Hebrew ha¯ya¯H: Etymology, bleaching, and discourse structure

Frank Polak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Schultens and Michaelis have postulated a connection between Hebrew ha¯ya¯h and Arabic hawa¯, 'to blow/ fall'. This analysis, adopted by Bottcher and Palache but largely rejected in scholarship, can be buttressed by a significant number of cases in which ha¯ya¯h interchanges with verbs of motion, for example, 'to fall' (Deut 13:10/Gen 37:22; Num 24:2/Judg 14:6; Isa 9:7; Ezek 11:5; Exod 19:16/Dan 4:28[31]). Moreover, the view that ha¯ya¯h serves to indicate tense only is undermined by instances in which it appears in parallelism with a verbless clause (Gen 29:17). Hence it seems preferable to analyse the locative/existential use of this verb, in accordance with the insights of cognitive linguistics, as a bleached metaphor (Abblassung): 'to fall' > 'to occur' > 'to be' (also as copula). This conclusion is supported by the consideration of a large number of languages in which the existential/locative meaning of certain verbs likewise results from bleaching of verbs of motion (note English 'accident', 'incident' < Latin cado, 'to fall'; 'event' < venio, 'to come'; German Zufall; English 'to fall/turn out'). Thus the meaning potential of ha¯ya¯h constitutes an interval extending from 'to fall' to 'to be', but always connoting momentum and eclat. The function of wayyehi¯ as narrative marker also fits the syntactic role of motion verbs.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTradition and Innovation in Biblical Interpretation
Subtitle of host publicationStudies Presented to Professor Eep Talstra on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday
EditorsWido Th. van Peursen, Janet W. Dyk
PublisherEntomological Society of Canada
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789004210615
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameStudia Semitica Neerlandica
ISSN (Print)0081-6914


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