Guide The Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in Qumran Hebrew Texts

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Focus-fronting results in similar constituent movement, illustrated in 25 , which is repeated from 14 above. The combination of syntactically triggered movement and prag- matically triggered movement complicates the word order. Consider example It seems that Topic and Focus-front- ing are movement operations that occur after the syntactic trigger- ing process that produces V-S inversion. As with the Topic example above in 23 , the constituent movement provoked by syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic concerns are perhaps even clearer when it is not the subject that is Focus-fronted.

In 27 the PP is raised as a Focus constituent. In this case, the PP is raised pragmatic-triggering over the modal verb semantic triggering in order for Ruth or Boaz, whom she is quot- ing to contrast the extraordinary privileges he gave her with normal assumed and thus unstated gleaning privileges. Finally, there are a few examples in Ruth and numerous examples in poetic texts of multiple fronting, as in What I have just described is the model of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics I have used to discern how the narrative in Ruth means.

The examples above were all taken from clauses with finite verbs, which offer the most complicated structure. But the syntax and pragmat- ics of null-copula so-called verbless clauses, whether the predicate is nominal or participial, differ in one detail only: subject-predicate For a fuller explication of the model outlined in this section, see Holmstedt on Proverbs and a on Ruth and Jonah.

In this section I will present the data most often cited as evidence for dating Ruth. First, language rarely allows one to determine an absolute date; instead, historical linguistics typically aims for relative dating, that is, situating features with regard to each other on a temporal cline.

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Second, the type of data adduced is critical: The Hebrew of the Bible is sufficiently homogeneous that differences must be tracked on a statistical basis. The sophis- tication of such study is not in the statistics; advanced statisti- cal methodologies are generally designed to deal with bodies of evidence quite different from what the Bible presents. The sophistication is rather in the linguistic discrimination of what is counted and in the formulation of ensuing arguments. In fact, the data cited and principles used in the last thirty or so years have become a flash-point for an increasingly vigorous debate about our ability to date biblical texts linguistically.

In the last decade this three-stage model has come under strong criticism from a few prolific scholars. While these authors do not challenge the axiom that language changes, they marshal a great deal of lexi- cal data, with some morphological, syntactic, and semantic data, to argue that SBH and LBH are better understood as contemporane- ous, closely-related dialects in ancient Israel rather than two chrono- logically related stages. Over the next few years, if not decades, this bold hypothesis will be tested in the only possible way: by writing up descriptive grammars of each biblical book to be compared against each other.

What are the grammatical and lexical features that distin- guish the language of the book?

strength of association

Is there any evidence of borrowing from Aramaic in the book? If so, how do we account for it? The Role of Linguistic Features 19 3. What is the most plausible explanation for the features identified from questions 1—2: dialectal, chronological, or stylistic? Keeping these questions in mind, below I work through the various data from Ruth that have been used by one scholar or another to date the book. Such a chronological framework seems to make good sense of the Hebrew epigraphs with their generally defective spell- ing at one end, the Dead Sea Scrolls with their greater use of matres at the other, and the Hebrew Bible between.

So, for instance, while the book of Ruth contains examples of both full and defective spell- ings—sometimes with the same words or verbal roots—in general it exhibits a tendency toward defective spelling.

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Rather than a feature to date the book by, these data seem more likely to be the product of inadvertent? Myers It is thus often asserted that Ruth aligns with the SBH books of the former group, that is, in this feature the book is earlier in its linguistic profile Bush — In contrast to this interpretation of the orthographic data stands the thorough study of spelling practices in the Hebrew Bible by James Barr, The Variable Spellings of the Hebrew Bible b. The very systematic character of it might favour the latter rather than the former.

This is supported also by the facts of the Minor Prophets: their fairly consistent use of the long spelling is not likely to go back to the original composition, since the cases in Amos and possibly Hosea may be quite early.

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The Role of Linguistic Features 23 Phonological Features There are few outstanding phonological features that provide even potential dating evidence. Thus, this feature provides little help in profiling the language of Ruth. However, the infrequency of usage in Ruth i. Consonantly, the verbs look like 1cs forms, but the context dictates a 2fs since they follow other regular 2fs verbs and refer to Ruth. It has been noted that the morphology of both forms fits the 2fs we reconstruct for Hebrew before the Bible: the -ti ending is the form of the 2fs in Akkadian and Arabic note the same vowel ending with 2fs -ki in Ethiopic and is often reconstructed for Proto-Semitic Huehnergard Thus, many commentators see in these two verbs in Ruth real archaic remnants, suggesting the Also, if the majority was updated, through the gen- erations of oral story-telling or through scribal activity, why did these two go unchanged?

The third morphological set of data that is often invoked in dat- ing discussions is the apparent gender mismatch of the pronouns and pronominal suffixes and one qatal verb in , 9, 11, 13, 19, 22; In each case, the pronoun matches the expected form of the mascu- line plural even though the obvious antecedents are two women.

On the face of it, the forms appear to represent gender neutralization. Alternatively, it has been suggested that there is no gender mismatch with these forms, but rather they are rare feminine dual pronouns Rendsburg , esp. Bar-Asher However, it is more economical and an option admitted but not chosen in Rendsburg that the thirty-eight examples Rendsburg lists, including those in Ruth, are to be taken together with the over one hundred cases of gender neutralized pronouns as a single phenomenon.


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In other words, to propose a feminine dual pronoun is unnecessary. Regardless which option in chosen, the distribution of the phenomenon in SBH and LBH texts is not clear and thus should not be used in dating the language contra Rendsburg Since none of the three morphological sets of data is clearly date- able, we are no closer to providing a date for the book of Ruth as a The Role of Linguistic Features 25 whole. Thus we turn to the last two grammatical categories: syntax and semantics.

It is often claimed that the LBH books and also Qumran texts used the so-called waw-consecutive i. In Ruth the wayy- iqtol is used throughout for the narrative and the modal qatal is used frequently see , 12; , 9, 14, 16; , 4, 9, 13, 18; , and per- haps However, Ruth also uses non-modal qatal clauses , 22; , in narrative i.

Admittedly, the non-modal qatal main clauses are not used with the frequency that we find in the Qumran texts and this suggests that Ruth falls on the chronological cline between, say, Judges and Ezra- Nehemiah. With that said, the diachronic studies of verbal syntax and word order have not adequately accounted for the main-vs-sub- ordinate clause distinction as well as the narrative-vs-reported speech distinction, and so an accurate picture of the trends for each biblical and non-biblical text remains a desideratum.

In contrast to the meager semantic information at least, as it has been studied , there are at least five syntactic features of Ruth that are often mentioned in discussions of date. A third syntactic feature that Bush cites in support of categorizing Ruth as SBH is the Predicate-Subject order within the null-copula complement clauses in and , whereas it has been claimed that LBH prefers Subject-Predicate order Bush ; Bergey — This claim rests on an analysis of null-copula clauses that ignores pragmatic e.

Thus, the distinction made by Bergey is highly questionable and certainly not one by which to date the language of Ruth. Thus, the single occurrence in Ruth should not be taken as determinative. In his study of the article in BH, James Barr mentions the use of the article as a relative marker a— He notes that, while grammars often list examples of the type illustrated in 29 , they neither provide an accurate gram- matical analysis nor recognize the possible diachronic evidence such relatives provide.

Consider the three examples given in 30 — 32 : Most grammars and commentar- ies suggest reading against the Masoretic accents in these and similar examples. But the Masoretes had no need to indicate the accent on this penultima if the reading tradition had not preserved this placement of the word stress and since, as we will see, this syntactic pattern had long fallen into disuse by the period of the Masoretes, there was every reason for the reading tradition to adjust the word stress to its expected placement. That it did not suggests that the reading tradition preserved a grammatical feature that was much older.

A simple study of the verses listed in 35 does not produce an obvi- ous chronological pattern, but further investigation provides the key. When the participial and adjectival relatives are added, the modest trend is toward a greater use of this construction in texts associated with LBH. The article in Central Semitic was a relatively late innovation in each of the languages. For Northwest Semitic, the lack of clear evidence for an article in Ugaritic suggests that it was an early first millennium innovation.

The biblical examples suggest that the change to include the relative article began by replacing the other relative words slowly at first and in a restricted environment: non-verbal modification in which the head of the relative was also the subject within the relative. Then the change increased—and it expanded to include finite verbs—before finally tapering off with an established but constrained dominance in its original context—non-verbal modification.

Notably, the use of the other relative words to introduce participial relatives exhibits a cor- For Ruth, the data thus suggest that the book sits on the relative dating cline between books like Gen-Deut, Josh- Kings on the one side and Ezra-Neh, Chronicles, and Qohelet on the other. Noting differences in lexical items to distinguish texts had become fundamental to the source criti- cism of the Pentateuch and Deuteronomistic History Joshua-Kings in the nineteenth century, and this method has also become central to the issue of dating texts, particularly in the last thirty years see Hur- vitz , for summaries of the principles and a good selection of previous research in the sources cited there.

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For Ruth, ten lexical features listed in table 4 are often adduced as support for dating the book to one period or another. With such a wide dis- tribution for the the few occurrences, it is difficult to use this word confidently for any dating purposes. It is also found in Ben Sira 7. It is possible that the story-teller simply had at his command i.

For Ruth specifically, he says: Elimelech and his family had left Bethlehem in Judah for Moab because of famine.


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That they had mortgaged their land and used up their capital is borne out by the need for a kinsman to redeem their property when Naomi returned to Bethlehem. Thus they mar- ried poverty-stricken or low status women who brought no dowry into the marriage. The Role of Linguistic Features 35 have conjectured that it is a foreign, perh.

African, word disguised, and have thought it connected with the name of Kaffa in the south Abyssinian highlands, where the plant appears to be native. But of this there is no evidence, and the name qahwah is not given to the berry or plant, which is called bunn, the native name in Shoa being bn. The European langs. The Eng.

Prestige-based borrowing reflects a socio-linguistic situation in which a foreign language, whether closely related or not, is associated with higher social or political status or is simply a dominant linguis- tic cultural influence e. During the Nor- man French dominance in English — many French words were borrowed into English e. At that time, French was considered more prestigious than English. In Hebrew prestige-borrowing is often invoked to explain the increasing number of Aramaisms e. As to the consecutive perfect, it often exhibits oxyton stress, as against the paroxyton stress of the perfect.

Among infinite forms, the Hebrew verbal system possesses a participle, which may behave as a noun it may, e. The so-called infinitivus absolutus , so called, because it does not stand in status constructus nor is it governed by preposition, is a peculiar blend between verbal noun and verbal interjection. Of all word classes it is the verb that has the most conspicuous patterns, although patterns as such are one of the main characteristics of Semitic languages in general and of Hebrew in particular. These patterns are characterized by a certain vowel sequence, which, interwoven with the trilateral root, together with the repetition or doubling of radical consonants, as well as the addition of certain formative consonants, reflects various modifications of the root connected with specific meanings.

In the imperfect, etc. The h of the prefix is, as a rule, dropped in the imperfect. Verbs are that class of words in which triliteralism is most strictly carried out. Nevertheless, some verbal classes, viz. Verba primae n assimilate the n to the immediately following second radical, this being in accordance with the general behavior of n see supra. In verba tertiae infirmae, y has superseded w. Both triliteralism and the development of patterns is less conspicuous in nouns than in verbs.

Substantives are used in different status: , in status absolutus , when standing alone; in status constructus , when closely attached to a following noun the so-called nomen rectum , historically a genitive; the nomen rectum defines and, when itself determinate, determines the noun in status constructus ; and status pronominalis , when attached to a pronominal suffix, which stands in the same relation to the noun as the nomen rectum does. The dual is rather reduced, being as a rule used with "two," "two hundred," some nouns denoting time and mainly with objects which naturally occur in pairs, especially the double members of the body.

The boundaries between substantives and adjectives are rather blurred.

Adjectives proper do not have status pronominalis , yet substantival usage of adjectives and sometimes also vice versa is frequent. The simplest solution would perhaps be to set up three different classes: substantives, adjectives, and finally nouns, which would then include both word classes, as far as their special character cannot be defined by formal criteria. Adjectives used as attributes are preceded by the governing noun. Since the impersonal passive may govern objects as indirect object , e.

It is in the domain of clause formation that Hebrew has best preserved the ancient Semitic character. In contradistinction to Arabic, it has not relinquished free sentence structure in favor of systematization.