In the beginning there was conversation: Fictive direct speech in the Hebrew Bible
Sergeiy Sandler and Esther Pascual
Independent scholar, Israel | Zhejiang University, China
This paper explores the use of non-quotational direct speech – a construction displaying deictic perspective persistence – in the Hebrew Bible, an ancient text of great cultural significance. We focus on the use of non-quotational direct speech to introduce intentions, hopes, motives, or states of affairs. Special emphasis is laid on the complementizer lemor, grammaticalized from a speaking verb, which introduces the import of an action through direct speech. We claim that such fictive speech is grounded in face-to-face conversation as conceptual model or frame. Beyond the Hebrew Bible itself, we discuss possible extended implications that our findings have for the link between grammatical structures conventionally associated with perspective shift and orality, as well as possible links between the conceptual frame of situated interaction and the notion of linguistic meaning. Ultimately, we hope to advance the view that grammar and discourse are inherently conversational and thus viewpointed in nature.
Table of contents
- 2.The conversation frame in the Hebrew Bible
- 3.The lemor construction
- Address for correspondence
- Biographical notes
This study examines the use of one common type of perspective-indexing construction with deictic perspective persistence, namely non-quotational direct speech, in one culturally significant ancient text, the Hebrew Bible. We aim to contribute to a broader view of the foundational role of intersubjectivity in human cognition, language, and culture.
As outlined in Gentens et al. (this issue), and argued throughout this issue, perspective-indexing constructions are pervasive across unrelated languages and discourse genres (cf. Graumann and Kallmeyer 2002Graumann, Carl F. and Werner Kallmeyer (eds.) 2002 Perspective and Perspectivation in Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). Indeed, both the expression and the change of perspective are quintessential in intersubjective communication, which invariably contains viewpoint information and is characterized by turn-taking, i.e. constant viewpoint shift between addresser and addressee. We treat linguistic perspective-indexing structures – including those involving only one overt ‘turn’ and perspective – as emerging from and reflecting this viewpointed nature of talk-in-interaction. Face-to-face communicative interaction is the primary, canonical, and earliest form of language use (Clark 1996Clark, Herbert H. 1996 Using Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ) – ontogenetically, diachronically, and phylogenetically (see overview in Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 1–2). It is thus reasonable to expect that the pattern of conversation itself would have offered one of the earliest and most widespread cognitive models for structuring spoken monologues and written texts. In Cognitive-Linguistic terms, conversation may provide a conceptual frame or metaphorical source domain, structured by turn-taking, with such roles (to use Goffman’s 1963Goffman, Erving 1963 Behavior in Public Places, Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. terms) as addresser, addressee, and bystander.
We focus on a common – albeit understudied – phenomenon that invariably involves the grammar of embedded perspective: non-quotational direct speech (Pascual 2006Pascual, Esther 2006 “Fictive Interaction within the Sentence: A Communicative Type of Fictivity in Grammar.” Cognitive Linguistics 17 (2): 245–267. , 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; Pascual and Sandler 2016Pascual, Esther, and Sergeiy Sandler (eds.) 2016 The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). This is the enactment or ‘demonstration’ (Clark and Gerrig 1990Clark, Herbert H., and Richard J. Gerrig 1990 “Quotations as Demonstrations.” Language 66 (4): 764–805. ) of a non-actual enunciation. An example is the (be) like construction, as in this fragment from a televised interview with a former Lance Armstrong fan (Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 119):
I beat cancer, so did you. I was an athlete and I came back and I played at a really high level… But I didn’t cheat. For me it’s kind of like: why did I look up to you? Why aren’t you looking up to me? 11.Italics in examples indicate direct speech; underlining (in Latin script) or boldfacing (in Hebrew) marks quotative markers and other noteworthy parts in the example.
Note that if the italicized words were introduced by “I was (kind of) like” they could be interpreted as an ordinary quotative or a pseudo-quotation: he didn’t say these exact words, but they give the gist of what was uttered (cf. Tannen 1986Tannen, Deborah 1986 “Introducing Constructed Dialogue in Greek and American Conversational and Literary Narratives.” In Direct and Indirect Speech, ed. by Florian Coulmans, 311–332. Berlin: Mouton. , 2007 2007 Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ; Clark and Gerrig 1990Clark, Herbert H., and Richard J. Gerrig 1990 “Quotations as Demonstrations.” Language 66 (4): 764–805. ). But in (1), the (be) like construction is used to express the speaker’s thinking, rather than reproduce an actual past utterance. The enunciation is not reported, as in ordinary quotation, including the report of fictitious or imaginary speech (e.g. “Cinderella said: ‘Where’s my shoe?’”). It is not a constructed utterance either (Tannen 1986Tannen, Deborah 1986 “Introducing Constructed Dialogue in Greek and American Conversational and Literary Narratives.” In Direct and Indirect Speech, ed. by Florian Coulmans, 311–332. Berlin: Mouton. , 2007 2007 Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ), as in “I wish Don said: ‘I quit’” (cf. Vandelanotte, this issue). Instead, the enunciation following ‘kind of like’ is fictive in the sense of Talmy (2000)Talmy, Leonard 2000 “Fictive Motion in Language and ‘ception.’” In Toward a Cognitive Semantics: Concept Structuring Systems, 1.99–1.175. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. . Its ontological nature is between reality and fiction, it is non-actual, but it does serve to express something actual about the world (or, better, the speaker).
Moreover, the entire fragment is presented as directly addressed at Lance Armstrong, who is not within earshot and can thus not be a conversational participant in the literal sense. An absent discourse character (i.e. Armstrong), who had previously been referred to with the third-person pronoun ‘he’/‘him’, is now referred to with the second-person ‘you’. This indexical shift indicates that the conversational topic is temporarily presented to Armstrong as a fictive addressee, the actual addressee in the here-and-now of the ongoing interview (i.e. the journalist) temporarily becoming a fictive bystander (Goffman 1963Goffman, Erving 1963 Behavior in Public Places, Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press., 88–99). The speaker role – and the deictic coordinates associated with this role – is maintained, but the conversational structure in which his enunciation is understood has changed, for discourse purposes. The direct speech needs to be (re)interpreted as a non-genuine conversational turn, even if the (be) like construction is not explicitly part of a larger fictive conversation in its surrounding discourse (Armstrong is not presented as offering a counterargument).22.There is, however, an implied silent response (Bakhtin 1986 1986 Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press., 71) from Armstrong-the-discourse-character: he is meant to feel ashamed and be left speechless. The speaker sets up a verbal argument with Armstrong that never took place as a means of expressing his disappointment with Armstrong to the journalist and the television audience. Hence, the structure of face-to-face conversation, with its perspective information and speaker-hearer roles, is used as a frame, as a modelling structure, for conceptualizing and expressing what was originally a feeling or opinion that need not have been verbalized.
Examples such as (1) are typical cases of fictive interaction – the use of the conceptual frame of conversation as a means of structuring thought, discourse, and grammar – and among the very first cases studied (Pascual 2006Pascual, Esther 2006 “Fictive Interaction within the Sentence: A Communicative Type of Fictivity in Grammar.” Cognitive Linguistics 17 (2): 245–267. , 251–253, 261; 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 115–140). But whereas the (be) like construction originated in the colloquial speech of the youth (Blyth, Recktenwald, and Wang 1990Blyth, Carl, Sigrid Recktenwald, and Jenny Wang 1990 “I’m like, ‘Say What?!’: A New Quotative in American Oral Narrative.” American Speech 65 (3): 215–227. ; Streeck 2002Streeck, Jürgen 2002 “Grammars, Words, and Embodied Meanings: On the Uses and Evolution of so and like .” Journal of Communication 52 (3): 581–596. ), the phenomenon of fictive direct speech as such, which it instantiates, is more widespread and has a long and venerable history (Pascual 2006Pascual, Esther 2006 “Fictive Interaction within the Sentence: A Communicative Type of Fictivity in Grammar.” Cognitive Linguistics 17 (2): 245–267. , 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; Pascual and Sandler 2016Pascual, Esther, and Sergeiy Sandler (eds.) 2016 The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). That long and venerable history of fictive interaction also includes the Hebrew Bible.
2.The conversation frame in the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible – a foundational text of Western culture and beyond – dates back to the 1st millennium BCE. For an ancient language, Biblical Hebrew provides an exceptionally extensive and relatively diverse corpus of data, fully available for electronic search.33.We used the corpus of Jewish religious writings (ma'agar sifrut ha-kodesh), at: http://kodesh.snunit.k12.il. We use the Masoretic text, considered canonical in Judaism, finalized around the 10th century CE (some vowel markings are even later). Its long history of editing implies it cannot, alas, be viewed as simply the product of a single historical native speaker community. Moreover, while the semantics of Biblical Hebrew has been mostly preserved (through translations into ancient languages and a tradition of exegesis in later texts), the meanings of many words and expressions remain unclear or contested. This notwithstanding, our focus in this paper is on phenomena that are sufficiently robust to allow meaningful generalizations.
The examples analyzed below are from the Classical Biblical Hebrew linguistic layer of the text (Genesis through 2 Kings). All verses appear in the Hebrew original with an English translation based on the New Revised Standard Version, modified to render quotative constructions as literally as possible.44.The verb ‘mr is always translated as ‘say’ and the complementizer lemor as ‘to say’. Quotatives added by the translators were removed, and those omitted restored. For interlinear morpheme-by-morpheme glosses, we follow the practice proposed by Shead (2011Shead, Stephen L. 2011 Radical Frame Semantics and Biblical Hebrew: Exploring Lexical Semantics. Leiden/Boston: Brill. , xxii–xxiii, 6–9).55.Our glossing choice for verbs does not imply any preference regarding any of the several theories on interpreting Biblical Hebrew verb grammar, nor is our analysis affected by them. We depart from Shead’s practice in glossing the construct state as a genitive, for better readability.
The Hebrew Bible contains several genres, most commonly narrative (with omniscient narration), chronicles, and laws. Given this mix, one would expect limited use of reported speech constructions, with a preference for indirect over direct speech. However, the text is largely dominated by direct speech, and broader narrative structures modeled on face-to-face communication. While indirect speech does occur, it is clearly dispreferred (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 93–94). One study estimated that 42.5% of the words in the entire text are contained within direct speech quotes (Rendsburg 1990Rendsburg, Gary A. 1990 Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew. New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society., 160). The action in biblical passages often proceeds primarily through direct speech (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 2). Tellingly, the verb root 'mr (‘say’) appears 5,308 times in the Bible, making it easily the text’s most frequent verb (Wigram 1995Wigram, George V. 1995 The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.).
This use of turn-taking or direct speech constructions to express more monological or narrative meanings is observed also on a deeper conceptual level when conversation is used as a frame structuring numerous aspects of the narrative. Consider, for instance:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי-אוֹר
‘Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’ (Genesis 1:3)
The creation of the world is not presented as the result of some event or action, but as a series of speech acts ascribed to the creator. The world is then said to obey God’s order in a narrative pattern of commands followed by a report of their fulfillment. The creation story is thus structured as a dialogue – albeit a non-prototypical one – between God and the created world, where the world responds non-verbally to God’s verbal commands (see in-depth analysis and further supporting references in Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 286–289).
In this paper we focus on one class of perspective-indexing phenomena – the use of fictive direct speech, as in (1) above. These are formal quotations that share structural and functional characteristics with ordinary reported speech (see Vandenalotte, this issue; Si and Spronck, this issue), but which have a non-quotative function to express a stance, reason, or state of affairs rather than genuinely shift to an utterance produced by a given discourse source (see overview in Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 1–25; Pascual and Sandler 2016Pascual, Esther, and Sergeiy Sandler (eds.) 2016 The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 3–22). In line with Vandelanotte (this issue), and van Duijn and Verhagen (this issue), this allows us to consider the range of functional extensions that specific grammatical constructions of direct speech may have. While the phenomena evoked below typically involve some state of mind related to a character evoked in the main clause, and in that sense involve a cognitive perspective shift towards that character, they do not involve the metalinguistic status of an utterance (see Si and Spronck, this issue). Put differently, while the use of direct speech grammatically signals a cognitive and deictic shift, the deictic shift is not realized in interpretation, which makes these cases instantiate deictic perspective persistence (Gentens et al., this issue; see Vandelanotte, this issue, for a discussion of internet memes involving both deictic and cognitive perspective persistence). Within this diverse category, we primarily discuss: (i) fictive direct speech used to express thoughts and intentions; (ii) choral speech; (iii) fictive direct speech for reasons, using the ki amar (‘for [N/Pron.] said’) construction; (iv) fictive direct speech to account for characters’ names; and (v) the distinctive and ubiquitous lemor (‘to say’) construction.
2.1Fictive direct speech to express mental states
Fictive direct speech is frequently used to express the speaker’s mental states, as documented in many unrelated languages, in some of which, primarily those lacking an indirect speech alternative, it is grammatically obligatory (de Vries 2003Vries, Lourens de 2003 “New Guinea Communities without Writing and Views of Primary Orality.” Anthropos 98 (2): 397–405., 2010 2010 “Direct Speech, Fictive Interaction, and Bible Translation.” The Bible Translator 61 (1): 31–40. ; Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; van der Voort 2016Voort, Hein van der 2016 “Recursive Inflection and Grammaticalised Fictive Interaction in the Southwestern Amazon.” In The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, ed. by Esther Pascual and Sergeiy Sandler, 277–299. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). In historical texts, too, there is extensive use of direct speech for the expression of inner thoughts, evaluations, and feelings across a wide variety of discourse genres and registers, for instance in Classical Arabic prose (Beaumont 1996Beaumont, Daniel 1996 “Hard-Boiled: Narrative Discourse in Early Muslim Tradition.” Studia Islamica 83: 5–31. ) and in Old French and English literature (Marnette 1998Marnette, Sophie 1998 Narrateur et Points de Vue dans la Littérature Française Médiévale: Une Approche Linguistique. Berne: Peter Lang.; Louviot 2016Louviot, Elise 2016 Direct Speech in Beowulf and other Old English Narrative Poems. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.). The Hebrew Bible is no exception, with thoughts, and especially intentions, routinely expressed through fictive direct speech (cf. de Vries 2010 2010 “Direct Speech, Fictive Interaction, and Bible Translation.” The Bible Translator 61 (1): 31–40. ). Consider:
וַיִּפֹּל אַבְרָהָם עַל-פָּנָיו וַיִּצְחָק וַיֹּאמֶר בְּלִבּוֹ הַלְּבֶן מֵאָה-שָׁנָה יִוָּלֵד וְאִם-שָׂרָה הֲבַת-תִּשְׁעִים שָׁנָה תֵּלֵד.
‘Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”’ (Genesis 17:17)
Here, Abraham expresses disbelief through an embedded rhetorical question, a polar interrogative functioning as a sort of exclamation addressed to his inner self. The direct speech is thus not used to report prior discourse but rather to present internalized dialogicality (Du Bois 2011Du Bois, John W. 2011 “Co-Opting Intersubjectivity: Dialogic Rhetoric of the Self.” In The Rhetorical Emergence of Culture, ed. by Christian Meyer and Felix Girke, 52–83. Oxford: Berghahn.). Similarly:
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אָסֻרָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הַמַּרְאֶה הַגָּדֹל הַזֶּה מַדּוּעַ לֹא-יִבְעַר הַסְּנֶה.
‘Then Mosesi said, “Ii must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”’ (Exodus 3:3)
In (4), direct speech is used to present Moses’ intention to wander off his path. Moses is at this point alone in the wilderness, so the embedded utterance clearly does not have an external addressee.
It is still possible to interpret such expressions of mental states as representing a genuine quotation of a character’s inner monologue. Indeed, (3) is explicitly marked as such (“said in his heart”). Nevertheless, the point of such quotes is to present a mental state or intention, and thus advance the action narrated. Tellingly, in (4), Moses’ words are sufficient to inform us of both his intention and him acting as intended (cf. Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 136–137). Immediately after (4), the narrative continues: “And the Lord saw that he had turned aside” (Exod. 3:4). Moreover, interpreting the expression of intentions in direct speech as inner monologue does not always work, as when direct speech is used to ascribe intentions – and action upon them – to a group (see also Section 2.2):
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים וְנִשְׂרְפָה לִשְׂרֵפָה וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה לְאָבֶן וְהַחֵמָר הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ שֵׁם פֶּן-נָפוּץ עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ. וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם.
‘And they i said to one another, “Come, let usi make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And theyi had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then theyi said, “Come, let usi build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let usi make a name for ourselvesi; otherwise wei shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.’ (Genesis 11:3–5)
The notable issue about these examples is how unexceptional they are. Intentions and other mental states are routinely described by imputing direct speech to the character(s) in question, especially where nuance is required (cf. Sandler 2012Sandler, Sergeiy 2012 “Reenactment: An Embodied Cognition Approach to Meaning and Linguistic Content.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (4): 583–598. , 589).
The device of choral speech forms another, fairly large, set of uses of fictive direct speech in both modern and historical languages (Louviot 2016Louviot, Elise 2016 Direct Speech in Beowulf and other Old English Narrative Poems. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.; Tannen 1986Tannen, Deborah 1986 “Introducing Constructed Dialogue in Greek and American Conversational and Literary Narratives.” In Direct and Indirect Speech, ed. by Florian Coulmans, 311–332. Berlin: Mouton. , 2007 2007 Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ; Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). Choral speech is also used in the biblical narrative, in which two different types of choral speech can be found. In one case, the conversation among a group of people is summarized by one utterance attributed to the group as a whole, as in (5) above and in:
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל-אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנוּ עַל-כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת: וַיַּעַן רְאוּבֵן אֹתָם לֵאמֹר הֲלוֹא אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם לֵאמֹר אַל-תֶּחֶטְאוּ בַיֶּלֶד וְלֹא שְׁמַעְתֶּם וְגַם-דָּמוֹ הִנֵּה נִדְרָשׁ.
‘Theyi said to one another, “Alas, wei are paying the penalty for what wei did to ouri brother; wei saw his anguish when he pleaded with usi, but wei would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon usi .” Then Reubenj answered themi to say, “Did Ij not tell youi not to wrong the boy? But youi would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”’ (Genesis 42:21–22)
Here, the first utterance (“Alas, we are…”) is explicitly ascribed to the entire group (ten of Jacob’s sons) conversing among themselves. By contrast, the second utterance (“Did I not…”) is attributed specifically to one of them, Reuben. The first utterance could have been introduced as uttered by one of the brothers on behalf of all, but in (6) it is not presented as citing anybody’s words. This stretch of direct speech gives the upshot of the brothers’ conversation, it is a fictive message summarizing and standing for the whole conversation, rather than quoting some factual part of it.66.This is reminiscent of the sentence ‘Three times a student asked a stupid question’, a classical example of fictivity (Langacker 1999 1999 “Virtual Reality.” Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 29 (2): 77–104., 98). Here, ‘a student’ is a fictive entity, standing for three different students, ‘a stupid question’ similarly standing for three different questions. The difference is that choral speech in Biblical Hebrew is always grammatically marked as plural.
The other type of choral speech in the Bible features collective utterances by groups addressed to an outside audience. A typical example is:
וַיִּתֹּם הַכֶּסֶף מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וּמֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם אֶל-יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר הָבָה-לָּנוּ לֶחֶם וְלָמָּה נָמוּת נֶגְדֶּךָ כִּי אָפֵס כָּסֶף
‘When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians i came to Joseph, to say “Give usi food! Why should wei die before your eyes? For ouri money is gone.”’ (Genesis 47:15)
In this case, words are attributed to an entire nation, presented as addressing one individual in one communicative act. It would be absurd to interpret this as an actual quotation. These are, again, fictive utterances standing for multiple conversations between different characters (i.e. the Egyptians). They are compressed to human scale (Fauconnier and Turner 2001Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner 2001 “Compression and Global Insight.” Cognitive Linguistics 11 (3–4): 283–304.), representing them as a single fictive utterance attributed to the entire group, as if it were an individual speaker.
2.3Fictive direct speech for reason: The ki amar construction
A use of fictive enunciation that is quite common cross-linguistically is to indicate reason. Indeed, in some languages the use of fictive direct speech for reason is fully grammaticalized, and sometimes even obligatory (Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 102–104). It is also abundant in Biblical Hebrew, which has a special construction for this purpose, where direct speech is introduced by the sequence ki amar (lit. ‘for [N/Pron.] said’).77.Since Biblical Hebrew is a VSO language, the two words ki (‘for’ or ‘because’) and amar (‘said’, inflected for gender, number, and person) follow in sequence, where in the English translation the fictive speaker has to be identified in between the two words. This construction offers an explanation grounded in people’s words or thoughts, for some action or state of affairs. It is quite clear that all such ‘quotations’ aim to provide an account of people’s reasoning to advance the narrative, rather than reproduce their actual words. We found about 30 occurrences of the ki amar construction in the text. Consider:
וְלֹא-דִבֶּר שָׁאוּל מְאוּמָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כִּי אָמַר מִקְרֶה הוּא בִּלְתִּי טָהוֹר הוּא כִּי-לֹא טָהוֹר.
‘Sauli did not say anything that day; for he i said [ki amar], “Something has befallen himj; hej is not clean, surely hej is not clean.”’ (1 Samuel 20:26)
Here, the enunciation attributed to Saul explains the fact that Saul did not speak. Interpreting it as an actual quotation would imply Saul simultaneously spoke and was silent, which is naturally impossible. Similarly:
וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶם נָסוּ לְקֹלָם כִּי אָמְרוּ פֶּן-תִּבְלָעֵנוּ הָאָרֶץ.
‘All Israeli around themj fled at theirj outcry, for they i said [ki amru], “Lest the earth will swallow usi too!”’ (Numbers 16:34)
In (9), the ‘quoted’ words explain what motivated the ‘speakers’ to flee in panic. It would be strange to assume they first stopped to deliberate and jointly produce the quoted utterance before running away.
וַיִּרְאוּ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי אָמְרוּ בָּא אֱלֹהִים אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה
‘The Philistines were afraid; for they said [ki amru], “Gods88.While this verse suggests the reading “God” in the singular (reflecting the theological perspective of the Hebrew Bible’s editors), the next verse refers to the same presence as “Gods” in the plural (reflecting the polytheistic Philistines’ perspective). The Hebrew word for ‘God’ here (elohim) is morphologically plural. The text is thus ambiguous between the two readings. We followed the word choice of the English translators. have come into the camp.”’ (1 Samuel 4:7)
This verse illustrates several cases where the ki amar construction serves to account for the fictive speakers’ mental states. Here, members of the Philistine army are struck by fear, which is explained not by the divine presence itself, but by means of an utterance regarding it. The narrative does not seem concerned with nuanced observations about the effects of verbalization on the psyche. Rather, the direct speech ki amar construction is meant to provide the Philistines’ subjective perspective, the reason for their fear. Finally, consider:
וְחָרָשׁ לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּכֹל אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי-אמר פְלִשְׁתִּים פֶּן יַעֲשׂוּ הָעִבְרִים חֶרֶב אוֹ חֲנִית.
‘Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for [ki] the Philistines said [amru], “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears for themselves.”’ (1 Samuel 13:19)
In (11), direct speech is succinctly used to express the rationale for a state of affairs affecting an entire population. The Israelites are at that point living under occupation by the Philistines. This verse reports that there are no blacksmiths in the entire country because the occupying army took measures to prevent the occupied population from revolting by making their own weapons. This situation is presented as explained by what the Philistines (as a group) said, which is not the order some commander gave, but the reasoning behind it.1010.See Verstraete (2008)Verstraete, Jean-Christophe 2008 “The Status of Purpose, Reason and Intended Endpoint in the Typology of Complex Sentences: Implications for Layered Models of Clause Structure.” Linguistics 46: 757–788. on the status of (negative) purpose, reason, and intended endpoint or result as involving a mental state relation on the part of the main clause participant(s) (typically the agent), which is formally often reflected in the use of quotatives/complementizers of speech reports. See also Gentens et al. (this issue) and Example (17) below.
2.4‘Etymological’ naming of characters
One very distinctive use of fictive direct speech in the Hebrew Bible is as part of a formulaic sequence used when newborns are named, as in:
וַיֵּדַע אָדָם עוֹד אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת כִּי שָׁת-לִי אֱלֹהִים זֶרַע אַחֵר תַּחַת הֶבֶל כִּי הֲרָגוֹ קָיִן.
‘Adam knew his wifei again, and she i bore a son and namedi him Seth [šet], “for God has appointed [šat] for me i another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.”’ (Genesis 4:25)
The point here gets somewhat lost in translation: the quote contains a word (or sometimes two), which appears to share a root with the name being given to the child (or parts of it), thus providing a folk etymology that ‘explains’ the name. This is a distinctive feature of the biblical narrative (reflecting the significance of names and their meanings in the culture that produced this text), specifically in the book of Genesis.1111.We found only one example (out of 28) of an etymological naming for a child outside of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus (1 Sam 1:20). Similar ‘etymological’ sequences are also used for naming places (e.g. Genesis 32:3) and, more rarely, for renaming distinguished persons or deities (e.g. Genesis 16:13). In the great majority of cases, the account is given in direct speech by the person naming the child (typically the mother). A smaller subgroup of cases gives the etymological account without employing direct speech in the same manner. Sometimes the account and the name are both contained in a divine utterance announcing an upcoming birth (e.g. Genesis 16:11). On one occasion (Genesis 3:20), the etymological account appears directly in the main narrative. Otherwise, direct speech seems to be the norm. The use of direct speech in this context was sufficiently formulaic that in several instances the text dispenses entirely with quotative markers for introducing it, which is very unusual in other contexts. Thus, in (12), Eve is referred to in the third person (“and she bore a son…”), immediately followed by direct speech, in which she refers to herself in the first person (“God has appointed for me another child”), without a verb of saying or any other marker indicating where perspective shift occurs (cf. Si and Spronck, this issue).1212.We analyze the particle ki (‘for’) as part of Eve’s words. Etymological naming sequences often have the same particle at the beginning of the quoted utterance, regardless of whether a quotative marker is present. ki is also used in Biblical Hebrew as a complementizer introducing indirect speech, but this interpretation is unlikely here, both because of the preceding context and because it is followed by direct, not indirect, speech. A third option is to view ki as part of the quoting context, not the quote itself, in which case we would have to assume the verb amra (‘she said’) was omitted after it. The same abrupt, partially undermarked deictic shift also appears in 1 Samuel 1:20, and, twice in a row, in Genesis 41:51–52 and Exodus 18:4–5.
Direct speech may also be introduced with a speaking verb, typically wattomer (“and she said”) as in:
וַתַּהַר עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי-שָׁמַע יְהוָה כִּי-שְׂנוּאָה אָנֹכִי וַיִּתֶּן-לִי גַּם-אֶת-זֶה וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ שִׁמְעוֹן.
‘Shei conceived again and bore a son, and said i, “Because the Lord has heard [šama`] that Ii am hated, he has given mei this son also”; and she named him Simeon [šim`on].’ (Genesis 29:33)
Whether or not the biblical narrative is committed to the claim that the naming person actually uttered the words presented as her direct speech is an open question. The grammatical forms used are usually compatible with the assumption that these are genuine quotations. Also, explicit markers (ki, ‘for’/‘because’, and `al ken, ‘therefore’) frequently occur to mark the name given as a consequence of the utterance act. However, the use of direct speech is, again, entirely formulaic, and only rarely is there any information on the time or place of enunciation.1313.The only two exceptions involve utterances by a midwife at the time of birth (Genesis 35:17–18, 38:29). It seems irrelevant whether or not the words were uttered. Functionally speaking, direct speech is used in these examples so the narrative can provide readers with an account for the name being given, rather than to report what the mother said. The direct speech should thus be regarded as fictive, and as a case of deictic perspective persistence, where the grammatically direct representation does not correspond to a deictic shift to an original utterance setting in interpretation (Gentens et al., this issue).
3.The lemor construction
Our final set of examples comes in the form of a characteristic grammatical structure in Biblical Hebrew, the lemor construction. With over 900 occurrences, this construction appears literally on every page of the Bible (Wigram 1995Wigram, George V. 1995 The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.).
The word lemor (לאמר) itself is an infinitive construct form of the verb ‘mr (‘say’). But, as Miller (2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 181–185), the authority on this subject, convincingly argues, this word does not figure as a true infinitive (with only a handful of exceptions). Rather, it has grammaticalized into a complementizer (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 199–212), introducing direct speech (as opposed to complementizers in modern Indo-European languages, which only introduce indirect speech).1414.For similar cases of complementizers emerging from speaking verbs in unrelated languages without or with no widespread writing, see Güldemann and von Roncador (2002)Güldemann, Tom, and Manfred von Roncador (eds.) 2002 Reported Discourse: A Meeting Ground for Different Linguistic Domains. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , and see more references on this phenomenon across languages from different families in Pascual (2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 85, 103, 108). This is quite accurate regarding the syntactic role of lemor. There has been some debate about the semantics of the word lemor itself, essentially around whether it is entirely bleached, and so carries no meaning of its own (see overview in Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 418–422). We believe that Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995Goldberg, Adele E. 1995 Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press., 2003 2003 “Constructions: A New Theoretical Approach to Language.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7 (5): 219–224. , 2006 2006 Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.; Croft 2001Croft, William 2001 Radical Construction Grammar: Syntactic Theory in Typological Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ) provides a more fruitful approach and examine the semantics of the whole construction in which lemor occurs, not just the word itself.
Syntactically speaking, this construction has the following general form:
<matrix clause> lemor <direct speech>
For example in (15), the matrix clause is ‘And the supervisors […] were beaten’, then comes the word lemor (‘to say’) itself, and “Why did you not finish […]?” is the direct speech component. Note the second person plural form, clearly indicating this is indeed direct speech:
וַיֻּכּוּ, שֹׁטְרֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר-שָׂמוּ עֲלֵהֶם, נֹגְשֵׂי פַרְעֹה לֵאמֹר: מַדּוּעַ לֹא כִלִּיתֶם חָקְכֶם לִלְבֹּן, כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם גַּם-תְּמוֹל, גַּם-הַיּוֹם
‘And the supervisorsi of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten to say [lemor], “Why did youi not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as youi did before?”’ (Exodus 5:14)
Semantically, (15) suggests that the beating conveys the same message that would transpire from the accusation (“Why did you not finish…?”); that this is what the beating was about. There is, however, no implication that the accusation was necessarily uttered by anyone in particular. Hence, we can propose the following ‘formula’ to express the lemor construction’s meaning:
The action/event/state described in <matrix clause> conveys the message (or otherwise has the import) that would be expressed by a speaker uttering <direct speech>.
Thus stated, the semantics of the lemor construction has two features: (i) the direct speech component should be interpreted by default as fictive, implying that the use of fictive direct speech in this construction is prototypical (in the sense of Rosch 1973Rosch, Eleanor H. 1973 “Natural Categories.” Cognitive Psychology 4 (3): 328–350. , see also, e.g. Langacker 1987Langacker, Ronald W. 1987 Foundations of Cognitive Grammar: Volume 1, Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.); and (ii) the lemor construction is a means of expressing the meaning of actions and events.
3.1The lemor construction and fictive direct speech
Genuine quotations reproduce the particular words of a particular individual, made at a particular time and place, for the purpose of informing one’s audience of what that individual said. Fictive quotations have a different purpose and often do not reproduce anything that anybody ever uttered. This is unmistakably the case in:
כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא: לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה: וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר-לָנוּ אֶל-עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה.
‘Surely, this commandment that I am commanding youi today is not too hard for youi, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, to say [lemor], “Who will go up to heaven for usi, and get it for usi so that wei may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, to say [lemor], “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for usi, and get it for usi so that wei may hear it and observe it?”’ (Deuteronomy 30:11–13)
The questions after lemor (‘to say’) appear in a counterfactual scenario: that’s what a character might have said if the commandment were in heaven or beyond the sea, which is – we are told – not the case. So, by design, this is not a quote of what somebody purportedly uttered.1515.More precisely, (17) is part of a longer monologue attributed to Moses, so it is as such a quote from Moses, but not of his addressees, who are the nominal ‘speakers’ in the embedded direct speech. Nevertheless, the biblical text uses the lemor construction, unequivocally featuring direct speech (note the shift to first person plural), to characterize the counterfactual scenario.1616.For a discussion of direct speech dialogue representing what wasn’t said, see Tannen (2007 2007 Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. , 111) and Vandelanotte (this issue).
But such clear-cut cases are relatively rare. More often, the lemor construction, much like the English quotative (be) like construction exemplified in (1), occupies a continuum between fictive and genuine quotation. We argue that the fictive end of this continuum is prototypical for this construction, that is, the core conceptual meaning of the lemor construction involves fictive direct speech. Even when this construction is used non-prototypically, including for (what appears to be) genuine quotation, there are still features of its use that can be accounted for as extensions of that prototype – as we will now try to demonstrate.
A very common use of the lemor construction is to introduce loose quotation, what Hatav (2000)Hatav, Galia 2000 “(Free) Direct Discourse in Biblical Hebrew.” Hebrew Studies 41: 7–30. calls ‘free direct discourse’.1717.Hatav’s thesis is that lemor is always used for free direct discourse. However, Miller (2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 412–418) provides multiple counterexamples, including our example (19). An example is:
וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיֻּגַּד לְאַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה יָלְדָה מִלְכָּה גַם-הִוא בָּנִים לְנָחוֹר אָחִיךָ.
‘Now after these things it was told Abrahami to say [lemor], “Milcah also has borne children, to youri brother Nahor […]”’ (Genesis 22:20)
Here, the matrix clause refers to a communicative act (Abraham being told of something), and the direct speech component reproduces the gist of the message. In accordance with our formula in (16), the direct speech component, if uttered by a discourse character, conveys the same message as what the communicative act(s) referred to in the matrix clause did in fact convey. This, however, does not imply somebody addressed Abraham with these precise words. The direct speech merely reproduces the information Abraham received, on one or more occasions, compressed into one utterance. The same holds for the multiple uses of the lemor construction to introduce “quotations that are semi-direct, retold, iterative, hypothetical, or fabricated” (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 394).
Farthest removed from the semantic prototype of the lemor construction in (16) are cases in which it is used as a bona-fide quotative, as in:
וַיְבָרְכֵם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמוֹר בְּךָ יְבָרֵךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת-אֶפְרַיִם לִפְנֵי מְנַשֶּׁה.
‘So he blessed themi+j that day, to say [lemor], “By youi+j Israely will invoke blessings, to say [lemor], ‘God make youy like Ephraimi and like Manassehj.” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.’ (Genesis 48:20)
Here, despite the use of the lemor construction, the precise words of the direct speech component are attributed to the speaking character. Indeed, the narrator draws our attention to a particular fact about that character’s wording – the order in which the names are mentioned.1818.The verse in (19) is also a relatively rare case of one lemor construction embedded within another.
Nevertheless, the prototype expressed in (16) also throws some light on such uses of the construction. The lemor construction is one of several different quotative constructions in Biblical Hebrew, and not the most common one. Most typically, actual quotations in the biblical text are given using a regular VSO clause with a speaking verb (overwhelmingly ’mr, with the singular masculine form wayyomer being the most frequent).1919.Such a quotative clause can also serve as the matrix clause within the lemor construction, thus combining the two constructions in question. Where the lemor construction may be used to provide faithful quotations (as far as we can tell), it is reserved for reproducing salient utterances, and is, more generally, a marked form of quoting (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 299–398).2020.Syntactic differences between the quotative constructions in Biblical Hebrew add another layer of constraints to how they can be used – something we cannot delve into here (this is covered extensively in Goldenberg 1991Goldenberg, Gideon 1991 “On Direct Speech and the Hebrew Bible.” Studies in Hebrew and Aramaic Syntax, Ed. by Karel Jongeling, Heleen Murre-van den Berg, and van Rompay, 79–96. Leiden: Brill. and Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. ). Syntactic considerations do not, however, alter the main conclusions of our analysis.
In the prototypical case, the direct speech component expresses, in the voice of a discourse character, the import of the action referred to in the matrix clause, the meaning it has, the effect it takes. When, however, it is understood that the direct speech component reproduces the very speech act announced in the matrix clause, the result is focusing the reader on the import of that speech act, on the very fact it takes effect.2121.The lemor construction can also serve to mark a quoted utterance as merely pragmatically important or unusual, for instance to introduce a dispreferred response within an adjacency pair (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 328), or as an alternative means for introducing quotations, to be selected over other variants for syntactic reasons (Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 313–314). All such uses fit our ‘formula’ in (16), but they are of less interest to us, as it is precisely the fictive-interaction aspect of the construction that gets progressively (though not completely) effaced in them.
In (19), the quoted utterance is a blessing given by Jacob to his two grandchildren (understood as foreshadowing events in the distant future). In our reading, it is the fact that this is a blessing that makes the use of the lemor construction pertinent. Jacob’s words are marked as particularly effectual. Another telling case in point is the use of the lemor construction in what is in effect an equivalent of legalese:
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-עֶפְרוֹן בְּאָזְנֵי עַם-הָאָרֶץ לֵאמֹר אַךְ אִם-אַתָּה לוּ שְׁמָעֵנִי נָתַתִּי כֶּסֶף הַשָּׂדֶה קַח מִמֶּנִּי וְאֶקְבְּרָה אֶת-מֵתִי שָׁמָּה: וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן אֶת-אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לוֹ: אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל-כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה-הִוא וְאֶת-מֵתְךָ קְבֹר.
‘Hei spoke to Ephronj in the hearing of the people of the land to say [lemor], “If youj only will listen to me! Ii will give the price of the field; accept it from mei, so that Ii may bury myi dead there.” Ephronj answered Abrahami to say [lemor] to himi, “My lord, listen to mej; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver – what is that between youi and mej? Bury youri dead.”’ (Genesis 23:13–15)
These verses are part of a sales deed. Abraham purchases a burial cave from Ephron. The quoted utterances in (20), and in the entire sales deed, are part of a binding agreement, which is indeed reproduced using the lemor construction throughout. Similarly, the lemor construction is also used to introduce most batches of religious laws in the text (setting them up as extended conversational turns by God; see Miller 2003Miller, Cynthia L. 2003 The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. , 285–286).
Thus, in our analysis, the lemor construction is prototypically a fictive interaction construction. As the formula in (16) indicates, it attributes a fictive utterance (the direct speech component) to a discourse character, thereby characterizing the action in the matrix clause. Even when introducing a genuine quotation, its semantics retains traces of its fictive-interaction core, which accounts for the fact that the quotation is always marked (had the genuine quotative use been prototypical, we would expect lemor to be regularly used for unmarked quotation). The discourse character utters the direct speech component for the reported speaker, or concertedly with that speaker, as it were, resulting in a loose paraphrase in some cases, or added stress and weight in others. In the context of the biblical text, these added glosses and emphases reflect the pragmatic and cultural priorities of the biblical narrator – they help advance the narrative, point to important moments in the unfolding plot, or mark issues of special cultural and symbolic significance. This means that on a higher level, the direct speech sections further have an overlaid narrative function of advancing and emphasizing certain parts of the narrative, even where the lemor construction is used in a bona-fide quotation. This overlay of narrative meanings on top of the range of fictive interaction meanings is similar to the combination of narrator-related and character-related meanings that may be involved in irregular perspective shifts (see Gentens et al., this issue).
3.2The lemor construction and meaning
In our view, the function of the fictive direct speech in the lemor construction is to express or reinforce the meaning (or at least the meaningfulness) of what the matrix clause presents. This is evident when the construction is used for loose quotation, as in (18) above. The direct speech component here restates the gist of the message delivered in the communicative act(s) referred to in the matrix clause. Of particular interest are cases in which the main verb is not itself communicative, as in (15) above or in:
וַתִּקַּח הַמְיַלֶּדֶת וַתִּקְשֹׁר עַל-יָדוֹ שָׁנִי לֵאמֹר זֶה יָצָא רִאשֹׁנָה
‘[A]nd the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, to say [lemor], “This one came out first.”’ (Genesis 38:28)
Here, twins are born and the midwife marks the firstborn by tying a thread around his hand. Using lemor instead of wattomer (‘and she said’) suggests that the direct speech need not be attributed to the midwife, who is merely said to perform an action: binding a thread. In our interpretation, it is the import of this action that is expressed in the text by a fictive enunciation. The direct speech component is ascribed to an implied, fictive discourse character, with the aim of characterizing or explaining the action referred to in the matrix clause.
In (22), we again have a non-verbal action (blowing a horn) to which direct speech is being attributed:
וְשָׁאוּל תָּקַע בַּשּׁוֹפָר בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ לֵאמֹר, יִשְׁמְעוּ הָעִבְרִים: וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל שָׁמְעוּ לֵאמֹר הִכָּה שָׁאוּל אֶת-נְצִיב פְּלִשְׁתִּים וְגַם-נִבְאַשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּפְּלִשְׁתִּים.
‘And Saul blew the horn throughout all the land, to say [lemor], “Let the Hebrews hear!” And all Israel heard to say [lemor], “Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines”’ (1 Samuel 13:3–4)2222.The verb šm`, the matrix clause verb of the second verse, is polysemous. The basic meaning is ‘hear’. More relevant in this case is the related sense of ‘understand’ (an utterance, a situation, or a language). The verb is also used to mean ‘obey’.
Notably, (22) features two distinct direct speech utterances that involve two distinct perspectives on the same (communicative) act, one reflecting the intentions of the addresser and the other reflecting the (different) understanding of this act by its audience. King Saul has just defeated a garrison of the Philistine army and is now blowing the horn to announce it. Saul probably simply wanted the Israelites to know of the victory. This is what blowing the horn meant from his perspective, but what the Israelites actually understood is that following this military success the Philistines are now angry with them and they should expect retaliation. This is what blowing the horn meant to them.2323.Alter (1999Alter, Robert 1999 The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. New York: W.W. Norton., 70–71) suggests blowing the horn was rather a call to arms, and was perceived as such by the Israelites. In this case, the two meanings of blowing the horn are congruent, but are nevertheless reported as distinct. We may also interpret (22) as saying that Saul ordered the horn to be blown. The rationale for the action could have been given verbally as part of such an order.
We return to the notion of meaning reflected in this usage, and some more general implications it might have, below.
In this paper we discussed several widespread and typical uses of perspectivization in the Hebrew Bible. The constructional patterns we exemplified all have a grammatically ‘direct’ representation, while this deictic shift is usually not realized in interpretation. These cases of deictic perspective persistence were shown to fulfill a range of non-quotational functions, such as a character’s assessment of the reason for, or import of an action, while also involving added narrative functions. We showed that non-quotational direct speech is frequently attested throughout the biblical text, and takes a variety of different grammatical forms. These observations are valuable in their own right, especially given the unique status of the Hebrew Bible in the history of Western culture and beyond, but they are also significant as supporting evidence for broader theoretical claims. In this concluding section, we would like to sketch some such broader (and more speculative) implications, with a focus on two particular themes: orality and the notion of meaning.
Widespread writing seems to affect culture, grammar, and discourse in profound ways (Ong 2002Ong, Walter J. 2002 Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Routledge.). Prior studies suggest that structures that fully shift to the deixis of (fictive) conversational participants, such as direct speech, are especially pervasive in texts and languages that stand close to the oral roots of human culture (see overview and references in Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 29–57, 83–112). Thus, one common feature of a large number of primary oral languages from different families is the lack, or infrequent use, of indirect speech and the existence of unmarked or obligatory grammatical forms that transparently developed from direct speech to express what is not a report of previously produced discourse (Güldemann and von Roncador 2002Güldemann, Tom, and Manfred von Roncador (eds.) 2002 Reported Discourse: A Meeting Ground for Different Linguistic Domains. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; de Vries 2003Vries, Lourens de 2003 “New Guinea Communities without Writing and Views of Primary Orality.” Anthropos 98 (2): 397–405.; Spronck 2016Spronck, Stef 2016 “Evidential Fictive Interaction in Ungarinyin and Russian.” In The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, ed. by Esther Pascual and Sergeiy Sandler, 255–275. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; van der Voort 2016Voort, Hein van der 2016 “Recursive Inflection and Grammaticalised Fictive Interaction in the Southwestern Amazon.” In The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, ed. by Esther Pascual and Sergeiy Sandler, 277–299. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ). Grammaticalized forms of fictive direct speech are also abundant and unmarked in signed languages (e.g. Jarque and Pascual 2016Jarque, Maria Josep, and Esther Pascual 2016 “Mixed Viewpoints in Factual and Fictive Discourse in Catalan Sign Language Narratives”. In Viewpoint and the Fabric of Meaning: Form and Use of Viewpoint Tools across Languages and Modalities, ed. By Barbara Dancygier, Wei-lun-Lu and Arie Verhagen, 259–280. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ), which generally lack a writing system. Direct speech – including fictive direct speech – is usually also preferred to indirect speech in spoken conversation, even in languages with a writing system (Tannen 1986Tannen, Deborah 1986 “Introducing Constructed Dialogue in Greek and American Conversational and Literary Narratives.” In Direct and Indirect Speech, ed. by Florian Coulmans, 311–332. Berlin: Mouton. , and see more references in Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 85). It should thus not be surprising that fictive direct speech was also widespread in historical literary genres grounded in oral tradition (Beaumont 1996Beaumont, Daniel 1996 “Hard-Boiled: Narrative Discourse in Early Muslim Tradition.” Studia Islamica 83: 5–31. ; Louviot 2016Louviot, Elise 2016 Direct Speech in Beowulf and other Old English Narrative Poems. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.). Marnette (1998Marnette, Sophie 1998 Narrateur et Points de Vue dans la Littérature Française Médiévale: Une Approche Linguistique. Berne: Peter Lang., 172) goes as far as to say that direct speech is the only way to represent thoughts in some medieval literary genres.
The Hebrew Bible is an ancient text. While it was clearly the product of a highly literate culture for its day, it stands much closer to the oral origins of language and communication and of all human culture (Ong 2002Ong, Walter J. 2002 Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Routledge.), certainly more so than texts produced in modern literate societies. It has many parts that originate in oral folklore (Dundes 1999Dundes, Alan 1999 Holy Writ as Oral Lit: The Bible as Folklore. Lanham/Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.), and is still today regularly recited orally in religious settings. And indeed, we found that fictive direct speech is abundantly present and takes multiple forms in the text. Several common grammatical constructions are prototypically used to introduce fictive direct speech. This is also the case for another fictive interaction construction, namely non-information-seeking questions (Pascual 2014 2014 Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. , 29–57, 169–188), such as leading and rhetorical questions, which are overwhelmingly common in the Hebrew Bible (some three quarters of the corpus examined in Moshavi 2013 2013 “The Communicative Functions of Content (‘wh’) Questions in Classical Biblical Hebrew Prose.” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 39 (2): 69–87., and see Moshavi 2010Moshavi, Adina 2010 “ ‘Is That Your Voice, My Son David?’: Conductive Questions in Biblical Hebrew.” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 36 (1): 65–81.). This further evidences that the deictic frame of face-to-face conversation, characterized by the expression of perspective as directly linked to the conversational ground, and by sequential viewpoint shift between interactants (but see Vandelanotte, and van Duijn and Verhagen, this issue, for non-sequential, mixed-perspective constructions), was one of the earliest and most productive templates for linguistically conceptualizing and expressing human experience (e.g. Linell 1998Linell, Per 1998 Approaching Dialogue: Talk, Interaction and Contexts in Dialogical Perspectives. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ), especially of mental and cultural phenomena, and for organizing discourse.
One particular construction we examined, involving lemor plus direct speech, suggests even broader theoretical implications. As we saw, this construction is prototypically used to gloss the meaning of an action or state of affairs. On the other hand, Biblical Hebrew had no known word for the noun ‘meaning’ or the verb ‘to mean’. Biblical Hebrew thus seems to exemplify a cultural model of meaning that has been neglected in most philosophical and linguistic semantic theories. This model connects linguistic meaning with making an utterance, not seeking to reduce linguistic meaning to allegedly ‘simpler’ notions, such as logical propositions or concepts in the mind (see overview in Sandler 2016 2016 “Fictive Interaction and the Nature of Linguistic Meaning.” In The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, ed. by Esther Pascual and Sergeiy Sandler, 23–41. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ), but instead considering a communicative linguistic act as the basic paradigm for meaningfulness in general (Voloshinov 1986Voloshinov, Valentin Nikolaevich 1986 Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.; Bakhtin 1981Bakhtin, Mikhail M. 1981 “Discourse in the Novel.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, 259–422. Austin: University of Texas Press., 1986 1986 Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.; Gasparov 2010Gasparov, Boris 2010 Speech, Memory, and Meaning: Intertextuality in Everyday Language. Berlin: De Gruyter. ). Something meaningful, on this approach, is something that speaks to us, literally, and not just metaphorically: As the Biblical Hebrew lemor construction exemplifies, stating what some action, utterance, or state of affairs means involves ascribing (fictive) direct speech to it (indeed, often ‘pragmatics-heavy’ direct speech, including, e.g. non-information-seeking questions and choral speech).
Our paper fits within the growing tendency to combine cognitive and interactional approaches to language and language use (e.g. Linell 1998Linell, Per 1998 Approaching Dialogue: Talk, Interaction and Contexts in Dialogical Perspectives. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; Graumann and Kallmeyer 2002Graumann, Carl F. and Werner Kallmeyer (eds.) 2002 Perspective and Perspectivation in Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; Verhagen 2005Verhagen, Arie 2005 Constructions of Intersubjectivity: Discourse, Syntax, and Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.; Zlatev et al. 2008Zlatev, Jordan, Timothy P. Racine, Chris Sinha, and Esa Itkonen (eds.) 2008 The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ; Zima and Brône 2015Zima, Elisabeth, and Geert Brône (eds.) 2015 “Cognitive Linguistics and Interactional Discourse.” Special Issue, Language and Cognition 7 (4): 485–590. ), challenging long-standing assumptions among linguists, by viewing both meaning and grammar as arising from talk-in-interaction, and ultimately, perspective shifting (see overview in Sandler 2016 2016 “Fictive Interaction and the Nature of Linguistic Meaning.” In The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, ed. by Esther Pascual and Sergeiy Sandler, 23–41. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. and Gentens et al., this issue). More broadly, while focused on a single text, this paper nevertheless instantiates the central role of intersubjectivity in language and discourse in general (see also van Duijn and Verhagen, this issue). This was the case not only on the immediate level, at which language use and discourse partake in intersubjective communication, but also on a structural and conceptual level, at which conversation provides us with a cognitive model to access and make sense of complex situations and ideas. In sum, we hope to have shown that the centrality and pervasiveness of perspective-indexing constructions reflect the fact that grammar and discourse are inherently viewpointed in nature, emerging from our lifelong experience with sequential turn-taking and the expression of perspective.
We thank Dan Slobin for the useful comments on an earlier version of this paper. Esther Pascual further gratefully acknowledges the ‘Hundred Talents Program’ for generous funding.
Address for correspondence
Sergeiy Sandler holds a PhD in Philosophy from Ben-Gurion University (Israel) and carried out research within the project “The Conversation Frame”, led by Esther Pascual and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). He has published extensively on fictive interaction and related phenomena. An expert on Mikhail Bakhtin, he has translated some of his works into Hebrew and English.
Esther Pascual is an associate professor and senior researcher at Zhejiang University, China, under the ‘Hundred Talents’ program. She works on what she has labeled ‘fictive interaction’, as in her 2014 monograph Fictive Interaction and her 2016 co-edited volume The Conversation Frame (both by John Benjamins). She has received prestigious research grants from the Fulbright foundation and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and currently serves as President of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics.