The Grammaticalization of בלי: Part 1 and 2 (finally published)

w3e7r
w3e7r

For the many thousands who are interested, both Part 1 and Part 2 of an article I co-authored with Alex Andrason have been published by JNSL and are available for download. In this two-parter we take a look at the Biblical Hebrew lexeme בלי and explore its fascinating grammatical evolution. Although only appearing 59 times in the Hebrew Bible, we get glimpses of multiple stages of its grammatical life: beginning as a noun and ending as a verbal negator, with preposition, semi-conjunction, conjunction, and negative affix in between. It really is remarkable that such a full story of grammaticalization could be told in such a sparse number of occurrences. But the data doesn't lie (and we try not to.). ;)

A final closing comment concerns the label we use to describe this vast array of potential uses of בלי. Instead of referring to this potential as polysemy, we use the term heterosemy. Don't worry, I hadn't heard this term before Alex introduced me to it when we started writing these articles. While polysemy is traditionally used to describe a lexeme that has multiple (more semantic) meanings, heterosemy is used to describe a lexeme that has multiple (more grammatical) functions. So, for instance, "google" is heterosemous in the sense that it can be used as a noun ("Google owns everything") or as a verb ("Just google it"). While "sharp" is polysemous in the sense that it can mean keen or pointy. To be clear, most lexemes can't be discussed from only one of these two angles (thank you, grammaticalization). Many share both a semantic (polysemy) and functional (heterosemy) potential. In addition to meaning different things, "sharp" can be used as both an adjective and an adverb. In our article, we just chose to focus on heterosemy, since this perspective was much more interesting as בלי unashamedly boasted a full spectrum of the grammaticalization process.

If you have any questions about the article, don't hesitate to ask in the comments section below. Enjoy!(?)