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Grammar of Biblical Hebrew


Wolfgang Schneider

Although Wolfgang Schneider’s Grammatik des biblischen Hebräisch: Ein Lehrbuch serves primarily as an introductory textbook to biblical Hebrew, it makes an invaluable contribution to the text-linguistic study of Hebrew Bible. Schneider’s understanding of narrative syntax and discourse linguistics continues to influence such grammarians as Niccacci and Talstra, through whom his work is validated. His discussion of clauses and text syntax remains pertinent to Hebrew students and professors alike. With this English translation, Schneider’s work may now make a worldwide contribution to biblical studies by clarifying for the student the contribution of text grammar to the reading of the biblical text.
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48 The Verbal Part of the Clause—Tenses


48.1 Existence and Distribution of Tense Forms

Four Tenses

The following are differentiated as the tenses of the Hebrew verb: In the Preformative Conjugation (PC), imperfect and imperfect consecutive (יִקְטֹל and וַיִּקְטֹל), and in the Afformative Conjugation (AC), the perfect and perfect consecutive (קָטַל and וְקָטַל).

In Narratives

These four “tenses”1 are distributed differently in texts of different genres [Gattungen]. In narratives the imperfect consecutive (ic) dominates with ca. 75% of all tense forms.2 For that reason, the imperfect consecutive is also called “Narrativ.”3 To this corresponds a low occurrence of imperfect (i) and perfect consecutive (pc) of ca. 2%.

In Other Gattungen

In texts and parts of texts that do not narrate (e.g. laws, sermons, prophetic speeches, psalms, also in the dialogue parts of narrations), the imperfect (i) predominates with about 50% of all tense forms. After this comes perfect-consecutive forms (pc) with 20%. In contrast to these, the ic-forms have only a share of ca. 5%.

In all genres, the perfect (p) is represented quite regularly (narration: 22%, non-narration: 28%).

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