[b-hebrew] Placeholders: )$R w/o antecedent

C. Stirling Bartholomew jacksonpollock at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 21 11:55:24 EDT 2004

On 10/20/04 10:12 PM, "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org> wrote:
> I am not sure that it is correct to think of these constituents as
> dummies or placeholders. It seems to me that they are real constituents
> of a real sentence. Hebrew 'asher seems to me to work rather like
> (colloquial) Azerbaijani ki, whose syntactical function is clear to me.
> (ki is rather deprecated in formal written Azerbaijani.) ki is a
> conjunction, not a pronoun. What follows ki, or 'asher, is a fully
> formed sentence, with a pronoun used for the constituent which is linked
> with the main clause. But this pronoun is dropped if it is the subject
> in the same way that any pronoun subject can be dropped. And sometimes
> it is dropped if it is the object or another constituent, if there is no
> ambiguity, just as in normal sentences the object or other constituent
> can sometimes be dropped if clear from the context.
> As for what precedes ki (or 'asher), the antecedent can be either a
> whole sentence (in which case the ki clause is at the end) or an
> individual noun phrase (in which case the ki clause follows it).


I am not sure we are talking about exactly the same thing.

Take a look at: 

Ezek. 23:28 ky kh )mr )dny yhwh hnny ntnK byd )$r &n)t byd )$r-nq(h np$K mhM

The antecedent of )$r in the expression byd )$r &n)t is not explicit, it is
inferred or, if you prefer, it is exophoric rather than anaphoric. To supply
a place holder %  to mark the position of this antecedent byd-% )$r &n)t
implies that there is something defective about the syntax, that it is
missing something. But the expression byd )$r &n)t is well formed. There is
nothing missing. A relative with an exophoric antecedent is perfectly

I would agree that semantically the exophoric antecedent is present in the
text but syntactically it is not. So if we are talking syntax I would say
leave the place holder out. If you are talking semantics then the place
holder serves a purpose.

Why belabor this? It calls attention to  the inferential nature of the
construction. It points the exegete out side of the text to resolve the
exophoric reference from the cognitive framework of the original target

It also illustrates that syntax is not autonomous. Syntax, semantics, and
information structure all need to be taken into account simultaneously. The
use of the place holder in syntax analysis is a probably a side effect of
looking at syntax as an independent self-contained system. For details see
the chapter one of *Lambrecht: 1994.

Thank you,
Clay Bartholomew 

*Lambrecht, Knud: 1994, Information structure and sentence form. Topic,
focus, and the mental representation
of discourse referents., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

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