A new tack on 'asher

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Thu Jun 14 19:37:06 EDT 2001

Thank you for your clear statement of an issue which I have raised before
but not stated so clearly.

I was interested in your example from Genesis 2:8 which shows ):A$ER
functioning as a true relative pronoun, as the transitive verb has no object
apart from the ):A$ER. But from my own observations (and from working with a
language which has a complementiser but no relative pronoun), I rather think
that this case is exceptional. And BDB supports me (in the introduction to
its article on this word): "As a rule ):A$ER is a mere _connecting link_,
and requires to be supplemented (see the grammars) by a pron. affix, or
other word, such as $FM, defining the nature of the relation more

The exact construction may depend on the case role of the antecedent in the
subordinate clause. In Hebrew, when the antecedent is the subject there is
no distinction as a pronoun subject would be dropped anyway, cf. there would
be no distinction between "[I saw the dog] that bit him" and "[He said] that
it bit him", if the "it" is dropped anyway. Now it may be that, as in
Genesis 2:8, the pronoun can also be dropped if the antecedent is the
object. But I don't think it can be with oblique cases, e.g. in Genesis 1:11
we have not *B.A):A$ER ZAR:(OW but ):A$ER ZAR:(OW-BOW. BDB does state (part
of point 2) that "Very occasionally there occurs the anomalous constr.
(IM ):A$ER Gn 31:32 for ):A$ER (IM.OW". BDB then continues (point 4): the
defining pron. adjunct is *dispensed with* - _a._ when ):A$ER represents the
simple subj. of a sentence, or the direct obj. of a vb...".

I suggest that you look in more detail at this article. There is a lot more
of it! But I don't think it settles the issue either way in the Exodus
verse. GKC also has a long section, 138, on The Relative Pronoun (sic),
which should provide plenty of examples, but I don't have time now to look
at this in detail.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Glenn Blank [mailto:glennblank at earthlink.net]
> Sent: 14 June 2001 06:48
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: A new tack on 'asher
> Clay raised a point that I do not remember being addressed.  I
> apologize for
> this post if this thread has been closed by the moderators, or if my
> question has already been answered.  If this is the case, perhapse someone
> could just send me the "gist" of what was said.
> Clay wrote,
> >From: c stirling bartholomew <cc.constantine at worldnet.att.net>
> >Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 09:59:58 -0700
> >
> >
> >When we say that 'asher links "two independent clauses of which the
> >second explains more distinctly a part of the first," do we not need to
> take
> >a close look at what we mean by "two independent clauses." . . . the
> function of
> a
> >subordination marker is to make these two clauses interdependent
> is it not?
> >The clause marked with 'asher limits the semantic scope of some
> constituent
> >in the higher level clause, so that the two clauses combine to form a
> higher
> >level constituent (a compound clause). I am speaking here in terms of
> >hypotaxis, and assuming that 'asher is functionally similar to hOS in
> Greek.
> >This may not in fact be the case which is the reason that I am
> raising the
> >question.
> >
> >So how does 'asher differ in function from hOS in Greek?
> >
> >Clay
> >
> hOS functions as a relative pronoun in Greek, and not simply as a
> complementizer.  By "complementizer," I mean a particle subordinating the
> following clause -- that is, signalling that the clause serves as a
> constituent
> within the matrix clause.  A relative pronoun serves that function, but in
> addition is itself a constituent within the subordinate clause.
> Consequently, in English,
>   "This is the man {whom [I visited _____]}"
> "whom" is a relative pronoun, signalling "whom I visited" as a modifier of
> "man" but also serving as the direct object of "visited."
> French, on the other hand, has two ways of constructing such a sentence:
>   Voici      l'homme  {a   qui  [Marie ____ a   parle]}
>    here [is] the man   to  whom  Marie      has talked.
> or
>    Voici      l'homme {que  [Marie  lui     a   parle]}
>    here [is] the man   COMP  Marie to him   has talked
> In the first example, "a qui" is a relative pronoun, functioning
> both as a
> complementizer (COMP) *and* as the object of "a parle," but in the second,
> "que" is only a complementizer,
> with the object of "a parle" ("lui") still in the subordinate
> clause itself.
> I know that )aSHR functions as a relative pronoun in a number of places in
> BH (e.g., Genesis 2:8).  My question is, are there places where
> it functions
> only as a complementizer and not as a relative pronoun, as does "que" in
> French.    (There are cases where "that" functions both ways in English --
> "I saw the man that bit the dog" where it is a relative pronoun
> verses "The
> man said that the dog bit him" where it functions as only a
> complementizer)
> It seems to me that if )aSHR always functions as a relative
> pronoun, then we
> are bound to the relative interpretation of Ex 3:14 --
>       "I am/will be {what [I am/will be _____]}."
> (with "what" serving as the direct object of the second "I am/will be"
> If, on the other hand, )aSHR can function strictly as a
> complementizer, then
> the possibility exists for seeing the subordinate clause in an existential
> sense, as David has proposed:
>       "I am {COMP [I am]}"  or  "I will be {COMP [I will be]"
> (with the second "I am/will be" having no object, but itself
> serving as the
> object of the first "I am/wil be")
> So how )aSHR functions seems to me to be crucial to the questions on Ex.
> 3:14.
> glenn blank
> Pensacola  FL

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