Abstract

This article provides a comprehensive description of the verbal system of classical biblical Hebrew, explaining how tense, aspect, and modality are signaled and correlating form and function in a way that accounts adequately and simply for the entire range of usage. A sensitive balance is maintained between synchronic and diachronic analysis. Also considered are communicative constraints, such as discourse grammar, pragmatics, and contextual meanings versus implicature. The base forms are primarily aspectual, with temporal deixis a function of aspectual default and discourse setting. Integrated within the model is a fresh proposal for understanding so-called volitives in classical biblical Hebrew. Normally command forms in Hebrew are considered a unified system of volitives consisting of cohortative, imperative, and jussive. Following up on the work of Niccacci, Revell and more recently Shulman on (so-called) modal forms in Hebrew, it is argued that the volitives should not be viewed as a unified system. Rather, projective modality apart from imperative forms is signaled by position of the verb. This in itself is not new. It is further argued, however, that the -āh suffix normally considered to be the marker of the cohortative functions in a manner similar to the Akkadian ventive and has nothing to do with projective modality. The explanatory power of this proposal is such that it can explain the distribution of the -āh suffix on all verb forms in the Hebrew Bible as well as forms usually eliminated from discussion as extra-systemic or corruptions in the text. Striking support, moreover, is found in the Amarna Canaanite texts.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 7-38
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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