b-hebrew digest: August 26, 1999

Matthew Anstey manstey at portal.ca
Fri Aug 27 00:43:32 EDT 1999

GDay Bryan & Paul,

>Matthew, as I look at it further, for this to be a "new topic,"
>shouldn't there be an old topic?  I don't see one.  Or does Dik not
>differentiate between introduction of topics and change of topics?

Yes and more. He differentiates New Topic (first introduction). It is then a
Given Topic. The Given Topic usually triggers anaphora rules and other
things like that. If this topic is changed to another Topic or Sub-Topic it
can be picked up again as a Resumed Topic. The total number of topics of a
discourse includes all the Topics introduced in the story, but also assumed
information shared between author and reader. Topics are also organised
hierarchically within each level of the discourse from book down to clause.
So a discourse contains a topic-store which grows and shrinks as the
discourse continues. Some topics exist only very briefly (eg Jonah's worm!)
while others (YHWH in Torah) exist for a long time (in the discourse that
is!). What Dik and others have done is to show the cross-linguistic
tendencies for handling these various topics. New Topics, tend to move to
the end. They are also introduced by formula "Once upon a time there was an
X", existential constructions using dummy subjects  "In a jungle there was
an elephant..." and other ways.

>I won't argue your definiteness position, but it does seem strange to me
>to call the first part of this definite without any article being

I take the construct chain as a single syntactic unit, and it is definite
since "the man" is definite.

I do recognize, however, that the normal P-S clause would
>have omitted the $EM, and that we are dealing with a construct chain.
>I'll put the right dislocation on my list of things to keep an eye out
>for, although I'm not sure how to identify it.  Perhaps a clause final
>subject??  But I have a gut feel that, if it exists, it is in the
>introduction of the topic, not in the change of topic.

Exactly. Unless the change of topic is also a new topic. But discourses
generally don't keep on introducing new topics ad infinitum.

Bryan wrote:

>My suspicion is that there is nothing particularly marked
>about the word order in your example.

I agree. But I'm not really concentrating on markedness, since I am still
trying to ascertain what unmarked Hebrew looks like. I am mainly interested
in whether others have observed New Topics drifting right in the sentence,
or clear counter-examples. I think we need to separate topic and focus
clearly and see the various ways that influence syntax as independent

Pragmatically, it
>seems like Naomi is the introducer of the topic for
>discussion.  Within its sentence, I believe that shem ha'ish
>is the subject in the sense of the known (Ruth has pointed
>out Boaz, and Naomi, of course, knows that most guys have
>names) and that the dependent clause aids in identifying the
>topic since they haven't proceeded far enough into the
>discussion in order to have built up a context.  The name
>Boaz is the new information in the sentence, and so
>qualifies as the sentence's predicate.  I believe this
>suggestion, that shem ha'ish is the subject and Boaz is the
>predicate does not contradict the findings of Kirk Lowery
>that the subject of a verbless clause is generally the
>relatively more definite than the predicate, or that a
>proper noun is more definite than a noun + article + noun.
>I think, in a construction like this, that a proper noun has
>a little different value since it refers not to a person but
>to a person's name.

I agree. This is similar to my reply to Paul I think.

>As for the functional shifting of a clause elements:  for a
>functional analysis of S-P v. P-S order in verbless clauses,
>you may check out Randy Buth's 1999 "Word order in the
>verbless clause: A generative-functional approach" in _The
>verbless clause in BH: Linguistic approaches_.

Will do. I have to read this book, but I can't afford it and our library
does not have it yet. So I'll have to wait. I've only read Kirk's article
since he sent me an off-print.

I would be interested in Randy's thoughts about the category "subject" in
this article. Many functional grammarians reject the notion of subject
almost altogether, but I don't think Randy does.

With regards,

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