The book investigates the qatal//yiqtol (yiqtol//qatal) verbal sequence, previously known as ‘tense shifting’, as found in couplets of the Hebrew Psalter, attempting an innovatory explanation by means of M.A.K. Halliday’s Systemic Theory. This study argues that qatal and yiqtol verbal forms, when part of the qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence in Psalms' poetic couplets, can be used primarily for aesthetic reasons, with no individual reference to time or aspect. Arguably, the Systemic Functional Grammar analysis of lexicogrammar can provide a comprehensive interpretation of form and function and an integrated approach to phonetics, morphology and syntax.
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This work attempts to apply the principles of systemic functionalism for the first time to a corpus of Standard Hebrew prose texts, producing a tentative Systemic Functional Grammar of Hebrew lexicogrammar.
The first three chapters of this study engage with issues any student of Hebrew poetry interacts with, that can become limitations of such a study as well, concerning mainly epistemological, terminological and methodological issues. It offers a survey of the most representative scholars who have engaged with the qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence in Hebrew poetry, and proposes a verse-line delimitation method. The investigation that follows assesses the utility of the Systemic Functional Grammar of English as proposed by M. A. K. Halliday, for our enterprise, only to involve it next in creating a grammar of this type for classical Hebrew. Thus properly equipped, the study proceeds with analysing individual poems and the collection of couplets with qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence, both from Hebrew psalms and Ugaritic poetry.
Hebrew poetry is described by a multitude of features, of which parallelism (at various levels), rhythm, conciseness and ellipsis, inter alia, are particularly important. More recently, the qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence has also entered the gallery of poetic devices. This research defends the idea that the qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence is a poetic device in its own right, used successfully by ancient poets in the Hebrew poetry of the Psaltire and the alphabetic cuneiform tradition of Ugaritic poetry. Evidence of its usage also includes Ancient Hebrew poetry.
This study argues that qatal and yiqtol verbal forms, when part of the qatal//yiqtol verbal sequence in Psalms' poetic couplets, can be used primarily for aesthetic reasons, with no individual reference to time or aspect. Arguably, the Systemic Functional Grammar analysis of lexicogrammar can provide a comprehensive interpretation of form and function, and an integrated approach to phonetics, morphology and syntax.
Silviu Tatu is Assistant professor at The Pentecostal Theological Institute in Bucharest. He holds a PhD from the University of Wales. He has written both in Romanian and in English in the field of classical Hebrew poetry.