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New Perspectives in Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew

Aaron D. Hornkohl
Khan Geoffrey


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1 Aaron Koller, The Alphabetic Revolution, Writing Systems, and Scribal Training in Ancient Israel

2The first writing systems in the Near East, cuneiform and hieroglyphs, had heavy non-phonetic components, including determinatives and morphographic spellings. The early alphabet, as found in the inscriptions from Serabit el-Khadim and elsewhere, contrasts sharply with these systems in the way that the language is reflected. Here the orthography is radically shallow, with no components to the writing system that do not reflect phonology. The orthographic practices seen in the Hebrew Bible take a step away from the radical shallowness of the early alphabetic texts. Noting examples of morphophonemic spelling in the Masoretic Text of the Bible allows us not only to conceptualise the writing system at work, but also to reveal some of the contours of the training that went into being a scribe in biblical Israel.

3 Nick Posegay, Hissing, Gnashing, Piercing, Cracking: Naming Vowels in Medieval Hebrew

4The modern names for the Hebrew vowels (qameṣ, pataḥ, segol, ṣere, ḥiriq/ḥireq, ḥolem, shuruq/shureq, qibbuṣ/qubbuṣ) are derived from a variety of medieval sources. The pair of qameṣ and pataḥ are the oldest, both having evolved in the earliest stages of Masoretic analysis of vocalisation. The remaining names are products of three different conventions. Ṣere, ḥiriq, ḥolem, and shuruq descend from four Aramaic technical terms that described the physical articulation of vowel phonemes during the ninth century. Additionally, segol describes the shape of its three-dot vowel sign in the Tiberian pointing tradition, while qibbuṣ is a Hebrew calque of an Arabic grammatical term. This article traces the evolution of these terms during the early medieval period alongside other vowel names that have not survived to the modern day.

5 Steven E. Fassberg, III-y Imperatives in Ancient Hebrew

6The ms imperative of strong verbs in the qal and derived stems shows an alternation of final ø ∼ -å. This is so in the case of the ms imperative of weak verbs, too, with the exception of III-y verbs in the derived stems, where one finds final ø ∼ -ē. This study investigates the distribution of long and short forms of the ms imperative of III-y verbs in Biblical Hebrew, epigraphic Hebrew, the Hebrew of Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuchal oral tradition, the Secunda, and Tannaitic Hebrew. The data from ancient Hebrew sources seem to indicate that the later the text, the greater the chance that one will find in it long ms III-y imperative forms in the derived conjugations.

7 Jorik (F. J.) Groen, Frequency, Analogy, and Suppletion: √hlk in the Semitic languages

8The verb √hlk exhibits various morphological irregularities throughout the Semitic language family. These are well known and have been described before, in particular from the perspective of Biblical Hebrew and its nearest relatives. The current contribution approaches the morphology of Semitic √hlk from state-of-the-art linguistic theories, in particular usage-based theory. Thus, it is explained how high-token frequency of some of the verb’s forms induced irregular sound changes (phonetic reduction), the manner in which these spread to other forms in the paradigm through analogy, leading to the suppletive paradigms of √hlk in the various Semitic languages. By combining frequency figures with usage-based theory, earlier solutions are revised, while drawing up the chronological order and paradigmatic directions of the most likely development.

9 Ariel Gabbay, On the Morphology of the Guttural Verbs in Sephardic Traditions in the Early Modern Period

10This paper deals with the morphology of guttural verbs in the Sephardic reading tradition for Mishnaic Hebrew. It is based on findings common to the world’s first two Mishna editions printed with full vocalisation: the Constantinople edition and the Amsterdam edition. Both of these seventeenth-century editions, although vocalised by grammar experts, reveal vocalisation that contradicts not only biblical grammar, but also rabbinic grammar, as represented in the medieval vocalised manuscripts, first and foremost MS Kaufmann. The paper presents three phenomena that emerge from the two editions. The first is feminine participle forms with segol instead of pataḥ, such as נִפְֶרעֶת ‘collect (a debt) (fs)’, מְגַלֶחֶת ‘shave (fs)’. The second is the lack of compensatory lengthening in piʿʿel and puʿʿal, such as מִאֲנָה ‘she refused’, מְבּועָר ‘removed’. The third issue is shewa mobile with guttural consonants in quadriliteral verbs, examples including מְעְַרעְִרין ‘ (they) compel (her)’, מְהַבְהְבִים ‘parch (mpl)’. This vocalic realisation, which apparently reflects analogy to non-guttural verbs, is well documented in Sephardic reading traditions of recent generations.

11 Na’ama Pat-El, Comparative Semitic and Hebrew Plural Morphemes

12The distribution of the Hebrew plural morphemes on substantives is generally assumed to be conditioned by gender; nevertheless, many exceptions are attested in all periods. Scholars have suggested multiple explanations for this phenomenon, though none can adequately explain all exceptions. In this paper, comparative evidence is used to shed light on this problem. Based on this evidence, I argue that plural marking of substantives in Hebrew patterns with other languages and, therefore, should be studied comparatively and not in isolation. I also offer some criteria for the use of plural variation for linguistic dating of Hebrew texts.

13 Elisheva Jeffay, Proper Names as Predicates in Biblical Hebrew

14Unlike in Modern Hebrew (MH), proper names in Biblical Hebrew (BH) appear freely in the annex of constructs, e.g., בְנֵֽי־יַעֲֹ֜קב ‘the sons of Jacob’ (Gen. 34.13). Rothstein (2012, 2018) argues that the infelicity of these constructs in MH is due to the status of the annex as a predicate phrase, which proper names, as referential expressions (DPs), cannot fill. This suggests that proper names in BH are not inherently referential, but are predicates. In this paper, I will explore the construct phrase and its rules, the semantic composition, and lexical interpretation of names in BH and BH gentilic names as evidence in support of the hypothesis that BH proper names are predicates.

15 Chanan Ariel, The Shift from the Biblical Hebrew Far Demonstrative אוהה to Mishnaic Hebrew ותוא

16In Biblical Hebrew ההוא serves as the distal demonstrative pronoun and follows the noun it complements. In Mishnaic Hebrew two shifts occur. אותו (usually a direct object pronoun) replaces ההוא and precedes the noun it complements. This paper examines the explanations offered for this development over the last 175 years in light of evidence from Late Biblical Hebrew, Palestinian Aramaic dialects, and Greek. It supports an explanation that focuses on language contact: Aramaic could have encouraged prolepsis, but the main influence is the Greek pronoun αὐτός with a similar sound and similar syntactic functions. The paper attempts to reconstruct the reason for the replacement of an existing Hebrew structure with a Greek alternative. It examines possible influence of the legal genre and links these shifts to the omission of definiteness in demonstrative pronouns in Mishnaic Hebrew.

17 Bo Isaksson, Biblical Hebrew Short Yiqṭol and the ‘Consecutive Tenses’

18The Biblical Hebrew wayyiqṭol clause-type is a primary constituent in the theory of ‘consecutive tenses’. This article uses recent advancements in the study of the Masoretic Text to clarify that such clauses were pronounced without gemination of the prefix consonant in Standard Biblical Hebrew (SBH): wa-yiqṭol (past perfective meaning). The gemination was an innovative feature of the reading tradition during the Second Temple Period. This opens up the question of the status of the conjunction wa- before past perfective short yiqṭol. It is shown that the traditional assumption of a special ‘consecutive waw’ before short yiqṭol is unwarranted. The coding of pragmatic discourse continuity already has a signal: the clause-type with normal wa- and initial verb (type wa-VX). The typical main-line clause in historical narration, wa (y)-yiqṭol, signals discourse continuity because the verb directly follows the conjunction wa-, and this conjunction was a normal ‘natural language connective’ wa- ‘and’ in SBH.

19 Elizabeth Robar, The Rise of Wayyiqṭol

20The distribution of wayyiqṭol throughout the Hebrew Bible is far from uniform. In much of Archaic Biblical Hebrew, it is altogether absent. In other portions, it is present, but not uniform in tense/aspect semantics. In the book of Job, wayyiqṭol is common, but behaves as a freely chaining verb (continuing the tense and aspect of a preceding situation) rather than as a preterite. This brief inventory of the uses of wayyiqṭol is not well reflected in traditional definitions of it as a perfective past. An exclusively semantic definition might not be adequate to define wayyiqṭol.

21 Ambjörn Sjörs, Notes on the Lengthened Imperfect Consecutive in Late Biblical Hebrew

22The article investigates the distribution of lengthened and unlengthened forms of the first-person imperfect consecutive in Late Biblical Hebrew (Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles). It is argued that the literary language of these compositions reflects a standard in which the first-person imperfect consecutive is lengthened as a rule. Exceptions to this rule are discussed individually. It is shown that some unlengthened verb forms are used in formulaic expressions and it is argued that they are retrieved whole from the lexicon rather than generated by contemporary language-usage grammar. It is also argued that other apparently unlengthened verb forms of roots with a final guttural show assimilation of paragogic heh. Finally, it is shown that the use of unlengthened verb forms in the court narrative in Neh. 1–4 coincides with other archaic or archaising features, and it is suggested that the composition imitates Classical Biblical Hebrew.

23 Geoffrey Khan, The Coding of Discourse Dependency in Biblical Hebrew Consecutive Weqaṭal and Wayyiqṭol

24The paper argues that the discourse dependency of Biblical Hebrew consecutive weqaṭal and wayyiqṭol forms is encoded in their semantic structure and is not just an implicature of the context. This is a heritage of their historical origin in subordinate constructions with temporal integration between clauses. The historical development of consecutive weqaṭal and wayyiqṭol proposed has typological parallels in Neo-Aramaic and involves the extension through schematisation of constructions containing dependent clauses (apodosis and purpose clause, respectively). The old narrative construction of waw + past perfective yiqṭol expressing chains of events was preserved due to a process in which it was reanalysed as an extension of a different, but structurally similar, construction, viz. waw + jussive yiqṭol.

25 Aaron D. Hornkohl, A Tense Question: Does Hebrew Have a Future?

26Arguing that the Biblical Hebrew (BH) verbal system expresses semantics that correspond to all three Tense-Aspect-Mood (TAM) categories, the article examines the longstanding and deeplyrooted rejection in BH scholarship of tense, in general, and of future tense, more specifically. It next spotlights representative aspect- and mood-prominent treatments of the yiqṭol form, indicating where these more and less successfully explain the data, concluding in favour of a tense- or mood-prominent approach. Certain complications with mood-prominence are then considered, not least the categorisation of various sorts of modality commonly associated with yiqṭol. Finally, it is argued that a viable mood-prominent approach must comprehend the possibility of the expression of indicative future, which claim is substantiated on the basis of semantic minimal pairs of verbs indicating future certainty, on the one hand, and obligation, on the other.

27 Ethan Jones, On Pragmatics and Grammar in Biblical Hebrew: Predicate Adjectives and Stative Verbs

28In the study of the pragmatics of Biblical Hebrew, most of the scholarly attention has been on topic and focus. At times, given and new information (i.e., theme and rheme) receive passing mention. Yet a claim has gone mostly unnoticed for decades, namely, that the pragmatic layer of given and new information is inextricably linked to the grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Jenni 1968; 2012). In short, the position is that predicate adjectives mark new information, whereas stative verbs mark given information. The present article revisits this old claim. It returns afresh to this minimal pair, using recent research on Information Structure (Götze et al. 2007). At times, the results corroborate previous research, but other times the seamless connection between pragmatics and grammar is challenged. In all, this article hopes to encourage more work on the relationship between grammar and pragmatics in ancient Hebrew.

29 Ellen van Wolde, Nifʿal Verbs in the Book of Genesis and Their Contribution to Meaning

30In this study, the use and meaning of nifʿal in Biblical Hebrew is investigated based on the representative corpus of nifʿal verbs in Genesis. First, a theoretical characterisation of the middle voice is presented as distinct from the passive voice. Then follows an examination of the 78 instances of nifʿal verbs in Genesis, with a focus on nifʿal verbs that express body actions. The conclusion is that these verb forms conceive of the event from a final, conclusive, or resultative point of view. Expressed in middle voice, the events are not construed as unfolding over time, but as having been achieved, that is, as achievements that affect or have an impact on the initiating subject, who is at the same time the affected patient. In these middle constructions, the verbal root takes on new shades of meaning.

31 Daniel Wilson, ה ָ י ָ ה in Biblical Hebrew

32A general consensus has emerged that the copula הָיָה licenses tense, aspect, and mood (TAM) in Biblical Hebrew (BH) and can also be used as a ‘true verb’ meaning become, happen, exist, etc. Exactly which features are licensed by הָיָה, however, has not been demonstrated in an exhaustive study. This article—based on an exhaustive study of הָיָה in BH—demonstrates exactly which TAM features and environments control the manifestation of הָיָה. The ‘true verb’ function of הָיָה can also be understood in a uniform way typical of auxiliaries. A thorough discussion of the roles of הָיָה also requires distinguishing predicational sentences from existential sentences. The semantics of existentials in BH also explains the function of הָיָה in many examples. Readers of BH will find that most finite forms of הָיָה in the Hebrew Bible can be explained using one of the conditions specified in this article.

33 Lutz Edzard, The Coordination of Biblical Hebrew Finite Verb Forms and Infinitives in Comparative Semitic and Typological Perspective

34The coordination of finite verb forms and infinitives in Biblical Hebrew, especially Late Biblical Hebrew, and in other Semitic languages continues to be an intriguing issue. This paper examines said topic from the perspective of the concepts of (pseudo- ) coordination and (pseudo-) subordination, as proposed by Yuasa and Sadock (2002), drawing on comparison of a wide range of Semitic (Phoenician, Sabaic, Gəʿəz, Amharic, Epigraphic North Arabic, Classical Arabic, Modern Arabic dialects) and typologically comparable non-Semitic data (Yiddish, Norwegian, Turkish, Swahili). Relevant constructions treated in this paper are syndetic constructions with posture or motion verbs, syndetic serial-verb constructions, asyndetic serial-verb constructions, syndetic converb (-like) constructions, asyndetic converb construction, as well as syndetic constructions consisting of finite VPs and infinitives.

35 Cody Kingham, Parts of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Time Phrases: A Cognitive-Statistical Analysis

36Though time phrases function adverbially, they can be headed by nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. This non-prototypical behaviour makes time phrases a useful context in which to test theories on parts of speech. The collocation behaviour of head words in time phrases can be measured statistically as a way of capturing their semantics. These objective statistical data provide a necessary control on more subjective linguistic hypotheses. In that vein, this article explores a new method of ‘cognitive-statistical’ analysis. The behaviour of words found in over 3,400 adverbial phrases in Biblical Hebrew is analysed using Principal Component Analysis (PCA), an unsupervised clustering technique. The resulting analysis uses the PCA model of word collocations to automatically classify their parts of speech. The end results prove promising for future classifications based on statistical analyses of word behaviour rather than on pure intuition.

37 Christian Locatell, Polysemous Adverbial Conjunctions in Biblical Hebrew: An Application of Diachronic Semantic Maps

38Adverbial conjunctions often communicate multiple interclausal relationships in a constrained set of polysemy patterns (e.g., time and cause, place and condition, or comparison, time, and condition, to name but a few). This raises several questions: How are these different meanings conceptually related to each other? What processes led to the proliferation of meanings for a single form? And how may these meanings be diachronically ordered in a form’s developmental history? This study approaches these questions regarding adverbial conjunctions in Biblical Hebrew with the following methodology: (1) construct a usage profile of the form (s) in question; (2) heuristically employ diachronic semantic maps to generate hypotheses about the conceptual and diachronic organisation of uses; (3) test these hypotheses by examining corpus data for plausible bridging contexts; (4) compare these results to comparative data where available. This method yields plausible reconstructions of a form’s diachronic development, even when only synchronic data are available.

39 Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé and Jacobus A. Naudé, Differentiating Left Dislocation Constructions in Biblical Hebrew

40Left dislocation (as opposed to topicalisation) involves a constituent that occurs to the left of the sentence boundary and has resumption within the core sentence. Crosslinguistically, left dislocation constructions exhibit considerable syntactic variation, which can be described on the basis of three considerations. The first relates to the grammatical features of the coreferential resumptive element. The second concerns the relationship of the left-dislocated constituent to the resumptive element, especially with respect to case agreement. The third relates to the relationship of the sentence involving left dislocation to the broader syntactic context. By considering these questions within the context of contemporary linguistic theory, we can determine in a more precise and principled way the kinds of left-dislocation constructions that are differentiated in Biblical Hebrew and their essential characteristics.

41 Christo H. J. van der Merwe, Biblical Hebrew and Cognitive Linguistics: A General Orientation

42The aim of this study is to enable scholars of Biblical Hebrew (BH) to orientate themselves as far as a substantial number of applications of cognitive linguistic (CL) insights into BH are concerned. The paper begins with a brief overview of CL, positioning it within the field of linguistics and describing its commitments and basic points of departure. This is followed by a bird’s eye view of the different schools of thought. The section concludes with a summary of current developments in CL and some of the widely acknowledged challenges. In the final section of the paper, the scope and the theoretical underpinnings of a range of applications of insights from CL to BH are profiled. One of the findings of this broad orientation is that a way to optimally use distributional data and statistical methods for establishing the different senses of linguistic expressions has yet to be established, whether in CL or BH.

43 Tania Notarius, From ל ּ ו ַ ח to פס ֶ ר and Back: An Episode in Biblical Hebrew Historical Linguistics

44The paper traces the semantic development of the lexeme *lwḥ in ancient Northwest Semitic languages from Ugaritic to Qumran Hebrew, via Classical and Late biblical Hebrew, in view of epigraphic Hebrew, Aramaic, and Phoenician. It is demonstrated, in comparison to other terms of writing, that in Ugaritic the term denotes letters; in CBH its usage is limited to a fixed literary idiom referring mainly to the Tablets of the Covenant; LBH practically abandons the lexeme; and QH revives the classical idiom, turning it into a medium for eternal, primordial knowledge and law.

45 Gary A. Rendsburg, Israelian Hebrew in the Book of Amos

46The majority of scholars have identified the home village of Amos with Tekoa on the edge of the Judaean wilderness. This article follows the lead of David Qimḥi in identifying Tekoa as the northern village of the same name, mentioned in several ancient sources. One also notes use of the root q-š-r ‘treason’ in Amos 7.10, implying that Amos was a ‘citizen’ of the northern kingdom if Israel; and the use of the root b-r-ḥ ‘flee’ in Amos 7.12, implying the same. The article then moves to identify sixteen (mainly) lexical and grammatical Israelian Hebrew features within the book of Amos, with an especial concentration of such features in ch. 6.

47 Yehonatan Wormser, Attitudes towards Rabbinic Hebrew as Reflected in Hebrew Grammars during the Jewish Enlightenment

48This paper examines some attitudes towards the nature, merit, and use of Rabbinic Hebrew that prevailed among Jewish intelligentsia during the Jewish Enlightenment, as reflected in three Biblical Hebrew grammars: Chayim Keslin’s (1749–1832) Maslul be-Diqduq Leshon ha-Qodesh (Berlin, 1788), Judah Leib Ben-Zeʾev’s (1764–1811) Talmud Lashon ʿIvri (Breslau, 1796), and Chayim Zvi Lerner’s (1815–1889) Moreh ha-Lashon (Leipzig, 1859). These works differ from one another in terms of frequency and nature of data from Rabbinic Hebrew included in their grammatical discussions. It is argued that the status of Rabbinic Hebrew in each work reflects the author’s attitude towards the desirable status of Rabbinic Hebrew in Hebrew usage of contemporary Jewish society.


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