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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Transitivity and Object Marking in Biblical Hebrew: An Investigation of the Object Preposition 'et
Bekins, Peter

Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2014 pp. xx + 234. $35.60

Series Information
Harvard Semitic Studies, 64

Description: Hebrew grammarians have found it difficult to explain the variable use of the object preposition 'et in Biblical Hebrew, which has typically been attributed to a weak emphatic sense or explained as stylistic variation. Drawing on the functional-typological literature on Differential Object Marking (DOM), this study takes a fresh approach to the problem by treating transitivity as a prototype category, which can be decomposed into a cluster of interrelated parameters. Two types of DOM are examined in Biblical Hebrew: asymmetric variations between overt and null marking of the object with 'et and symmetric variations between the marking of the object with 'et and the realization of the argument within a prepositional phrase. Asymmetric variations primarily derive from an association between the grammatical relation object and the pragmatic role of (secondary) topic, while symmetric variations derive from the association between accusative case marking and the semantic patient. The book makes careful use of the linguistic literature to develop a model that can account for the complex interactions between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Not only does this contribute to our understanding of Biblical Hebrew in areas such as discourse structure and verbal semantics, but it also points forward to new directions of research related to the typology and chronology of Biblical Hebrew within the context of Northwest Semitic.

Subjects: Bible, Literature, Methods, Linguistics, Other Methods

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Review by John Hobbins
Published 3/15/2016
Citation: John Hobbins, review of Peter Bekins, Transitivity and Object Marking in Biblical Hebrew: An Investigation of the Object Preposition 'et, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2016).

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