[b-hebrew] Pronoun )nky in Judg. 6:8

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Oct 6 07:52:37 EDT 2004

On 06/10/2004 02:37, Dave Washburn wrote:

>On Tuesday 05 October 2004 15:17, C. Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
>>Judg. 6:8 wy$lx yhwh )y$ nby) )l-bny y&r)l wy)mr lhM kh-)mr yhwh )lhy y&r)l
>>)nky h(lyty )tkM mmcryM w)cy) )tkM mbyt (bdyM
>>The "clause"  ... )nky h(lyty )tkM mmcryM ... looks exceedingly innocent to
>>the untrained eye, an explicit pronominal subject before a finite verb.
>>However, while working my way once again through "Fronting"  R.Holmstedt*,
>>I came across a discussion of Judg. 6:8 in another place**.
>>What can we say about  )nky ? Well using a somewhat lazy definition of
>>"focus" I would suggest that  )nky points the reader to what is important
>>about the following clause. What is important is who did it. The preverbal
>>pronoun focuses the readers attention on the _who_ not the _what_. Without
>>this pronoun, the _what_ would fall into the new information slot. With the
>>preverbal pronoun, the new information slot moves.
>The biggest problem I see with this idea is that, like so many others, he 
>assumes that the basal constituent order in Hebrew is V - S, which may or may 
>not be the case.  Most of the grammars out there assume this order mainly 
>because the wayyiqtol form is so prevalent in the HB, and this form is always 
>clause-initial.  But there is strong evidence that it is a "derived" form 
>(for lack of a better term) that has in fact itself been "fronted," and the 
>basal order in Heb. is S - V - (O).  If this is the case, then we don't 
>really have a pronoun being "fronted" here.  Since this is the first clause 
>in a section of direct speech, it would appear to me that it simply 
>identifies the new speaker.  Whether that puts emphasis on the "who" rather 
>than the "what" is another issue, more involved with pragmatics than with 
>syntax.  Or so ISTM.
Regardless of whether SV(O) clauses are in some sense basic or are the 
result of some fronting process (especially if this occurs at a level 
deeper than that for which we have any direct evidence), they are 
exceedingly rare as surface forms (without the copula). Therefore we 
need to ask ourselves in what special contexts they occur (for example, 
are they relatively common at the start of direct speech, as here?), and 
what marked function (which in principle I suppose could be the lack of 
any other marking) they perform. And we need to ask the same about 
clauses with explicit pronoun subjects - except that with these there is 
I think no doubt that they are the marked forms. Then perhaps we can 
find the intersection between the two special functions and so elucidate 
what is happening in this verse.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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