Prophetic perfect

Classical Hebrew morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
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Mike Atnip
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Prophetic perfect

Post by Mike Atnip »

I would be interested in commentary on the proposal that the weqatal (and even the qatal) should be read as irrealis when used as a clause initial. This would necessitate, of course, that ancient Hebrew was SV order, not VS order. I am not interested in debating the matter, but after having read this dissertation, I am wondering if there are rebuttals or corrections to what is presented: A Reconsideration of the Prophetic Perfect in Biblical Hebrew
It made a lot of sense to me, but I do recognize that sometime people will conveniently overlook data that does not fit the proposal.
Mike Atnip
May I not debate presumptuously; may I not be silent impudently. May I learn beneficial speech; may I acquire discerning silence. -Ephrem the Syrian
kwrandolph
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by kwrandolph »

Mike Atnip wrote: Thu Dec 14, 2023 10:19 am I would be interested in commentary on the proposal that the weqatal (and even the qatal) should be read as irrealis when used as a clause initial. This would necessitate, of course, that ancient Hebrew was SV order, not VS order. I am not interested in debating the matter, but after having read this dissertation, I am wondering if there are rebuttals or corrections to what is presented: A Reconsideration of the Prophetic Perfect in Biblical Hebrew
It made a lot of sense to me, but I do recognize that sometime people will conveniently overlook data that does not fit the proposal.
I would be very cautious about ascribing grammatical constructs that were developed to describe western Indo-European languages to Biblical Hebrew, terms such as realis and irrealis. I don’t see Biblical Hebrew fitting those concepts.

When analyzing recorded conversation in the historical books in Tanakh, I noticed that the sentences tend to be SV structure.

Karl W. Randolph.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by Jason Hare »

Mike Atnip wrote: Thu Dec 14, 2023 10:19 am I would be interested in commentary on the proposal that the weqatal (and even the qatal) should be read as irrealis when used as a clause initial. This would necessitate, of course, that ancient Hebrew was SV order, not VS order. I am not interested in debating the matter, but after having read this dissertation, I am wondering if there are rebuttals or corrections to what is presented: A Reconsideration of the Prophetic Perfect in Biblical Hebrew
It made a lot of sense to me, but I do recognize that sometime people will conveniently overlook data that does not fit the proposal.
Hey, Mike. I’ll hopefully have some open time tonight and tomorrow to at least skim through it. It’s a 264-page PDF, so I won’t be able to give anything near a full response within the next few days, but I’ll at least be thinking about it and see what I think of it after skimming. I ascribe to the SV order, as you know, following Cook and Holmstedt’s arguments. So, thanks for sharing and for asking. If I find something that gets me thinking, I might consider writing up a blog article about it or mention it on a live stream.
Jason Hare
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Jonathan Beck
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by Jonathan Beck »

kwrandolph wrote: Thu Dec 14, 2023 10:13 pm
Mike Atnip wrote: Thu Dec 14, 2023 10:19 am I would be interested in commentary on the proposal that the weqatal (and even the qatal) should be read as irrealis when used as a clause initial. This would necessitate, of course, that ancient Hebrew was SV order, not VS order. I am not interested in debating the matter, but after having read this dissertation, I am wondering if there are rebuttals or corrections to what is presented: A Reconsideration of the Prophetic Perfect in Biblical Hebrew
It made a lot of sense to me, but I do recognize that sometime people will conveniently overlook data that does not fit the proposal.
I would be very cautious about ascribing grammatical constructs that were developed to describe western Indo-European languages to Biblical Hebrew, terms such as realis and irrealis. I don’t see Biblical Hebrew fitting those concepts.

When analyzing recorded conversation in the historical books in Tanakh, I noticed that the sentences tend to be SV structure.

Karl W. Randolph.
I almost said, “Holy crap, Karl and I agree on something!” But then I lost you at the end. lol.

In general, I agree with you. I hate ascribing “function names” like “prophetic perfect”. In that case, it’s a term coined by Christian scholars that has nothing to do with the text.

In the case of realis vs. irrealis, this is just the language of grammar. These terms were invented by grammarians and apply to all languages with a subjunctive mood. Which, I think, is all of them. So that’s not the same thing. It’s also a religiously neutral categorization, which I like. :)

Jonathan
Jonathan Beck
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati
Interim Pastor, Norwood Grace UMC, Cincinnati, OH.
kwrandolph
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by kwrandolph »

Jonathan: the reason I don’t like using the terms realis to describe Qatal and irrealis to describe Yiqtol in Biblical Hebrew is because Yiqtol is often used to refer to realis. It is not used only for subjunctive or other irrealis subjects.

Karl W. Randolph.
Mike Atnip
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by Mike Atnip »

I have since worked through "The Verb and the Paragraph in Biblical Hebrew - A Cognitive-Linguistic Approach" by Elizabeth Robar. She takes this realis/irrealis concept, in essence, even one step further by saying (if I can sum up her thoughts in a few words without distorting what she is trying to say) that the qatal and yiqtol forms (with the waw or without the waw) are often used alternatively when "layers" of thought are used within one paragraph. So if the main topic uses yiqtol, a qatal (for example) is used to bring in irrealis/subjunctive information. Or, vice-versa. Then if a third layer is added, the verbs in that layer will then alternate back to first. Something like this:
yiqtol
qatal
yiqtol
or,
qatal
yiqtol
qatal
This keeps the information together that belongs together, but keeps it distinct from other information layers in the same paragraph.
So, keep in mind that I am only in Hebrew less than two years, and that I may very well have misunderstood her intent. As I continue reading the text, I plan to keep my ears/eyes open to see how well these theories fit in. At this point, I tend to think the both of these books are probably on to something, even if the situation is more complex than what anyone can really explain easily. Robar gives the following chart, which I don't think is meant to be used in a "legalistic" way, but as a general guideline. If a paragraph (which means a group of clauses/sentences that are about one central topic) starts with a verb form in the left side, the "alternative" verb form on the top that is used in the next layer often has a meaning in the box where the two meet.
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Mike Atnip
May I not debate presumptuously; may I not be silent impudently. May I learn beneficial speech; may I acquire discerning silence. -Ephrem the Syrian
Mike Atnip
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by Mike Atnip »

I would say Robar's idea is something like this (using English sentences, with notes for the Hebrew verb form that would be used in that context;dashes are used to separate "layers" of information):
--Mike posted (yiqtol) about verbs on B-Hebrew forum.
--He waited (yiqtol) for a response
----When the responses came (qatal),
--He read (yiptol) them with interest.
----Because the topic was (qatal) complex, and the forum users were (qatal) of diverse opinions,
------which opinions were (yiqtol) likewise unique,
Mike tried to sort (yiqtol) them all out.
:-)
Something like that is what I took her to be saying about the different "layers" of content in the paragraph. It makes sense, but I admit that some of what she wrote buzzed over my head, especially when referring to other semitic languages.
Mike Atnip
May I not debate presumptuously; may I not be silent impudently. May I learn beneficial speech; may I acquire discerning silence. -Ephrem the Syrian
kwrandolph
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Re: Prophetic perfect

Post by kwrandolph »

Mike Atnip wrote: Sun Dec 31, 2023 3:04 pm “…but I admit that some of what she wrote buzzed over my head, especially when referring to other semitic languages.”
This is why I have deliberately avoided studying cognate semitic languages. Where those languages differ from Biblical Hebrew can mess up our minds, making it harder to recognize patterns in Hebrew.
Mike Atnip wrote: Sun Dec 31, 2023 3:04 pm I would say Robar's idea is something like this (using English sentences, with notes for the Hebrew verb form that would be used in that context;dashes are used to separate "layers" of information):…:-)
Good try, but I think you got the Yoqtols and Qatals mixed up.
Mike Atnip wrote: Sun Dec 31, 2023 3:04 pm Something like that is what I took her to be saying about the different "layers" of content in the paragraph. It makes sense.
That simplified chart is overly simple, and not accurate. It looks as if she, like so many people who grew up in a language that has both grammaticalized tense and aspect, just can’t get her mind around the idea that a language can have neither tense nor aspect. It’s too foreign for her. Biblical Hebrew has time references, just not expressed through grammar.

This layering idea sounds almost too mechanical. Where they exist seems to me to be more guided by the content than form.

Karl W. Randolph.
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