My dissertation demonstrated the significance of sentence complexity on verb number in Biblical Hebrew. With greater complexity, plural verbs predominate until, with three or more complexity factors, only plural verbs are used.
My video expresses the dissertation by presenting three stages of a dance. As the scenery and music become more complex, the “dance” will go from singular to plural in the participants. To symbolize the enlightenment of academic discovery, the video also travels from darkness toward a more sunny setting.
In Stage One, there is only one dancer, myself. This is accompanied by a tune played only on a flute with a tambourine beat. This is an original song I wrote to accompany my dance. Being an academic and not a musician, I produced the song using only Garageband on my computer.
Stage Two adds a piano to the tune, a fuller drum accompaniment, and a second dancer.
In Stage Three, the music goes completely over the top in complexity, adding bass guitar, trumpets, and violin. A third dancer completes the move toward plurality.
The findings of the dissertation confirmed that verb number choice in Biblical Hebrew was not, as previously assumed, ruled by speaker choice in order to produce some semantic emphasis. Rather, the choice was the result of syntactical rules best described by Markedness Theory, which predicts the use of marked forms (plural) when the sentence is overall “marked” by varying levels of complexity. The findings additionally shed light on a centuries old grammatical argument in the cognate Arabic language, in which the reason for the use of a plural verb in a syntactically complex sentence, akaluni al-baraghith (the fleas bit me) was hotly debated.
The Concord of Collective Nouns and Verbs in Biblical Hebrew: A Controlled Study, by Keith Massey
University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998
Social Sciences Category