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Word Order Variation in Biblical Hebrew Poetry

by Lunn, Nicholas P.

Paternoster 2006

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Overview

This study tackles the neglected subject of word order in biblical Hebrew poetry. The fact that the order of clause constituents frequently differs from that found in prose has often been noted, but no systematic attempt has been offered by way of explanation. Here two separate factors are taken into consideration: that of purely poetic variation (defamiliarisation), and that of pragmatic markedness. The former is common to the poetic genre. In the latter case there is a discernable significance in the positioning of the words that has implications with respect to the matter of topic and focus.

Using Lambrecht’s theory of information structure and building on the insights of previous studies in biblical Hebrew narrative, the present volume shows that marked topic and focus structures in Old Testament poetry are identical to those found in prose and are distinguishable from defamilarised word order by means of the environment in which the latter is found. Here the common phenomenon of parallelism is seen to be an important factor in providing a secondary line in which defamiliarisation may freely occur.

This work offers a new approach to the poetry of the Old Testament that will aid towards more accurate translation, exegesis, and discourse analysis of poetic texts.

Praise for the Print Edition

Till recently the importance of word order in biblical Hebrew has been largely ignored by grammarians and commentators. This work advances our understanding of Hebrew poetry significantly. It is lucid and thorough. Every interpreter of the Psalms and other poetic sections of the Old Testament will find it an invaluable resource.

—Gordon Wenham, Trinity College, Bristol

Nick Lunn has given us an entirely new perspective on biblical Hebrew poetry. His book is altogether ground-breaking, erudite, and thorough; it will become the starting point for future scholarly discussion on the subject.

—Jean-Marc Heimerdinger, London School of Theology

This work of Nick Lunn makes an important contribution to our understanding of the syntax of biblical Hebrew poetic language. Developing methodologies that have been applied to the syntax of biblical Hebrew prose, he reveals in the detail the structural functional differences in syntax between prose and poetry. He has discovered several syntactic patterns that have not been recognized by previous researchers in the field and explained why they occur. This volume should be read by all interested in the biblical Hebrew language.

—Geoffrey Khan, Professor of Semitic Philology, University of Cambridge

Dr. Lunn has tackled a fascinating issue, the significance of non-canonical word order in Hebrew poetry, and he has tackled it with enthusiasm, matched by academic rigor. This is, admittedly, a book for the specialist, but the specialist will revel in its clarity, its caution, its scholarship and its conclusions. Future work on the significance of Hebrew word order, or on such concepts as defamiliarisation, focus and parallelism, will certainly have to take this outstanding work into account.

—Peter Cotterell, Former Principal, London School of Theology

Product Details

  • Title: Word Order Variation in Biblical Hebrew Poetry: Differentiating Pragmatic Poetics
  • Author: Nicholas P. Lunn
  • Publisher: Paternoster Press
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 396

About Nicholas P. Lunn

Nicholas P. Lunn is a Senior Translation Consultant with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He has worked on Old and New Testament translations in East African languages and is currently assigned to translation projects in Western Asia. He first studied for degrees in Biblical Studies and Semitic Languages at the University of Manchester and was later awarded his PhD in Hebrew at the London School of Theology.