Thursday, August 18, 2011

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11: Article 14 (2011)

Robert D. Holmstedt, "The Typological Classification of the Hebrew of
Genesis: Subject-Verb or Verb-Subject?"


Biblical Hebrew allows a great deal of variation in the order of words
within a clause: the Verb can precede the Subject and vice-versa, the Object
can precede or follow both the Subject and the Verb, and adverbs and
prepositional phrases can be thrown into a variety of positions. To the
reader word order often seems to be random, but grammarians have long agreed
that it is not random or 'free'. Describing precisely what determines the
order of words, though, remains an elusive task. Yet, it is universally
understood that determining a rhyme and reason for the variation exhibited
in the biblical texts would provide access to subtle linguistic cues the
ancient authors used to get their message across. And so many Hebraists have
attempted to identify the patterns. As with all investigations, though, the
initial assumptions strongly influence the conclusions and for Hebrew word
order studies the almost universal starting point has been to assume a basic
Verb-Subject order. In this essay I challenge this assumption, thereby
potentially undercutting the methodologies and conclusions of the vast
majority of existing word order studies. I introduce, describe, and
illustrate the typological linguistic criteria for determining basic word
order and conclude, contrary to near-consensus position, that Biblical
Hebrew is better classified as a Subject-Verb language.

To access the article directly please go to

No comments:

Post a Comment