The Semantics of Word Division in Northwest Semitic Writing Systems: Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew, Moabite and Greek [eBook (PDF)]

Robert S.D. Crellin(Author)

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ISBN: 9781789256802 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems (CREWS) | Volume: 4 | Year of Publication: 2021 | 256p, B/w

The Semantics of Word Division in Northwest Semitic Writing Systems



Much focus in writing systems research has been on the correspondences on the level of the grapheme/phoneme. Seeking to complement these, this monograph considers the targets of graphic word-level units in natural language, focusing on ancient North West Semitic (NWS) writing systems, principally Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician and Ugaritic. While in Modern European languages word division tends to mark-up morphosyntactic elements, in most NWS writing systems word division is argued to target prosodic units, whereby written ‘words’ consist of units which must be pronounced together with a single primary accent or stress. This is opposed to other possibilities including Semantic word division, as seen in Middle Egyptian hieroglyphic.

The monograph starts by considering word division in a source where, unlike the rest of the material considered, the phonology is well represented, the medieval tradition of Tiberian Hebrew and Aramaic. There word division is found to mark-up ‘minimal prosodic words’, i.e. units that must under any circumstances be pronounced together as a single phonological unit. After considering the Sitz im Leben of such a word division strategy, the monograph moves on to compare Tiberian word division with that in early epigraphic NWS, where it is shown that orthographic wordhood has an almost identical distribution. The most economical explanation for this is argued to be that word division has the same underlying basis in NWS writing since the earliest times. Thereafter word division in Ugaritic alphabetic cuneiform is considered, where two word division strategies are identified, corresponding broadly to two genres of text, poetry and prose. 'Poetic' word division is taken as an instance of mainstream ‘prosodic word division’, while the other is morphosyntactic in scope anticipating later word division strategies in Europe by several centuries. Finally, the monograph considers the digital encoding of word division in NWS texts, especially the difficulties, as well as potential solutions to, the problem of marking up texts with overlapping, viz. morphosyntactic and prosodic, analyses.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
1.1. What is a word?
1.2. Why Northwest Semitic and Greek?
1.3. Wordhood in writing systems research
1.4. Linguistic levels of wordhood
1.5. Word division at the syntax-phonology interface
1.6. Previous scholarship
1.7. Method
1.8. Outline

Part I Phoenician
2. Introduction
2.1. Overview
2.2. Literature review
2.3. Corpus
2.4. Linguistic and sociocultural identity of the inscriptions
2.5. Proto-alphabetic
2.6. Shared characteristics of word division
2.7. Divergence in word division practice

3. Prosodic words
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Distribution of word division
3.3. Graphematic weight of function words
3.4. Morphosyntax of univerbated syntagms
3.5. Sandhi assimilation
3.6. Comparison of composition and distribution with prosodic words in Tiberian Hebrew
3.7. Conclusion

4. Prosodic phrase division
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Syntax of univerbated syntagms
4.3. Comparison with prosodic phrases in Tiberian Hebrew
4.4. Syntactic vs. prosodic phrase level analysis
4.5. Verse form
4.6. Conclusion

Part II Ugaritic alphabetic cuneiform
5. Introduction
5.1. Overview
5.2. Literature review
5.3. Basic patterns of word division and univerbation
5.4. Exceptions to the basic patterns of word division
5.5. Line division
5.6. Contexts of use
5.7. Textual issues
5.8. Inconsistent nature of univerbation
5.9. Hypothesis: Graphematic words represent actual prosodic words

6. The Ugaritic ‘Majority’ orthography
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Syntagms particularly associated with univerbation
6.3. Univerbation with nouns
6.4. Univerbation with verbs
6.5. Univerbation with suffix pronouns
6.6. Univerbation at clause and phrase boundaries
6.7. Summary

7. Quantitative comparison of Ugaritic and Tiberian Hebrew
7.1. Introduction
7.2. Corpus
7.3. Frequency of occurrence
7.4. Length of phrase
7.5. Quantifying the morphosyntactic collocation of linking features
7.6. Measuring Association Score B for Ugaritic and Tiberian Hebrew
7.7. Visualising morphosyntactic collocation of linking features with MDS
7.8. Conclusion

8. Semantics of word division in the Ugaritic ‘Majority’ orthography: prosodic word or prosodic phrase
8.1. Introduction
8.2. Graphematic wordhood in the Ugaritic ‘Majority’ orthography
8.3. Consistency of the representation of ACTUAL PROSODIC WORDHOOD in Ugaritic
8.4. Univerbation at clause boundaries
8.5. Adoption of the ‘Majority’ orthography outside of literary contexts

9. Separation of prefix clitics
9.1. Introduction
9.2. Literary texts
9.3. Non-literary texts adopting the ‘Majority’ orthography
9.4. Non-literary texts adopting the ‘Minority’ orthography
9.5. Conclusion

Part III Hebrew and Moabite
10. Introduction
10.1. Introduction
10.2. Morphosyntactic status of graphematic affixes in Tiberian Hebrew
10.3. Morphosyntactic status of graphematic affixes
10.4. Graphematic status of graphematic affixes
10.5. Conclusion

11. Word division in the consonantal Masoretic Text: Minimal prosodic words
11.1. Introduction
11.2. Combining prosody and morphosyntax (Dresher 1994; Dresher 2009)
11.3. Accounting for graphematic wordhood prosodically
11.4. מַה‎ mah “What?”
11.5. לֹא‎ lōʾ
11.6. Minimal domains for stress assignment and sandhi
11.7. Conclusion

12. Minimal prosodic words in epigraphic Hebrew and Moabite
12.1. Introduction
12.2. Siloam Tunnel inscription
12.3. Meshaʿ stelae (KAI 181 and KAI 30)
12.4. Accounting for word division in the Meshaʿ and Siloam inscriptions
12.5. Conclusion
12.6. Conclusion to Part III

Part IV Epigraphic Greek
13. Introduction
13.1. Overview
13.2. Corpus
13.3. Prosodic wordhood in Ancient Greek
13.4. Metre and natural language
13.5. Problems with identifying graphematic words with prosodic words
13.6. Conclusion

14. The pitch accent and prosodic words
14.1. Introduction
14.2. Prosody of postpositives and enclitics
14.3. Prosody of prepositives and ‘proclitics’
14.4. Conclusion

15. Domains of pitch accent and rhythm
15.1. Introduction
15.2. Challenging the inherited tradition of accentuation
15.3. Pitch accentuation and rhythmic prominence have different domains
15.4. Rhythmic words are canonically trimoraic or greater
15.5. Graphematic words correspond to rhythmic words
15.6. Conclusion

16. Graphematic words with multiple lexicals
16.1. Introduction
16.2. Inconsistency of levels of graphematic representation
16.3. Prosodic subordination of one lexical to another
16.4. Punctuating canonical rhythmic words
16.5. Conclusion

17. Conclusion: The context of word division
17.1. Overview
17.2. Orality and literacy
17.3. Prosodic word level punctuation is a function of the oral performance of texts


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