Towards a complex analysis of Wayihî + T constructions in Biblical Hebrew

Westbury, Josh ; Andrason, Alexander (2018)

CITATION: Westbury, J. & Andrason, A. 2018. Towards a Complex Analysis of Wayihî + T constructions in Biblical Hebrew, Asian and African Studies, 27(1):50-79.

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This study analyses the complex behavioral profile of Biblical Hebrew constructions that are formally characterized by the schematic sequence: wayhî + temporal expression (T) + a wayyiqtol or qatal clause within the corpus of Genesis – 2 Chronicles. More specifically, this schema entails the following construction types: 1) wayhî + T + wayyiqtol, 2) wayhî + T + (ו (+ X + qatal, and 3) wayhî + T + qatal. In analyzing these constructions, this study utilizes a framework known as Construction Grammar, in addition to other complementary frameworks that fall under the more general rubric of Cognitive Linguistics. The constructions are analyzed according to the following parameters: the formal and semantic profile of the temporal adjunct employed; the discourse pragmatic function and distribution in discourse; and the TAM semantics of the wayyiqtol and qatal verb forms. This empirical analysis reveals that, while sharing a prototypical discourse function, these constructions differ with respect to their distribution in discourse. Moreover, this study shows that the choice to use one construction over another is motivated by the simultaneous interplay of several factors, among which the most relevant are: the morpho-syntactic and semantic properties of the temporal adjuncts; the discourse pragmatic profile of each construction type; the TAM properties of the verb; and the syntactic profile of the wayyiqtol and qatal clauses. Overall, the behavior of the wayhî + T constructions epitomizes the complexity of Biblical Hebrew, in particularly, the fuzziness of grammatical categories, their multilevel interconnectivity, and dynamics.

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