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The Semantics of Purity in the Ancient Near East: Lexical Meaning as a Projection of Embodied Experience

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This article analyzes the primary terms for purity in Biblical Hebrew, Ugaritic, Sumerian, Akkadian and Hittite. Building on insights from cognitive linguistics and embodiment theory, this study develops the premise that semantic structure—even of seemingly abstract concepts—is grounded in real-world bodily experience. An examination of purity terms reveals that all of them can be related to a concrete sense pertaining to radiance (brilliance, brightness, shininess). The article then traces the semantic development of purity terms in distinct experiential contexts and shows how semantic analysis can elucidate the inner logic of fundamental religious concepts.

Affiliations: 1: University of HaifaHaifaIsraelyfeder1@gmail.com

10.1163/15692124-12341258
/content/journals/10.1163/15692124-12341258
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/content/journals/10.1163/15692124-12341258
2014-05-27
2017-10-24

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