Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zechariah 12 - Example of subjunctive vav

In biblical Hebrew there isn't any past or present tense.

Rather it is
  • completed action, or
  • non-finite state
There are a few theories about the vav-inversion aka vav-conversion when a verb is prefixed with a vav-adjunct.

In the prevalent theory, prefixing a verb with a vav would invert its state. So that
  •  a non-finite would be inverted to become grounded as completed-action
  •  a completed-action would be freed from its commitment to become non-finite.

But that theory is on shaky foundations, because they are trying to squeeze Hebrew into a Romance language mold. Biblical Hebrew is primeval language where you make inferences thro the primeval elements and events of the surroundings rather than trying to fit it into an abstract Latin mold.

There is a minority theory which I subscribe to, where the vav-adjunct actually converts the verb to subjunctive or propositional, dependent on the original state of the verb. So that
  • a vav-adjuncted completed action is actually a subjunctive.
  • a vav-adjuncted non-finite is a propositional or propositional-imperative.

Let us use Zechariah 12v10 as example.
ושפכתי על בית דויד and I would pour on house of david
ועל יושב ירושלם and upon those residing jerusalem
רוח חן ותחנונים spirit of favour and request-for-favour
והביטו אלי And they would look towards me
את אשר דקרו at whom they stab
וספדו עליו and would mourn over him
כמספד על היחיד like as mourning over an only begotten
והמר עליו and shall be embittered over him
כהמר על הבכור like as embittered over a firstborn
The phrase does not say,
And they would look towards me והביטו אלי 
whom they stabאשר דקרו 

But the phrase says
And they would look towards me והביטו אלי
at whom they stabאת אשר דקרו 

[הביטו] piel completed action of 3rd person plural.

Qal = active root. Piel = active participative. Hifil = active causative.

[והביטו] completed action with vav adjunct = subjunctive.

A subjunctive is an action that is dependant on another event. (In modern languages subjunctive also includes what-if you could travel back in time, or what-if you could be someone you are not).

Therefore, a day will come. And dependent on that event, such an such would happen.

[דקרו] (stabbed) simple completed action. Without vav adjunct.

The contention here would be should I have translated it as

- presume vav-adjunct: They would look towards me at whom they would stab
or - simple completed action: They would look towards me at whom they had stabbed

If the speaker had meant subjunctive, there would be no way to put a vav-adjunct on "stab", because biblical Hebrew does not have a systematic paradigm like greek to freely assign subjunctive to a verb.

The action of the vav in biblical Hebrew is more like ...
> My daughter wants to be a lawyer. And so this is what would happen. And-scored well in her SAT. And-graduated she from college. Propositional:and-has-she a boyfriend, and-shall-propose-we her that idea. The day will come and-graduated-she from law school whose exams passed-she.

Notice that I cannot write
>from law school whose exams and-passed-she, because it does not make logical sense to have conjunction there.