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Fun with infinitive absolutes


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#1 Susan

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 05:49 PM

This started for me with Deut 13:15
 
וְדָרַשְׁתָּ֧ וְחָקַרְתָּ֧ וְשָׁאַלְתָּ֖ הֵיטֵ֑ב
 
The final infinitive absolute seems to be adverbial, modifying the preceding (non-cognate) finite verb (ESV: "ask diligently").  I'm having a hard time grasping what's going on here, so I looked at the syntax which has היטב as a predicate of a complement clause with null subject, modifying שאלת. I can't get me head around this either (I would have expected the Inf Abs to be an adjunct directly modifying the finite verb, just as if it were an adverb -- but I, admittedly, don't understand this construction). 
 
Then I went searching for more. I couldn't figure out a syntax search, but I found J-M (§123r, 2nd para.) giving the following list, most of which make sense to me as adverbs.
 
Is 7:11, Gn 21:16, Ex 33:7, Josh 3:16, Ex 30:36, Josh 3:17, Dt 13:15, 1 Sm 17:16, Pr 27:14
 
Among these, if I'm reading the syntax diagrams correctly: Gn 21:16, Ex 30:36, and Ex 33:7 are predicates of a clause (with null subject) that is an adjunct to the main verb; Josh 3:16, 3:17, 1 Sm 17:16, and Pr 27:14 are adjuncts directly on the verb; and Deut 13:15 is the predicate of a complement clause. (No syntax yet on Isaiah.)
 
So what I'm trying to figure out:
 
1. Is my problem perhaps that this isn't a true syntactical category I'm trying to get at (and J-M have listed), and that's why they're handled differently?
 

 

2. If this is the sort of thing amenable to syntax searching, any ideas about how to construct it? I think I want the Inf. Abs. to be subordinate (adjunct?) to a finite verb with which it does not share a root, but I've not gotten anything that comes close to working so far.
 
Thanks!


#2 Robert Holmstedt

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 08:15 AM

This was an interesting search, but it's not a simple issue.

 

The "infinitive absolute" is a complex animal. Sometimes it is adverbial, with two sub-categories, sometimes quasi-verbal, and a few rare times it is clearly nominal. Moreover, when it is verbal, it is overwhelming subordinate to a finite verb. Even the cases of imperatives, as in Deut 5:12-13 (below), the infinitive שׁמור appears to be used imperativally (and is typically translated so), but is subordinate to the following finite verb תעבד in v. 13.

 

‏שָׁמ֣֛וֹר אֶת־י֥וֹם֩ הַשַׁבָּ֖֨ת לְקַדְּשׁ֑֜וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖֣ ׀ יְהוָ֥֣ה אֱלֹהֶֽ֗יךָ

‎‏ שֵׁ֤֣שֶׁת יָמִ֣ים֙ תַּֽעֲבֹ֔ד֮ וְעָשִׂ֖֣יתָ כָּֿל־מְלַאכְתֶּֽךָ֒׃ 

"Keeping the day of the Sabbath, by sanctifying it like Yhwh your God commanded you, six days you shall work ..."

 

These cases should be found with a search that looks for Inf Abs as the Predicate in a Predicate Phrase within subordinate (dependent) clause. 

(However, I should note that this position on infinitives developed through the course of the initial tagging and I see that I need to make some corrections to the database.)

 

As for adverbial cases, some like היטב in Deut 13:15 are simple adverbially and should probably be marked simply as an adjunct, with no extra clausal level. I have now fixed Deut 13:15. And I have checked all the other cases of היטב and they have been correctly tagged as simple adjuncts.

 

Other adverbial cases are the well-known cases in the same root as the finite verb. These are tagged as simple adjuncts (in my opinion, they are actually marking the verb for Focus, which would make them a type of Focus marker).

 

Cases where the Inf Abs is a nominal are like Hab 3:2 (where it is a complement and Hos 4:2 (where they are subjects):

 

‏בְּרֹ֖גֶז רַחֵ֥ם תִּזְכּֽוֹר׃

"In wrath may you remember having mercy"

 

‏אָלֹ֣ה וְכַחֵ֔שׁ וְרָצֹ֥חַ וְגָנֹ֖ב וְנָאֹ֑ף פָּרָ֕צוּ

"Swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery break out"

 

These are all easy to find by looking for Inf Abs as Subject or Complement. 

 

I will now review all the cases and make some corrections for consistency.

 

Thank for using the syntax database and asking the question.


  • David Knoll likes this
Professor, Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages
Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
The University of Toronto
blog: ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com
https://utoronto.aca...RobertHolmstedt




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