Does Syntactic Variation reflect Language Change? Tracing Syntactic Diversity in Biblical Hebrew Texts


The linguistic diversity of the Hebrew Bible has sparked much interest over the last decades, leading to a broad range of explanations: differences in time of origin, genre, dialect, the influence of neighbouring languages, individual styles of the authors, or transmission history. Fierce debates have led to a flow of publications, frequently focusing on lexical and morpho-syntactic issues and approaching the question within the traditional-philological framework.
The proposed project will complement existing studies by implementing syntactic parameters; the scope will include the whole Hebrew Bible with selected extra-biblical texts as points of comparison. It proposes to register the frequencies of a broad spectrum of syntactic structures which evidence variation in Biblical Hebrew at phrase, clause, and text-compositional levels, before hypothesizing as to the reason for the differences. By implementing insights from and instruments developed in the linguistic study of language variation and change, and by separately analysing syntactic contexts in which a variant occurs, the project will bring to light whether the texts show a random use of multiple variants or whether a shift and development in the use of the possibilities can be traced.
Three projects will deal with syntactic phenomena at the levels of phrases, clauses, and text composi-tion, respectively. The results of these projects will be brought together in a synthesis which integrates the findings from these projects, showing their congruous and contradicting tendencies.


Scientific article

  • M. Naaijer(2014): LAF-Fabric Computational linguistics in the Netherlands pp. 105 - 120

Chapter in book

  • J.W. Dyk, A. Brenner-Idan(2014): Discourse, Dialogue, and Debate in the Bible pp. 48 - 65 , Sheffield


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. J.W. Dyk

Affiliated with

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Godgeleerdheid

Team members

Dr. D. Bakker, Drs. M.E. Kaajan, Drs. M.E. Kaajan, Drs. M. Naaijer


01/10/2013 to 30/09/2017