[b-hebrew] b-hebrew] Tense

Dr. Frank Matheus post at matheus.de
Mon Dec 17 12:53:08 EST 2012

Dear list members,


Karl wrote:

Going back to the question that started this thread, don’t the number of cases where the Wayyiqtol is found in non-past contexts make it impossible to say whether or not a single Wayyiqtol standing alone refers to a past event apart from a context that indicates past tense?


I would say no. As most waw-PCs (wayyiqtols) point to the past, it is the only form that indicates this time sphere by itself.  As Comrie writes: „The existence of such counterexamples to the general characterisation of the English past as indicating past time reference does not invalidate this general characterisation.“ (Comrie, Tense, 1985, 19-20). Taking up Rolf’s thesis that we do not know for sure whether the wayyiqtol expresses tense by itself, we can also assume a narrative mode, where the time reference is by itself past, but not revealed by the verb form (like the English historic present). But anyway, perceiving a single wayyiqtol-form lets us think of the past. This is not the case with a single qatal-form like אָמַ֣ר  , which can be found in a narrative mode (cf. Gen 13:14 וַֽיהוָ֞ה אָמַ֣ר אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם  ), but might also express anteriority (cf. Gen 22:3 וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹהִֽים ) which the wayyiqtol usually does not.


Frank Matheus, University of Münster

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