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The Aramaic of the Bible and Qumran, unlike Imperial Aramaic, possesses a unique prefix conjugation that functions as a narrative tense. Aramaists have appealed to various notions of tense, aspect, text-linguistics, and even Hebrew and Akkadian influence to solve the conundrum of the so-called preterite prefix conjugation. A novel proposal is offered here, based on the semantic category of modality. By beginning with future functions of the prefix conjugation and working backward through the present temporal sphere to occurrences in the past, it is argued that modality accounts for the full range of the prefix conjugation’s syntactic functions, even those in independent narrative clauses. Thus, a unified theory of the form’s semantics emerges.