[b-hebrew] Syntax of ts-r-r

Phil King phil_king at sil.org
Thu Nov 13 19:19:15 EST 2008

I’m working from Papua New Guinea with very limited access to dictionaries or grammars, so I’m hoping someone can help me with a grammatical question. I apologise in advance if it is an obvious question treated in the literature.

I am trying to get an accurate picture of the meanings of verb forms derived from the root ts-r-r, with particular attention to the syntactic frames they occur in. Both BDB and TDOT list this root as appearing in transitive and intransitive frames. I’m particularly trying to get to grips with the syntactic frames like ‘tsar liy’ in which the person experiencing distress appears as an argument prefixed with the preposition l.  My understanding is that here tsar is an intransitive verb with an impersonal third person masculine subject governing verb agreement, and the experiencer of the ‘emotion’ given in a prepositional phrase. As such it is similar to ch-r-h in frames like wayichar lo. Is this a normal way of describing the syntax here, or is there a better way? A friend has described this to me as ‘reduced transitivity’, but I don’t know if that is accepted terminology for Hebrew verbs, or if there is other terminology commonly used. 

Given this, my question then, is whether there is an accepted explanation as to why sometimes the verb in this frame is third person feminine rather than third person masculine, as in Judges 10.9 or 1 Sam 30.6? Is the verb agreeing with something different? Are there parallels you are aware of for other verbs (in Biblical Hebrew or elsewhere)?

I’d also be interested in any references you can direct me to dealing with this kind of construction where the subject of an emotion or sensation appears in a prepositional phrase with l, or any detailed treatments of ts-r-r.

Many thanks,
Phil King
Eastern Highlands, PNG 

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