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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/44. Flexion of the Perfect of Qal

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§44. Flexion of the Perfect of Qal.[1]

44a 1. The formation of the persons of the Perfect is effected by the addition of certain forms of the personal pronoun, and marks of the 3rd fem. sing. and 3rd pl. (as afformatives) to the end of the verbal-stem, which contains the idea of a predicate, and may be regarded, in meaning if not in form, as a Participle or verbal adjective. For the 3rd pers. sing. masc. Perfect, the pronominal or subject idea inherent in the finite verb is sufficient: thus, קָטַל he has killed, קָטַ֫לְ־תָּ thou hast killed (as it were, killing thou, or a killer thou), a killer wast thou=קטל אַתָּה; יָרֵא he was fearing, ירֵא־תֶם ye were fearing=יִרא אַתֶּם. The ending of the 1st pers. plur. (־נוּ) is also certainly connected with the termination of אֲנַ֫חְנוּ, אנו we (§32b, d). The afformative of the 1st pers. sing. (תִּי) is to be referred, by an interchange of כ‍ and ת (cf. §33f), to that form of the pronoun which also underlies אָֽנֹכִי, I.[2] In the third person ־ָה (originally ־ַת, cf. below, f) is the mark of the feminine, as in a great number of nouns (§80c), and וּ is the termination of the plural; cf., for the latter, the termination of the 3rd and 2nd pers. plur. Imperf. ûna in Arabic and û (often also וּן) in Hebrew, also ûna (in the construct state û) as the plural termination of masc. nouns in literary Arabic.

44b 2. The characteristic Pathaḥ of the second syllable becomes Še before an afformative beginning with a vowel, where it would otherwise stand in an open syllable (as קָֽטְלָ֫ה, קָֽטְל֫וּ; but in pause קָטָ֫לָה, קָטָ֫לוּ). Before an afformative beginning with a consonant the Pathaḥ remains, whether in the tone-syllable (קָטַ֫לְתָּ, קָטַ֫לְתְּ, קָטַ֫לְתִּי, קָטַ֫לְנוּ; in pause קָטָ֫לְתָּ &c.) or before it. In the latter case, however, the Qameṣ of the first syllable, being no longer a pretonic vowel, becomes vocal Še; as קְטַלְתֶּ֫ם, קְטַלְתֶּ֫ן; cf. §27i and §43b. On the retention of ā with Metheg of the counter-tone in the Perf. consecutive, cf. §49i.

44c Rem. 1. Verbs middle ē in Hebrew (as in Ethiopic, but not in Arabic or Aramaic) generally change the E-sound in their inflexion into Pathaḥ (frequently so even in the 3rd sing. masc. Perf.). This tendency to assimilate to the moro common verbs middle a may also be explained from the laws of vocalization of the tone-bearing closed penultima, which does not readily admit of Ṣere, and never of Ḥireq, of which the Ṣere is a lengthening (cf. §26p). On the other hand, Ṣere is retained in an open syllable; regularly so in the weak stems ל״א (§74g), before suffixes (§59i), and in the pausal forms of the strong stem in an open tone-syllable, e.g. דָּבֵ֫קָה it cleaveth, Jb 2910 (not דָּבָ֫קָה, cf. 2 S 123, Jb 4115; even (contrary to §29q) in a closed pausal syllable, e.g. שָׁכֵן, Dt 3312 (out of pause שָׁכַן, Is 3216); but קָמַ֑ל Is 339, &c., according to §29q.

44d 2. In some weak stems middle a, the Pathaḥ under the second radical sometimes, in a closed toneless syllable, becomes ־ִ, and, in one example, ־ֶ. Thus from יָרַשׁ: וִיֽרִשְׁתָּהּ and thou shalt possess it, Dt 1714; וִיֽרִשְׁתָּם Dt 191; וִיֽרִשְׁתֶּם Dt 41, and frequently; from יָלַד to bring forth, to beget; יְלִדְתִּ֫יךָ ψ 27 (cf. Nu 1112, Jer 227, 1510); from פּוּשׁ; וּפִשְׁתֶּם Mal 320; from שָׁאַל; שְׁאלְתִּיו I have asked him, 1 S 120 (Ju 136), and three times שְׁאֶלְתֶּם 1 S 1213, 255, Jb 2129. Qimḥi already suggests the explanation, that the ĭ (ĕ) of these forms of שׁאל and ירשׁ is the original vowel, since along with שָׁאַל and יָרַשׁ are also found שָׁאֵל and יָרֵשׁ (see the Lexicon). The possibility of this explanation cannot be denied (especially in the case of יָרַשׁ, see §69s); the ĭ in these forms might, however, equally well have arisen from an attenuation of ă (§27s), such as must in any case be assumed in the other instances. Moreover, it is worthy of notice that in all the above cases the ĭ is favoured by the character of the following consonant (a sibilant or dental), and in most of them also by the tendency towards assimilation of the vowels (cf. §54k and §64f).

44e 3. In verbs middle ō, the Ḥolem is retained in the tone-syllable, e.g. יָגֹ֫רְתָּ thou didst tremble; יָכֹ֫לוּ in pause for יָֽכְלוּ they were able; but in a toneless closed syllable the original short vowel appears in the form of a Qameṣ haṭuph; יְכָלְתִּ֫יו I have prevailed against him, ψ 135; וְיָֽכָלְתָּ֫ (see §49h) then shalt thou be able, Ex 1823; in a toneless open syllable it becomes vocal Še, e.g. יָכִֽלָה, יָכְֽלוּ.

44f 4. Rarer forms[3] are: Sing. 3rd fem. in ־ַת (as in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Aramaic), e.g. אָֽזְלַת it is gone, Dt 3236; וְנִשְׁכַּ֫חַת Is 2315 (in the Aramaic form, for וְנִשְׁכְּחָה); from a verb ע״וּ, וְשָׁבַת, cf. §72o. This original feminine ending -ath is regularly retained before suffixes, see §59a; and similarly in stems ל״ה, either in the form āth (which is frequent also in stems ל״א §74g), or with the Pathaḥ weakened to vocal Še before the pleonastic ending ־ָה, e.g. גָּֽלְתָה §75i. In Ez 315 the Aramaic form גָּֽבְהָא occurs instead of גָּֽבְהָה.

44g 2nd masc. תָּה for תָּ (differing only orthographically), e.g. בָּגַ֫דְתָּה thou hast dealt treacherously, Mal 214; cf. 1 S 153, Gn 312 (נָתַ֫תָּה which is twice as common as נָתַ֫תָּ, cf. §66h); Gn 2123, 2 S 226, 2 K 93, Is 26, ψ 569 (so also in Hiphʿil; 2 K 97, Is 3723, ψ 604).

44h 2nd fem. has sometimes a Yodh at the end, as in הָלָ֑כְתְּי thou wentest, Jer 3121; cf. 233, Jer 34,5, 419 (but read the ptcp. שֹׁמַ֫עַת, with the LXX, instead of the 2nd fem.),4611, and so commonly in Jeremiah, and Ez (1618, &c.); see also Mi 413, Ru 33,4. הָלַ֫כְתִּי, &c., is really intended, for the vowel signs in the text belong to the marginal reading הָלַכְתְּ (without י)[4] as in the corresponding pronoun אַתְּי (אַתִּי) §32h. The ordinary form has rejected the final i, but it regularly reappears when pronominal suffixes are added (§59a, c).

44i 1st pers. comm. sometimes without Yodh, as יָדַ֫עְתִּ ψ 14013, Jb 422, 1 K 848, Ez 1659 (all in Kethîbh), ψ 162, without a Qerê; in 2 K 1820 also אָמַ֫רְתִּ is really intended, as appears from Is 365. The Qerê requires the ordinary form, to which the vowels of the text properly belong, whilst the Kethîbh is probably to be regarded as the remains of an earlier orthography, which omitted vowel-letters even at the end of the word.

44k תֶן as the termination of the 2nd plur. m. for תֶם Ez 3326, might just possibly be due to the following ת (cf., for an analogous case, Mi 312, §87e), but is probably a copyist’s error. Plur. 2nd fem. in -תֶּ֫נָה (according to others -תֶּ֫נָּה) Am 43, but the reading is very doubtful; since ה follows, it is perhaps merely due to dittography; cf., however, אַתֵּ֫נָה §32i.

44l 3rd plur. comm. has three times the very strange termination וּן[5]; יָֽדְעוּן Dt 83,16 (both before א, and hence, no doubt, if the text is correct, to avoid a hiatus), and in the still more doubtful form צָקוּן Is 2616; on וּן in the Imperf. see §47m; on the affixed א in Jos 1024, Is 2812, see §23i.

44m It is very doubtful whether, as in most Semitic languages (see §47c, note), the 3rd.fem. plur. in Hebrew was originally distinguished from the 3rd masc. plur. by the termination ־ָה, as in Biblical Aramaic. Nöldeke (ZDMG. 38 [1884], p. 411) referred doubtfully to the textual readings in Dt 217, Jos 154, 1812,14,19, Jer 215, 226, where the Masora uniformly inserts the termination û, and to Gn 4810 in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Gn 4922, 1 S 415, ψ 1835, Neh 1310. In his Beiträge zur sem. Sprachwiss., p. 19, however, he observes that the construction of a fem. plural with the 3rd sing. fem. is not unexampled, and also that ה is often found as a mistake for ו. On the other hand Mayer Lambert (Une série de Qeré ketib, Paris, 1891, p. 6 ff.) explains all these Kethîbh, as well as ψ 732, Jer 506 (?), and (against Nöldeke) 1 K 2249 (where ה is undoubtedly the article belonging to the next word), Jb 1616 (where the masc. פָּנַי requires the marginal reading), also Jer 4841, 5156, Ez 262, ψ 6814, as remains of the 3rd fem. plur. in ־ָה. The form was abandoned as being indistinguishable from the (later) form of the 3rd fem. sing., but tended to be retained in the perfect of verbs ל״ה, as היה Kethîbh six times in the above examples.

44n 5. The afformatives תָּ, (תְּ), תִּי, נוּ are generally toneless, and the forms with these inflexions are consequently Milʿêl (קָטַ֫לְתָּ, &c.); with all the other afformatives they are Milraʿ (§15c). The place of the tone may, however, be shifted: (a) by the pause (§29i–v), whenever a vowel which has become vocal Šewâ under the second stem-consonant is restored by the pause; as קָטָ֫לָה for קָֽטְלָ֫ה (דָּבֵ֫קָה for דָּֽבְקָ֫ה), and קָטָ֫לוּ for קָֽטְל֫וּ (מָלֵ֫אוּ for מָֽלְא֫וּ; (b) in certain cases after wāw consecutive of the Perfect (see §49h).

44o 6. Contraction of a final ת with the ת of the afformative occurs e.g. in כָּרַ֫תִּי Hag 25, &c.; cf. Is 1420, &c., in the Perf. Poʿel; Dt 425 in the Hiphʿîl of שׁחת; Is 212, &c., in the Hiphʿîl of שׁבת. Contraction of a final נ‍ with the afformative נוּ occurs in נָתַ֫נּוּ Gn 3416; in Niph. Ezr 97, cf. 2 Ch 1410; in Hiph. 2 Ch 2919; with the afformative נָה in the Imperfect Qal Ez 1723; Piʿēl ψ 7123, where with Baer and Ginsburg תְּרַנֵּ֫נָּה is to be read, according to others תְּרַנֶּ֫נָּה (cf. in Polel תְּקוֹנֶ֫נָּה Ez 3216), but certainly not תְּרַנֵּ֫נָה with the Mantua ed., Opitius and Hahn; with נָה in the Imperat. Hiph. Gn 423, Is 329.

  1. Cf. Nöldeke, ‘Die Endungen des Perfects’ (Untersuchungen zur semit. Gramm. ii.), in ZDMG. vol. 38, p. 407 ff., and more fully in Beiträge zur sem. Sprachwiss., Strassb. 1904, p. 15 ff.
  2. According to Nöldeke, l.c., p. 419, the original Semitic termination of the 1st sing. Perf. was most probably ; cf. the Ethiopic qatalku, Arabic qataltu.
  3. Many of these forms, which are uncommon in Hebrew, are usual in the other Semitic dialects, and may, therefore, be called Aramaisms (Syriasms) or Arabisms. They must not, however, be regarded as cases of borrowing, but as a return to original forms.
  4. Where the Masora apparently regards the תִּי as the termination of the 2nd sing. fem., e.g. in Jer 220 (twice), Mi 413, it has rather taken the form as 1st pers. sing. (cf. Stade, Gramm., p. 253); so in Ju 57, where קַ֫מְתִּי, on account of verse 12, must either have originally been intended as 2nd sing. fem., or is due to an erroneous pronunciation of the form קמת as קַ֫מְתִּ instead of 3rd sing. fem. קָ֫מַת (as LXX).
  5. That these examples can hardly be referred to a primitive Semitic ending ûn in the 3rd plur. Perf., has been shown by Nöldeke in ZDMG. vol. 38, p. 409 ff.; cf. also ZDMG. vol. 32, p. 757 f., where G. Hoffmann proves that the terminations in Nûn of the 3rd plur. in Aramaic, formerly adduced by us, are secondary forms. [See also Driver, Heb. Tenses3, p. 6 note.]