On the Possible Grammaticalization of דבר as an Indefinite Pronoun in Biblical Hebrew

A. Moshavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Modern Hebrew features two indefinite pronouns formed from nouns denoting basic ontological categories: 'iš ‘anyone’, from the noun meaning ‘man’, and davar ‘anything’, from the noun meaning ‘thing’. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether the biblical ancestor of davar had already been grammaticalized as an indefinite pronoun in the classical BH prose corpus (Genesis – 2 Kings). The results establish that biblical davar had a semantically-bleached usage with the same distribution, semantic interpretation and rhetorical effects as the indefinite pronoun me'uma. In this usage davar functioned, like me'uma, as a negative polarity item (NPI) with minimizing meaning. The development of the NPI usage of davar in the biblical period was the first stage in a grammaticalization path ultimately leading to the formation of the indefinite pronoun.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Northwest Semitic Languages
Volume44
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

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