fronted IO in speech formula

Alviero Niccacci sbfnet at
Thu Dec 14 08:22:12 EST 2000

At 4:07 PM -0600 12/12/00, David Stabnow wrote:

>The indirect object is fronted in the speech formula five times in the OT,
>all in the Pentateuch.  They are: Exod 30:31; Lev 9:3; 24:15; Num 18:26;
>27:8.  Is this a meaningful variation?
>In Exod 30:31 it seems to be a contrast.  God is giving Moses instructions
>regarding Aaron and his sons, and then "To the Israelites, on the other
>hand, you shall say ..."  However, the other four occurrences of this
>device do not seem to involve contrast.  Any ideas?

Dear David Stabnow,

	The *fronting of the indirect object in the speech formula*, 
i.e., putting the addressee before a verb of saying, is not really a 
special case in BH. It is rather an instance of a syntactical rule of 
the BH verb system. The five cases you listed above are all in the 
direct speech and each sentence is basically a waw-x-yiqtol (i.e., 
yiqtol in the second place of the sentence)--the *x* element being 
the fronted indirect object, e.g.,

Exod 30:31 *we'el-benê yi&ra'el tedabber* "And to the Israelites you 
shall say."

	1) In a direct speech referring to the future as Exod 30:31, 
the main-line verb form is weqatal and it usually appears in a chain 
of identical verb forms, as in Exod 30:25 *we`a&îta* "you shall do," 
30:26 *ûma¢axta* "and you shall anoint," 30:29 *weqidda$ta . . . 
wehayû* "and you shall consecrate . . . and they shall be . . ."

	These weqatal forms are coordinated one to the other. They 
convey pieces of information on the same level. This is the main 
level of communication in the axis of the future.

	Since in 30:30 we do not find another weqatal but rather a 
waw-x-yiqtol, it is reasonable to assume that the writer intends to 
convey a piece of information that is not on the same line with what 
precedes, i.e., he intends to convey it in a secondary level of 
communication and not on the main level. The same is true of 30:31.

	What can the purpose of this shift? I think Dave Stabnow 
suggested the right understanding: "To the Israelites, on the other 
hand, you shall say . . ." I would say that the same explanation 
applies to 30:30. I would translate both verses as follows: "Aharon 
and his sons, TOO, you shall anoint. You shall consecrate them in 
order to serve me as priests. To the Israelites, ON THE OTHER HAND, 
you shall say . . "

	Both waw-x-yiqtol in verses 30-31 convey secondary-line (or 
off-line, or background)  information related to the main-line 
weqatal forms that precede. The anointing of the priests in v. 30 is 
presented AS AN ADDITION to the anointing of the Holy Tent and its 
utensils (vv. 26-29)--not as a separate, distinct item. Further, the 
words addressed to the Israelites in v. 31 are conveyed in contrast 
with the preceding instruction concerning the priests.

	Indeed, two more off-line waw-x-yiqtol constructions are 
found in v. 32. I would say that here the fronting of the indirect 
object has the function of highlighting it. In the translation one 
should try to render  this nuance. The following rendering may be not 
acceptable in English: "Upon the body of (any) human being shall it 
not be poured (lit. « one shall not pour it,» with indefinite 
subject), and in its composition shall you not do (anything) like it."

	The two following waw-x-yiqtol constructions (with *'asher*, 
v. 33) function as "casus pendens" (protasis, or topicalized element) 
+ weqatal as main sentence (or apodosis): "As for whoever shall 
compound any like it and shall put any of it on an outsider, he shall 
be cut off from his people."

	2) In Lev 9:3 we can determining the function of the 
waw-x-yiqtol construction by arguing from the opposite case, i.e., 
what would the intended meaning be if we had a weqatal instead. If we 
had **wedibbarta 'el-benê yi&ra'el** the meaning would be as follows: 
9:2 "(Moses) said to Aaron, "Take for yourself a bull . . .  THEN YOU 
SHALL SAY to the Israelites . . ."
By using secondary-line waw-x-yiqtol instead of main-line weqatal the 
author intends to mean that the following information is not on the 
same line with the preceding one and SUCCESSIVE or SEQUENTIAL to it 
but rather CONTEMPORARY or that it follows INSTANTANEOUSLY, i.e.: 
"Take for yourself a bull . . . AND ON THE SAME TIME / SOON AFTER you 
shall tell the Israelites . . ."

	3) The same analysis seems to apply to Lev 24:15 and Num 27:8.

	4) The case of Num 18:26 is different because the 
waw-x-yiqtol construction is found at the BEGINNING of a direct 
speech. The evidence shows that weqatal, which indicates main line in 
the axis of the future, is not usually found at the BEGINNING of 
direct speech. The waw-x-yiqtol form found at the BEGINNING of a 
direct speech is usually a main-line construction, coordinated to 
weqatal that follows, as in Num 18:26: "(The Lord said to Moses) You 
shall talk to the Levites [INITIAL waw-x-yiqtol] and shall say 
[CONTINUATION, MAIN LINE weqatal] to them . . ."

	5) Therefore, the constructions with an indirect object 
fronted to a verb of saying are no special cases. The situation is 
similar with other verbs (see analysis of Exod 30:25-33 above). The 
fronting of an indirect object itself is no special case. Other 
non-verbal elements of a sentence can be fronted such as subject, 
direct object, and adverb.
The syntactic situation is the same in all these cases. 
SYNTACTICALLY, the fronting of a non-verbal element in the sentence 
means a shift from main line to off line of communication. 
SEMANTICALLY, this shift signals contrast, simultaneity or 
non-sequentiality, or highlighting or emphasis on the fronted element 
of the sentence.

	6) This tense shift from main-line weqatal to off-line 
(waw-)x-yiqtol is parallel to a tense shift from main-line wayyiqtol 
to off-line (waw-)x-qatal frequent in historical narrative. See, 
e.g., we'el-mo$eh 'amar* "Now, to Moses (the Lord) said" (Exod 24:1); 
compare in 24:14.
The shift wayyiqtol --> (waw-)x-qatal similarly signals contrast, 
non-sequentiality (i.e., contemporaneity, or anteriority), and 
emphasis on the fronted non-verbal element.

	I would stress that this is is not an ad-hoc explanation. 
What is decisive syntactically is the position of the finite verb 
form rather than the fronted non-verbal element. The position of the 
finite verb form in the sentence is not an optional or a stylistic 
device; it is the decisive factor because the kind of sentence 
changes syntactically, and therefore also changes its semantic 
value(s). THERE IS a definite verbal system in Biblical Hebrew.

Thanks for your attention and sorry for the long posting.

Alviero Niccacci

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