Abstract

What marks a yes/no question as a question in biblical Hebrew? In the vast majority of cases, the answer to this question is the ה־ interrogative. However, there are several clear cases of polar interrogatives without clause initial ה־ that must have some other linguistic marker of interrogative modality. The present article examines possible syntactic and prosodic markers in these clauses and compares their grammatical features with polar interrogatives in the book of Genesis that have the ה־ interrogative. After establishing the grammatical patterns of polar interrogatives with prefixed ה־, I examine the cases without interrogative ה־ and argue that while shifts in word order do not correspond to the ways in which polar interrogatives are marked, prosodic shifts in intonation—largely inaccessible to modern readers—must have produced the interrogative sense. This raises the issue of whether some clauses that are typically understood as declaratives might be construed as questions when the context allows for both possibilities. I also find that although syntactic shifts do not produce interrogatives, word order does relate to the focus of questions, indicating the questioned topic.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 7-22
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-11
Open Access
No
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