Et (Genesis 1:1)

Dr. Reinhard G.Lehmann lehmann at
Thu May 23 05:40:32 EDT 2002

Daniel and all,

Charles David Isbell already made out some important points.
I want to add some more:

1. For the use and function of the object marker 'et see:
A. M. Wilson, "The Particle 'et in Hebrew": Hebraica 6 (1889-1890) 139-50, 212-24 who suggested that suffixed 'et following a verb as pronominal accusative has an emphatic function, whereas direct
pronominal suffix to the verb has not that connotation. But maybe there's something more to say.
For recent discussion see:
John Elwolde, The Use of ’ÉT in non-Biblical Hebrew Texts: VT 44 (1994) 170-182,
G.I. Davies, The Use and Non-use of the Particle ’et in Hebrew Inscriptions, in: Studies in Hebrew and Aramaic Syntax. FS J. Hoftijzer. Hg. v. K.Jongeling, H.L.Murre-van den Berg, L.van Rompay. Leiden:
Brill 1991. 14-26,
Jacob Hoftijzer, Remarks Concerning the Use of the Particle 't in Classical Hebrew: Oudtestamentische Studien 14 (1965) 1-99,
and recently
Michael Malessa, Differentielle Objektmarkierung im Klassischen Hebraeisch: KUSATU 1 [Proceedings of the 1st Mainzer Hebraistisches Kolloquium], Waltrop 2000, 133-156.

2. For some instances of unusual use  of the object marker 'et maybe we have to think in structures of ergativity.
There are some obvious examples of )et with the nominative. They are to be denied, or emended, ore explained (see for instance Neh 9:34; 1 Sam 17:34; Jdc 20:44; 2 Kg 6:5; Neh 9:9, or, as subject of a
passive Verb, Gen 4:18; 21:5; 27:42. In nominal clauses: Josh 22:17; Num 35:7; Dtn 14:12-14; Ez 10:22.

3. Although the object marker 'et and the preposition 'et in Biblical Hebrew mostly look identical (but there are only few text where you can doubt which one of them is meant), there is a sharp
distinction between them. They only look identical because of their non-stressed monosyllabic form.
The etymology of the object marker 'et clearly is old canaanite 'iyyat (> 'iyyot with canaanite shift of long a > o), compare the suffixed forms in Biblical Hebrew ('oti, 'ot:ka, 'oto, 'otam etc). It
is attested in old Phoenician, but not in the old Byblian inscriptions, later in Punic it reduced to nearly vowelless 't. Aramaic it appears first as Sam'alian *'wat > wat, than yat (but still with <w>
in forms like lwat, kwat), but was no longer in common use in Achaemenid Times (Imperial Aramaic), though there is still one example in Biblical Aramaic (yat=hon Dan 3:12)
The etymology of the preposition 'et is *'itt, as shown in Biblical Hebrew suffixed forms like 'itti, 'itt:ka and so on, and Akkadian itti (and Old Canaanite/Amarna). It also existed already in Old
Phoenician, written 't (like the object marker)

All the best
Reinhard G.Lehmann

       Dr.  Reinhard G. Lehmann
       Forschungsstelle fuer Althebraeische Sprache
       Johannes-Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz
       D - 55099 Mainz
       tel: (+49) 6131 - 39 23284
       mailto:lehmann at
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