[b-hebrew] infinitive absolute

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Tue Oct 31 12:44:06 EST 2006

>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 M. Hoffman, PhD

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