The Verb And The Paragraph In Biblical Hebrew A Cognitive-Linguistic Approach -- By: Elizabeth Robar

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 65:1 (NA 2014)
Article: The Verb And The Paragraph In Biblical Hebrew A Cognitive-Linguistic Approach
Author: Elizabeth Robar


The Verb And The Paragraph In Biblical Hebrew
A Cognitive-Linguistic Approach1

Elizabeth Robar

The last few decades have witnessed a continual stream of publications on the biblical Hebrew verbal system, arguing whether it is fundamentally about aspect, or tense, or mood, or discourse pragmatics; or whether it is best understood synchronically, diachronically, or panchronically. In admittedly another work on the verbal system, this thesis constructs a theoretical framework that goes beyond postulating an additional possibility: it comprehensively includes the other views and explains how they relate to each other, including what value each has to offer. Within this framework, the thesis also suggests a new analysis of the waw-prefixed forms, the paragogic suffixes (including energic nun), and the semantic analysis of qatal and yiqtol.

Chapter one lays a foundation in cognitive linguistics, which understands language as but the tip of the iceberg in its reflection of human cognition (thought). To appreciate language, the larger reality of cognition must first be analysed. Critical to human cognition is the ineluctable desire for coherence, even if the mind has to manufacture data to attain this coherence. Until coherence has been attained, the mind is ill at ease. When coherence is achieved, the result is a centrepiece (‘figure’) within a context (‘ground’). A coherent unit is defined as a unit with a central, prominent, part (the figure), with every other part related in some way to that central part. Coherence requires relative levels of prominence, such that the figure is more prominent than any other part. (A coherent text is defined as one with a ‘theme’ that in some way ties together the entire text. An easily understood text has a clearly prominent theme; a more difficult text requires more

processing before the theme is clear. The intended complexity of a text determines the depth of processing required to grasp the intended theme.)

The ‘shape’ of cognition involves both linearity in time (at least as communicated verbally) and a hierarchical nesting of smaller thoughts within larger thoughts. To communicate a thought, this shape must be conveyed, so the listener can reconstruct the boundaries of the various thought units. The pragmatic phenomena of topic and focus reflect the mental journey of processing language: the topic is where attention lies at the beginning of a unit, and focus is where attention rests at the end. Topic indicates the opening boundary of a thought unit, and focus indicates the theme, or central part, of a thought unit. When topic and focus are ind...

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