Biblical Hebrew Wayyiqtol: A Dynamic Definition

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Biblical Hebrew Wayyiqtol: A Dynamic Definition

Postby Jemoh66 » Wed Apr 05, 2017 9:31 am

This will take many of us time to digest, and possibly several reads, but I think it will result in a rich dialogue.

Here's an excerpt from the author's opening words:

The goal of this paper is to provide a new definition of a Biblical
Hebrew (BH) verbal construction, usually referred to as wayyiqtol
. . .
There are two types of commonly employed functional and semantic
definitions of the formation. First, when referring to taxis3-
aspect-tense-mood (TATM) properties, the gram has most frequently
been equaled with a past (definite past or preterite) or perfective
past (other proposals, on the contrary, identify the gram
with a present tense and imperfective aspect^ for a general review
of descriptions posited by temporal, aspectual, historicalcomparative
and psychological schools, as well as those offered by
the first generation of grammaticalization framework, consult footnote
4 below). Other theories (especially, those developed by the
syntactical approach) have adjoined a value of sequentiality to the
TATM load of the construction. Second, when emphasizing its
discourse pragmatic characteristics—and disregarding TATM values—the
expression has been classified as a principal form (foreground)
of the narrative backbone. However, the two descriptions
are reductionist and greatly simplify the nature and substance of the

The former ignores or minimizes the fact that (as will be indicated
in section 2) the formation provides not one but a broad
range of uses and hence cannot be reduced to a single value such as
past or perfective past. Nor is it appropriate to understand such
frequently proposed labels (i.e. past or perfective past) as überfunctions
from which other meanings are derivable, i.e. hardly can
the use of the formation with a future or stative present force be
explained as a realization of its past or past perfective value (cf.
section on 3.1 and the discussion on a dynamic vision of synchronic
grammatical phenomena). As for the discourse-pragmatic classification
(principal narrative construction), it is reductionistic in the
sense that it ignores the evident semantic content of the gram as
well as the fact that the formation expresses determined temporal
and aspectual meanings, entailing a failure to denote others. This
means that to account for the entire nature and behavior of the
wayyiqtol is neither easy nor straightforward and that, in particular, it
cannot be swept under simplifying reductionistic definitions, such
as a past, a perfective past or a narrative form. There furthermore
exists a third group of descriptions which, although highly valuable,
are limited to a mere taxonomy (cf. e.g., Waltke & O’Connor 1990
in footnote 3). They introduce a detailed—not reductionistic—
account of the semantic content of the construction without, however,
providing an explanation for it: they fail to account for the
relation between uses of the gram and its internal consistency.4
Jonathan E Mohler
Studying for a MA in Intercultural Studies
Baptist Bible Theological Seminary

Posts: 725
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:51 am

Re: Biblical Hebrew Wayyiqtol: A Dynamic Definition

Postby kwrandolph » Thu Apr 06, 2017 1:02 am

I don’t know who is the author, nor even why I should listen to him. Since I don’t know him from Adam, what follows is not an attack on his person, rather a critique of his ideas. Because I don’t know him as a person, the only thing I can comment on are his written words.

From his words, we can tell that his native tongue is most likely a European one. The primary conjugations of European languages is tense. Some, like Russian, also have conjugated aspect. None that I know of conjugate for mood, rather mood is indicated by syntactical constructs.

According to Waltke and O’Connor (I’ve forgotten which page) Mishnaic through medieval to modern Hebrews have tense conjugation.

Between these two influences—modern western European languages and Mishnaic to modern Hebrews—western researchers assume tense and/or aspect as the basis of Biblical Hebrew conjugation.

I’ve been exposed to Japanese, and speak Cantonese—neither language conjugates their verbs at all, not for tense, nor aspect, nor mood. If any of those are important in a conversation, it is indicated by contextual clues.

Biblical Hebrew conjugates its verbs, but what those conjugations indicate is the question.

Dr. Rolf Furuli, formally active on this list, showed in his PhD dissertation that Biblical Hebrew verbs were not conjugated for tense. He left open the possibility that the conjugations were for aspect, but I didn’t recognize his definition of “aspect”.

In the back of my dictionary which I send out to several people, I have a short grammar section. In it, I describe the verbal conjugations as model. One of the moods carried by the Yiqtol is the secondary indicative mood, i.e. one that follows the primary indicative. The most common of these secondary indicatives are used in narratives of past events, usually prefixed with a waw. Hence the Wayyiqtol.

What follows is my take on the uses of the Yiqtol verbs:

• Yiqtol: in the indicative mood refers to a secondary action, often as a followup to the primary action, e.g. Exodus 6:5 and repeatedly in Proverbs 31:11–31.

• Yiqtol can be used to refer to events that happened in the past Nehemiah 9:27–8, present and future.

• The Yiqtol form is also reused to express other meanings as in indicating that ideas other than indicative mood is being used:

† Indicating intention (last phrase Ex 5:2)

† Indicating “tending towards”, “results in” referring to the conclusion of what happens in the present, found in many of the Proverbs, e.g. 13:6, 9, 11,

† the results of that preceding (last verb Pr 19:9, 21:16). In this use, it can often be translated as a future in English.

† Indicating expectation, that certain things are expected to be done 1S 11:9. (includes wayyiqtol 2K 1:10, 12)

† Indicating possibility, that certain things can be done Proverbs 30:28, that they may Exodus 5:1, “can be” Isaiah 1:18

† Indicating subjunctive (second phrase Exodus 5:2, Proverbs 30:10 as well as many other verses) where the translation into English would use “should” or “would”

† When a first person Yiqtol has a ה- appended to it, it has the force of “let me (us) …” do the verb’s action. It is often but not always followed by נא “please”. However, the appended ה- can be displaced by other pronominal suffixes, in which cases the following נא is needed to show the “Let me…” meaning.

† Sometimes when followed by נא it has the force of “Please let …” the action to be done Gn 44:18. But only sometimes, because other times the same construction means “Please do [the action]” Gn 24:2 so use context to indicate which use is to be employed.

† Sometimes is very close to the idea of a future tense, in that the future has not yet come, and apart from God’s prophecies, the future is not certain to come. In these cases, the Yiqtol indicates intention or expectation. However, as secondary action, it is used also for present and past actions, therefore it is not a marker for tense. (It is understandable why later grammarians would use this form for future tense when Hebrew was changed to a tense based language, given this use.)

• A very common form of the Yiqtol has a prefixed Waw, most often found in narrative of past events. As a result, many claim that this form references past events. That is not always so. This use is as mentioned above, is indicative mood referring to a secondary action, often as a followup to the primary action.

Karl W. Randolph.

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