Lina Petersson

Doktorand i semitiska språk vid Institutionen för lingvistik och filologi

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Thunbergsvägen 3H
Box 635
751 26 UPPSALA

Kort presentation

In my PhD thesis I relate features of verbal syntax in the Priestly (P) narrative of the Pentateuch to the historical development of Biblical Hebrew verbal syntax in order to determine whether the P narrative reflects SBH or LBH usage. I study syntactic change with focus on grammaticalization processes involved in the renewal of the TAM categories of the Hebrew verbal system, and describe the use of verbal syntax in different textual corpora by means of a textlinguistic theory and approach.

Nyckelord: biblical hebrew semitiska språk semitic languages bibelhebreiska late biblical hebrew text-linguistics textlingvistik verbal syntax syntactic change historical linguistics historisk lingvistik pentateuchal research priestly source of the pentateuch

Academia page

1. Education

Uppsala University, Department of Linguistics and Philology:

2006–2017 (ongoing) PhD/doctoral student in Semitic Languages (including Epigraphic-, Biblical- and Post-Biblical Hebrew, Classical- and Modern Standard Arabic, Classical Syriac, Egyptian Aramaic, Epigraphic South Arabian and Comparative Semitics). Defense of the doctoral thesis in Dec. 2018.

2009 Pedagogical foundation course for university teachers I.

2004–2005 Hebrew B–D (including Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, Post- Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, Ugaritic and North-West Semitics). Thesis for a degree of Master: Syntactic analysis of narrative P material: from criteria established in the field of Biblical Hebrew research for the categories Standard Biblical Hebrew and Late Biblical Hebrew. [in Swedish].

2003 Assyriology A (including Akkadian).

Stockholm School of Theology:

1999–2003 Bachelor of Theology (including Biblical Hebrew and Greek). Thesis for a degree of Bachelor: Ezekiel and Leviticus 26: A linguistic study of the literary dependence between Ezekiel and Leviticus 26. [in Swedish].

2. Teaching

Uppsala University, Department of Linguistics and Philology:

2016 Biblical Hebrew A (II).

2009, 2010 Supervisor of undergraduate students of Semitic Languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac) in the linguistics course “Grammar and Textlinguistics”.

2009 Assistant supervisor of a Master thesis in Old Testament Exegetics (Dept. of Theology, Uppsala) by Evelina Johansson.

2008, 2009 Hebrew foundation course (Biblical and Modern Hebrew).

2008, 2009 Biblical Hebrew A (I–II).

Stockholm School of Theology:

2004, 2005 Biblical Hebrew foundation course.

2004 Psalms and Psalter (Biblical Hebrew text-course).

Academia page

PhD Thesis:

Syntax of the Verb in the Priestly Narrative of the Pentateuch: A Diachronic Study


The aim of my thesis is to determine which stage in the linguistic development of Biblical Hebrew that is reflected in the syntax of the verb in the Priestly (P) narrative of the Pentateuch.

Scope and Limitations

The scope encompasses both practical and theoretical aspects of the investigation, since the formulation of the theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of diachronic verbal syntax (in part I), is considered integral to the practical application of these approaches in the syntactic analysis (in part II). In relation to the statement of the aim, the scope of this study may be qualified both positively and negatively in a number of respects.

Firstly, this is a historical linguistic study of syntactic change in the corpus based language Biblical Hebrew. The primary corpus of this study – the P narrative – is a body of text situated within the larger unit of texts that is traditionally ascribed to the P source/document/code in the Pentateuch. Without evaluating the theories and methods originally employed in the delimitation of this material, it is safe to assume that P exists, at least in the sense that it has remained a well defined body of material in the wider field of Pentateuchal research. Since there is no general consensus as to whether or not the P narrative continues in the book of Joshua, the scope of the P corpus included in this study is limited to the P narrative in the Pentateuch. This linguistic study is not concerned with the ‘purpose’ of P, i.e. its ideology or theology, its intent or ultimate goal or something else along these lines. Therefore, it is not within the scope of this study to assess the ‘nature’ of the P material, e.g. whether P should be viewed as an independent source, document, redactional Schichten, etc. Since the hypothetical division of P between parts belonging to the Grundschrift (Pg) and parts designated as later supplements or secondary expansions (Ps) also belong to this category, the traditional division between Pg and Ps is not presupposed and maintained in the present study.

Secondly, in the field of historical linguistics, the primary object of study is the linguistic system of a language as manifested at different stages of development in textual corpora. The present study of the P narrative is focused on a central part of that system, namely, the verbal system. The diachronic development of the Biblical (and extra-Biblical) Hebrew verbal system may be studied through observed change in the use of verbal syntax between corpora, which are representative of different chronological stages of linguistic development, on typological grounds. This further entails that the study of syntactic change is made from both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective, and concerns both the verbal system and the syntax of the verb. In practice, in order to establish that syntactic change on the level of the text is indicative of diachronic change (as opposed to synchronic variation), syntactic change is studied with focus on the diachronic grammaticalization processes involved in the renewal of the tense–aspect–modality categories of the Hebrew verbal system. On the level of the text, the description of the use of verbal syntax in different textual corpora is informed by a synchronic textlinguistic theory and approach. Due to the focus on verbal syntax and system, the scope of this study is restricted in that features belonging to other domains of the language in this corpus are not treated systematically. The focus on the corpus of the P narrative in the Pentateuch also entails that features of the verbal syntax in other parts of P are not treated exhaustively.

Thirdly, the primary objective of this study is to relate features of the syntax of the verb in the P narrative to the historical development of Biblical Hebrew verbal syntax in narrative prose. In the Hebrew Bible, the linguistic profiles of two main corpora of narrative prose are commonly considered to represent two main stages in the development of Biblical Hebrew, designated as Early/Standard Biblical Hebrew prose and Late Biblical Hebrew prose. On typological grounds, they form a diachronic linguistic continuum. However, only the Late Biblical Hebrew stage of development can be positively correlated with a particular historical period (i.e. post-exilic). Therefore, the aim of this study remains purely descriptive in that it is restricted to determining whether the syntax of the verb in the P narrative reflects Standard or Late Biblical Hebrew usage.

The possible implications of the results of this study in terms of the relative date of the P narrative are of two kinds. First, in case this study finds that the syntax of the verb in the P narrative reflects Late Biblical Hebrew usage; the result converges with the post-exilic date of P, which is suggested by most scholars in the wider field of biblical studies, on (primarily) non-linguistic grounds. In the other case, if the syntax of the verb in the P narrative reflects Standard Biblical Hebrew usage; P cannot automatically be positively correlated with the historical pre-exilic period, since there is no external control by which it may be verified that a text written in Early or Standard Biblical Hebrew be dated to the pre-exilic period solely on account of its language. Therefore, it is not within the scope of this study to decide whether a relative date of P on account of Standard Biblical Hebrew usage of verbal syntax intends that the P narrative was committed to writing in the pre-exilic period.

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Lina Petersson
Senast uppdaterad: 2021-03-09