Modality and the Biblical Hebrew Infinitive Absolute.

Author:Baden, Joel
Position::Book review

Modality and the Biblical Hebrew Infinitive Absolute. By Scarf N. CALLAHAM. Abhandlungen fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes, vol. 71. Wiesbaden: HARRASOWITZ VERLAG, 2010. Pp. xv + 343. [euro] 78 (paper).

This volume is a revision of the author's dissertation, completed in 2006 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The title of the dissertation was "The Modality of the Verbal Infinitive Absolute in Biblical Hebrew," which is worth noting if only because the title of the published volume is more accurate: this book is as much a study of modality in Biblical Hebrew as it is of the infinitive absolute. Callaham's stated aim is to discern "patterns of modal use of all verbal infinitives absolute across the breadth of Biblical Hebrew literature" by means of "the categories of meaning developed by modem cross-linguistic studies on modality" (p. 16). The need for a comprehensive study of the infinitive absolute is made clear in the first chapter, in which scholarly disagreements over the function of the infinitive absolute and the relative scarcity of prior analyses of the infinitive absolute are cogently presented. The bulk of the first chapter, however, is given over to an introduction to cross-linguistic approaches to modality, since it is the categories of modality derived from these approaches that will determine the organization of Callaham's study. This introduction is very well done.

The second and third chapters are the analytical center of the volume. Here Callaham presents the infinitives absolute that appear in various modal contexts in Biblical Hebrew. Chapter two lists the categories of propositional modality: epistemic and evidential (with their various sub-categories). Chapter three lists the categories of event modality: deontic, dynamic (with their various subcategories). desiderative, purposive, and resultative. Under each category Callaham presents some or all of the texts employing the given modality that also contain an infinitive absolute; he gives the Hebrew, with the infinitive in bold, then a translation, with the verbal idea represented by the infinitive in bold and the modal nuance of the category in italics.

Callaham makes two main arguments in these chapters, one relating to what he terms the "paronomastic infinitive construction," i.e., q[]tol yiqt[]l, and one relating to the independent infinitive absolute. The first argument is that the paronomastic construction does not automatically or simply...

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