Sunday, November 23, 2008

SBL: Transitivity & BH Niphal and Hitpael

Live blog from the SBL session on Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew: 

"Transitivity and the Biblical Hebrew Niphal and Hitpael" by Richard Benton, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Richard Benton attempts to offer insight on distinctions between Niphal and Hitpael in Biblical Hebrew. Transitivity is a salient category.

Transitivity is a relative quality - note examples between a verb like "know" vs "crush." There's a cline reflecting the level of active participation of the subject in the verbal action. The "middle" voice is less transitive than a reflexive.

Rich uses his criteria for relative transitivity to analyze the N and HtD stems in Biblical Hebrew, providing a dozen examples mainly of verbs "to turn" (HPK) and "to cover" (KSH).

N refers to an achieved state where the recipient of the action  is totally affected. HtD relates to the action (process) of bringing about the state. N consistently relates to higher transitivity than the HtD.

Rich uses a highly developed linguistic categorization based on work on transitivity by Hopper and Thompson (1980), Bakker (1994), and Kemmer (1993).

N gravitates toward 2 participant events - higher transitivity, but the HtD tends toward 1 participant events - lower transitivity.  Transitivity represents a key distinction on both the major distribution level and the minor functional level between these two stems.

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