Nuances of sentence structure in Biblical Hebrew

Nuances of sentence structure in Biblical Hebrew

Word Order

  • In Biblical Hebrew, the standard word order in a clause is Verb-Subject-Object (VSO).

  • Unlike English which has SVO word order, verbs in Biblical Hebrew generally occupy the initial position in the clause.

  • Subjects and objects typically come after the verb and can often be identified by context or definite articles.

Verb Chain Sequences

  • Understand the importance of verb chain sequences in Biblical Hebrew as a primary tool for expressing narrative sequence.

  • Learn how to use the consecutive waw to join verbs together. In these sequences, the tense of the consecutive verb depends on the leading verb.

  • Comprehend how weqatal and wayyiqtol forms are used in verb chains to express different aspects of the action such as completion, succession or reaction.

Emphasis Through Inversion

  • Become familiar with inversion as a technique for emphasis in Biblical Hebrew. Where English may use tone of voice or additional words to indicate emphasis, Biblical Hebrew often uses word order.

  • For instance, when the subject is placed before the verb (Subject-Verb order), it serves to emphasize the subject. The same applies when an object precedes both subject and verb.

  • Be aware of the casus pendens or “hanging nominative” as another syntactical construct used for emphasis in Biblical Hebrew.

Use of Particles

  • Comprehend the role of particles in Biblical Hebrew, including conjunctions, interrogatives, adjectives, and prepositions, and how they can profoundly affect the meaning and structure of a sentence.

  • Be aware of the use of the inseparable prepositions – ‘in’, ‘like’ and ‘to, toward’ – which attach directly to the next word and can change the meaning of the word or sentence.

Noun Clauses and Nominal Sentences

  • Get an understanding of noun clauses and nominal sentences, both of which do not contain a verb.

  • In a nominal sentence, the predicate comes before the subject, also known as a predicate-subject arrangement. An important characteristic of Biblical Hebrew, these sentences usually describe a state or condition.

  • Distinguish these from verbless clauses, which instead use a pronoun or noun in place of the verb.

  • Get acquainted with circumstantial clauses, introduced by a conjunction, and provide additional detail or circumstances surrounding the main clause.