Complementation and Common Ground: Discursive effects in Biblical Hebrew
Camil Staps
November 2023

The choice of clausal connectives, such as complementizers or causal adverbials, is often sensitive to whether the content of the introduced clause is in the Common Ground or not. For example, English complementizer 'that' and causal 'for' often introduce clauses whose information content is in the Common Ground (as opposed to unmarked zero and 'because', respectively). This article shows that the notion of Common Ground can be usefully applied to the highly polysemous Biblical Hebrew clausal connective ‫י‬‫͏כּ‬ִ /kī/ as well. In particular, I describe three types of reference to the Common Ground: (a) simple reference to discourse-old information, (b) accommodated reference to discourse-new but expected information, and (c) imposed reference where discourse-new information is presented as part of the Common Ground for discursive effect. The many different uses of /kī/ (introducing object and subject clauses as well as causal, temporal, conditional, adversative, concessive, and resultative adverbials) can then be derived from contextual clues given the general function of marking Common Ground. Furthermore, I argue that this function of /kī/ is related to its origin as a [+distal] deictic lexeme, much like English 'that'. The analysis thus adds to a growing body of evidence for the possibility of employing referential features in the left periphery to express relations between interlocutors on the one hand and information content on the other.
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Reference: lingbuzz/007711
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: complementizers; information status; common ground; [+distal]; biblical hebrew, semantics, syntax
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