Paragraphs as episodes : distinguishing paragraphs in Biblical Hebrew narrative text on the basis of linguistic devices

Yoo, Chang Keol (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (Ancient Studies))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The aim of this study is to determine inter-subjective, verifiable criteria according to which paragraphs can be distinguished in BH narrative texts. Distinguishing these units plays an important role in the understanding and processing of written texts. Corpus studies in text-linguistics and empirical studies in psycholinguistic studies have established that narrative is not only characterized by a string of sentences, but has a multi-dimensional or hierarchical structure, which can be broken down into units. These units are regarded as episodes, which are cognitively and structurally relevant. An episode is defined as a memory block. Semantically, it is defined as a thematically unified entity, the surface boundaries of which are marked linguistically. On the one hand, text production studies have established that authors employ segmentation markers or devices at the beginning of each episode in order to warn the reader that a new episode is impending. On the other hand, studies in text comprehension have also concluded that readers understand these devices of textual segmentation. On the basis of the above investigations, this study established a set of criteria for identifying episodes. The criteria included several segmentation devices such as overspecified referential expressions, temporal expressions, and shifts in space that mark the boundaries of episodes, as well as devices that signal thematic continuity in narrative episodes of BH. The value and validity of these criteria were then tested in the light of a specific corpus of texts, viz. 1 Sam 1-6. The text was analyzed and episodes have been distinguished by means of the above-mentioned set of criteria. These episodes were then compared to the paragraph distinctions (i.e. the graphic representations of episodes), which are made in a representative number of commentaries and translations. The investigation confirmed that many of the paragraph distinctions in commentaries and translations are justifiable. However, it was also found that the paragraph distinctions of exegetes and translators often differ. This finding confirmed the necessity (and need) of inter-subjectively verifiable, and well-founded, criteria for distinguishing paragraphs in BH narratives. This exploratory study established the value of the model used, but also indicated that further investigation is needed to refine various aspects of the model.

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