Thursday, March 19, 2015

Looking for a dissertation topic?

I therefore conclude that, in Hebrew, verbal forms were marked for social dynamics. Scribes chose unmarked forms when no distinction needed to be made between the social status of the speaker and that of the listener. In con- texts where the social dynamics were significant, scribes used marked forms and added the particle of politeness נָא for additional modality.—The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose, page 223

<idle musing>
Not sure how I feel about this—even after looking over her נָא really a particle of politeness?

Dallaire looks at the Ugaritic and Hebrew data and concludes it is—which is a return to the position that was held pre-Ugaritic. Once the Ugaritic tablets were deciphered, scholar's noted n' was frequently used with the imperative. It became common to refer to it as the imperative marker. After all, in unpointed (without vowels) texts, there needs to be a way to mark the imperative when context isn't enough.

Now Dallaire has reexamined the data and returned to the old conclusion...As I said, I'm not totally convinced. But, I haven't studied the data as closely as she has. And I don't have the motivation or time to do it.

To do it properly, one would need to look at every occurrence of an imperative (or potential imperative) in the Ugaritic corpus. And, you would need to make a distinction based on genre—as we all know, poetry does funky things with grammar! And then you would have to do the same with the Biblical Hebrew texts.

Not this kid! But what about some PhD candidate somewhere? Sounds like it could be a good dissertation topic...
</idle musing>

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