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A shorter version of this paper was published as ‘Story Telling and Redaction: Varieties of

Language Usage in the Exodus Narrative’, in The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the

Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America (ed. J.C. Gertz, B.M. Levinson, D. Rom-Shiloni and K. Schmid; FAT 111; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck), 443–475.

Story Telling and Redaction: Varieties and Vagaries of Language Usage in the Exodus Narrative


In the present study I want to advance two interconnected theses. My first

claim is that the book of Exodus harbors two distinct linguistic registers that

allow for easy identification and quantification. The first register, mainly found

in the Priestly or the Deuteronomic strata, stands out by a number of features

that represent the cross-linguistic, cross-cultural characterization of written

language. A second register reveals a quite di erent character, and is in many

respects close to spontaneous spoken discourse. Narratives in this style form the

backbone of the narrative in Exodus.

My second thesis is that this second layer preserves an underlying oral-epic

substratum, an overarching platform, that is situated in the tradition stream of

the Northwest Semitic epic, narrative poetry and in which the narrative in its

present, written form is anchored. 1 This platform comprises the narrative of the

1 On the oral-epic platform of patriarchal narrative see my studies, “Oral Substratum, Stylistic-Syntactic Profile and Thematic Flow in the Abraham-Jacob Narrative,” in

Contextualizing Israel’s Sacred Writings: Ancient Literacy, Orality, and Literary Production (ed. Brian Schmidt; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature), 217-238; “Oral Platform and


exodus and the episode of the conclusion of the covenant at Mount Sinai in

one overarching framework, the Exodus-Sinai narrative, or in short, the ESN.

Anthropological and ethnopoetic fieldwork provides definite and conclusive

counterevidence for GUNKEL’s thesis regarding the extreme brevity of popular,

oral narrative. Fieldwork also indicates that oral narrators and poets, the

“Singers of Tales”, are accomplished artists of oral literature, while philological

analysis shows that Ugaritic epic texts reveals many features that are to be

associated with oral poetry. 2

Both claims are diametrically opposed to the views that dominate the

modern study of the narrative of the exodus and the conclusion of the

covenant at Mount Sinai. According to these views the ESN is to be attributed

to the Deuteronomic, post-Deuteronomic, Priestly and post-Priestly authorial

and redactional strata. An emerging consensus separates these narratives from

the tales of the patriarchs, with which they were united by a post-Priestly

redaction stratum. This view has the advantage of positing a rather synchronic

view of the book of Exodus, in which the author-redactor combines the task of

editor and creative author, whose activity consists, in the words of Jean-Louis

SKA, “of collecting, rearranging, re-elaborating, and reshaping older material”. 3

Language Usage in the Abraham Narrative”, in the present volume.

2 K.T. AITKEN, “Oral Formulaic Composition and Themes in the Aqhat Narrative”, UF 21 (1989), 1-16; and see my study, “Orality and Language Usage” (see n. 1), sections 1.1, 2.3-4, and the references there.


This view harbours an important truth, but also fails to do justice to the

variety in language usage and the sharp linguistic distinctions between the

diverse strata of the Exodus narrative. Thus the first part of the present study

will establish these stylistic distinctions and the extent of the oral-epic strand.












intervention and ways of reading. The third part will be dedicated to structural

aspects of the ESN.

1. From the Oral to the Written: Stylistic-Syntactic Patterns

1.1. Syntactic-Stylistic Analysis

The main argument for the idea of an oral background of the Exodus narrative

in its present form is based on language usage to be analyzed by means of three

main parameters: 4

1. The number of explicit syntactic constituents (explicit lexicalized constituent, ELC) that are dependent immediately on the predicate: subject,

3 J.-L. SKA, “A Plea on Behalf of the Biblical Redactors”, Studia Theologica 59 (2005), 4-18, here 4.

4 This method (very much a project in progress) is developed in detail in my papers, “Sociolinguistics, a Key to the Typology and the Social Background of Biblical Hebrew”

Hebrew Studies 47 (2006), 115-62, here 128-36, 141-51; “The Book of Samuel and the

Deuteronomist: A Syntactic-Stylistic Analysis”, in The Books of Samuel and the Deuteronomists (ed. C. Schäfer-Lichtenberger; BWANT 188; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2010), 34-73, here



direct/indirect object(s), modifiers (in so far as not implicit in prefix, a x or object/possessive sux), such as:

Exod 15:9

י שִׁ פְ נַ (1) וֹמ אֵ לָ מְ תִּ / ללָ שָׁ (1) ק לֵּ חַ אֲ / גי שּׂאִַ

/ ףֹדּ רְ אֶ / בֵיוֹא (1) רמַ אָ

/ י בִּ רְ חַ ( 1 ) קי ראִָ

י דִ ָי ( 1 ) וֹמ שׁיֵ רוֹתִּ

This verse includes seven clauses, all of them short: five clauses contain one

explicit constituent apart from the predicate, whereas two clauses consist of

predicate only: גי שּׂאִַ

clauses” (0-1 ELC).

/ ףֹדּ רְ אֶ . I assign clauses of this type to the class of “short

A second type (long clauses) contain at least two explicit constituents:

Exod 2:24a

ם תָ קָ אֲנ־תַ

בֹק עֲ ַי־ת אֶ וְ ק חָ צְ ִי־ת אֶ ם הָ רָבְ א־תַ

אֶ ( 2 ) םי הלִ


( 1 ) ע מַ שְׁ ִיּ וַ


אֶ וֹתי רִ בּ־תְ

אֶ ( 2 ) םי הלִ


( 1 ) רֹכּ זְ ִיּ וַ

Both clauses contain 2 ELC’s, (1) a subject, םיהלִ

אֱ, and (2) a direct object,

םתָ קָ אֲנ־תַ

אֶ (v. 24a), and בֹקעֲ ַי־תאֶ וְ ק חָ צְ ִי־ת אֶ ם הָ רָבְ א־תַ

אֶ וֹתי רִ בּ־תְ

אֶ (v.



Noun groups within a given constituent, such as ה שֹׁמֶ

י דיֵ וִ (a construct

state) and רוּח וְ ןֹר האֲַ וְ (a junction, both in 17:2). An example for a longer group : בֹקעֲ ַי־תאֶ וְ ק חָ צְ ִי־ת אֶ ם הָ רָבְ א־תַ אֶ וֹתי רִ בּ־תְ אֶ (above 2:24).

3. Subordinate clauses: relative clauses, object, time clauses, infinitive and

participial clauses, such as:

Exod 21:1

ם היֶ נֵפְ לִ םי שִׂ תָּ ר שֶׁ אֲ- םיטִ פָּ שְׁ מִּ הַ הלֶּ אֵ וְ

Complex hypotaxis is noted when the subordinate clause is embedded in a

clause that itself is dependent on the main clause:

Exod 35:1

ם תֹאָ

תֹשׂ עֲלַ = ה והָ

ְי ה וָּצ־רִ

שֶׁ אֲ- םי רִ בָ דְּ הַ ה לֶּ אֵ

This sentence reveals a complex hierarchy: it includes a relative clause, ה וָּצ־רִ

שֶׁ אֲ

ה והָ


ְי (level 1), that contains an object clause, ם תֹאָ

תֹשׂ עֲלַ (level 2). One also notes

cases in which the subordinate clause contains contains more than one

constituent, apart from the predicate (and not including the relative particle),

or a noun group:


This participle clause contains a direct object, הכאָ

ת מוּיָ הכאָ לָ מְ וֹב ה שֹׂעֶ ה־לָ כָּ

לָ מְ , and an indication of

time, וֹב.


This clause includes the junction תשֹׁחֶ

שֹׁחֶ נְּ בוַּ ף סֶ כֶּ בוַּ בהָ זָּבַּ תֹשׂעֲלַ תֹבשָׁ חַ מַ בֹשׁ חְ לַ וְ

נְּ בוַּ ף סֶ כֶּ בוַּ בהָ זָּבַּ .

Analysis by these parameters makes it possible to construct a syntactic-stylistic

profile that specifies (1) the frequency of short independent clauses (0-1 ELC),

(2) of long clauses (2+ ELC), (3) of all subordinate clauses, (4) of the frequency

of noun groups (mean noun pair, MNP). 5 Categories 1-3 add up to 100 % of

the entire text. For fine tuning I indicate the frequency of clauses in complex











constituents (3+ ELC). Syntactic-stylistic analysis by means of these parameters

indicates a di erentiation between two kinds of style, one close to the style of

writing, and one close to spoken discourse.

5 By the number of noun pairs I mean the number of nouns appearing in noun groups, divided by two (mean noun pairs, MNP). The frequency of noun pairs equals 100 % when in the mean all clauses include a noun pair (a group consisting of two nouns). When each clause contains, in the mean, more than one noun pair, the frequency exceeds the 100 % boundary.


1.2. The Intricate, Elaborate Style and the Scribal Chancery

Large sections of biblical law, historiography and narrative are characterized by

the low frequency of short clauses (around 30 % and less), as against the

relatively high frequency of subordinate clauses (around 30 %) and noun

groups (80 % MNP or more). This is the elaborate, intricate style (IES), instanced

by a short excerpt from the introduction to the section on the construction of

the tent sanctuary (the tabernacle):

Exod 35:4

5 clauses: 1 short (1 ELC), 1 long (2 ELC), 1 subordinate ( רֹמאלֵ 1) and 2 in complex

subordination (relative clause with embedded רֹמאלֵ ); 1 noun group (4 nouns).

v. 5 6

( 1 ) ר מאֶ ֹ יּ וַ

רֹמא לֵ = ה והָ

ְי ה וָּצ־רִ

שֶׁ אֲ- ר בָ דָּהַ ה זֶ ( 1 ) / רֹמא לֵ - ל אֵ רָשְׂ ִי־ינֵבְּ ת דַע־לֲ


אֶ ( 2 ) ה שֹׁמֶ

ה והיָ לַ (3) ה מוּרָ תְּ (2) םכֶ תְּ אִ מֵ (1) וּחקְ

ת שֹׁחֶ


ף סֶ כֶ וָ ב הָ זָ ( 3 ) ה והָ

ְי ת מוּרַ

תְּ ת אֵ

( 2 ) הָ איֶ

בִ ְי ( 1 ) וֹבּלִ

בי דִ נְ לֹכּ

2 clauses: 2 elaborate (3 ELC), with 3 noun groups (with 3, 2, and 3 nouns respectively).

This stretch includes 7 clauses: 1 short clause (1 ELC), 3 long clauses (including

2 cases of 3 ELC), 3 subordinate clauses (1 in complex hypotaxis), and 4 noun

groups (12 nouns, = 6 MNP). With its preference for long clauses, hypotactic

constructions and long noun phrases this stretch is a typical example for the


The distinctive features of the IES are close to the characteristics of written

language, as analyzed in cross-linguistic, cross-cultural analysis. 7 A style of this

6 Listing continued in 35:6–9.

7 See J. MILLER and R. WEINERT, Spontaneous Spoken Language: Syntax and Discourse (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 4-21, 80-94, 105-125, 133-149, 209-220; M.A.K.


type reveals a characteristic preference for the eloborate specification of the

identity of the speaking and acting characters, the objects involved and the

circumstances by means of long noun groups, elaborate clauses. Addditional

data is often presented in relative clauses, time clauses, motive clauses or final

clauses. Thus the information is concentrated in a restricted number of

sentences, resulting in great density. In this connection it is important to note

that written texts, in particular legal contracts and ocial correspondence, can

be transported to di erent points in space and time, and thus can be divulged

to di erent people, and may be consulted on di erent occasions. In order to

make such transport possible clearness of specification is a sine qua non.

The writing of such ocial texts requires a variety of skills that are

imparted by scribal education, whether in class or in a private capacity, by

which students and apprentices are taught to produce well-formed texts and to

comprehend them in accordance with the accepted norms. The IES, then,

represents an education and a social framework within which these skills are

acquired and fullfil a function. Small wonder, then, that the Hebrew epigraphic

texts, most of them from the Judean monarchy, all reveal the characteristics of

HALLIDAY, Spoken and Written Language ( 2nd ed.; Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989 ) , 73 - 75, 87, 98 - 100; and see my studies, “Orality and Language Usage” (see n. 1), n. 38; F.H. POLAK, “Language Variation, Discourse Typology, and the Socio-Cultural Background of Biblical Narrative”, in

Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (ed. C.L. Miller-Naudé and Z. Zevit; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2012), 301-338, here 316, nn. 21-23, and the references there.


the IES. 8 Accordingly, texts composed in the IES reveal some kind of

connection to the scribal chancery, whether directly or indirectly. Thus the

socio-cultural background implied by the IES includes a scribal chancery and a

developed royal bureaucracy.












Deuteronomy, the deuteronomistic redaction in Joshua and the books of Kings

(1 Kgs 3–15; 2 Kgs 11–12; 14–25), the Jeremiah vita (Jer 26; 36–43) and large

sections attributed to the Priestly source. Since these texts locate themselves in

the late Judean monarchy, I speak of the “Judean Corpus”. A similar style is

revealed by the narratives that locate themselves, by their very content, in the

Persian (or early Hellenistic) era, the Achaemenid Corpus. The distinction

between those two corpora is indicated by the characteristics of Late Biblical

Hebrew, including Aramaic borrowings and calques, in the Achaemenid

corpus. 9

1.3. The Lean, Brisk Style and the Oral Performance

8 See my studies, “Sociolinguistics and Social Background” (see n. 4), 137-138; F.H. POLAK, “The Oral and the Written: Syntax, Stylistics and the Development of Biblical Prose

Narrative,” JANES 26 (1998), 59–105, here 103.

9 On Late Biblical Hebrew see now A. HURVITZ, A Concise Lexicon of late Biblical Hebrew (VTSup 160; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 1-11; A. HORNKOHL, Characteristically Late Spellings in the Hebrew Bible: With Special Reference to the Plene Spelling of the o-vowel in the Qal

Infinitive Construct”, JAOS 134 (2014), 643-671; and further, the references in my study, “Orality and Language Usage” (see n. 1), section 3.2.


Quite a di erent backdround is presupposed by a second style. Many tales in

Exodus reveal a high frequency of short clauses (0-1 ELC, around 50 %), as

against the low frequency of subordinate clauses (around 10 %) and noun

groups (around 40 %). This is the lean, brisk, voiced style, VoLB, such as the tale

of Moses’ call:

Exod 4:1

( 0 ) וּר מאְ ֹ י י כִּ / י לֹקִ

בְּ ( 1 ) וּע מְ שְׁ ִי אֹ ל וְ / י לִ ( 1 ) וּנימִ אֲ ַי־אֹ ל ן הֵ וְ /( 0 ) ר מאֶ ֹ יּ וַ / ה שֹׁמֶ

( 1 ) ן עַ ַיּ וַ

ה והָ ְי ( 2 ) ךי לֶ אֵ ( 1 ) האָ רְ נ־אִ ֹ ל

6 clauses, 5 short (2 with 0 ELC, 3 with 1 ELC), and 1 long (2 ELC).

v. 2

4 clauses, 3 short (2 with 0 ELC, 1 with 2 pronouns), 10 and 1 long (2 ELC)

׃ה טֶּ מַ / ר מאֶ ֹ יּ וַ / ך דֶ ָי בְ ( 1 ) [ ה זֶּ ה מַ ] הזמ / ה והָ

ְי ( 2 ) וי לָ אֵ

( 1 ) ר מאֶ

ֹ יּ וַ

This stretch includes 10 clauses, with 8 short clauses (0-1 ELC), and 2 long

clauses (2 ELC), no subordination and no noun groups. This pericope, then,

provides an extreme example for the lean, brisk style, the type-1 class of the

VoLB (48-60 % short clauses, and higher), such as Exod 4:1–17 with 79

clauses, 53 short clauses (67.09 % of all clauses in this section), and 22 mean

noun pairs (27.84 %). In this class the percentage of clauses in subordination is

low (10-15 %).

A less outspoken instance of the VoLB is found in the tale of the battle at

Rephidim (17:8–16; 35 clauses), with 15 short clauses (42.86 %), and 13 mean

noun pairs (37.14 %). This is the type-2 class of the VoLB, in which the class

10 On the treatment of pronouns see my paper, “Sociolinguistics and Social Background” (see n. 4), ; “Samuel and the Deuteronomist” (see n. 4), .


of short clauses contains slightly less than half of the text (39-47 %), and the

class of subordinate clauses maybe slightly larger (around 20 %).

A general characteristic of the VoLB is the sparsity of the information that

is spread over a number of small chunks (chunking). 11 Some features contribute

to such sparsity: the frequent use of two-clause constructions, often with a verb

of motion in the pre-clause; the use of paratactic circumstantial clauses, and the

preference for implicit indication of subject and object, when already known

from previous sections, by means of the pre- and a xes of the verbal form, by

object sux or ellipsis. Indications concerning place and time are often





introduced by יהיו.








Such sparsity is in keeping with the characteristics of spoken discourse,

which is delivered on the spot, in face to face communication, with full

knowledge of the surrounding circumstances. As such it is heavily dependent

on the speakers’ short term memory, and does not facilitate overall planning,

nor does it allow for systematic reviewing and correction. On the other hand it

is aided by intonation, facial expression, gesture, and poise. Some of the basic

11 See MILLER and WEINERT, Spontaneous Spoken Language (see n. 7), 14-15, 22-23, 58-71;

HALLIDAY, Spoken and Written Language (see n. 7), 30-45, 61-67, 79-84, 92-101; and see my study, “Sociolinguistics and Social background” (see n. 4), 149, nn. 95-97, and the references

there; and in particular F.H. POLAK, “Orality: Biblical Hebrew”, in Encyclopedia of Hebrew

Language and Linguistics (3 vols.; ed. G. Khan; Leiden: Brill), 2.930-937.


features of the VoLB fit the conditions of spoken discourse. The short











specification in noun phrases is cumbersome and superfluous, since the

circumstances are clear to the speaking parties, and and for clarification of the

intentions the speaker may use gesture, intonation and facial expression.

Thus the VoLB reveals a close proximity to spoken discourse, and thereby

to oral narrative. This style reflects the work of writing authors who are well-

acquainted with the performance of the oral narrator, the “Singer of Tales”,

accept the art of oral narrative as prestigeous and and adhere to its ways and

norms. The close proximity to the art of the oral performer stands out in a

number of stylistic features that disappear in the Judean corpus and in Persian

era narrative, such as the tendency not to indicate the speaking characters

when their identity is clear in the context, even in case of interchange of the

speaking person. The oral performer can indicate the change of identity by

change of tone. By the same token the narrative may prefer not to indicate a

silent response to a preceding utterance, and thus to continue the utterance of

a given speaker by a second utterance of the same participant (Gen 15:5). After

all, the oral performer can indicate the silent reaction by gesture and facial




















discourse, such as parataxis, turn into an art form.


The VoLB in general is predominant in patriarchal narrative, the Samuel-

Saul-David history (1 Sam 1–4; 1 Sam 8– 2 Sam 5; 9–20; 1 Kgs 1–2), the tales

of Elijah, Elisha and other prophets from the northern kingdom (roughly 1

Kgs 17–2 Kgs 10), in parts of the tales of the heroic saviors and congeners

(Judg 3–9; 13–19), and in the scroll of Ruth. This group of texts constitutes the

“Oral-Written Corpus”. 12

4. Two Styles and their Socio-Cultural Background

The contrast between IES and VoLB (types 1 and 2) is more than radical. One

may compare the opening of the book of the Covenant with the introduction

to the Deuteronomic legislation:

Exod 21:1

ם היֶ נֵפְ לִ םי שִׂ תָּ ר שֶׁ אֲ- םיטִ פָּ שְׁ מִּ הַ הלֶּ אֵ וְ

This opening includes one single noun, with a relative clause that comprises

predicate and addressee ( ם היֶ נֵפְ לִ ) only. By contrast, the colophon of the

Deuteronomic series of blessings and curses includes long noun phrases and

complex subordination:

Deut 28:69

באָוֹמ ץ רֶאֶ בְּ ל אֵ רָשְׂ ִי ינֵבּ־תְ

אֶ תֹר כְ לִ = ה שֹׁמ־תֶ

אֶ ה והָ ְי ה וָּצ־רִ שֶׁ אֲ= תי רִ בְּ הַ י רֵבְ דִ ה לֶּ אֵ

ברֹחֵ בְּ םתָּ אִ תרַכּ־רָ שֶׁ אֲ= תי רִ בְּ הַ דבַ לְּ מִ

Even the stretch in which one may recognize the residue of a previous

stratum of homily and legislation is more complex than Exod 21:1: 13

12 In previous studies I used the term “classical corpus” or “medial corpus”; see my study ; “Language Variation and Socio-Cultural Background” (see n. ), 303.



ל אֵ רָשְׂ ִי ינֵבְּ ינֵפְ לִ ה שֹׁמֶ ם שׂ־רָ שֶׁ אֲ= ה רוֹתָּ הַ תאֹ ז וְ

The relative clause includes both subject and addressee (a noun group) as

against the single םהינפל of Exod 21. The distinction between these two styles

is notable in entire passages in the book of Exodus:

short clauses

Exod 4:1–17

Exod 17:8–16

Exod 35:1–36:7

subordinate (all)

Exod 4:1–17

Exod 17:8–16

Exod 35:1–36:7

noun groups

Exod 4:1–17

Exod 17:8–16

Exod 35:1–36:7

complex hypotaxis

Exod 4:1–17

Exod 17:8–16

Exod 35:1–36:7

elaborate clauses

Exod 4:1–17

Exod 17:8–16

Exod 35:1–36:7

more than half of all clauses

slightly less than a half

around a third or less

around a tenth of all clauses

slightly more than a tenth

between a third and a half

less than a third of the text

slightly more than a third

all clauses or slightly less less than 5 % less than 5 %

more than a third less than 5 %

less than 5 %

more than a tenth

67 %

42.86 %

15.05 %

11.39 %

14.29 %

49.46 %

27.84 %

37.14 %

113.44 %

3.80 %

2.86 %

38.71 %

1.27 %

2.86 %

13.98 %

Thus a fundamental and radical di erence sets the IES apart from the VoLB.

This di erentiation has implications beyond stylistics and language usage.

Since the intricate style reveals the habitus and expertise of the scribal

chancery, the narratives, legal provisions and theological comments couched in

13 Note the use of הרותה as against םיטפשמה in Exod 21:1.


this style can only originate in a context that is dominated by the scribal

chancery. This style, then, presupposes a well-developed and self-conscious

royal bureaucracy which provides the education imparting the skills required

for the handling of this style. Consequently, the socio-cultural background of

the corpus in this style is the ocial administration of the Judean monarchy. It

is true that the IES is likewise in use in the Persian era, but the texts originating

in this period reveal many features that indicate the dominating role of the

Aramaic writing chancery of the Achaemenid administration, in which the

scribal education focused on Aramaic.

On the other hand, the VoLB, though used in writing, is close to the oral

aren. This style represents the activity of the author-sōfēr who is attuned to the

oral performance, adheres to its style and language usage, and thus reflects a

social context in which the oral narrator enjoys a high prestige. If the IES

represents the power, status and linguistic preferences of the scribal chancery,

the VoLB represents a context in which the writing author can prefer the

capabilities of the oral arena over the norms prevailing in and imparted by the

chancery. In other words, the socio-cultural situation is one in which the royal

administration is less dominant, less developed and less powerful than in the












considerations place the Judean corpus in the seventh and early sixth century ,

whereas the Oral-Written corpus precedes this period (although overlapping is


not to be excluded). The VoLB-2 style is less close to the oral arena than the

type-1 style, and thus seems to represent a world in transition from oral (and

non-literate) to scribal predominance, possibly middle and late eighth century.

For the type 1 style of the VoLB one may think of the ninth century, in light

of the Mesha stela.

Notably, tales in the VoLB include many signs of a magic-mythic world

view, which is far less developed in IES tales, even though some of them do

contain magical details. The attenuation and rationalization of these themes in

the Deuteronomic versions of the Sinai narratives has already been noticed and

commented upon by DE WETTE himself. 14

5. Late Imitation of the Early Style?

An argument that has been raised against the separation of the two strata in

biblical Hebrew is the fact that in modern times many bilingual authors are

able to write in a language that is not theirs by birth. 15 As I have pointed out

before, this argument is not supported by many of the examples adduced.

Stylistic research indicates that the English used by Joseph CONRAD deviates

from the English literary style(s) in vogue in his generation, and actually

14 W.M.L. DE WETTE, Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 2 vols. (Halle:

Schimmelpfennig, 1806-1807), 1.275-280.

15 H.M. BARSTAD, “Can Prophetic Texts be Dated? Amos 1–2 as an Example”, in Ahab

Agonistes (ed. L.L. Grabbe; LHB/OTS 421; London: T&T Clark, 2007), 21–39, here 23.


contains many expressions that are based on his native Polish or on French, the

language in which he mastered navigation. 16 By the same token, Samuel

BECKETT’s lean style in French and English is quite di erent from his earlier

baroque English style. 17 The Latin of John MILTON is described as superb, but

some details in lexicon and metrical scansion reveal important deviations from

authentic classical Latin; 18 his English style is found to lean heavily on Latin

syntax. 19 These examples show that the style used by bilingual authors is

subject to interference by the alternative language. Such is the psychology of

16 M. LUCAS, “Conrad’s Adjectival Eccentricity”, Style 25 (1991), 123–151; IDEM, Aspects of

Conrad’s Literary Language (Boulder: Social Science Monographs; Lublin: Maria Curie-

Slklodowska University, 2000); M. MORZINSKI, Linguistic Influence of Polish on Joseph Conrad’s

Style (New York: Columbia UP and Lublin: Marie Curie-Sklodowska University, 1994); Conrad’s stylistic usage of such phrases are discussed by E. KUJAWSKA-LIS, “(Pseudo)Polonisms

in Joseph Conrad’s Amy Foster and Prince Roman and Their Polish Translations”, Acta

Neophilologica 14 (2012), 5-17.

17 R.N. COE, “Beckett’s English”, in Samuel Beckett: Humanistic Perspectives (ed. M. Beja, S.E. Gontarski, and P. Astier; Columbus OH: Ohio State UP, 1983), 36-57, here 41-45; on Beckett’s early language education and his bilingualism see M. KAGER, “Comment Dire: A

Neurolinguistic Approach to Beckett’s Bilingual Writings”, L2journal 7 (2015), 68-83 (permalink, accessed 21.4.2015); A. BEER,

“Beckett’s Bilingualism”, in The Cambridge Companion to Beckett (ed. J. Pilling; Cambridge:

Cambridge UP, 1994), 209-221.

18 J.K. HALE, Milton's Languages: The Impact of Multilingualism on Style (Cambridge:

Cambridge UP, 1997), 30-31; on Milton’s use of impersonal licet as a personal verb (and his neologisms) see IDEM, “Notes on Milton's Latin Word-Formation in the "Poemata" of 1645”,

Humanistica Lovaniensia 43 (1994), 405-410, here 406-407.

19 Sensitive distinctions are proposed by HALE, Milton’s Languages (see n. 18), 104-120,

157-179. See also E. HAAN, “ ‘Both English and Latin’: Milton’s Bilingual Muse”, Renaissance

Studies 21 (2007), 679-700.


language usage. 20 Moreover, the sociology of language indicates a radical dierence

between the knowledge of the second language in the modern era and such knowledge

in pre-classical antiquity. In the pre-classical period we cannot postulate the

existence of systematic grammars of classical Hebrew, of comprehensive lexica

and of compendia listing di erences between the classical language and Late

Biblical or Qumran Hebrew. Such instruments are not indicated by Ben Sira,

nor have they been found among the texts from the Judean desert. By contrast,

systematic grammars, lexica and elaborate schooling are well-known in the

early modern era, both in Latin (including Stephanus’ Thesaurus), 21 and in

modern languages. MILTON could learn Latin systematically at the grammar

school; BECKET held a university degree in French and Italian; CONRAD was

given the education of Polish nobility. A developed instrumentarium of this












domination, and thus the socio-cultural circumstances of language usage of

this area and period are entirely di erent from the linguistic ecology of


21 Of course, an extremely high level of education and a rich literary, grammatical and lexicographic inheritance is also attested in the medieval Islam. This fact is not taken into account in the comparison between ancient Hebrew and medieval Arabic by I. YOUNG, R.

REZETKO and M. EHRENSVÄRD, Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts: An Introduction to Approaches

and Problems (2 vols.; London: Equinox, 2008), 48, in the wake of a remark by J. BLAU, “The Structure of Biblical and Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrrew in Light of Arabic Diglossia and Middle

Arabic”, Leshonenu 60 (1996-1997), 21-32 (Hebrew, with summary in English), here 27-28.

modern literature.


A similar di erence sets the ancient Israelite s ōp ̄̄ē r apart from the Roman

and Greek, mostly aristocratic, literati who had their schooling in the highly







period, 22


enabled them to adopt a Greek cultural identity. 23 Thus an author like Lucian

who was active around the middle of the second century C.E., 24 writing Greek

as second language, could endeavor to use a language that was as close as

possible to classical Attic. 25 Such endeavors were buttressed by references to

classical authors worth studying and emulating, and by linguistic manuals. 26

22 G. ANDERSON, The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire (London:

Routledge, 1993), 10-40; W. SCHMID, Der Atticismus in seinen Hauptvertretern von Dionysius

von Halikarnassu bis auf den Zweiten Philostratus (5 Vols.; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1887-1897), 4.577-79, 613-616, 619-635, 685-727; G. L. KIM, “The Literary Heritage as Language:

Atticism and the Second Sophistic”, in A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (ed. E.J. Bakker; Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 468-482, here 469-496.

23 S. GOLDHILL, “Setting an Agenda: ‘Everything is Greece to the Wise’”, in Being Greek

under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic, and the Development of Empire (ed. S. Goldhill; Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001), 1-25. The sociohistorical context, the claims to greatness of the prominent but largely powerless Greek and Eastern aristocracies under the Roman empire, is studied by E.L. BOWIE, “Greeks and Their Past in the Second Sophistic”,

Past and Present 46 (1970), 3-41.

24 See H. HELM, “Lukianos”, PW XXVI, 1725-1777, here 1726-1728. Lucian (around 120/125-180 C.E.), who calls himself a Syrian. tells us that he was born of lowly parents (in sharp contrast with the aristocratic descent of most famous rhetors) in Samosata (modern Samsat), in Commagene, on the right bank of the Euphrat.

25 See SCHMID, Atticismus 1:216-223; S. CHABERT, L’atticisme de Lucien (Paris: Société

Française d’imprimerie et de librairie, 1897), 204-205; ANDERSON, Second Sophistic (see n. 21), 86-99; KIM, “Literary Heritage” (see n. 21), 476-78; and see n. 26 below.

26 The imitation of classical Attic from Plato, Xenophon, Thucydides, Demosthenes and


Lucian’s impressive linguistic capabilities were created by his study in the

tertiary Greek education in Ephesus and Athens, and his intensive reading of

the literary legacy of the great authors of classical Athens and of Athenian

inscriptions. Thus a study of Lucian’s morphology can conclude that his

language usage is extremely close to classical Attic, while a general review by

Wilhelm SCHMID notes that his style is very close to the best Attic texts. 27

Nevertheless, studies of Lucian’s syntactic usage indicate a number of features

that follow the Greek koinè of the period rather than Attic. 28 A significant part

poetic texts is discussed by SCHMID, Atticismus (see n. 21), 4.651-683; see also CHABERT,

L’atticisme (see n. 23), 229-234.

27 R.J. DEFERRARI, Lucian’s Atticism: The Morphology of the Verb (Princeton: Princeton UP,

1916), 80-82; SCHMID, Atticismus (see n. 21), 1.223-225; 1.428-432; But SCHMID (here, 432) also notes that no less than 12.5% (one eighth) of Lucian’s lexical repertoire is post-classical

(see here, 352-404). DEFERRARI (Lucian, 9-13) notes instances of non-classical usage of the augment; for other non-Attic features see here, 20-23 (verbal endings), 36-39 ( γινώσκω /

classical γιγνώσκω and, less frequently γίνοµ αι /classical γίγνοµ αι ), 61-66 (verbs -µ ι class); see

also CHABERT, L’atticisme (see n. 24), 102-116. DEFERRARI (here, 80) concludes that “Although Lucian is not absolutely accurate in his use of early and late futures, aorists, and perfects, he is nevertheless more strict than his fellow Atticists in this regard”. In his view Lucian’s deviations from true Attic serve rhetorical purposes (such as the wish to avoid pedantry),