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One More Look at the Negation of the Infinitive Construct in Second Temple Hebrew

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image of Vetus Testamentum

Second Temple Hebrew (Late Biblical Hebrew, Ben Sira, and Qumranic Hebrew) makes predicative use of two seemingly similar constructions: לא + infinitive and אין + infinitive. A syntactic examination of the two from a historical perspective, in light of morphosyntactic changes in the verbal system of Second Temple Hebrew and its sentence patterns, reveals that in spite of the similarities between them in form and in function, these are two seperate constructions that evolved independently. The former, initially a verbal phrase, is the negative counterpart of the affirmative predicative infinitive, and the latter, which constitutes a complete predication, is an offshoot of the existential pattern יש/אין + nominal phrase. In the Hebrew style of the Second Temple period the difference between them narrowed, so that they were occasionally interchangeable.

Affiliations: 1: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


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