2

Frequently, the Torah uses a final nun (ן) at the end of verbs. They seem to be 2nd person plural verbs. An example:

Deuteronomy 5:30:

בְּכָל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֜ה יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֛ם אֶתְכֶ֖ם תֵּלֵ֑כוּ לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיוּן֙ וְט֣וֹב לָכֶ֔ם וְהַאֲרַכְתֶּ֣ם יָמִ֔ים בָּאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּֽירָשֽׁוּן׃

Ye shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess

(Translation from Sefaria. I added for convenience of non-Hebrew MY readers.)

There are numerous other instances where this technique is used in the Torah. (I assume this is used in the rest of Tanac"h, also, but I'm uncertain.)

The meaning of the verb is the same with or without the Nun. My questions:

  • Is there a pattern as to when the Torah uses the Nun? (Perhaps related to trope (cantillation note) or surrounding words or syntax?
  • Does the Nun convey any additional meaning that would not be conveyed if it were missing?
  • I am assuming that this technique is used only for 2nd person plural verbs. Maybe it's used for 2nd person singular as well. Is it used elsewhere? Please cite a sample.
7

The addition of a nun is referred to in some grammars as "nunation"; this particular type of nun is the "paragogic nun", and its usage is controversial. It appears over 300 times throughout Tanakh (mostly in Deuteronomy, incidentally - 56 times), primarily on the ends of 3rd person and 2nd person plurals, but sometimes also on the end of a 2nd person feminine singular (eg: Ruth 2:8, 2:21, 3:4 and 3:18).

So, what does it signify? Its similarity to attested forms in Ugaritic, Arabic and Aramaic (in which it is simply the regular, non-jussive form) makes it seem archaic. It could be evidence, therefore, for the text's being old, or for it featuring a deliberating archaism. It may also, some think, have to do with metrical considerations - note that verbs with the paragogic nun occur especially on major and minor pauses. Some think that it provides an added emphasis, and others think that it is there for euphonic reasons. Truth be told, it's a bit of a mystery.

Sources:

  • Joüon and Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (2nd edition; Gregorian and Biblical Press, 2009), §44e-f
  • E. Kautzsch (ed.), Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (Revised by A.E. Cowley; 2nd edition; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), §44m
  • Bruce K. Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1990), §31.7-31.7.1
  • The two sources that you listed are very unfamiliar to me. Would you be able to provide a link to either, esp. the 1st one (just judging from its title seems more interesting and thorough.) Even if you could provide some info about the publisher or if this is available in a library, that helps. – DanF Aug 3 '15 at 0:58
  • @DanF - On the contrary, the second of those texts (Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar - aka "GKC") is extremely thorough. I've now provided fuller references, and added a third one for good measure. The first two are more comprehensive, but the third is more readable. Afraid I don't have any links, but if any of them are available online it would most likely be the second. (Which is not to say that it is, mind you). – Shimon bM Aug 3 '15 at 1:29
  • @DanF - I did a quick Google search. This looks promising: archive.org/details/GeseniusHebrewGrammarPdf – Shimon bM Aug 3 '15 at 1:29
  • Thanks so much. I had a quick browse. Looks great. I'm not familiar with the notations that you used. For the Gesenius what does the "44m" mean? – DanF Aug 3 '15 at 15:09
  • @DanF - with all of them, "§" means Section, followed by the section number and, where relevant, the sub-section (in that case, "m"). I had a very quick look at the link I sent you and it's quite different to my version at home. Since the PDF edition doesn't have an index, I couldn't find where the treatment of paragogic nun would be. I think you might need to find it in a library, I'm sorry to say. – Shimon bM Aug 3 '15 at 23:16

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