DA of Poetry

Bryan Rocine brocine at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 20 12:13:32 EST 2000

Dear Dave,

Since BH poetry is indeed human communication, we should
expect it to perform one or more of the basic human
communication tasks that Longacre posits as expressed in one
of his several genres.  Indeed it does.  BH poetry is
essentially persuasive and that of two types, Hortatory
Discourse that persuades the 2nd person to act (e.g..
"praise YHVH!" or "hear my cry!"), and Expository Discourse
that persuades the hearer to believe a thesis (e.g..
"blessed is the man..." or "YHVH is good").  Many individual
poems are mixed Hortatory and Expository, the Expository
usually supplying motivation for the exhortations (e.g..
"praise YHVH for He is good").

When BH poetry is strictly hortatory, it follows pretty
closely Longacre's cline (which I rather call a "discourse
profile scheme")   for Hortatory Discourse.  We must
realize, however, that many hortatory texts have extensive
embedding within them of other genres that identify the
problem addressed by the mainline of exhortations or provide
motivation for obeying the mainline of exhortations.

Probably the greater challenge is with expository texts,
those texts which assert a thesis, because Longacre and
Dawson only suggest tentative clines for Expository
Discourse.  In other words, one of the prevalent genres in
BH poetry has yet to be explored fully by the Longacrean
approach.  I hope in the future to do just such an
exploration.  I have a few guidelines/assumptions that I
propose to follow, and I would be interested in any feedback
that you or others may have.

1.  BH poetry is direct speech rather than the rather
rigidly conventionalized narrative discourse we see in most
BH prose.  Being direct speech, we will observe a freer play
with verb forms, word order and reference tracking.
2.  There is nothing un-Hebrew about BH poetry.  It was
written by Hebrew-speakers for Hebrew speakers who did
understand it.  The only license the writer of BH poetry
takes is with word order and figure.  He *does not* write
that which is ungrammatical any more than English poets
write that which is ungrammatical (at least the
pre-twentieth century English poets avoided the
3.  BH poetic convention allowed and expected an ecstatic
point of view.  In other words we can expect abrupt,
unannounced, and disjunctive shifts in persona and
4.  Expository Discourse defaults for a present time
understanding for the BHebrew listener that is most often
translated into English present tense.  This "default for
present" may be realized as the forms qotel, qatal, yiqtol,
wayyiqtol, weqatal, weyiqtol.  In Expository Discourse, the
choice of verb is not determined by the time the writer
wants to express.  The *genre* Expository Discourse, by its
nature, usually expresses present time.  The choice of verb
is determined by subjective view with which the writer wants
to express a situation.  If the writer wants to express a
situation as emerging, fientive, he will choose a prefixed
form.  If the writer wants to express a situation as
attributive, adjectival, he will use a suffixed form.
Sometimes he even expresses the same situation from both
viewpoints to create a kind of verbal merismus.
5.  The mainline clause type in Expository Discourse is the
verbless clause, which is the stative clause par excellance.
The cline (or discourse profile scheme, as I like to call
it) for Expository Discourse is a ranking of clause types
from most stative for creating the skeleton of the discourse
while the more fientive clause types flesh it out.


you wrote:
> Topic: Discourse Analysis, at its current state of
development, seems to
> falter when applied to poetry.
> I have been encouraged by Longacre (*Joseph*) and Dawson
> and BH*) who proposed "clines" that explain how various
> structures are used in various genres of BH literature. It
was helpful to
> see things laid out in a manner that could be grasped. I
> however, that such charts are too simplistic to encompass
a language.
> This inadequacy has become quite evident when approaching
some poetry. Must
> the findings of DA for prose be thrown out? What can be
salvaged? How must
> it evolve? Would Niccacci and Talstra argue that their
systems handle
> poetry?
> As a test case, let's try to make sense of the use of verb
tense and
> clause-initial syntax in the first 7 verses of Ps 77. I
have wrestled with
> verses 2 (English v. 1) and 7 (English 6) a little.
> In v. 2, perhaps the first verb is habitual yiqtol ("I cry
out; I am crying
> out; I have been crying out"), and the second is weqatal
> intended result ("in order that He will hear me"). The
verbless clauses may
> imply a habitual yiqtol verb ("I *raise* my voice").
> In v. 7 I wonder if the two yiqtols are again past
habitual: "I used to
> remember my song in the night; I used to meditate with my
heart." The
> wayyiqtol, then, is the next event (temporally or
logically consequent) in
> the past: "Then my spirit inquired:"
> Would anybody else like to weigh in on DA in BH poetry? Is
anybody doing
> serious work in this area?
> Dave Stabnow

B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

(office) 315-437-6744
(home) 315-479-8267

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