an event or state from 
beginning to end and R is the part of E (small or 
great) that is is made visible. In verse 1, would 
the writer signal that the end of the state was 
reached, i.e., that Pharao *had stood* by the 
Nile but was no longer standing there? That can 
hardly be the case. But what about the cows in v. 
3? Would the writer signal that their state of 
standing had reached its end, i.e., that they had 
stood beside those on the riverbank? I do not 
think that anyone would say that. Even if one 
would say that the writer meant to make visible 
that the cows came up out of the Nile and began 
to stand beside those on the riverbank, the end 
of the state is still not reached. So, both in 
both the state expressed by the participle and by 
the WAYYIQTOL R intersects E after the beginning 
and before the end. S, how can this WAYYIQTOL be 

We may also focus on XLM in verses 1 and 5. 
Pharaoh had a dream, in the first instance 
expressed by a participle and in the second by a 
WAYYIQTOL. Is there a semantic difference? Are 
both perfective? How can we know?

The point I am trying to stress is that because 
BH is a dead language and there are no 
informants, in many cases, probably in most, we 
cannot on the basis of the context know whether a 
part of an event or state, or the whole event or 
state is made visible. We must therefore look at 
those situations that are transparent and where 
this can clearly be seen. The situations where 
the relationship between E and R cannot be seen 
must be interpreted in light of the situations 
where that can be seen.

Gen. 41:1	When two full years had passed 
(WAYYIQTOL), Pharaoh had a dream (participle): He 
was standing (PARTICIPLE) by the Nile,
Gen. 41:2 when out of the river there came up 
(PARTICIPLE) seven cows, sleek and fat, and they 
grazed (WAYYIQTOL) among the reeds.
Gen. 41:3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and 
gaunt, came up (PARTICIPLE) out of the Nile and 
stood (WAYYIQTOL) beside those on the riverbank.
Gen. 41:4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt 
ate up (WAYYIQTOL) the seven sleek, fat cows. 
Then Pharaoh woke up (WAYYIQTOL).
Gen. 41:5  ¶	He fell asleep (WAYYIQTOL) again 
and had a second dream (WAYYIQTOL): Seven heads 
of grain, healthy and good, were growing 
(PARTICIPLE) on a single stalk.
Gen. 41:6 After them, seven other heads of grain 
sprouted (PARTICIPLE)-thin and scorched by the 
east wind.
Gen. 41:7 The thin heads of grain swallowed 
(WAYYIQTOL) up the seven healthy, full heads. 
Then Pharaoh woke up (WAYYIQTOL); it had been a 

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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