The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


This paper offers a structural analysis of the evolution of a grammatical phenomenon in Biblical Hebrew known as the Ethical Dative (ED). My analysis is rooted in the grammaticalization chain proposed by Talmy Givón wherein the Ethical Dative evolves incrementally from other dative forms, accounting for its lopsided distribution across the Bible. Via its similarity to the Personal Dative in Appalachian English, I propose a derivation for the ED whose locus is the specifier of a high Applicative Phrase, allowing us to account for Givón’s progression through the gradual reduction of merge-operations and feature-valuation at that node. My analysis bolsters the notion that the uneven distribution of EDs is indicative of diachronic evolution and not synchronic variation. Moreover, this paper enhances our understanding of a potential grammatical fingerprint within the Hebrew Bible that may aid in discerning authors, time periods, and the broader history of the Bible’s composition and redaction.