What’s cooking in Biblical Hebrew? A study in the semantics of daily life
Peters, Kurtis Ray
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The primary intent of this thesis is to explore new avenues in semantic theory and how they might affect understanding of a selection of Biblical Hebrew vocabulary, namely that of cooking. As such, the method used here is equally important as the results discovered. The underlying theory for this method finds it source in Cognitive Grammar and its use of profile-base-domain relations. These relations are illustrative of how the human mind perceives word meanings. Every aspect of meaning is to be understood against the backdrop of a greater context. All of these layers, furthermore, are set against the largest backdrop – encyclopaedic knowledge. This is the entire set of knowledge that a language user has about his or her world, any part of which may be drawn upon for any utterance. This theory has been employed very little in biblical studies. Where it has been employed, it has been done in a way that is largely inaccessible for the non-linguist. It is the intention of this thesis to put this cognitive theory to work in a way that could be repeated faithfully by others. For the present, this is demonstrated by looking at cooking vocabulary in Biblical Hebrew. Cooking vocabulary provides two benefits for this kind of research. First, it is relatively straightforward to coordinate cooking words with lived reality, and therefore to encyclopaedic knowledge. Second, it grants access to the lives of ordinary people living in ancient Palestine, something that has often been overlooked by archaeology in the past, in favour of, for example, palace, cultic, and military life. To this end, this thesis explores the daily reality of ancient Hebrew speakers, particularly in the area of food preparation. This fills out what we can know of encyclopaedic knowledge. Following this is the exploration of cooking lexemes as found in the Hebrew Bible. They are analysed according to the profile-base-domain relations mentioned above, and are divided into their representative concepts. These concepts are then gathered up and grouped in meaningful ways, for example, according to their schematicity – which concepts are more generic or specific and may stand in for another. The concepts associated with אפה are schematically higher than עוג , for example, and therefore any instance of the latter can fill out the meaning of the former. עשׂה , for its part, is maximally schematic, and therefore the information from any other cooking lexeme may be applied to the possible meaning of .עשׂה Lastly, this knowledge is put to use in exegeting biblical texts where food is concerned. Here it is argued, among many other things, that the different descriptions of cooking the Passover in the Hebrew Bible are indeed at variance, which can be illustrated by the fact that בשׁל must relate to liquid cooking and is not simply a generic cooking verb. This and many other insights here serve to demonstrate the value for biblical studies of adopting a cognitive approach to word meaning.