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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Oct 23 12:55:17 EDT 2004

On 23/10/2004 17:30, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:

> Dear Peter,
>> Well, I don't agree that )$R can represent an antecedent at all, 
>> singular or plural, in the sense you meant. At least, this is 
>> unproven if the example put forward, Ezekiel 23:28, is anything like 
>> the best example. And this is what the original discussion was about. 
>> You can't argue ")$R can represent either a singular or plural 
>> antecedent, therefore )$R can represent an antecedent". You need to 
>> come up with examples where )$R unambiguously represents an 
>> antecedent, i.e. where it fills a noun slot in the main clause. This 
>> is necessary to refute my theory that )$R is simply a conjunction 
>> i.e. it does not fill a noun slot in either main or subordinate clause.
> HH: I'm not following you. There is an entire section of examples in 
> BDB under numbers 1-7. Conjunction comes with number 8. In the 
> Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, see the first meaning given, pages 
> 419-20: "as a pronoun introducing relative clause, which, that, 
> who(m)." They have other sections with other similar functions. I am 
> so familiar with this usage. It's in all the grammars I've ever seen 
> (e.g., GKC #36; WOC #19.3) and is just basic Hebrew knowledge.
Well, let's see what BDB actually says: "A *sign of relation*, bringing 
the clause introduced by it into relation with an antecedent clause. As 
a rule ):A$ER is a mere *connecting link*, and requires to be 
supplemented (see the grammars) by a pron. affix, or other word, such as 
$FM, defining the nature of the relation more precisely". In other 
words, BDB explicitly avoids calling it a pronoun. As for DBH, it looks 
as if their compilers are trying to force Hebrew into an Indo-European mode.

So let me explain a bit more what I meant. Suppose for example we have 
two sentences "I took X" and "he was holding X". How can we link them? 
In English we can say "I took the thing which he was holding"; in this 
case "which" fills the X slot in the second sentence, but not in the 
first sentence. Or we can say "I took what he was holding", and the 
pronoun "what" fills the X slot in *both* sentences. But in Hebrew )$R 
cannot fill the X slot in the second sentence, for it is necessary (as 
BDB states) to add a pronoun suffix. i.e. something which would be 
literally translated ")$R he was holding *it*". But it seems to me that 
the question we started with was whether )$R can fill the X slot in the 
*first* sentence (although I originally misunderstood it as referring to 
the second sentence). So is a sentence like "I took )$R he was holding 
it" possible? Or does it have to be more like "I took the thing )$R he 
was holding it"?

The example from Ezekiel was supposed to show that "I took )$R he was 
holding it" is possible. But it was not in fact a very good example of 
this. So, let's go back to BDB, and to sense 1 which covers this. BDB 
quotes the a few examples e.g.

Num 22:6 WA):A$ER T.F)OR YW.)FR

and cases where )"T ):A$ER represents an object, also LA):A$ER, M"):A$ER 
etc. And these examples seem to prove that ):A$ER can fill the X slot in 
the main clause. Or to put it another way, ):A$ER and the following 
subordinate clause can be syntactically a noun phrase, as well as an 
adjective phrase which is more traditional syntactical analysis of a 
relative clause. But then this is just like the regular way in which an 
adjective can be used as a noun, so it is not surprising.

Perhaps the Ezekiel example was intended to show that an ):A$ER clause 
can also be the second element in a construct chain. Well, maybe it can, 
but I don't think that example makes it clear.

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

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