[b-hebrew] text on the BH verb structure

Nir cohen - Prof. Mat. nir at ccet.ufrn.br
Tue Aug 27 09:33:25 EDT 2013


>> As for the rule, it’s my impression that it’s derived from narrative. How does it fit other literary styles?

i believe the rule in every language is set by dialogue. but it may be defended that narrative
is also a "type of dialogue", hence should not be too different.

as to poetry, each language has its own style(s), and poetry may be quite different than narrative. in BH there is disagreement if poetry should be considered a different dialect.

it has been observed that many poetic traditions include an important gnomic element, and i suspect that this element then migrates back into the narrative. i am not an expert on ancient greek but i have read that it has an important gnomic element in both narrative and poetry. and i suspect that greek gnomic aorist has its origins in poetry.
also the tibetan and chinese poetic traditions uses gnomic grammar. chinese verb 
grammar is in fact atemporal. (sanskrit writings too?)

>>> Inthis case, because narrative makes up such a large portion of Tanakh, does not a strict statistical (bean counting) analysis give a skewed picture of how it was used? Not unlike asking for American impression ofObama, but asking only Blacks? Is it possible to get an unskewed sample?

i agree... statistics is a source of many misconceptions, because it is easily biased by a priori assumptions.

some scholars study only narrative, or only poetry (michel!), or both. even when word order is considered, some scholars (if i recall, cook, holmstedt, de caen?) do not count the waw-prefixed forms as they claim they are "marked". then they count just the "unmarked" forms and come to the conclusion that BH is SVO rather than VSO as most
people assume.

this, joined with andrason 2011, might imply that VSO was the dominant word order in "ancient hebrew" (pre-BH), which supposedly lacked the waw-prefixed forms, just like canaanite.

BH poetry differs from narrative mainly in structure and word order (couplet, chiasm). besides, it is dominated
by gnomic grammar. in the extreme gnomic clause, tense and aspect both disappear since no story is told, rather a situatio is described modally. in a sense, the extreme gnomic verb form is atemporal and imperfective-modal.

no story is told: hence wayiqtol and weqatal are rare. indeed, in the few chapters in psalms where a story is told, wyiqtol (as preterite) is very frequent.

atemporal: meaning that both qatal and yiqtol have the same value: a continuous tense which does not
specify past nor future. rather than longacre's explanation ("temporal jumps"). actually, 
there is a tendency for couplets which mix one qatal with one yiqtol. this "qatal-yiqtol opposition" represents
an element of poetry called variation, rather than a grammatical difference. but this can only be used in a
gnomic grammar. you cannot find it in the narrative.

poetic elements return to narrative: the prophets mix narrative and poetry, and so also often use gnomic grammar. 
also, the chiasm/fronting (as part of a larger element of parallelism) is quite common also in he narrative. and the qatal-yiqtol opposition in poetry has the modified form in nrrative: qatal-wayiqtol and yiqtol-weqatal, perhaps explaining the semantic similarity within each of these pairs.

nir cohen
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