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Use of the definite article and object marker in Hebrew - poetic sections

The following psalms and poetic sections were reviewed: In terms of attribution of time-frame or authorship, the selected Psalms span the complete range from pre-monarchy to exilic times. The extracts chosen are of course of differing lengths, so tables below show both the "raw" counts and those standardised as rates per 500 words - that is the projected count as though each had consisted of 500 words. Counting words is slightly problematic depending whether words joined by maqqêph are counted separately or as one: however the conclusions do not depend on subtleties of this nature.

Three kinds of prefix were counted:

  1. The definite article ha- when applied as-is to nouns
  2. The definite article when combined with one of the other standard prefixes le-, be- or ke- to form the compounds la-, ba-, ka-. This is separated out as in the consonantal text the two are indistinguishable, whereas in case (1) above, the consonantal text would differ.
  3. The direct object marker ’eth-

Summary counts - raw figures

ItemVerse countWord countha- as-isha- with other particle’eth-
Psalm 2714138002
Psalm 291183322
Psalm 68353000110
Psalm 7913123515
Psalm 9017130040
Psalm 121846221
Psalm 126647132
Psalm 137980305
Miriam's Song1864050
Hannah's Song10105030
Deborah's Song30341670
Moses' Song43365330
Moses' Blessing28319212

Summary counts - adjusted to standard 500 words

ItemWord countha- as-isha- with other particle’eth-
Psalm 27500007
Psalm 29500181212
Psalm 685000180
Psalm 7950020420
Psalm 905000150
Psalm 121500222211
Psalm 126500113221
Psalm 13750019031
Miriam's Song5000390
Hannah's Song5000140
Deborah's Song5009100
Moses' Song500440
Moses' Blessing500323

it is clear that there is indeed a trend for the items attributed to early writers to have a smaller number of occurrences of ha- (as-is) and ’eth. Use of ha- with another particle does not have such a clear-cut pattern, perhaps because its use depends to a greater extent on the subject matter tackled, rather than simply the age of writing. To highlight the issue, the following two lists group these items into three blocks, ordered by increasing ha- and ’eth- respectively.

Low counts of ha- (as-is), adjusted to standard 500 words

Counts 0-10
Psalm 27, Psalm 90, Psalm 68, Miriam's Song, Moses' Blessing, Moses' Song, Deborah's Song, Hannah's Song
Counts 11-20
Psalm 29, Psalm 126, Psalm 137
Counts 21 and over
Psalm 79, Psalm 121

Low counts of ’eth-, adjusted to standard 500 words

Counts 0-10
Psalm 27, Psalm 68, Psalm 90, Miriam's Song, Moses' Blessing, Moses' Song, Deborah's Song, Hannah's Song
Counts 11-20
Psalm 29, Psalm 79, Psalm 121
Counts 21 and over
Psalm 126, Psalm 137
It is clear that the "low" group is the same in both cases, so that the picture that emerges is entirely consistent between the two approaches. Psalm 29 appears in the "middle" group in both cases, and the remaining four psalms alternate between the "middle" and "high" group.
Writing styles