Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew.
LINGUISTICS AND BIBLICAL HEBREW. Walter R. Bodine, ed. Pp. x + 323. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbmuns, 1992. Cloth, $34.50.
The premise of this volume is that analyses of the language of the Bible ought to be "commensurate with those advanced for comparable phenomena in other languages, and they must be subject to the same standards of evaluation" (p. 191). Because linguistic facts form a language system, "it is illegitimate to analyze any piece of data independently of the systems of which it constitutes an element" (p. 206). Philologists, however, have often failed to incorporate the insights of modern linguistics in their research on the biblical text because of the predisposition of linguistics to a synchronic syn·chron·ic
2. Of or relating to the study of phenomena, such as linguistic features, or of events of a particular time, without reference to their historical context. analysis of spoken language and the inherently diachronic di·a·chron·ic
Of or concerned with phenomena as they change through time. nature of the biblical data.
This volume attempts to introduce the discipline of linguistics to philologists and to illustrate the validity and utility of linguistics for a description and elucidation of the language of the biblical text (p. 2). It is, perhaps, most important for biblical scholars to consider the plethora of factors apart from questions of textual transmission which contribute to linguistic variation within the text: phonological pho·nol·o·gy
n. pl. pho·nol·o·gies
1. The study of speech sounds in language or a language with reference to their distribution and patterning and to tacit rules governing pronunciation.
2. conditioning (including the selective application or non-application of phonological rules), morphophonemic processes, diachronic change, regional dialects, and discourse strategies.
Following the editor's brief introduction to "The Study of Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew" (pp. 1-5), the volume is structured along the lines of the major divisions of linguistics, with sections on phonology phonology, study of the sound systems of languages. It is distinguished from phonetics, which is the study of the production, perception, and physical properties of speech sounds; phonology attempts to account for how they are combined, organized, and convey meaning , morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, historical/comparative linguistics, and graphemics graphemics
Linguistics. the study of systems of writing and their relationship to the systems of the languages they represent. Also called graphonomy. — graphemic, adj. . The initial essay in each section introduces the linguistic field to scholars of Biblical Hebrew; the following essay illustrates the application of that linguistic field to Biblical Hebrew. Most of the essays in the volume were delivered during 1983-1987 at the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew unit of the annual Society of Biblical Literature The Society of Biblical Literature is a constituent society of the American Council of Learned Societies with the stated mission to "Foster Biblical Scholarship". Membership is open to the public, including 7200 individuals from over 80 countries. meetings and are published without substantial revision. A basic bibliography is included, which covers the linguistic analysis of Biblical Hebrew in each of the linguistic fields discussed in the volume with additional sections covering poetry and translation. The volume concludes with extensive indices of authorities and biblical citations.
The first (and most extensive) section treats phonology in its two main branches: descriptive phonology and generative phonology. Although these are historically the major branches of phonology and thus foundational for the linguistic study of sound systems, philologists would have benefited from an additional essay surveying the full range of phonological theory and including, in particular, autosegmental phonology.
Devens' essay ("What Descriptive Phonologists Do: One Approach to the Study of Language, with Particular Attention to Biblical Hebrew," (pp. 7-16) introduces the terminology, methodology, and goals of descriptive phonology, with particular attention to the problem of phonetic and phonemic interpretation of the masoretic text. Revell presents a fine example of descriptive phonology in "The Development of Segol in an Open Syllable as a Reflex of *a: An Exercise in Descriptive Phonology" (pp. 17-28), in which he argues that the three reflexes of *a in open syllables (patah, segol, and qames) represent stages in a single process of development which was conditioned by the total phonological environment and not just the following sound (p. 26). In "An Introduction to a Generative Phonology of Biblical Hebrew" (pp. 29-40) Greenstein clearly presents the theoretical underpinnings of the generative method with Biblical Hebrew examples. He interacts with some of the particular problems inherent in a generative approach to Biblical Hebrew (especially the question of masoretic vocalization and its relationship to a spoken language) and illustrates the value of an abstract analysis. Enos explores these problems with respect to the guttural guttural /gut·tur·al/ (gut´er-il) faucial; pertaining to the throat.
Of or relating to the throat.
pertaining to the throat. consonants in "Phonological Considerations in the Study of Hebrew Phonetics: An Introductory Discussion" (pp. 41-47).
Garr's essay, "The Linguistic Study of Morphology" (pp. 49-64), provides a classic introduction to morphology and morphophonemics with copious Biblical Hebrew examples. Rendsburg compiles examples of morphological variation within the text to differentiate sociolinguistic so·ci·o·lin·guis·tics
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The study of language and linguistic behavior as influenced by social and cultural factors.
so communities in "Morphological Evidence for Regional Dialects in Ancient Hebrew" (pp. 65-88). These two fine articles could have been in separate sections: Garr's essay followed by a study of a discrete morphological problem and Rendsburg's essay introduced by a survey of sociolinguistic methods for dialect differentiation.
Bodine's "How Linguists Study Syntax" (pp. 89-107) delineates the place of syntax in linguistic theory, describes the goals of syntactic study, and traces the historical developments in the study of syntax with particular attention to structuralist, functional, and generative syntax. Bandstra illustrates ways in which linear order and informational structuring interact in "Word Order and Emphasis in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: Syntactic Observations on Genesis 22 from a Discourse Perspective" (pp. 109-123).
The field of semantics is introduced by Scanlin's survey of basic concepts and terms ("The Study of Semantics in General Linguistics," pp. 125-136). His introduction centers upon componential analysis, though several more recent semantic theories are included in his annotated bibliography. Barr's essay which follows ("Hebrew Lexicography lexicography, the applied study of the meaning, evolution, and function of the vocabulary units of a language for the purpose of compilation in book form—in short, the process of dictionary making. Early lexicography, practiced from the 7th cent. B.C. : Informal Thoughts," pp. 137-151) outlines theoretical and practical considerations in Hebrew lexicography with particular reference to the former Oxford Hebrew Lexicon project. As helpful as these essays are, the section would have been strengthened by the addition of an essay demonstrating the application of a particular theory of semantics to a problem of Hebrew lexicography.
MacDonald's essay, "Discourse Analysis and Biblical Interpretation" (pp. 153-175), surveys the breadth of the burgeoning field of discourse analysis and its many subdisciplines (including conversation analysis, psycholinguistics, pragmatics, and cognitive linguistics) with remarkable bibliographic depth. Longacre analyzes Hebrew verbal forms based upon the discourse type in which they appear (narrative, predictive, procedural/instruction, hortatory hor·ta·to·ry
Marked by exhortation or strong urging: a hortatory speech.
[Late Latin hort ) in "Discourse Perspective on the Hebrew Verb: Affirmation and Restatement" (pp. 177-189).
Although philologists have made extensive use of historical and comparative linguistics, they will greatly benefit from Faber's "Innovation, Retention, and Language Comparison: An Introduction to Historical /Comparative Linguistics" (pp. 191-207). Huehnergard's "Historical Phonology and the Hebrew Piel" (pp. 209-229) is an outstanding example of historical linguistics and a significant contribution to Semitic linguistics.
The concluding section, graphemics, includes O'Connor's "Writing Systems and Native-Speaker Analyses" (pp. 231-254) and Lieberman's "Toward a Graphemics of the Tiberian Bible" (pp. 255-278). O'Connor provides a masterful theoretical introduction to the problems inherent in a linguistic analysis of the masoretic text. He shows that writing depends upon an ethnoscientific analysis of the speech stream by native-speakers, which is then expressed and preserved in a writing system; an appendix on the Hebrew writing system follows. Lieberman identifies four types of graphemes (letters, neumes, consonantal con·so·nan·tal
1. Of, relating to, or having the nature of a consonant.
2. Containing a consonant or consonants.
con diacritics, vowels) and discusses their interrelationship in·ter·re·late
tr. & intr.v. in·ter·re·lat·ed, in·ter·re·lat·ing, in·ter·re·lates
To place in or come into mutual relationship.
in with respect to phonological underspecification and overspecification.
The authors, editor, and publisher are to be congratulated for a handsomely produced volume which introduces philologists and biblical scholars to linguistics through accessible, jargon-free definitions and explanations of linguistic theory. The introductory essays, while uneven in coverage and bibliographic depth, nonetheless provide helpful introductions to the basic areas of linguistic inquiry; those on morphology, discourse analysis, and graphemics are classics. The essays applying linguistic theory to specific problems of Biblical Hebrew have illustrated facets of the insights that linguistic theory offers to philology phi·lol·o·gy
1. Literary study or classical scholarship.
2. See historical linguistics.
[Middle English philologie, from Latin philologia, love of learning . It is now incumbent upon philologists and biblical scholars to master the theories and techniques of linguistics and to apply them competently and systematically to description, elucidation, and interpretation of the intricacies of the biblical text.
Cynthia L. Miller
North Carolina State University History
Raleigh, NC 27695