Clause-Analysis In Biblical Hebrew Narrative — An Explanation And A Manual For Compilation -- By: A. F. Den Exter Blokland

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 11:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: Clause-Analysis In Biblical Hebrew Narrative — An Explanation And A Manual For Compilation
Author: A. F. Den Exter Blokland

Clause-Analysis In Biblical Hebrew Narrative —
An Explanation And A Manual For Compilation

A. F. Den Exter Blokland


I. Introduction

Traditionally the study of grammar has confined itself to phenomena that operate on the level of the sentence and below. That is to say, when a grammarian describes a language, he looks at, e.g., words, word groups, and ultimately the sentence as a whole in order to formulate rules and point out patterns for the generation of sentences in that language. He does not usually take into account how the text surrounding the sentence under study might have a bearing on the particular distribution of constituents found in the sentence.

Linguistic research of the past thirty odd years has shown that texts themselves show patterns in their composition that arise from the nature of the medium language rather than from text-genre combined with the author’s literary freedom alone. A case in point is the fact that in many languages the distribution of tenses differs according to whether the text-type is discourse or narrative. There are rules of language that determine in what tense a sentence will be cast, depending on whether the sentence forms part of a discourse or a narrative text-segment, whether it is background or foreground, whether the statement is general or specific.

The discipline that looks at language from the point of view of entire texts as vehicles of communication is called text-linguistics.1 The body of formal rules for text-generation is called text grammar.

In order to study biblical Hebrew from a text-linguistic point of view J. H. Sailhamer developed a tool called clause-analysis.2 It

represents an effort to combine the versatility and possibilities of the personal computer with text-linguistic research. It is a database in which data relevant for text-grammatical study have been hand-compiled in an easily surveyable and retrievable form.

The clause-analysis is particularly useful for tracing the way the Hebrew tenses and clause-types contribute to the structuring of the text, e.g., into background and foreground, exposition and conclusion. It thus helps us identify formal signals that break down the text into smaller units.

The clause-analysis is a tool both for text-grammatical research and for exegesis, since once certain patterns have been identified and established, the analysis is helpful in identifying them again in passages under exegetical study. For these purposes databases for almost all OT narr...

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