Karl Randolph wrote:
I agree with Jason here, that the same rules of grammar apply. There are plenty of examples in Tanakh of a “waw-consecutive” referring to a concurrent action. The most famous that I can think of right away are found in Proverbs 31:11–31.
Steve Miller wrote as a comment:
I think you meant to say you agree with me that the same rules of grammar apply to prophecy as to narrative.
But your interpretation agrees with Jason's much more than with mine.
I read Prov 31:11-31 and I don't see any waw-consecutives there which are not sequential. Notably, for actions that are concurrent there, waw-consecutives are not used.
I took these quote from the thread: When was the book of Daniel written? The issue deserves its own thread.
The nature of the narrative requires that the reference of the verbs is past—one event follows the other, and each event is past rin relation to the next event. One elementary approach in linguistics when the parts of a language is studied, is to distinguish between semantic meaning (intrinsic meaning of the form) and conversational pragmatic implicature (meaning caused by the context). Even if this is on the most elementary level of linguistics, I am not aware of a single study in any of the old Semitic languages that applies this distinction except my doctoral dissertation. I will now give an outline as to how I understand the issue of wayyiqtol.
I will apply the distinction to the wayyiqtol form by asking the question: The past reference of the wayyiqtol form used in narratives, is it an intrinsic part of the wayyiqtol form (its semantic meaning) or is it caused by the context (conversational pragmatic implicature)?
As we previously have discussed, no Hebrew verb form has a uniform reference to the past, present, or future. Therefore, tense is lacking in Hebrew. But what about aspects? We should keep in mind that the nature of the actions is caused by the aktionsart of the verbs together with the context. Aspects have nothing to do with the actions of a verb, whether it is completed or continuing—this is caused by aktionsart and context. Aspects can be compared to the lense of a camera; depending of the distance between the camera and the object and a small or big opening of the lense, different pictures will emerge. So aspect is a “lense” that makes visible an action that already is there; it makes visible a part of it with details visible or a bigger part or the whole without details visible.
My analysis concludes that contrary to most languages where the perfective aspect is used in narratives, the linguistic convention in Classical Hebrew is that the imperfective aspect is used in narratives. Hebrew verbs are expressed as prefix forms and suffix forms, and my analysis shows that yiqtol, wayyiqtol, and weyiqtol all are imperfective, and there is no semantic difference between the three. And similarly, qatal and weqatal are perfective, and there is no semantic difference between the two. The seemingly difference between yiqtol, wayyiqtol, and weyiqtol is pragmatic—there is no difference at all. The different stress pattern, germination at the beginning, and apocopation in the wayyiqtol in contrast with yiqtol and weyiqtol are a function of the phonological rules of the Masoretes. The wayyitol is a normal yiqtol with a prefixed waw (and). So, what causes the past reference of wayyyiqtol used in narratives basically is the waw (and) and the context (conversational pragmatic implicature).
I will illustrate the issue by a comparison with two cognate languages. A few years before I retired, I taught four semesters of Ugaritic. The Ugaritic corpus is very small, and during the semesters we read mor than half of all the extant Ugaritic documents in class. This showed a special pattern in the use of the verbs. Several accounts, for example The account of Keret (Kirta) first described in detail actions that would be taken in the future (not prophecies), and then followed a detailed description of the same actions that now were past. And most interesting, the same words in the same verb forms in the prefix conjugation were used both for the future and the past. This indicates that the imperfective aspect can be used for verbs with past reference as well as future reference.
In the Phoenician language, the narrative verb form that is used is infinitive absolute. In the 40 lines of the narrative of The Karatepe Inscription, there are 21 infinitive absolutes, 12 qatals, and 6 weqatals. Of the 21 infinitive absolutes, 16 have a prefixed waw, the tool to shows the past reference and move the narrative forwards. This shows that it is not the verbal aspect, or a particular verb form (in Phoenician, infinitive absolute) that causes the past reference, but pragmatic factors.
I will then discuss Proverbs 31:10-31. There are 9 wayyiqtols, 8 yiqtols, and 18 qatals, 2 passive participles and 1 active participle. All, or most of these verbs, have the same present reference. There is an enormous use of waw (and) in Hebrew. On reason for the choice of yiqtol versus wayyiqtol is whether a word element precedes the verb or not. If such a word element precedes tha verb, waw cannot be prefixed, which it would have been if the word element was not there. In these verses, לֹֽא occurs before a yiqtol four times, so waw cannot be prefixed, and other elements occur before the other yiqtols as well.
When the mentioned conjugations are used with the same present reference, does this mean that there is no sematic difference between yiqtol and qatal? Absolutely not; there is a clear difference in meaning. But this can only be seen by a detailed analysis of the nuances and subtleties in a text. There is much more to a text than temporal reference, that is so important for us westerners. There are issues of theme (topic) rheme (comment), emphasis, parallism, and even to some extent rhyme and rhytm. Moreover, the aktionsart or stem of some verbs in some contexts may prefer one particular conjugation. In addition to this, there may be different requirements of precision in different contexts. There are specific differences between the prefix forms (imperfective) and the suffix forms (perfective). But there are also similarities. In some contexts, it is only necessary to make visible the broad picture of one or more actions and both aspects with their similarities can be used to achieve that. In other contexts, to make details visible are necessary, and just one of the aspects (the imperfective one) can be used.
Unfortunately, Hebrew textbooks and grammars disagree as to the meaning of the Hebrew verb conjugations, and many misleading expressions have been used to describe these conjugations. In order to get a good understanding of the conjugations a time-consuming study is needed. But because the verbal system is the backbone of any language, such a study will be rewarding indeed.
Rolf J. Fururli