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Enclitic Mem in Archaic Biblical Poetry

SEUNG IL KANG 1

1한남대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

The enclitic mem is well attested in some Semitic languages such as Ugaritic, Akkadian, Ugaritic Akkadian, and classical Ethiopic. Its existence in biblical Hebrew, however, has not been recognized until fairly recently because it became confused by the Masoretes with other morphemes with mem, e.g. the masculine plural suffix , the pronomi- nal suffix and the preposition. This essay seeks to identify some cases of enclitic mems in archaic biblical poetry. It is, therefore, by no means a comprehensive research on the enclitic mem throughout the Bible. The reason why this specific group of texts is chosen is because these poems are one of the oldest texts in the Old Testament, and thus, they usually preserve some archaic features of the Iron Age Hebrew. This study shows that the enclitic mem did indeed exist in biblical Hebrew and may have functioned as a focusing morpheme to emphasize or to bring attention to the word to which it is attached. Meanwhile, it is very difficult to prove its metrical function on account of the fact that it is not clear whether the enclitic mem could always account for one syllable by itself. However, in light of the prevalence in biblical poetry of וֹמ, וֹמ, and the prepositional forms with the enclitic mem, the Hebrew poets in all probability took into account of metrical factors when using the enclitic mem in their literary works. I hope this essay will set the stage for further in-depth analyses of the enclitic particle throughout the Old Testament that would bring to light such a hitherto little known feature of biblical Hebrew as the enclitic mem. Further studies would also investigate a possibility that the enclitic particle could be used in poetry in place of other emphatic devices in Hebrew such as the infinitive absolute or inversion of the word order.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.