Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

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Jason Hare
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Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Jason Hare »

In his article called "The Restrictive Syntax of Genesis i 1" in Vetus Testamentum (vol 58, 2008), Robert D. Holmstedt discussed how Genesis 1:1 could be interpreted as if the relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר were missing from a relative clause. Before reading that article last year, I didn't really notice the phenomenon of dropped relative pronouns.

Today I was reading in Jeremiah 2 and came across the following two phrases that exhibit this feature of the language:

Jeremiah 2:6
וְלֹ֣א אָֽמְר֔וּ אַיֵּ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה הַמַּֽעֲלֶ֥ה אֹתָ֖נוּ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם הַמּוֹלִ֨יךְ אֹתָ֜נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֗ר בְּאֶ֨רֶץ עֲרָבָ֤ה וְשׁוּחָה֙ בְּאֶ֨רֶץ֙ צִיָּ֣ה וְצַלְמָ֔וֶת בְּאֶ֗רֶץ לֹא־עָ֤בַר בָּהּ֙ אִ֔ישׁ וְלֹֽא־יָשַׁ֥ב אָדָ֖ם שָֽׁם׃

Jeremiah 2:8
הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֗ים לֹ֤א אָֽמְרוּ֙ אַיֵּ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה וְתֹֽפְשֵׂ֤י הַתּוֹרָה֙ לֹ֣א יְדָע֔וּנִי וְהָֽרֹעִ֖ים פָּ֣שְׁעוּ בִ֑י וְהַנְּבִאִים֙ נִבְּא֣וּ בַבַּ֔עַל וְאַֽחֲרֵ֥י לֹֽא־יוֹעִ֖לוּ הָלָֽכוּ׃

The first clause (in red) would be understood to read בארץ אשר לא עבר בה איש; the second (in green) as אשר לא ישב שם אדם; and the third (in purple) as הלכו אחרי אלהים אשר לא יועילו.

When I ran across this, I thought of Holmstedt's article and pulled it up on my computer. Doing a search for Jeremiah 2:6, I saw that he mentioned it in footnote number 10 in the article. I'm always pleased to see how thorough his treatment of subjects is.

Can you think of other instances that you've come across where the head noun associated with a relative clause is missing or where the relative pronoun itself is gone but still felt?
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by ducky »

Hi Jason,

This style appears many times in the Bible.
I remember even that it came in this forum.

Maybe I am missing your point.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Jason Hare »

ducky wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 4:33 pm Hi Jason,

This style appears many times in the Bible.
I remember even that it came in this forum.

Maybe I am missing your point.
The point is "oh neat" and "Holmstedt is a great scholar." Not to mention, "Everybody should read the article that I mentioned; it's really good." I wasn't asking for any insight from you. I was just sharing something I came across—another valid use of the forum.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Kirk Lowery »

Jason,

The linguist in me wants to ask, "How do you know when the clause is missing the relative pronoun?"

I'm not disagreeing with you, by no means! But if we want to find all the occurrences, is there any way to define the conditions other than by intuition? A lot of discourse analysis is this very process of moving from an intuition to formulating a concrete definition in linguistic terms, something that a search engine could grab a hold of.

Let me give you a different example: how do we know when to translate we- as "but" instead of "and". Answer: when we perceive a contrast of some kind between two adjacent clauses: the verbs are semantically antonyms; one clause is negated, the other not, and so forth. When we use our "intuition", what really is going on? There is something in the text that is stimulating that intuitive decision. What is that something?

Methodologically, we should collect a bunch of examples that everyone agrees is a headless relative clause, and then start looking for linguistic parallels. (Perhaps Holmstedt did that in his article...do you have a pdf of the article?)
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Jason Hare »

Kirk Lowery wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:38 am (Perhaps Holmstedt did that in his article...do you have a pdf of the article?)
That's a good place to start, and the article is fantastic. I'll send you a copy via email.

Jason
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Jason Hare »

Kirk Lowery wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:38 am The linguist in me wants to ask, "How do you know when the clause is missing the relative pronoun?"
Well, relative clauses are supposed to be linked to independent clauses by use of a relative pronoun (אֲשֶׁר \ שֶׁ־ in Hebrew). There are a couple of things playing around here: (1) the dropping of relative pronouns in certain situations; and, (2) the dropping of head nouns that are generally joined to the relative pronoun.

For example:

1a) This is the woman about whom I told you.
1b) This is the woman that I told you about.
1c) This is the woman I told you about.
1d) This is the one I told you about.
1e) * This is the I told you about.
1f) * This is I told you about.
1g) ? This is whom I told you about.
1h) ? This is about whom I told you.

It's clear that not everything is grammatical, and English functions really well without relative pronouns a lot of the time. Hebrew tends to almost always use the relative pronoun, but there are situations in which it can be dropped without damaging understanding.

"This is the house I grew up in."
2a) זֶה הַבַּ֫יִת אֲשֶׁר גָּדַ֫לְתִּי בּוֹ.‏
2b) זֶה הַבַּ֫יִת שֶׁגָּדַ֫לְתִּי בּוֹ.‏
2c) * זֶה הַבַּ֫יִת גָּדַ֫לְתִּי בּוֹ.‏
2d) זֶה הַבַּ֫יִת בּוֹ גָּדַ֫לְתִּי.‏

By fronting the prepositional phrase (2d), this becomes acceptable, but dropping the relative pronoun without the word order shift causes something ungrammatical (2c).

I'm not sure of the conditions for the acceptability of the dropping of the relative pronoun, but the verses in Jeremiah, quoted above, certainly make good sense without the relative pronoun. That's why I brought it up. It's a bit of fun in the language.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by ducky »

Hi Jason and Kirk

Jason,
The reason that I wrote that I think I may have missed your point is that I really did think that way.
Since you are not just a student of Hebrew (like all of us) but you actually teach it, so I didn't think that you would be so "excited" by the "obvious".
Therefore, I thought that maybe you pointed to something else in the syntax and I didn't read you right.

Now I will add some "insight", and I hope you won't get mad at me for not saying 'neat' or something like that.
****

Basically, the linking words אשר (and others) come when the linked noun is definite.
And when the noun is not definite, then there would be no linking word, and mostly, these cases would be seen in poetry.
This is the basic.

But there are also exceptions, and this thing became very flexible.

By the way, In Isa. 58:6 it is written:
הלוא זה צום אבחרהו - the noun צום is not definite and so there is no linking word.

And in DSS it is written:
הלוא זה הצום אשר אבחרהו - suddenly the noun צום is definite, and with that, there is the linking word.

***
As for your examples,
Are you sure that your example 2d is correct?
Is that what the article said?
I'm asking because it doesn't sound right to me.

after the linking word, the verb would come - Before its object.
so the word בו would come after the verb and not before it.

I don't want to be decisive about this, but I wonder if you can find examples for that (also with אשר) - and if so, how many.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by Jason Hare »

"Linking verb" already has a meaning in English. It means "is" (or the other forms of "to be") when they are linking subject and predicate. Rather than "linking word," אשר is called a "relative pronoun." Sometimes I need to read your sentences three or four times to piece together what you're referring to.

I've certainly seen expressions like 2d in real life, and I wasn't thinking of biblical examples in those lines. Looking on Google, I see הבית בו גדלתי is the name of a song, as is הבית בו אני גר. So, I don't see why you'd suggest that 2d is ungrammatical. I've heard expressions like this all over the place.

From Globes [source]:
בין שופטי השלום שקודמו למחוזי נמצאת ד"ר דפנה אבניאלי, הנחשבת לשופטת מתוקשרת יחסית, שעוסקת בעיקר בתיקי בנקאות אך מדי פעם התפרסמה גם בנושא חסינות שופטים, הנושא עליו כתבה את עבודת הדוקטורט שלה.‏‏‏‏‏

The same structure (the dropping of the relative pronoun) is in question whether the preposition is על or ב. The above could have been written as הנושא אשר כתבה עליו וכו׳, could it not?

By the same right, הלא זה צום אבחרהו could have become הלא זה הצום בו אבחר, no? As long as the object isn't attached as a suffix, it could appear within the prepositional phrase and push the relative pronoun out even if the head noun is definite. That's the structure that I'm specifically thinking of. Granted, with the definite head noun, it would not appear with the attached suffix without something intervening (preferably אשר) to embed it.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by ducky »

Hi Jason,

The fact that people write it or speak it, doesn't make it right.
I can think of other common mistakes that people do (like the popular במידה ו) and that would mean nothing but a mistake.
Jason Hare wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 7:28 pm בין שופטי השלום שקודמו למחוזי נמצאת ד"ר דפנה אבניאלי, הנחשבת לשופטת מתוקשרת יחסית, שעוסקת בעיקר בתיקי בנקאות אך מדי פעם התפרסמה גם בנושא חסינות שופטים, הנושא עליו כתבה את עבודת הדוקטורט שלה.‏‏‏‏‏

The same structure (the dropping of the relative pronoun) is in question whether the preposition is על or ב. The above could have been written as הנושא אשר כתבה עליו וכו׳, could it not?
Of course that it could.
And that would be the right way.

Now check what you wrote and what you did.
The sentence in your example which you are talking about is without the relative pronoun. But when you gave your comment about it (of switching the order of words) you suddenly added the relative pronoun.
And you know Why you did it?
Because you couldn't write it without the relative pronoun.
And that is strange, don't you think?
How is it that you cannot switch the two words?

It was written in your example:
הנושא עליו כתבה
Why didn't you just write: הנושא כתבה עליו?
After all, this is the bible's order of words.
(In these kinds of sentences, first the verb and then the preposition).
But you didn't write that, because you don't speak like that, and you don't teach others like that.

So how is it that you approve the opposite order of words (than the one in the bible: הנושא עליו כתבה) while you reject the same order of words that is in the bible (הנושא כתבה עליו)?

Not to mention, that the noun is definite, and so, also the Bible would tend to use the relative pronoun anyway.

So you try to defend the הנושא עליו כתבה with wrong things:

1. The noun is definite, and so, even the bible would usually use a relative pronoun.
(So why here it is okay to drop it?).

2. The Biblical order of words is verb+preposition.
But you cannot use it in this sentence that you try to defend.
I mean: you won't say: הנושא כתבה עליו, right?

3. The fact that you cannot switch the עליו כתבה to כתבה עליו says it all. Because How is it that you cannot use it in the order that we see in the bible, But you CAN use it in the opposite order (that the bible doesn't use). Strange.

******

In short, the right way to use it if we want to keep this order of words is by adding the relative pronoun.
הנושא שעליו כתבה
הנושא אשר עליו כתבה
Jason Hare wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 7:28 pm By the same right, הלא זה צום אבחרהו could have become הלא זה הצום בו אבחר, no? As long as the object isn't attached as a suffix, it could appear within the prepositional phrase and push the relative pronoun out even if the head noun is definite. That's the structure that I'm specifically thinking of. Granted, with the definite head noun, it would not appear with the attached suffix without something intervening (preferably אשר) to embed it.
The main reason that I put this sentence in the Bible and in the DSS is to show the conditions that made the change.
Definite Article = Relative Pronoun (Like DSS)
Undefined = No Relative Pronoun (Like Isa.)

What you are suggesting above is a definite article = no relative pronoun.
(But there are exceptions like that also).

But the main point is the order of words.
If you break the אבחרהו to two words, then the order would be אבחר בו

I would write tomorrow some verses with and without the relative pronoun so you can see the pattern.

*****
As for the אשר עליו כתבה
This form is also switched, but that would be fair.
(Even though the Bible also prefers the verb first).

Because now, when we have the relative pronoun, it is like that this part of the sentence has a "father", and so we can play inside it without feeling "bad" in our ears. What we cannot do when the relative pronoun is dropped.
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Re: Jeremiah 2: Headless Relative Clauses

Post by kwrandolph »

Jason Hare wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:44 pm In his article called "The Restrictive Syntax of Genesis i 1" in Vetus Testamentum (vol 58, 2008), Robert D. Holmstedt discussed how Genesis 1:1 could be interpreted as if the relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר were missing from a relative clause. Before reading that article last year, I didn't really notice the phenomenon of dropped relative pronouns.
That theory sounds flakey for Genesis 1:1, to put it bluntly. Biblical Hebrew word order tends to follow what is most important stated first, followed by what’s less important (exceptions sometimes found in poetry for poetic effect). In this verse, the emphasis is on “the beginning”. I see no reason to assume a missing relative pronoun in this verse nor even to speculate that there might be one.
Jason Hare wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:44 pm Today I was reading in Jeremiah 2 and came across the following two phrases that exhibit this feature of the language:

Jeremiah 2:6
וְלֹ֣א אָֽמְר֔וּ אַיֵּ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה הַמַּֽעֲלֶ֥ה אֹתָ֖נוּ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם הַמּוֹלִ֨יךְ אֹתָ֜נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֗ר בְּאֶ֨רֶץ עֲרָבָ֤ה וְשׁוּחָה֙ בְּאֶ֨רֶץ֙ צִיָּ֣ה וְצַלְמָ֔וֶת בְּאֶ֗רֶץ לֹא־עָ֤בַר בָּהּ֙ אִ֔ישׁ וְלֹֽא־יָשַׁ֥ב אָדָ֖ם שָֽׁם׃

Jeremiah 2:8
הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֗ים לֹ֤א אָֽמְרוּ֙ אַיֵּ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה וְתֹֽפְשֵׂ֤י הַתּוֹרָה֙ לֹ֣א יְדָע֔וּנִי וְהָֽרֹעִ֖ים פָּ֣שְׁעוּ בִ֑י וְהַנְּבִאִים֙ נִבְּא֣וּ בַבַּ֔עַל וְאַֽחֲרֵ֥י לֹֽא־יוֹעִ֖לוּ הָלָֽכוּ׃

The first clause (in red) would be understood to read בארץ אשר לא עבר בה איש; the second (in green) as אשר לא ישב שם אדם; and the third (in purple) as הלכו אחרי אלהים אשר לא יועילו.

When I ran across this, I thought of Holmstedt's article and pulled it up on my computer. Doing a search for Jeremiah 2:6, I saw that he mentioned it in footnote number 10 in the article. I'm always pleased to see how thorough his treatment of subjects is.

Can you think of other instances that you've come across where the head noun associated with a relative clause is missing or where the relative pronoun itself is gone but still felt?
How do you know that in all three of your examples that you deal with verbs? Do they not deal with participles acting like nouns?

Your third example “his walk” is the object of the verb “to benefit, be of use”. That the singular is used “his walk” seems to have the emphasis of “each” when used with a plural subject.

Your first two examples again look like participles connected to the masculine nouns in the clauses. Looking at the rest of the verse, we find after בארץ an adjectival phrase. Therefore I see לא עבר בה איש ולא ישב אדם שם as an extended adjectival phrase with עבר and ישב being participles connected to the nouns עיש and אדם both of which are masculine.

Karl W. Randolph.
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