[b-hebrew] infinitive absolute

B. M. Rocine brocine at twcny.rr.com
Wed Nov 1 13:57:05 EST 2006

Hi Joel,

To label the paronomastic use of the infinitve absolute as an 
"intensifier" or as "emphatic" is so reductionistic as to be a mere 
caricature of the thorough treatment this construction has received by 
the likes of Muraoka et al.

Of a case such as mot yamut, where it is impossible to imagine someone 
being "emphatically dead" or "more dead," we can refer to Muraoka's 
summary of situations when the paronomastic infinitive absolute 
reinforces some brand of modality rather than verbal action:

"...it is important to remember that the basic idea common to all the 
nuances of our construction as described above [referring to the 
"reinforcement of modality"] is that a given verbal idea is set apart 
and made distinct in abstracto, namely without any indication of person, 
  number, etc.  In this way it is stressed that the writer or speaker 
has  especially intense interest in, or demands special attention of the 
hearer or the reader to what he expressed by the verbal form" (_Emphatic 
Words and Structures in BH_ Jerusalem: Magnes, 1985), p. 88.

If we don't know that the paronomastic infinitive absolute is somehow 
emphatic, somehow an intensifier, we are also going to have to imagine 
knowing extremely little about BH on any point.  Is this your goal: to 
cast doubt on all our "traditional understanding" of the ancient tongue?


Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:
>> Regarding this topic, I also learned that an infinitive absolute
>> coupled with a finite verb form is an intensifier. I would be
>> interested in any *evidence* to demonstrate that it only means "liable
> Alas, the emphatic nature of inf. absolute, like the emphatic nature
> of a few other elements of biblical grammar, is mere hypothesis.
> There is very little evidence to support the supposition that
> inf. absolute had an intensive or empahtic meaning, and we find some
> potential counterevidence.
> For example, the frequent repetition of MOT YUMAT seems to militate
> against an emphatic meaning.  So does, e.g., the particular use in Gen
> 3:4:  "The serpant told the woman you will not die" is much more
> likely than the nearly nonsensical, "the serpant told the woman you
> will not die empatically/certainly/etc."
> Similarly, the infix -N- used before pronominal suffixes is frequently
> assumed to impart an emphatic meaning, though there is little evidence
> to support such a claim.
> More generally, we seem to find some poorly understood variations in
> Hebrew grammar, and the historical tendancy seems to have been ---
> without justification, in my opinion ---- to assume that any extra
> letters or words had to impart emphasis.
> -Joel
> Joel M. Hoffman, PhD
> http://www.exc.com/JoelHoffman

B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13026
(W): 315.437.6744

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