This post is the second part of my brief discussion of clitics in Biblical Hebrew. In my first post on this topic, I ended with a question about the nature of the construct/סמיכות form of nouns: are they clitics or not? If the answer is yes, then how do we deal with the non-use of the maqqef and the presence of an independent accent? If the answer is no, then what do we call these forms?
To review, I summarized the facts in the following way:
The challenge, as indicated above, is that many such clear cases of cliticization are not marked by a maqqef, which is the normal Masoretic indicator of a clitic. The phrase עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם ‘upon the surface of the water’ in Gen 1.2 is illustrative: the maqqef signals the clitic status of the preposition עַל, but the bound word פְּנֵי is not connected to its clitic host הַמָּיִם by a maqqef. Yet the clitic status of construct/bound forms is not only suggested by the examples that do appear with a maqqef (e.g., אַדְמַת־קֹ֖דֶשׁ ‘land of holiness [= holy land]’, Exod. 3.5) but also by the vocalization differences between the free and bound forms: assuming an underlying /dabar/ for ‘word’, the free form, which has a primary word stress, דָּבָר exhibits pretonic and tonic backing and raising ([a] to [å̄], IPA [ɔ], whereas the bound form דְּבַר exhibits no pretonic change and tonic reduction to schwa, suggesting that originally the form did not carry primary word stress.
The solution I suggest below is heavily dependent on a recent conversation with Elan Dresher, Professor and Chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto:
It may be that the explanation for the absence of the maqqef in many construct forms is historical. At some point construct forms began to be reinterpreted syntactically (or morphologically), rather than prosodically. That is, the Masoretic accents do not govern the appearance of construct forms. For a bound form like דְּבַר that has an independent accent and no maqqef, there must have been some lexical mark that indicated it was a clitic, and the phonology must have been sensitive to that, rather than to its prosodic status under the accents. Put differently, construct forms are partially fossilized prosodic clitics that are no longer necessarily real prosodic clitics. This suggests that the Masoretes themselves were not quite sure what to do with the bound forms — that the old system had broken down but no new generalizations had emerged to replace it. Or perhaps the Masoretes inherited a system that resulted from the breakdown of the older one, where individual lexical items go their own way in the absence of a new generalization that would govern them.
So, to bring my post on the clitics to an end, using the principles and criteria deduced by those engaged in the typological study of clitics (e.g., Zwicky, Zwicky and Pullum, Klavans, Anderson) allows us to classify numerous function words in Biblical Hebrew as simple clitics, either attached directly to their host or connected with a maqqef (see also Holmstedt 2010 [RBL review of Alan Kaye’s Morphologies of Africa and Asia]). However, it requires a bit more fluidity and perhaps (as described above) a historical perspective to account accurately both for the status of bound words and for those words that are unexpectedly cliticized (to avoid a stress crash). I agree fully with Dresher when he writes,
“Whether an orthographic word is cliticized or not depends on a complex set of prosodic, phonological, and syntactic conditions, some of which are reviewed in the following sections. It turns out that cliticization is tightly tied in with the entire Tiberian prosodic system, and cannot be understood without taking into account the principles of phrasing.” (2009:99)