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The particle kî is one of the most important yet most controversial particles in the Biblical Hebrew language due to its exegetical significance and consequent impact on translation. It occurs some 4,500 times in the Hebrew Bible in a variety of syntactic positions. Due in part to this wide-ranging syntactic distribution, kî is traditionally analyzed as a logical particle with an array of extended uses. Such an analysis does not identify any unified function underlying the particle's sometimes disparate attributed meanings.
Follingstad offers a new linguistic analysis of the core function of kî. It is shown to be not a semantic logical/temporal conjunction, but rather a discourse deictic particle. The use of kî indicates a switch to a metarepresentational or self-reflexive function of language. This function involves a switch in cognitive viewpoint to the utterance which kî marks. This analysis also allows for the expression of modal/evidential epistemic distance from the content of the clause marked by the particle, a function which has hitherto gone largely unnoticed in the literature. It provides a satisfying account of the multi-purpose use of one particle to mark a wide range of seemingly disparate constructions.
The metarepresentational function of the particle is substantiated by means of a survey of the Jewish and Christian grammatical literature on kî. This is followed by a syntagmatic distributional analysis where syntactic elements are registered by computer to discover any form-function correlates which might reveal predicatability of the particle's function. A paradigmatic analysis of the function of kî and of three other closely related particles reveals a continuum of deictic viewpoint in narrative text. The functions of kî and its particle set are unified and explicated using cognitive linguistic concepts.
The results of the study are of interest to biblical scholars and translators concerned with the linguistic function and consequent exegetical and translational significance of kî. The study will also be relevant to biblical scholars and linguists who are interested in the deictic representation of viewpoint in narrative.
Linguistics and Biblical Studies