New Article in the Journal of Semitic Studies

The latest issue of the Journal of Semitic Studies (2014; 59/1) is out and has an article that I wrote with my doctoral student, Andrew Jones.

Robert D. Holmstedt and Andrew R. Jones. 2014. “The Pronoun in Tripartite Verbless Clauses in Biblical Hebrew: Resumption for Left-Dislocation or Pronominal Copula?” Journal of Semitic Studies. 59(1): 53-89.

This article is related to this earlier post, as well as this JBL article that came out last Fall.

For the full article, see here and scroll down.

A Linguistic Profile of the Book of Esther (SBL 2013)

A doctoral student in my department, John Screnock, and I are co-presenting a paper in the SBL Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section in Baltimore on Sunday. The paper is a much shortened version of a large section of our introductory chapter in the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible volume on Esther that we are writing (the volume is now 99% drafted).

Since we have finished the paper much sooner than I typically do, I have posted the paper and handout below. (It’s a relief to anticipate a flight without finishing my paper—what an odd feeling.)

See you in Baltimore!

Paper

Handout

My Entries in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

Brill sent out the offprints from the EHLL to authors last week. They expressly asked in the email that authors not post their offprints to Academia.edu. That’s too bad, since it is a very useful way to share articles. I will acquiesce, though, and refrain from posting my offprints there. Instead, I will post them here (which they fully allow).

Holmstedt, Robert D., and B. Elan Dresher.
2013. Clitics: Pre-Modern Hebrew. Pp. 458-63 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 1: A‒F, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

Holmstedt, Robert D.
2013. Hypotaxis. Pp. 220-22 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 2: G‒O, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

2013. Pro-drop. Pp. 265-67 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 3: P‒Z, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

2013. Relative Clause: Biblical Hebrew. Pp. 350-57 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 3: P‒Z, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

Recycling . . . its not just about the environment!

Perhaps it is the combined effect of information explosion beginning the end of last century combined with the unending pressure to publish or perish, but too often scholars find themselves covering the same old ground that has already been well-covered by past scholars. It is not simply that we are engaged in the same sorts of debates (Indeed, my work on the verb admittedly focuses on one of the most longstanding debates in Hebrew grammar!), it is that we too quickly forget the ideas that earlier scholars have advanced—usually unsuccessfully, which explains their forgotten state. Unfortunately, the rapid digitization of these old resources makes such absent-minded recycling even more egregious.

Read the rest of this entry »

A little Phoenician

Phoenician is a close relative of ancient Hebrew, so …

I’m happy to announce the imminent release of a collection of articles that I’ve co-edited with Aaron Schade (BYU-Hawaii). The volume is dedicated to the memory of J. Brian Peckham, who taught NWS epigraphy at U of T for 30 years. Aaron wrote his doctoral thesis under Peckham at U of T and had the privilege of knowing Brian a few more years than I did. But even during the all-too-brief three years I knew him, I came to understand just how encouraging and inspiring this scholar-teacher was — he was warm, welcoming, witty, and more than happy to share his considerable knowledge and wisdom. Indeed, on one our first meetings when I came to U of T, he shared his many class notes with me; after he passed, I learned from his executor that Brian had specified that I was to get first choice of anything in his extensive library. For these and many more reasons, I will also be indebted to J. Brian Peckham.

Although Brian passed away (September 2008) before the contributions to the volume in his honor were finished, the project had already taken shape by the summer of 2008 and I was able to tell him about during our last beer-and-burger lunch together in  August, just weeks before his final hospitalization. Surprised delight is the only way to describe his reaction. While Brian loved Phoenician and it was both the topic of his doctoral thesis and a subject he taught his entire career, it seems to me that he didn’t realize how much he contributed to the field. But, that was Brian — humble and self-effacing.

Eisenbrauns is running a sale of Phoenician right now, including pre-orders for our book. Take a look!

Also, take a look at Peckham’s final work — his history of Phoenicia, which will be published posthumously by Eisenbrauns.

Peckham

Update

It has been just over a year since our last post. Though we have not blogged, we have been busy. Below I highlight some of the things we’ve done. Links to a couple new articles are posted at the bottom.

In addition to teaching quite a bit and working on a number of encyclopedia entries, our textbook, a joint Baylor Hebrew Bible Handbook (on Qoheleth), a Baylor volume of his own (on the Biblical Aramaic portions of Ezra and Daniel), John achieved tenure at his institution and also published his book on the Biblical Hebrew verb (see the new link on the left sidebar).

Besides developing a couple new courses, writing a number of encyclopedia articles, working on the joint Baylor volume with John as well as another Baylor volume (on Esther) with a doctoral student in my department, I have two articles coming out in JBL and JSS (both of which took me a number of years to finish off). And I am trying to balance my work on the Accordance Hebrew syntax project with my desire to finish revising what used to be my thesis on the relative clause (I say “used to be” because the amount of newly added material makes it a different work altogether).

So, it has been a busy year for us. Sadly, little of that translated into blogging. But I will make a post based on my SBL presentation on Biblical Hebrew pedagogy in the next day or so and John will post on verbal valency in the next few weeks. For now, below are links to some of the works we’ve published (or finished and are in press) in the last year.

——-  Read the rest of this entry »

Biblical Hebrew Diachrony (continued, again)

In two previous posts (1, 2) we discussed our position in the current debate over whether we can date linguistic features found in Biblical Hebrew texts. In a nutshell, while we agree with the weaker hypothesis that texts cannot be dated absolutely by linguistic means, we disagree with the stronger hypotheses is that no dating at all is possible and argue that the relative dating of features, and the texts in which they cluster, is possible if the analysis is carried out with a sound linguistic and philological methodology. To assert otherwise, to put it bluntly, represents an extreme historical and linguistic skepticism that we find hard to justify.

In our first post we provided links to our two articles (Cook’s, Holmstedt’s), which are forthcoming in a volume titled Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (edited by Ziony Zevit and Cynthia Naudé-Miller; Eisenbrauns). These articles are revisions of papers given at the 2009 NAPH meeting at the annual SBL meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was the linguist B. Elan Dresher (University of Toronto), who masterfully discussed methodological issues in working with the linguistic features of “old” texts. Elan is a colleague of mine at Toronto and has graciously allowed us to post his revised paper (which will also be included in the Diachrony volume).

The decision to post this paper comes on the heals of a rather energetic exchange between Ronald Hendel and Rezetko, Young, and Ehrensvärd at the Bible and Interpretation site: see here for Hendel’s criticism and here for Rezetko et al’s response. Note also the vigorous and often pointed exchange in the comment sections of both posts!

As I (RDH) indicated in my comments (##4, 12) on Rezetko’s response at the B&I site, it is deeply troubling that Young, Rezetko, and Ehrensvärd are following up their first work, which contains methodological flaws and a tremendous amount of circular chop logic, with a second volume that will supposedly focus on language. (They repeatedly claim that their first volume was focused only on texts, not language, but the very fact that they propose to replace the ancient-standard-late BH chronological model with a concurrent dialects model indicates very clearly that they make just as large claims about language as they do about texts).

YRE’s responses to the linguists and Hebraists who have interacted with their Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts show that rather than take the opportunity to learn from those who have been trained in linguistics, they are merely adding a linguistic sheen to their rhetoric and repeating the same claims.

Hence, the addition of Dresher’s article to our part of the exchange. Click here for the PDF.

Biblical Hebrew Diachrony (continued)

Both Ian Young and Robert Rezetko, the two primary authors ofLinguistic Dating of Biblical Texts (Equinox, 2008), have taken time to respond to our post on Biblical Hebrew diachrony. Because Rezekto’s comment (here), in particular, is so long, it became obvious that a response within the comment section was inadvisable. Thus, we decided to summarize Rezetko’s comment here and respond seriatim.

Perhaps we should explain why we summarized his comment and did not simply reproduce it in toto. First, a practical issue is the length, especially when our responses were inserted. Second, we thought the activity of identifying the salient points (fairly, of course, even if at times with a certain snarkiness) would benefit both us and you, the readers. We (the 4 participants in this discussion) are all academics, and it seems inherent to academic training that concision sometimes gives way to wordiness with the purpose of bombarding one’s conversation partner into submission. Indeed, we are not exempt from this temptation. The danger, of course, is that so much is said, with so much nuance, that the propositional content is decreased to a disturbing point. This is wonderfully illustrated by everyone’s favourite science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, in the first book of his Foundation series:

“When Holk, after two days of steady work, succeeded, in eliminating meaningless statements, vague gibberish, useless qualifications—in short, all the goo and dribble—he found he had nothing left. Everything canceled out. Lord Dorwin, gentlemen, in five days of discussion didn’t say one damned thing, and he said it so you never noticed.” (Foundation, p. 71)

So, we hope our summaries below are both fair (to the content) and clear. If not, I’m sure we’ll hear about it in the comment section!

Now, be aware that Robert, Ian, we two (JAC and RDH) get along personally and have discussed these issues in person without coming to blows, name-calling, or the hurtling of large, pointed projectiles. However, we pull few punches in our assessment of each others’ arguments because we consider these issues important. And while we are perfectly willing to have our arguments criticized, dismantled, cut in into pieces, and thrown into someone’s circular file, and we agree with Robert’s call to avoid name-calling and contumely, we are disturbed to find certain of his remarks out of keeping with his urging, such as asserting that we have “misread,” “misreported” and even “mislead” others to “erroneous thoughts” about his and Ian’s ideas. If a scholar’s ideas do not stand up to scrutiny or are widely misunderstood, to shift the blame and assert that others have misunderstood is simply to avoid taking scholarly responsibility to construct clear and convincing arguments.

In the end, whatever the next generation of Hebraists decides about the outcome of the current debates about BH diachrony, we hope that our papers and perhaps even this blog exchange help to clarify the issues, methodological necessities, and analysis of data, and so move the discussion profitably forward.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Biblical Hebrew pronoun as a copula

In a previous post I argued that the likely solution for understanding a textual variant in Lev 1:17 was a processing error by a scribe — an error that reflects a different grammatical construction that the one reflected in the (older) text witnessed by the MT of B19a.  The solution critically requires recognizing that ancient Hebrew had begun to develop the use of the pronoun as a non-verbal copula.

In this post I briefly present the evidence for a copular pronoun in ancient Hebrew. Note that most non-critical (non-quotation, non-original idea) secondary sources have been omitted for the sake of space, although all such sources are included in the bibliography at the end. A greatly expanded discussion of this issue of pronoun syntax is forthcoming in an article written with Andrew Jones (Univ. of Toronto), which I will submit for publication in the near future. After it is submitted, I will post a pdf draft on this blog.

————

The Linguistic Solution to the textual variation in Lev 1:17:

The Pronoun as Copula

The status of the third person pronoun as a third element in verbless clauses has been a much studied issue. In nineteenth and early twentieth century scholarship there were adherents of both the copular and non-copular analyses for examples like (1).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Nexus between Text Criticism and Linguistics: The Case of Leviticus 1:17

At the end of May I will deliver a paper on this topic at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. The paper is finished, although I have it out to a couple trusted readers. When I feel it is complete, I will post it on the blog and note it here.

Below is my summary of the paper.  I welcome your thoughts, especially those of you more text-critically inclined, since I do not claim to be a text critic as such.

————

1. Introduction

There is an uncomfortable truth that linguists of ancient languages admit only rarely and even then with some reticence (and usually in a dark, empty room): we are, plain and simple, dependent on the paleographer, the epigrapher, and … (dare I admit it?), the text critic. For without those scholars who concern themselves with the decipherment of scripts, the first reading of texts, and the reconstruction of textual histories, the linguist would have nothing to analyze.

The difficulty of facing this truth is manifested in the modus operandi of ancient Hebrew linguists: rarely do scholars of biblical Hebrew question the wholesale acceptance of using the Masoretic text, dating to 1008 C.E., as representative of the linguistic system(s) of ancient Hebrew from 1500 years prior. They use the text of the standard printed critical edition, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia – or its electronic form from some computer program, without qualification, without reckoning with complex textual history represented by the data.

Ancient Hebrew linguists do not always seem to have learned the lessons taught by the Qumran texts, that while some scribes were quite passive transmitters, other scribes expanded, rearranged, and clarified the materials they were transmitting. It is thus clear that ancient language linguists rely on those scholars who investigate the features of an ancient text’s scribal history (using scribal here to refer to author and/or copyist). It is equally clear that, while we need not become experts in textual criticism ourselves, we must understand the issues involved.

Conversely, everything I have said indicates that if the linguist must be aware of text, the text critic must be aware of the linguistic systems. For if the scribe updates a text based on his native grammar and that grammar differs, in large or small ways, from the grammar of the text being copied, the text critic must also be aware of the diachronic changes in linguistic systems in order to understand properly the diachronic changes in the text. It is from this perspective, what a text critic may learn from a linguist, that I shall consider the case of a pronoun variant in Lev 1:17.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers