Thursday, May 4, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Deontics

Genesis 1:3
ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר:
Translation:     Gd said Let light exist; light must have existed.
A long time ago the name “jussive” was slapped on y’hi in this verse. Then, in spite of the fact that vav doesn’t always mean “and”, the same label was slapped on va-y’hi.
The jussive in this verse comes from hayah. If it looks like it’s based on imperfect, there’s a good reason for that.
Obviously, if you’re saying “Let there be light,” you think there’s something wrong with the current state of things. You would let it alone if you were satisfied with the situation.  The term for that is deontic.  Since you’re saying that the world isn’t perfect it ought to be obvious that:
imperatives and all their relatives are based on imperfect verbs.
The feminine of y’hi is t’hi.
It would be smart not to call this the jussive any more for two reasons. One is because that’s a label from Latin and I’m trying to avoid using terminology from other languages. It has been so wrong so much of the time that it’s better to pry all those terms out of your brain.
The other is that it hints at the connection to Arabic. Arabic also has a shortened verb form which has also been slapped with the name “jussive”.
But it’s not a deontic at all. It is a form used to negate past actions in normal situations. Think about it. Anything that didn’t get done, is not complete, and using a perfect aspect in the negative is another case of cognitive dissonance.
So it’s more consistent to think of all these things as shortened imperfect verbs.
What’s more, in Arabic every verb has a shortened imperfect that is not an imperative of any kind, but used in negation. The Arabic term is majzum.
I almost slipped up and used a term without defining it.  BH has three classes of morphology  you probably never heard of unless you’ve read  Dr. Cook’s paper.  One is called “deontic”.  It means “the world isn’t the way I want it” and expresses what it is you do want.  This class includes imperatives, jussives, hortatives, cohortatives, and another form that I’ll discuss when  we get there.  Deontics relate to how imperfect the world is, so it makes sense that they are based on imperfect aspect.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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