Towards a description of the narrative discourse units in Tannaitic Hebrew

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The Tannaitic literature includes different types of texts, the most fundemental of them are the formulation of law and the Halachic give-and-take. These two types of texts are located at the Halachic pole of the continuum of texts in Tannaitic language. This continuum is presented in the first two parts of this article, in which the four other types of texts are also described, those positioned somewhere between the Halachic pole and narrative pole on the continuum: the expounding of verse, the wise saying, the parable, and the ceremony description. The third and principal part of this article deals with the various types of narrative discourse units that belong to the seventh type of text in the Tannaitic literature - the narrative text: the units that begin with an introductory marker (Maa'se, Barishona, Pa'am 'ahat), which appear about 400 times in the Mishna and Tosefta; and the units that have no marker (which may occur with an expression of time or marking the source at the beginning or without either of these), which appear about 300 times in the Mishna and Tosefta. The characteristics of the Barishona narrative discourse unit and its four components are described in detail in this article. The Tannaitic literature is Halachic in its nature, and consequently most of the texts included in it are more Halachic than narrative. Some of the narrative discourse units are clearly Halachic in nature, and all are clearly connected - both from the point of view of coherence and cohesion - to the prevailing Halachic sequence in which they appear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-85
Number of pages29
JournalFolia Linguistica Historica
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Discourse units
  • Introductory marker
  • Narrative discourse units (Ma'ase, barishona, pa'am ahat)
  • Tannaitic Hebrew


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