Verbal Valence in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Syntactic Variation and Linguistic Change

The discovery of the manuscripts that now are called the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) at Khirbet Qumran in 1947-1958, overturned the existing views of the Hebrew language at the beginning of the Common Era, by providing the most extensive data on the Hebrew language of that time. This PhD project aims at expanding the knowledge of both the much-debated nature of the Hebrew in the DSS, and variation and change in the Hebrew language. It does so by analysing verbal valence patterns (i.e. the patterns the verb forms with its arguments, such as direct objects and prepositional phrases). Thus linguistic variation is studied both within the DSS collection and in comparison with other Classical Hebrew texts available in the database of the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (ETCBC, formerly known as WIVU, Werkgroep Informatica VU University, at the Faculty of Religion and Theology).

Until now, most studies on the DSS have focused on vocabulary, but this runs the risk of misinterpreting the archaizing language elements the authors have inserted deliberately. For this reason this study focusses on full sentences. Because the nature of a verb determines which elements occur with it in a well-formed sentence, studying verbal valence patterns provides a key to researching sentence structure. The concept of valence or valency is borrowed from chemistry, where it is used to indicate the capacity of an element to bond with other elements. It is brought into linguistics in the 1950s, where it refers to the ability of a verb to bond with specific elements in the clause. The verbal valence patterns in DSS Hebrew have not previously been systematically studied.

It is expected that this research will provide new insights into the nature of DSS Hebrew, into the development of the Hebrew language, and, more specifically, into the position of the DSS in comparison with other Classical Hebrew texts. The study is innovative for linguistics as well for it is the first research that studies verbal valence change in a language using documents from an extended range in time.  

The project is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and carried out by Femke Siebesma-Mannens. First promotor is prof. dr. L. J. de Vries (Faculty of Humanities), second promotor prof. dr. W. Th. van Peursen (Faculty of Religion and Theology), and co-promotor dr. J. W. Dyk (Faculty of Religion and Theology). 

Verbal Valence