SBL Paper: Paul Korchin on the Pseudo-Cohortative
You may know Paul Korchin’s name from his dissertation on markedness in the Canaanite and Hebrew verbal system. He delivered a paper in the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section which I found interesting.
In Biblical Hebrew 1st person verbs we sometimes find cohortative forms where we would expect a nonvolitive meaning. For instance, in parallel passages 2 Kings uses the cohortative form אבואה, while Isaiah uses אבוא:
2Kg 19:23 וְאָב֙וֹאָה֙ מְל֣וֹן קִצֹּ֔ה
And I reached its farthest lodge
Is 37:24 וְאָבוֹא֙ מְר֣וֹם קִצּ֔וֹ
And I reached its farthest peak
There are 94 examples of such pseudo-cohortatives compared to 527 normal volitive forms in the Hebrew Bible. Korchin categorizes these into five categories – expression, conveyance, perception, locomotion, and impact – suggesting that they share the feature of action away from the deictic center. Note that since this phenomenon always occurs with 1st person verbs, the deictic center is always the speaker.
Korchin’s argument is that the pseudo-cohortative forms are the result of a natural process of grammaticalization whereby a hypernym is reanalyzed as a ventive or itive affix. A hypernym is a word whose semantic range fully encompasses a second word (or set of words), the hyponym(s). The usual test for a hypernym-hyponym relationship is the “is a” clause:
A puppy (hyponym) is a dog (hypernym).
In the case of the pseudo cohortative, the hypernym would be to go הלך. Korchin suggests that the process may have begun with “get up and go” compounds such as:
Gn 43:8 וְנָק֣וּמָה וְנֵלֵ֑כָה
Let us get up and go…
Unfortunately, this part of his paper became a bit confused so I couldn’t follow exactly how he saw the process unfolding. On the one hand he seemed to be arguing that the affix grammaticalized directly from הלך by phonological reduction, on the other hand he implied that a reanalysis of the cohortative –â affix as a ventive took place.
I was also disappointed that he did not address the argument that what we have with the pseudo-cohortatives is actually hypercorrection by scribes who are misanalyzing the wayyiqtol as waw + volitive form. For 2nd and 3rd person this is the jussive, for 1st person it is a cohortative. Note that the examples are overwhelmingly from books considered to be LBH. In Qumran Hebrew this becomes the normal form.