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Distributive אִיש Tagged as Subject vs. Adjunct


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I have been looking at instances in which אִישׁ is used distributively as 'each', including when it occurs in reciprocal constructions (i.e., 'each one to the other'). The Holmstedt Syntax database differs in the way it tags these occurrences of אִישׁ. For example, sometimes אִישׁ in reciprocal collocations with either רֵעַ or אָח is tagged as as Subject (e.g., Exod 18:7; Judg 6:29; 1 Sam 20:41) whereas other times it is tagged as Adjunct (e.g., Gen 11:3; Exod 16:15; Num 14:4). In both cases the verb is plural rather than singular. 


I don't see any difference between the times the Subject tag is used and the times the Adjunct tag is used. Is this is a simple tagging error, then? Or, is the tagging of some occurrences with Subject vs. others with Adjunct intentional, and if so, what lies behind the difference?


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I will look into this soon. There may be a few ad hoc errors, but I investigated this linguistic issue a couple years ago when I wrote on it in my anaphora article for the Journal of Semitics. I thought I had made all the occurrences consistent, but will double check.

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Ok, the answer is complicated. First, below is an excerpt from my 2019 article:

[excerpted from R. D. Holmstedt (2019), Anaphora in Biblical Hebrew: A Generative Perspective, Journal for Semitics 28 (2): 1-15]


The Hebrew reciprocal construction is a complex NP אישׁ רעהו and אישׁ אחיו (which is quite similar to English “each other”), with the preposition between the two nouns inserted during the derivation of the clause in accordance with the verbal semantics, e.g., אל for the speech verb אמר‎ in Gen 11:3, or the differential object marker (DOM) את for the verb ראה in Exod 10:23. The verb used with the reciprocal is appropriately plural as in (1) [ note 1], unless there is an overt subject that is morphologically singular but semantically collective, such as עם (‘people’) (see, e.g., 1 Sam 10:11). 

(1) ‏ וַיִּתְמְהוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ “the men looked at each other in wonder” (Gen 43:33)


In the absence of a collective noun, a singular verb used with the collocations אישׁ רעהו and אישׁ אחיו are not reciprocal anaphors but subjects and their objects (see, e.g., Exod 21:18 ‏וְהִכָּה אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ “(when) a man strikes his neighbour’”). [note 2] 


Intriguingly, BH allows reciprocals to combine with another NP to form a possessive construction similar to English “they looked at each other’s clothes,” as in (2): [note 3]

(2) ‏לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ “‘they will not understand each other’s speech’” (Gen 11:7)


Note 1: See also Gen 11:3, 7; 26:31; 31:49; 37:19; 42:21, 28; 43:33; Exod 10:23; 16:15; 18:7; 32:27; Lev 25:14; 26:37; Num 14:4; Deut 25:11; Judg 6:29; 1 Sam 20:41; 2 Kgs 3:23; 7:3, 6, 9; Isa 9:18; 13:8; 19:2; Jer 22:8; 23:27, 35; 31:34; 34:15; 36:16; Ezek 4:17; 24:23; 47:14; Joel 2:8; Jon 1:7; Mic 7:2; Zech 3:10; 7:9, 10; 8:16; 14:13; Mal 2:10; 3:16; Psa 12:3; Job 41:9; 2 Chr 20:23


Note 2: See also Exod 21:14; 22:6, 9; 33:11; Lev 7:10; Deut 22:26; 1 Sam 14:20; 1 Kgs 8:31; Isa 3:6; Jer 46:16; Ruth 3:14; 2 Chr 6:22


Note 3: See also 2 Sam 2:16; Jer 5:8; 19:9; Ezek 33:26; Zech 8:17; 14:13.


Second, there are also cases of the distributive used in clauses with overt subjects and also other modifiers between the subject and the reciprocal phrase, which suggests either raising the subject alone (stranding the reciprocal phrase by leaving it behind), or extraposition of the reciprocal, OR the reciprocal has a completely different syntactic structure, that of a small/reduced clause. The variety of these make it tricky to sort out. 


Finally, on the syntax database, I determined that I had left them alone after I did the study due to the complexity of the grammar -- if the preposition/DOM used is selected by the verb and inserted into a reciprocal NP, it is essentially impossible to convey this in our syntactic representations. That is, either we choose to tag it as a complex NP, leaving the verb without its valency-determined preposition/DOM, or we split the NP into parts. We had chose the latter in the first place. 


I am re-consider the whole, checking for errors, and whatever I end up choosing, I will make it consistent. 



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Thanks for the reply, Robert. I appreciate you explaining a little more of the background and why the syntax database was tagged the way it was for this particular construction. 

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