[b-hebrew] "Species" of the Genitive Waltke/O'Connor

Trevor Peterson abuian at access4less.net
Sat Aug 28 06:35:58 EDT 2004

C. Stirling Bartholomew wrote:

> There must be a better way of teaching it. Students who end up asking the
> question: Is this a "genitive of authorship" or a "genitive of source"  have
> fallen into a trap set for them by their instructors and their text books.
> These are the same students who think that by identifying the mythical
> semantic category of the genitive they have now obtained a key to exegesis
> of the clause. 

I think I'm going to have to agree with Harold on this one (even though 
that doesn't mean I'm disagreeing with much of your point in the 
process). I don't think there's anything wrong with identifying semantic 
possibilities per se. The classical model makes no attempt to account 
for how these possibilities arise--it's simply a catalog of what's 
there. To the extent that the "species" accurately reflect the meaning 
in their samples, there's nothing particularly misleading about pointing 
them out.

We might agree that the burden is on the teacher or writer to make sure 
new students understand what can and cannot be done with these 
categories. You can't prove an exegetical point, for instance, simply by 
saying, "This is a X genitive, so it means Y." That is, the categories 
are not proof of anything--they're simply suggestions, as Harold said, 
to keep before the mind of the reader what sorts of possibilities are 
available in a very general sense. It then remains to look at the 
specifics of the individual instance--the particular words used, the 
context, etc., to determine which of the possibilities might really 
work. It's something like the point of having numbered meanings in a 
dictionary. Not that I can arbitrarily pick whichever meaning suits my 
agenda and call it authoritative, but if I never knew that "bark" can 
mean a type of boat, I'm now in a better position to determine what the 
word might be doing in my particular instance than if I could only 
consider whether it might be the skin of a tree or the noise a dog makes.

I would gladly see more done in grammars to help people understand how 
the different meanings can be assessed. My point is simply that I don't 
think that has much to do with noting the range of possibilities 
associated with a syntactic construction.

Trevor Peterson

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