[b-hebrew] Opinions on J. Wash Watts "A Survey of Syntax in the Hebrew Old Testament

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed Nov 30 20:43:37 EST 2011

>Dear Randall,
> The first example itself is clear. But in my view, it tells nothing
> about the nature of Hebrew verbs. The use of expressions, such as the
> use of MXR, are governed by linguistic convention; the word order can
> be decisive, and 52 examples represent very few examples.

Actually, 52 is quite a few in a closed corpus as small as the tana"k.
And zero out of 52 for wayyiqtol and qatal is definitely significant and
against the predictions of 'aspect-only'. 'Word order' and 'linguistic
convention' do not explain this.

> First if
> you show that WAYYIQTOL and QATAL never are used with reference to
> the future, you have a case.

why? did I claim that tense-only explains an indicative verb system with
only a binary distinction? No way. But wayyiqtol and qatal will have different
kinds of restrictions where a change of deictic center occurs, the speaker's
viewpoint,  and these typically occur in subordinate structures.

> The basic requirement for any scholar is to define his expressions.
> So I ask: The advice against an "aspect-only" view, is only
> meaningful if you define aspect. Please give a clear definition of
> aspect in Classical Hebrew, and tell us in clear terms what the
> difference is between the imperfective aspect and the perfective
> aspect.

'Aspect-only' can cover more than one definition. You can probably distil
a fairly basic definition from the "20" that you mentioned in this thread.
I'm happy with a generic definition of aspect and I do not believe that
it is sufficient to describe what happens in Hebrew. And again, with
a binary verbal distinction, one would not expect an aspectual definition
to successfully explain everything. For generic definition, I'm happy
with calling perfective "complete, presenting the whole event" and
calling imperfective "incomplete, looking at an event without
presenting its endpoints". Obviously, this is insufficient because the
most common use, but not exclusive use, of imperfective in the past is
to refer to iterative, habitual events. Cf. Gen 29:1-3. (Of course, I
put wayyiqtol in the "perfective" group along with most Semitists,
something that you do not do.) And in future contexts most yiqtol
seem to refer to events that are treated as complete 'perfective' events.

As you are very much aware, "presentation" means alot. In Greek the
"imperfective" so-called 'historical present' can be used to portray
strings of events that were complete and sequential in context.
The  'imperfectivity' is only a rhetorical device, against the flow of
the text with the sequential, complete, events.
Cf. Mark 5:22-24  and 7:32-34.
The historical present uses a form AGAINST its normal aspectual
mapping and against it normal temporal mapping, and does so for
rhetorical effect. Rijksbaron got that right in his Greek syntax.
McKay got it wrong, surprisingly. Runge now has that correct, too.

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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