Searching for Hebrew Word Order

Two different types of posts were promised and have been long in coming. The first is a series of example syntax searches to illustrate how to use the Hebrew Syntax modules in the Accordance Bible Software (see here for my introductory post on the project). The second belated post is the follow-up to my word order discussion.

I have finally begun slowly sketching the syntax searching guide, since now the search programming is sufficiently accurate to produce excellent results (I posted an initial discussion in the Accordance User’s Forum here). And although April was a wash for writing, due to a prolonged illness and grading for the end of the term, I have now begun to finish my word order article; thus, the posts from that article will appear soon.

But, in the meantime, I thought I’d illustrate how sometimes even I’m surprised by the ease of use of our syntax database.

I was, of course, doing word order searches. Searching for Subject-Verb or Verb-Subject order, whether in independent (=main) or dependent (=subordinate) clauses is ridiculously easy, as the following for screenshots illustrate.


Subject-Verb Order









 Note that using this search returns results in which the Subject and Verb occur in that order with no regard for the presence or absence of constituents that come before the Subject (e.g. Gen 20:5) or intervene between the Subject and Verb (e.g., Gen 19:38)


Verb-Subject Order








 Again, with this simple search, Accordance looks for the correct order of the two specified constituents without considering whether the Verb is the first item or the Verb and Subject are adjacent. To specify first position for the Verb (or the Subject in the Subject-Verb search), one only needs to use the PLACE function and specify “1” or “1-2” (to allow for introductory particles).

To specify that the Verb and Subject are immediately adjacent, one can insert the INTER function, insert LEXICAL item =* (for any), and negate the INTER command. This disallows any lexical item between the Subject and Verb. Alternately, one may allow something like the article to intervene by using INTER and LEXICAL item = ה, like so:






Subject-Verb and Verb-Subject Order in Dependent Clauses

Both searches below simply specify that the clauses for the results are restricted to depdendent (=subordinate) clauses.  













 Adjunct-Subject-Verb Order

As I was working through the section of my article on the distributional criterion for determing word order, I suddenly thought, “I’d like to see just now many times in Genesis we see a fronted adjunct, such as a temporal PP, followed by the Subject and then the Verb.” This is the kind of word order that we don’t expect to see often, since the fronted PP creates an environment for (or, in the language that I used, “triggers”) Verb-Subject order.

But, I wondered how I would do such a search in Accordance, since the Adjunct is a part of the Predicate Phrase and thus the Predicate Phrase has been interrupted by the Subject, i.e., [P [Adjunct ] [Subject ] [P Verb and rest of predicate]. I know how we tag such discontinuous constituents [link], of course, but I have not yet tried to search for them in Accordance. As it turns out, the answer is both intuitive and darned easy. Here’s the search:





 And, the results match expectations: there are just six of these clauses in Genesis (8:22; 9:6; 19:15; 20:5; 22:1; 27:30).

Pretty interesting, eh?

Posted in Ancient Hebrew, Hebrew Syntax, Syntax Database, Word Order. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Searching for Hebrew Word Order
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