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

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Sat Aug 28 13:14:20 EDT 2004

Dear Clay,

>Waltke/O'Connor 9.5.1 #6
>Jer 1:2
>W/O call this a genitive of authorship.
>My question. Does this genitive *mean* authorship? Should we let a student
>think that this genitive *means* authorship?

HH: I said earlier that the various kinds of genitive uses can be 
debated, and the categorization of a particular instance to a 
specific category can be, too. That is one of the issues of 
interpretation: which of the possible uses of the genitive is 
appropriate in this case? But I think that example W/O 9.5.1 #7 shows 
that the construct genitive can indicate authorship. Perhaps the 
example in 9.5.1 #6 could be more of a possessive genitive or 
genitive of source, especially since we think of Jeremiah as the 
author of the Book of Jeremiah, not God. But Waltke and O'Connor by 
their definition more or less allow that: "that G wrote, spoke, or 
otherwise originated C."

>This genitive has a syntax function. It binds two constituents together. The
>semantic significance of the relationship between the two constituents is
>not indicated in any way, shape or form by the genitive.

HH: Actually, it is in the sense that the genitive has a range of 
known functions. The nominative has a different range of functions. 
So one can expect the relationship between the two terms to reflect 
one of the known relationships expressed by the genitive. Peter 
advises that students read a great deal, and he is right, but that 
might be the answer to most grammatical questions. Until one knows 
the language extremely well, charts and lists and categories can all 
be of assistance.

>The statement: "This genitive *means* authorship" encourages the student to
>think of the genitive as a language feature that carries semantic content.
>This thinking will lead them to all sorts of wrong methods and conclusions.

HH: But Waltke and O'Connor do not really say "means." They say that 
the "noun-noun genitive phrase or construct chain is 'immensely 
versatile and hard-worked.'" They are not claiming that a particular 
phrase means something but that there are well-recognized kinds of 
relationships that the genitive indicates.

>Grammarians of the traditional school seem to think this is ok because deep
>down they really believe that the genitive is a language feature that
>carries semantic content.

HH: It is a language feature that carries semantic content to some 
extent. The genitive is used to indicates different things, for the 
most part, than the accusative indicates. So if one has an 
accusative, he needs to consider the various kinds of relationship 
that an accusative is known to represent. The genitive has its own 
list. The two lists don't have that much overlap.

>I am not convinced by the "patterns of usage" line of argument. When the
>genitive binds two constituents together it opens of a nearly unlimited
>range of possible semantic relationships. Breaking these down into neat,
>tidy categories doesn't tell us anything about the function of the genitive.
>Having a student memorize these categories while studying the SYNTAX of the
>genitive is worse than dubious, it is counter productive ...

HH: My own experience tells me that patterns of usage are valuable. I 
have received help time and again when analyzing verses by looking at 
the interpretive possibilities for the particular structure. This 
often leads to an insight that I might not have reached on my own. 
The categories represent the observations of many scholars over a 
long period of time, and I know from experience that their findings 
are helpful.

HH: Your issue may concern how the species of genitive are used or 
taught, rather than their value in themselves. The teacher should 
communicate that the categories simply represent how readers of 
Hebrew have seen that the genitive functions. A particular genitive 
is likely to fall within the one of the recognized patterns of usage. 
But it should be intuitively obvious that the particular usage has to 
be a matter of interpretation, since formally many of the categories 
are alike.

				Harold Holmyard

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