Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

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yehoshua3712
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Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:44 am

Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby yehoshua3712 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:53 am

In Biblical Hebrew, the Imperfect aspect is used when the action has not been completed, despite the tense. But the participle has been used to present tense, though not restricted to that. Can someone please help me understand when the imperfect tense and participle would be used to represent present tense, whether simple or present progressive? What I have gathered so far is that Imperfect is used for the simple present for a repetitive of habitual action and the participle is used for continuous. Please correct me if I am wrong and tell me what else they are used for in present tense. Thank you.

Yehoshua Gil

kwrandolph
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Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:51 am

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby kwrandolph » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:54 pm

yehoshua3712 wrote:In Biblical Hebrew, the Imperfect aspect is used when the action has not been completed, despite the tense. But the participle has been used to present tense, though not restricted to that. Can someone please help me understand when the imperfect tense and participle would be used to represent present tense, whether simple or present progressive? What I have gathered so far is that Imperfect is used for the simple present for a repetitive of habitual action and the participle is used for continuous. Please correct me if I am wrong and tell me what else they are used for in present tense. Thank you.

Yehoshua Gil


Dear Yehoshua:

We’ve had people from SIL on this forum. What they have told us is as follows:

Tense is related to specific forms. In other words, there are forms for past action, present action, future action or even more. If a language doesn’t have forms that indicate where on the time line an action takes place, then it is said not to have tense.

Aspect also is a measurement of time, completed vs. incomplete action are two different aspects.

Biblical Hebrew conjugates for neither tense nor aspect. A good example where this can be seen is in Proverbs 31:11–31. There we have both Qatals and Yiqtols used for present, continuous action. Here’s where neither Qatal nor Yiqtol conjugate for either tense or aspect.

As for participles, they usually refer to the actors or the action, the action usually translated with a gerund in English.

After a few times reading Tanakh through cover to cover, I came to the realization that I was not being consistent in reading Qatals as perfectives (completed action) and Yiqtols as imperfectives (continuous or incomplete action). So I set out to be consistent, and found that it was impossible.

Hence my conclusion that Biblical Hebrew conjugates not for any time measurement, but for mood. The closest to aspect that I have noticed seems to be Piel and Pual, where the participles seem to indicate repeated or continuous actions.

What confuses things is that apparently already by the time of the DSS, the Hebrew used outside of copying Tanakh conjugated for tense (according to what I’ve read from others, I haven’t studied it). In this conjugation, which is also used in modern Israeli Hebrew, the Qatal is past tense, participle is present tense, Yiqtol future tense. That’s not the pattern found in Tanakh.

I realize that this is not the answer for which you were looking. It represents many years of reading Tanakh through, cover to cover, many times. I lost count of how many times. This action was also humbling, as it taught me how little we know about Biblical Hebrew language. We know enough to get the main gist of the story, hence we can make workable translations, but we miss many of the more subtle nuances that could give us a richer experience when reading the text.

I know others will disagree with what I wrote above, they will give other scenarios of how to understand Biblical Hebrew conjugations. I merely mention what I’ve found to be most consistent with what I see when I read Tanakh.

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.

ralph
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:20 am

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby ralph » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:45 pm

kwrandolph wrote:Hence my conclusion that Biblical Hebrew conjugates not for any time measurement, but for mood.


Can you give examples of this how you think the conjugations work for mood?

ralph
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:20 am

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby ralph » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:12 pm

yehoshua3712 wrote:In Biblical Hebrew, the Imperfect aspect is used when the action has not been completed, despite the tense. But the participle has been used to present tense, though not restricted to that. Can someone please help me understand when the imperfect tense and participle would be used to represent present tense, whether simple or present progressive? What I have gathered so far is that Imperfect is used for the simple present for a repetitive of habitual action and the participle is used for continuous. Please correct me if I am wrong and tell me what else they are used for in present tense. Thank you.

Yehoshua Gil


I don't think there are set rules that tell you when a specific form will definitely be used..

There is such a thing as the prophetic past, where the "perfect" is used for the future, for prophecy, so perhaps if a prophet is speaking then a translator seeing the "perfect" will consider that it's future tense, and otherwise perhaps a translator would consider past tense first. Also of course If there is the waw prefix then you can sometimes also get a change of tense from past, to present or future. So you could just read it with an open mind as to tense but bearing in mind probabilities, and context eg a prophet speaking, could influence that probability.

From what I understand, the so-called "participle" in hebrew, can technically be past present or future, perhaps a good translation wouldn't try to stick a tense in that isn't specified. and can be an actual participle (ending with ing)

Rather like some people that can't speak good English have a variation of English that doesn't use tense. "I be going" or "I am going"(but you know with their english skills they wouldn't say I went so you don't know what tense they mean ), or "I going" or "I go" and you know that they're not specifying tense, you just have to be open minded while they speak and guess at what tense they might mean. IIRC the so-called "participle" in hebrew, don't conjugate for person (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person), just masculine/feminine, singular/plural, as well as not specifying tense.

I don't know if this is the case but perhaps it's worth considering the book itself, if in that book the style is to commonly use a particular conjugation in a particular manner.

kwrandolph
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Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:51 am

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby kwrandolph » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:43 pm

ralph wrote:
kwrandolph wrote:Hence my conclusion that Biblical Hebrew conjugates not for any time measurement, but for mood.


Can you give examples of this how you think the conjugations work for mood?


Ralph:

One of the more famous passages is Proverbs 31:11–31—there we have both Qatals and Yiqtols being used for present continuous actions. However, the Qatals are mostly used to introduce an idea, primary indicative mood, while the Yiqtols mostly for what could be called secondary or continuation indicative mood. Most of the Wayiqtols in narrative fulfill the same function, namely continuation indicative mood.

A good example of the variety of mood is pharaoh’s response to Moses in Exodus 5:2:
ויאמר פרעה—
Yiqtol continuation of narrative
מי יהוה
Verbless clause, in context primary indicative
אשר אשמע בקלו
Yiqtol subjunctive mood
לשלח את ישראל 
Infinitive clause
לא ידעתי את יהוה
Qatal primary indicative mood
וגם את ישראל לא אשלח
Yiqtol indicating intent.

Yiqtol is used for a few moods, some of which are not found in English, such as intent.
Qatal used mainly for indicative mood, though sometimes for conclusion or reason why, “should you do (Yiqtol) this, then that will happen (Qatal)” or the example of Proverbs 31:21 לא-תירא לביתה משלג    כי כל-ביתה לבש שנים.

Are these enough to introduce the idea?

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.

Isaac Fried
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Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby Isaac Fried » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:28 am

יָדַעְתִּי = ידע-אתי, 'know-I', with אתי for אני.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Isaac Fried
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Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby Isaac Fried » Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:28 pm

לָבֻשׁ = לב-הוּא-ש with הוּא, 'he', referring to the beneficiary of the act לבש LABA$, 'dress'.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Isaac Fried
Posts: 833
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: Imperfect and Participle for Present Tense

Postby Isaac Fried » Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:43 pm

יִמְצָא = היא-מצא, 'he-find', with היא, 'he', referring to the performer of the act מצא MACA, 'find'.
וַתַּעַשׂ = בא-את-עשׂ, 'come-you(she)-do'.

Isaac Fried, Boston University


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