[b-hebrew] b-hebrew] Tense

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Dec 17 15:26:50 EST 2012

Dear Frank:

The question here: when dealing with Wayyiqtols in Tanakh, are we dealing
with what statisticians call ‘sample error’, in other words, because of the
nature of the sample (Tanakh) and because so much of it is historical
narrative, are historical Wayyiqtols way oversampled in our studies? If
someone were to invent a time machine such that we can go back in time to
interview a native speaker during Biblical times, would we have found such
an overwhelming use of Wayyiqtols in historical narrative, or would we have
found far more for present and even future reference?

Unfortunately, that’s a study we cannot make today.

For me, the existence of non-past-referent Wayyiqtols, and a good number of
them, even within our sample, rules out that a past reference is
necessarily meant by the form.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 9:53 AM, Dr. Frank Matheus <post at matheus.de> wrote:

> 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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