Informationsstruktur im Biblischen Hebraisch: Sprachwissenschaftliche Grundlagen und exegetische Konsequenzen einer Korpusuntersuchung zu den buchern…
Miscall, Peter D
ANDREAS DISSE, Informationsstruktur im Biblischen Hebraisch: Sprachwissenschaftliche Grundlagen und exegetische Konsequenzen einer Korpusuntersuchung zu den Mchern Deuteronomium, Richter und 2 Konige (2 vols.; ATSAT 56/1-2;
St. Ottilien: EOS, 1998). Pp. xi ; 418; [vi] + 83. Paper N.P. Disse’s dissertation (Tibingen, 1996) is based on a project to develop descriptions of the syntactical and grammatical arrangement of sentences (Satzgliedstellung) in the Hebrew texts of Deuteronomy, Judges, and 2 Kings. D. proposes to examine the exegetical consequences of the project by focusing on the presentation of Deuteronomy 12, Judges 4, and 2 Kings 22-23. The last text is dealt with briefly.
Disse devotes the first half of his book to a thorough discussion of the linguistic theories that underlie the project and his dissertation. D. includes both German and non-German works, for example, Chomsky’s generative grammar. He makes ample use of digressions, charts, and lists that clearly define and distinguish the terms and categories he is discussing. The theories and associated analytical methods were developed and tested with contemporary speakers; he is well aware of the limits inherent in the application of these to a dead language that exists only in a written text. He presents the debates over universal versus particular linguistic theories and methods of analysis.
Informationsstruktur is a process to study how the arrangement of a statement or a sentence affects and in many ways determines the meaning that the statement or sentence imparts. D. analyzes three sets of contrasting categories and their appearance in biblical Hebrew: theme (known material) and theme (new information), topic (the object of the statement) and commentary (what is said about it), and focus and background. He discusses and distinguishes these categories, since there is considerable overlap in the three sets. For example, he argues that theme, topic, and focus represent three different aspects of a statement, not three terms for the same thing. The syntactical arrangement of sentences varies in different languages, especially the order of the subject, verb, and object. In view of the frequency with which the verb appears first in Hebrew prose, D. proposes a model in which a Hebrew sentence is divided into three parts. First are elements, including introductory w-, that occur before the verb; this is the Vorfeld. Next is the verb, and third, there is the material (e.g., subject and objects) after the verb. The latter is the Hauptfeld.
Disse reviews the present status of critical study before presenting his analysis of each biblical text. For reference he presents the full texts in transcription in the second volume. The verses are divided and labeled according to his linguistic analyses and categories. In Deuteronomy 12 he focuses on the large number of sentences that have considerable material placed before the verb (Vorjeldbesetzung). This correlates with the text’s emphasis on one central cultic site for worship of the Lord and the sharp contrast with the other licit and illicit practices presented in the chapter. He treats 2 Kings 22-23 briefly, concluding that since the story is told from the perspective of the speakers, the priest Hilkiah refers to “the book of the law” as a known entity, while others see it as “a book.” The linguistic analysis of Judges 4 forms a bridge to narratology, since D. reveals how the author modulates regular features to depict the action and the characters, especially Deborah, Barak, and Jael.
This is a valuable discussion for anyone interested in linguistic theory and its application to biblical studies. It also exemplifies the necessity of very close reading of the biblical text and its specific grammar and syntax.
Peter D. Miscall, 1446 South Pagosa Street, Aurora, CO 80017
Copyright Catholic Biblical Association of America Oct 1999
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