Entries A—Z


aabb patterning

aabb patterning. See patterning.

abab patterning

abab patterning. See patterning.

abba patterning

abba patterning. Also known as *chiasm. See patterning.

Abisha Scroll

Abisha Scroll. n. The most sacred copy of the *Samaritan Pentateuch in the community at Shechem. The older section comprises Numbers 35-Deuteronomy 34 and is dated to approximately the twelfth century a.d.


ablative. adj. A noun or pronoun that expresses instrumentality or deprivation (i.e., from, or away from).


ablaut. See apophony.

absolute case

absolute case. See casus pendens.

absolute degree

absolute degree. See positive degree; degree.

absolute infinitive

absolute infinitive. See infinitive absolute.

absolute nominative

absolute nominative. See casus pendens

absolute noun

absolute noun. n. (1) A *casus pendens construction that thus has no grammatical relationship to the sentence; (2) the absolute noun of a construct relationship.

absolute object

absolute object. See cognate accusative.

absolute state

absolute state. n. A word following a construct noun in BH and the Semitic languages is considered to be in the absolute state. The two words are joined by a *linking condition to form a *genitival relationship where both convey one idea, such as בֵּית דָּוִד, "house of David." See also construct chain; construct state.


absolutive. adj. Generally any *nominal that has no *affixes. See also ergative.


absorption. n. The power of one syntactical element to "absorb" the force or meaning of another. This is characteristic of the *inseparable preposition כְּ. (e.g., the Conjunction בַּאֲשֶׁר, "like, as, according to, when").

abstract/abstract noun

abstract/abstract noun. n. A noun that describes something that is nonconcrete or existential, such as love, strength or truth. Also referred to as nonanimates, these are to be contrasted with concrete nouns such as man, pot or trees. See also animate; inanimate.


Abyssinian. See Geʿez.


accent. n. In general linguistics, the syllable that receives the greatest *stress in pronunciation. BH employs a complex array of accent signs with even qualitative and tonal differences. The uses of BH accents are: (1) mark the *tone syllable; (2) punctuation indicators; and (3) *cantillation marks that act as musical signs for chanting the text in synagogue worship. Within BH there are also two classes of accent: 'disjunctive (separating) and *conjunctive (joining) accents. BH has secondary accents besides the primary accent. Joüon §15; MNK §9; GKC §15. See also prepositive; postpositive; impositive.

accented syllable

accented syllable. See tone syllable.

accentuation, upper and lower

accentuation, upper and lower. n. The accentuation points in the MT that appear above (supralinear) and below (sublinear) the consonantal text. See also accent.


acceptation. n. Within the field of *lexicography, the general publicly accepted meaning of a word. See also denotation.


accidence. n. The "accidental" attributes of an entity, to be distinguished from substance or essence in a theoretical linguistic framework. For example, one may say that the essence of a bicycle is that it has two wheels, handlebars, a seat and pedals, while its size and color are "accidental." Likewise, accidence in grammar generally refers to inflection. By changing *affixes, one modifies word meaning. Therefore, traditional grammarians would speak of words having the same substance while differing in accidence. See also inflection; morphology.

accidental perfective

accidental perfective. See prophetic perfect.


accretion. n. In *textual criticism, a form of accidental or purposeful additions to a manuscript over time.


accusative. n. The noun case of the *direct object. The direct object is the recipient of the verbal action committed by the subject (e.g., "He hit the ball"). See also direct-object marker. Joüon §125; GKC §117.

accusative ending

accusative ending. See locative he.

accusative of limitation

accusative of limitation. n. An *appositive in which the *adjective limits a noun by simple *juxtaposition.

accusative particle

accusative particle. See direct-object marker.

acoustic phonetics

acoustic phonetics. See phonetics.


acronym. n. The employment of the first letters of a string of words to refer to all the words. It was often used as a mnemonic device among ancient Hebrew grammarians. For example, *begadkepat is an acronym composed of the first letters of the names of the six *tenue consonants.


acrophony. n. The theory that alphabetic letter sounds were originally taken from names of objects that began with that sound. For example, the Northwest Semitic letter bet (BH ב) is believed to be taken from the *Proto-Semitic word for "house" (BH בֵּית).


acrostic. n. A structuring technique found in BH poetry that begins a new *strophe or *pericope with the consecutive letters of the alphabet (e.g., Ps 9-10; 119; Lam 1-4; Prov 31:10-31).


actants. n. Sentence *nominate that represent the participants in the verbal action (i.e., the subject, object or indirect object of the verb).

action noun

action noun. n. A noun that labels an action or process (e.g., communication).

active-passive sequence

active-passive sequence. n. A form of BH literary *parallelism in which an *active verb is followed by its *cognate *passive in the following *strophe (e.g., Qal followed by Niphal); also called a factitive-passive sequence.

active verb

active verb. See active voice.

active voice

active voice. n. The verbal classification in which the subject commits the action of the verb (e.g., "John pets the dog"). See also passive voice.

ad sensum

ad sensum. Lat. "according to sense." An utterance translated according to contextual meaning rather than strict grammatical *concord.


adaptation. n. The conforming of *loanwords to the phonetic patterns of another language.

adjacency pair

adjacency pair. n. Two utterances in which the second is a requisite or typical answer to the first (e.g., "How are you?" and "I am fine").


adjectival. adj. A broad linguistic classification that describes anything, from a word to an entire clause, that modifies a noun; also referred to as *adnominal. See also adverbial; nominal; verbal.

adjectival attribute

adjectival attribute. See attributive adjective.

adjectival phrase

adjectival phrase. n. A word group (lacking predication) that acts in the same capacity as an adjective, namely, to modify a noun. In "The child with red hair is playing alone," the prepositional phrase "with red hair" functions adjectivally.

adjectival predicate

adjectival predicate. See predicate adjective.


adjective. n. A word employed to describe, limit or qualify a noun. It gives further clarity to the noun being modified. BH is known for its shortage of genuine adjectives and subsequently relies heavily on the *construct state for the modification of nouns. See also attributive adjective; adjectival phrase; predicate adjective.


adjunct/adjunctive. n. or adj. (1) A sentence element that is unnecessary and thus an *omissible or *optional constituent. In "He built a home for her," the adjunctive "for her" is grammatically unnecessary to the sentence (contrast with Objective accusative or *complement). (2) In BH adjunct may also refer to a *waw conjunction understood with the force of "also." See also adverbial accusative.


adjunction. n. Any addition of an *omissible element to modify a necessary element.


adnominal. adj. A broad linguistic classification that describes anything that is "added to" a noun. Adnominals such as *adjectives or *prepositional phrases in some way modify a noun. See also adverbial.


adnomination n. A wordplay in which the meaning and the phonetic value of the words are similar or alike. See also onomatopoeia.


adposition. n. A general term for all *prepositions and postpositions.


adverb. n. Words or particles that modify or clarify the meaning of a verb as well as other adverbials and adjectivals (e.g., "The turtle moved [verb] slowly [adverb]"). Joüon §102; MNK §11.6; GKC §100. See also adjective.


adverbial. adj. A broad linguistic classification for anything that modifies a verb, including *adverbs, *adverbial phrases and the like.

adverbial clause

adverbial clause. See nominal clause.

adverbial accusative

adverbial accusative. adj. In classical grammar, the employment of any noun or adjective adverbially; Hebrew and Semitic linguists now tend to favor the term "adverbial adjunct" or simply "adjunct" for such constructions, since they do not really function as *complements. MNK §33.1; IBHS §10.1-2.

adverbial apposition

adverbial apposition. See accusative of limitation.

adverbial element

adverbial element. n. A broad classification of any sentential element (word, *particle, *syntagm, *phrase or *clause) that modifies a verb.

adverbial predicate

adverbial predicate. n. In classical grammar, the expression of predication with a copular verb plus a prepositional phrase, such as "The man is [copular verb] in the house [prep. phrase]." BH does not possess an exact equivalent to English *copulatives, though the *existential particles and the so-called *pronominal copula are closely related.

adversative clause

adversative clause. n. A clause that expresses an adverse or contradictory circumstance. In English it is indicated by the coordinating conjunction "but." In BH it is usually conveyed by a *conjunctive waw (וְ), less commonly by בִּי אִם and sometimes simply by בִּי. It may also be implied by the *juxtaposition of clauses (e.g., Gen 17:5: וְלֹא־יִקָּרַא עוֹד אֶת־שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָם וְהָיָה שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָהָם, "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham"). Joüon §172; GKC §163.


aetiology. See etiology.


affected. n. Any noun that receives the action of the verb and existed prior to it. In an *active *transitive clause, the affected is the *direct object of the verb (e.g., "The car struck the pole"). In a passive clause, the subject is the affected (e.g., "The pole was struck by the car"). See also effected.

affected object

affected object. See direct object.

affirmative adverb

affirmative adverb. n. An adverb that is used to imply surety or certainty to the verbal action, such as surely, truly and indeed.


affix. n. A generic term for a *bound morpheme, including all *prefixes, *infixes and *suffixes.


afformative. n./adj. A general term comprising all *prefixes, *infixes and *suffixes.


affricate. n. A *phoneme that combines the properties of a *fricative and a *plosive, that is, the full momentary restriction of the airflow and burst (plosive) as well as the tightened air passage (fricative). In BH and BA, the ע is an example of an affricate. It is also called an assibilate.


Afroasiatic. adj. Pertaining to languages formerly referred to by the outdated nomenclature Hamito-Semitic and spoken in Asia and North Africa. The Asiatic side consists of the Semitic languages; the North African branch includes languages such as Afrasian, Lisramic, Berber, Coptic and its extinct counterpart, ancient *Egyptian.


agent. n. The noun committing the verbal action in a clause. The agent may theoretically be the subject of an active verb or the indirect object of a *passive verb. Some use it narrowly for just the noun committing the action of the passive verb.


agentive. adj. Pertaining to the verbal *agent.


agentless. adj. The lack of a verbal agent in a clause.

agglutinative language

agglutinative language. n. A language that combines long strings of *morphemes into a single word unit. A complete sentence may even be expressed by one word. BH and BA both possess a prominence of agglutinative properties (e.g., יִשְׁמָרְךָ, "He shall keep you"). See also polysynthetic language; isolating language; inflectional language.


aggregate. See collective noun.


agreement. See concord.


Akkadian. n. One of the major language groupings of the ancient Near East. The name is derived from the ancient city of Akkad, and as a language family it originated in the Sumer and Akkad locale of Mesopotamia. It is broken into two subdialects: Babylonian and Assyrian. As a Semitic language, it shares a relative vocabulary and other linguistic properties with languages such as BH and Arabic. It was epigraphically represented with the *syllabic cuneiform writing system, which it borrowed from the more ancient *Sumerian.


Aktionsart. n. A term for verbal *aspect that is kind of action in contrast to tense or time of action. It and its related term Aspekt emphasize how an action is committed, not when. Aktionsart is concerned with concepts such as completion, *causation, *durativity and *iterativity in verbal action. See also aspect. IBHS §20.2

aleph prostheticum

aleph prostheticum. See prosthetic aleph.

Aleppo Codex

Aleppo Codex. n. A Hebrew manuscript dating to approximately a.d. 930 and attributed to Shelomo ben Buyaʾa. It is an important textual witness to the Aaron *ben Asher pointing tradition.


allative. See locative.


allegory. n. An extended metaphor or a fictional story meant to convey truths other than what the surface story is about. Writers of allegories often use animals or inanimate objects as characters, thus forcing the reader to search for a deeper meaning. There is really no allegory in the Hebrew Bible, with the possible exception of the invective parable of Jotham in Judges 9:7-15. The New Testament does, however, offer a fine example in Galatians 4:21-31.


alliteration. n. The repetition of consonantal sounds at the beginning of a word; this is observed in Hebrew poetry.


allography. Gk. "other writing."—n. The use of a *logogram or *ideogram as a substitute for terminology in one's own language.


allomorph. n. A variant form of a *morpheme. In such cases, the unit has the same meaning but may take a different form based on context. For example, in BA the forms חֵּ and הִי are both third masculine singular pronominal suffixes, and הִמּוֹן, הִמּוֹ and אִנּוּן are all forms of the third masculine plural independent personal pronoun. Allomorphism may also be understood phonologically, such as in *aspiration or *allophones caused by phonological *positional variation.


allophone. n. A sound that can be classified among a certain category or pair of sounds but is distinguishable in practice. For example, there is a distinguishable pronunciation difference between p at the beginning of a word and at the end. At the beginning it is *aspirated (a quick puff of air may be detected in pronunciation by placing the forefinger before the lips); at the end of a word, it is *unaspirated (there is no detectable puff when pronounced correctly) and functions as a *stop. Allophones are most often caused by their placement within a word and in relation to other letters, so they are also referred to as *positional variants.


allusion. n. An indirect statement for referring to something usually held in common by the speaker/author and hearer/reader. Biblical writers of both Testaments commonly use words and phrases to bring to mind other key biblical texts that illuminate their message.


alphabet. n. Alphabetic writing seems to have originated in Egypt under the influence of hieroglyphics. The concept was taken and refined by the Phoenicians, who spread it throughout the Mediterranean world; in time it became the basis for all alphabets. The alphabet employed in the MT is actually an Aramaic script often referred to as the square character script and is composed of twenty-two consonants. The basic order of letters in the Semitic alphabet is very ancient, and an alphabetic writing system has been attested at Wadi el-Hol in Egypt as early as the nineteenth century b.c. Joüon §5; MNK §4; GKC §§5-6.

alphabetic poems

alphabetic poems. See acrostic.


alveolar. See dentals.


ambiguity. n. The common problem of how language expressions fail to convey sharply the intended meaning or leave open the possibility of multiple interpretations. Linguists recognize both deliberate *ambiguity and unintended ambiguity, a result of the limitations of language. Linguists further distinguish between two formal types of ambiguity: grammatical ambiguity results when the words in an utterance are not clear by reason of grammar or syntax; lexical ambiguity arises in contexts where words have multiple meanings, leaving more than one meaning possible.


Amharic. See Ethiopic.


Ammonite. n. The language spoken by the ancient people of Ammon, a neighboring ethnic group of Israel. Ammonite is a Northwest Semitic dialect within the Canaanite subfamily and shows affinity with ancient Hebrew.


Amoraim. Mishnaic Hebrew "speakers, expounders."—n. Rabbinic teachers residing in Palestine and Babylon between the third and sixth centuries a.d. who were responsible for the *talmudic writings and *haggadic *midrashim.


Amorite. n. A Semitic language attested in *Akkadian documents from Babylon, Mari and other sites in Syria-Palestine starting in about the beginning of the second millennium b.c.


anachronism. n. A reference to something in terms that developed later, such as an element in an ancient manuscript (e.g., a *toponym or *patronym) that is situated in a historical context that predates its usage. Many critical scholars cite the references to Philistines in Genesis 21:32, 34; 26:1, 8, 14-15, 18 as anachronisms because most available archaeological evidence for the migration of the Sea Peoples is no sooner than the Late Bronze Age.


anacoluthon. n. The act of breaking a thought in mid-sentence for another sentence structure. It often indicates an author losing his or her train of thought, but it may also represent a purposeful idiom of expression (e.g., Gen 23:13: אַךְ אִם־אַתָּה לוּ שְׁמָעֵנִי נָתַתִּי כֶּסֶף הַשָּׂדֶה קַח מִמֶּנִּי וְאֶקְבְּרָה אֶת־מֵתִי שָׁמָּה, "if you—please hear me, I will give silver for the field—take it from me and I will bury my dead there!"). GKC §167.2.


anacrusis. n. A construction in which one or more unaccented syllables at the beginning of a verse stands outside the regular pattern and is thus reliant upon another accented syllable. The term is used in reference to BH poetry but also assumes the presence of *meter, which is debated.


anadiplosis. n. The reduplication of a word or phrase in the second *colon of poetic verse. This form of repetition carries a theme from one colon to the next to establish a progression in thought (e.g., Ps 1:2: "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, / and in his law he meditates day and night").


anaphora. n. (1) Words that "point back" to another word; to be contrasted with *cataphora, which point forward to a referent. Pronouns of all types are considered to be anaphoric signs. Personal pronouns especially fit this category in that they point back to an antecedent noun. *Resumptive pronouns (occasional in BH and common in BA) resume the idea of the antecedent without restating it. (2) The term is also used in the study of poetry to refer to the linking of verses into bicola, tricola, and so forth by employing the same word or phrase at the beginning of each line (also called *anadiplosis).


anaphoric. adj. Pertaining to any sentential element that points back to a previous *referent. See also anaphora; cataphoric


anaptyxis. n. The development of an extra vowel to smooth awkward pronunciation, such as in the common pronunciation of the English word athlete by inserting an e vowel sound between the th and the l, making it ath-e-lete. In BH many scholars point to the second *segol in *segholate nouns as a prime example though this is contested. Anaptyxis is attested in most Semitic dialects. See also prosthesis.


anarthrous. adj. A word that has no definite article or generally any word that is indefinite. See also articular; definite; indefinite.


anastrophe. n. The purposeful modification of normative *word order for stylistic reasons or for the sake of emphasis. See also free inversion.


Anatolian. n. A subbranch of the *Indo-European languages that includes *Hittite among its membership.


animate. adj. Entities that are living things (e.g., a lion, person or people) as opposed to static, material objects (*inanimates; e.g., a rock) or theoretical concepts, ideas and emotions (*nonanimates or *abstracts; e.g., love).

animate pronoun

animate pronoun. n. A pronoun that has an *interrogative meaning "who?" and is classified under the larger idea of indefinites. The BH animate pronoun is מִי, and the common Semitic animate particle is man, which is also attested in BH (Ex 16:15). Animate pronouns are commonly used in both direct and rhetorical questions (e.g., Ex 3:11 "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?"). They are also employed in a *relative sense. Joüon §§37, 144; MNK §43.3; GKC §37; IBHS §18.2-3. See also inanimate pronoun; indefinite.

annexion, annexation

annexion, annexation. See construct state.


anomaly. n. A contradiction to standard rules. When a *morpheme or *grapheme displays anomalous usage, it is usually an error, though in some cases, such as poetic contexts, it may be purposeful.


antagonist. n. The character who is set against the *protagonist in any *narrative.


antanaclasis. n. The repetition of a *lexeme (word) with a divergent or even an antithetical sense.


antecedent. n. The co-referent that any pronoun points back to. For example, in "Jimmy was running in the hall and tripped over his shoelace," the antecedent of the pronoun his is Jimmy.


antepenult. n. The third syllable from the end in a word with three or more syllables. When an accent is placed on this syllable it is commonly described as "antepenultimate."


antepenultima. See antepenult.


anterior. adj. When used with reference to *phonemes, it describes their articulation toward the frontal part of the mouth.

anterior construction

anterior construction. n. A *clause that expresses events or a state of being that took place or existed prior to the main narrated sequence of events. Such a construction usually provides background material for the main narration. In BH it is often marked by the use of a fronted subject and a verbal transition (from wayyiqtol to qatal), such as in Genesis 3:1: וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַת הַשָּׂדֶה אְַשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים וַיֹאמֶר אֶל־הָאּשָּׁה, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any creature of the field which YHWH Elohim had created. And he said unto the woman..."

anticipatory assimilation

anticipatory assimilation. n. See regressive assimilation.


anthropomorphism. n. The ascription of human characteristics to God.


anthropopathism. n. The ascription of humanlike emotions to God.

anticipative pronoun

anticipative pronoun. See cataphora.


antilogomena. n. Books of the biblical *canon whose authenticity has been questioned in church history.


antimeria. n. A subclassification of *metonymy; the artistic use of a descriptive term for a closely associated noun. In "The white fell gently upon the Canadian forest," the adjective white is employed as a *substantive to refer to snow. In BH, antimeria is commonly found in poetry but is not limited to it.


antiphon. n. Poetic verse that is responsively read in conjunction with the singing of a liturgy.


antiphrasis. n. The use of a word in a sense opposite to its normal meaning, often for the sake of irony or rhetorical effect. See also litotes.


antistrophe. n. A form of *parallelism in which there is *repetition of a word or phrase at the end of two or more *strophes.


antithesis. n. A contrast of some sort, such as between word pairs, such as good and bad, or between clauses or strophes, as in *antithetic parallelism.

antithetic conjunction

antithetic conjunction. n. A conjunction that indicates constrast, such as but or unless. See also adversative clause.

antithetic parallelism

antithetic parallelism. n. A parallel *bicolon structure in which the second line contrasts the first. That is, the A colon makes a statement, and the B colon declares its corresponding opposite. See also parallelism; synonymous parallelism; synthetic parallelism.

antithetic sentence

antithetic sentence. n. A compound sentence in which the two main clauses possess antithetic relationship to one another. See also conjunctive sentence; contrastive sentence; chiastic sentence.


antonym. n. A word that stands as a relative opposite to another word. Antonyms are further broken down into classes of *graded and nongraded. See also synonym.


aphaeresis. n. The dropping of the initial vowel or consonant during inflection. It is most common in BH when a weak letter (נ, ל, י, א) is not supported by a full vowel, such as the verb meaning '"to take" inflected in the Qal imperative: a hypothetical לְקַח appears as קַח (e.g., Gen 19:15). Joüon §17d. See also apocope; syncope.


Aphel. n. The Aramaic *causative stem that is marked in most forms by an aleph preformative.


aphesis. n. The dropping of a *word-initial *unstressed vowel. See also aphaeresis.


aphorism. n. A terse summary statement that is meant to express a wise observation or general principle of life. See apothegm.


apocalypse. n. Generally defined as a *genre of Old Testament, intertestamental and New Testament period writing characterized by the use of ecstatic prophetic oracles, vivid imagery of a final judgment and elaborate symbolism. The books of Joel and Daniel are known for their use of apocalyptic imagery. Some scholars define it more narrowly as a interpretation of history in allegorical images, in contrast to eschatology, which is the ecstatic oracular vision of future events, especially the end of the age.

apocope, apocopation

apocope, apocopation. n. The loss of a vowel quality or silent letter at the end of a word, usually due to lack of *accentuation. In BH it is most common with final-ה verbs and the *jussive mood, in which apocopation is used as a jussive mood marker, though it also occurs in nouns. Joüon §17f; GKC §48. See also aphaeresis; syncope.


Apocrypha. A collection of intertestamental Jewish literature that is not included in the Jewish and Christian canons but is classified as "deuterocanonical" in the Roman Catholic tradition.

apodictic law

apodictic law. n. A term introduced by Albrecht Alt to refer to a form of legal writing that makes absolute demands upon the recipient ("You shall not...") and is to be contrasted with *casuistic law. The *Decalogue is classified as apodictic law.


apodosis. n. The main clause of a *conditional sentence that is preceded by the dependent *conditional clause (*protasis.) In BH the apodosis is usually marked by a *waw of apodosis (translated "then"). Joüon §176; GKC §158.


apophony. n. (1) In *synchronic linguistics, a vowel alternation in the process of *morphology. (2) In *diachronic linguistics, a permanent vowel change or *gradation made over time in linguistic evolution. See sound shift.


apophthegm. See apothegm.