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Syntax: Rabbinic Hebrew

(6,135 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
Some of the main syntactic features that are typical of Rabbinic Hebrew can be summarized under a number of headings. 1. The Definite Article In general, one might say, especially in comparison with modern usage, that a certain laxity in the usage of the definite article -ה ha- ‘the’ is characteristic of Rabbinic Hebrew. Indeed, the definite article may be absent where it would be present in modern texts and present where it would be absent. An example of a ‘superfluous’ article with a semantically unspecific (unknown) noun is found in: ראה את המציאה raʾa ʾet ham-meṣiʾa ‘If he saw the (= a…

Concessive Clauses: Rabbinic Hebrew

(770 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
A concessive clause is a subordinate clause which implies a relation of unexpectedness between the situation it describes and the one described in the main clause. Most concessive clauses in Rabbinic Hebrew are introduced by conjunctions containing the particle אף ʾap̄ ‘also, even’, e.g., אפילו ʾap̄illueven, even if’, אף כש־ ʾap̄ ke-še- ‘although, even if’, (אף על פי (-ש ʾap̄ ʿal pi (še-) ‘although’, אף על פי כן ʾap̄ ʿal pi ḵen ‘nonetheless’. An אפילו ʾap̄illu clause may either precede or follow the main clause, e.g., ואפילו המלך שואל בשלומו, לא ישיבנו we-ʾap̄illu ham-meleḵ šoʾel bi-š…

Coordination: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,939 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
A coordinate structure consists of two or more units (conjuncts) of equal rank, usually joined by a conjunction (a connective word). As a rule, the conjuncts must belong to the same syntactic category. 1. Conjunction with -ו we- The conjunction ו- we- ‘and’ is employed to conjoin two or more conjuncts. It regularly conjoins two words, phrases or clauses, but can be dropped in certain cases: (a) when the conjuncts are in the form of two adversative clauses, e.g., הצדן לצורך חייב, שלא לצורך פטור haṣ-ṣadan le-ṣoreḵ ḥayyaḇ, šel-lo le-ṣoreḵ paṭur ‘he who hunted them to make use of them is…

Oath/Curse Formulae: Rabbinic Hebrew

(548 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
An oath formula is a linguistic structure composed of two elements. The first expresses authentication by oath, while the second conveys the oath’s actual content. Two categories of oaths must be distinguished in Rabbinic Hebrew: legally binding oaths, having judicial consequences and used also in court, and a variety of vernacular and informal oaths. Oaths of the first category, peculiar to Rabbinic Hebrew, are formed by the noun שבועה šeḇuʿa ‘[I hereby take an] oath’, (+ -ש še- ‘that’) + a clause expressing the oath’s content, for example,שבועה שלא אוכל šeḇuʿa šel-lo ʾoḵal ‘I swear t…

Copula: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,845 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
‘Copula’ is the term that is used to mark the third person pronoun (הוא hu ‘he’, היא hi ‘she’, הם hem / הן hen ‘they’) that connects or couples the subject and the nominal predicate. Scholars differ with regard to the syntactic status of this pronoun: should it be regarded as marking the nexus between subject and predicate or considered a resumptive or anticipatory pronoun that refers to the preceding or the following subject, respectively (Khan 2006:155–157)? Whatever the case may be, the pronominal copula is a const…

Conditional Clause: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,863 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
A conditional clause is a subordinate clause which expresses a condition upon whose fulfillment what is expressed in the main (consequent) clause depends. The particle אם ʾim ‘if’ is the usual word which introduces a conditional clause. It introduces a factual conditional clause, meaning that what is described in the ʾim-clause is fulfilled or can be fulfilled and, consequently, what is described in the main clause is, will be, or should be fulfilled, too. When the condition has already been fulfilled or is regarded as fulfilled, the ʾim-clause employs the perfect, and the consequ…

Existential: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,859 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
An existential clause is a clause that expresses a proposition about the existence or the presence of something. The existential predicators in Rabbinic Hebrew are יש yeš ‘there is/are’, אין ʾen ‘there is/are not’, and the verb לא) היה) (lo) haya ‘there was (not)’, the last of which declines according to person, gender, and number of the subject. The ‘pure’ existential clause lacks any complementation and indicates the very existence or non-existence of what is denoted by the NP subject (NP = Noun Phrase, i.e., a noun, a noun followed…

Relative Clause: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,919 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies its noun head (also called its ‘antecedent’) in a way similar to that of attributive adjectives. Relatives in Rabbinic Hebrew are always introduced by a relative word (Kutscher 1959:34), which is almost exclusively -ש še- ‘that, which’. Sentences like אין לו מי יתירנו ʾen lo mi yattirennu ‘there is no one to render it permissible’ (Tosefta Menaḥot 6.20) are to be analyzed as containing a subject clause in the form of מי mi (subject) + יתירנו yattirennu (predicate), lit.: ‘there is no one: who will permit it’, and not as a s…

Comparative Clause: Rabbinic Hebrew

(606 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
Comparative sentences express equality or similarity, usually by means of a subordinate clause. The comparative component is introduced by certain lexical items, which may be (a) prepositions: -כ ke- ‘like, as’, (-כמו/כמות (ש kemo/kemot (še-) ‘like, as’ (the complementizer -ש še- ‘that’ is used to introduce a clause); or (b) prepositional phrases consisting of the preposition -כ ke- ‘as’ followed by a participle or noun, e.g., -כיוצא ב kay-yoṣe be- ‘like (lit. ‘as it goes out in’)’, -כשם ש ke-šem še- ‘just as’, -כדרך ש ke-dereḵ še- ‘in a similar way’, -כעניין ש ke-ʿinyan še- ‘in a simila…

Juridical Hebrew

(2,282 words)

Author(s): Azar, Moshe
1. Terminology and Classification Juridical formulas are syntactic structures in which legal, moral, or religious laws are couched. Alt’s classic study (Alt 1966) differentiated between two major types of juridical formulations in Hebrew, ‘casuistic’ and ‘apodictic’, distinguished by a combination of stylistic markers and content. Casuistic laws present a hypothetical case and are framed in the conditional mode. Laws which are not casuistic are apodictic. However, as Laserre (1994:xxi) has pointed o…