Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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ponents o f “Balak son o f Zippor” are distributed between the two
lines. Psychological experiments show that subjects may reply in a
word association test either paradigmatically or syntagmatically.
Consequently, Berlin proposes that the ancient bard produced
the second o f the two words in a pairing through word associa­
tion. What is at stake for Berlin is the degree to which the bard
was inventive rather than conventional in producing verse.
No one can doubt that at least some o f the word pairings
resulted from word association in their origin. There are at least
two reasons that I would continue to regard the use o f word pair­
ings as conventional. One is that we find the same word pairings
in ancient Canaanite verse from Ugarit, dating to a period prior
to the exodus from Egypt. Hebrew
— “head” / “pate”
harkens back at least to Ugaritic times. More critically, if one
examines the word association studies, such as those by James
Deese on which Berlin relies, one does not find figurative or met­
aphorical responses to words the likes o f which one finds in
Ugaritic and biblical verse. As Alter, too, has seen, a pairing such
as “wine” / “blood o f grapes” (Genesis 49:11), corresponding to
“wine” / “blood o f trees” in Ugaritic, would seem to result from
literary invention, not word association.
Those like Berlin who understand semantic repetition as an
element o f parallelism encounter a fundamental difficulty.
Semantic sense is not itself a structured phenomenon. We associ­
ate words and sentences through our having experienced them
in conjunction, not on account o f any inherent connection
between them. To state my thesis first, it is the linguistic patterns
that produce parallelism that function to associate two or more
propositions (see “How Does Parallelism Mean?”). Berlin
adduces a compound sentence containing two propositions:
went to the beach and Peter was born in Manchester.
Because she her­
self has not had an association between these propositions, she
regards their conjunction as “uncoherent”
In fact, no sen­
tence possesses an inherent semantic association, as the following
story will, I trust, demonstrate: “John and Mary begged us to
postpone our vacation and witness first-hand the birth o f our first
grandchild. We have ever since regretted our decision. We went
to the beach, and Peter was born in Manchester.” As in biblical