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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 253 Reviews AN INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL HEBREW SYNTAX. By Bruce K. Waltke and M. O'Connor. pp. xiii + 765. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990. Cloth. This is a welcome book. Two gifted and creative scholars have combined their efforts to fill a longstanding need in the study and teaching of Biblical Hebrew (BH). While introductory grammars are plentiful, there has been no substantial text to guide the student through the intermediate and into the advanced level.1 The present volume supplies this need. The discussion is set within a linguistic framework that is descriptive and broadly informed. Terms and concepts are explained, and English is used as a point of reference so that the reader gains a good introduction to the linguistic study of Hebrew, at least from a descriptive perspective. Modem linguistic study is said to be one of the two bases of the book (p. x), and it stands solidly on this footing. The second basis is to be the "great native-speaker tradition of Hebrew grammar associated with medieval Jewry" (p. x). As to this basis, there is a survey of medieval Hebrew grammarians (§§2.1-2) leading into subsequent European Hebrew scholarship up to the present (§§2.3-5), but after the survey medieval Jewish scholars are cited rarely, if at all, with the exception of David Qimbi. It may be that this tradition "fed into the modem European tradition canonized by Wilhelm Gesenius ..." (p. x), but one cannot assume that it is adequately represented by Gesenius and subsequent scholars. A grammar based on the medieval Hebrew grammarians would need to interact with their original writings2 and not limit itself to Qimbi (whose work may be seen as a culmination, but by no means includes everything of value that preceded him and in some cases took unfortunate turns). The challenge laid down by W. Chomsky almost forty years ago to utilize these sources still waits to be met (Chomsky 1952:xxxii). Our authors have drawn on the modem European tradition of Hebrew grammar extensively. A strength of their work is in this-that they have brought together and used discerningly many of the important philological and linguistic studies of BH in the modem period.3 They are correct in 1 Williams' text is useful, but too brief to adequately fill this need (1976). Others are too out-of-date or are inadequale for otherreasons. 2 Waltkc and O'Connor point out that Chamsky's translation of Qimbi's grammar requires caution (129. n. 19). 3 I would like to have had their opinion more often, especially when they cite differing views without a conclusion (e.g., 113.3b and n. S on the earlier form of the article; 116 n. 41; etc.). Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 254 Reviews their observation that this has not been done previously (§3.3.4e), and their having done it constitutes an invaluable service to the field. They also bring to bear a number of studies in Northwest Semitic and in comparative Semitics, together with their own insights into these wider fields. Their well-organized bibliography supplements the discussion in the text. In addition to making past research accessible, their volume shows evidence of prolonged reflection over the language of the Hebrew Bible. The discussion of the nominative, genitive, and accusative functions of the noun, for example, is presented judiciously (with due recognition of the disappearance of earlier case inflection in BH) and draws many helpful distinctions. The presentation of pronouns, prepositions, and other particles often adds substance to past discussions (e.g., the exemplary section on nM [§1O.3]). The explication of the Hebrew verbal stems (binyanim) in a threefold system is nuanced and will merit thoughtful interaction. The authors' stated purpose is to "offer a paradigm by which the reader can test the possible meanings of a grammatical form in the same way a lexicon enables the reader to survey various meanings of a word" (§3.2.3c). They follow a "word-class or part-of-speech approach" (p. ix). They are "concerned with what the forms of Hebrew mean" (p. x). They have stated their purpose clearly and have fulfilled it. The main body...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 253-259
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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