Although his work consists of a detailed study of the Psalter, Diethelm Michel’s Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen has an important section about the syntax of clauses in Hebrew (Section 5 of the work). For my own benefit and perhaps some out there who find such study interesting, I thought it might be helpful to present his results. (I did a similar summary of Wolfgang Schneider here.) In section 28, Michel lays out his understanding of the verbal clause and the nominal clause.
The Verbal Clause
- We refer to a clause as a verbal clause (VC) when it reports the performance of an action or the appearance of a characteristic.
- The predicate of a VC always consists of a finite verb.
- The finite verb always stands at the beginning of the clause; only adverbial qualification can step in before it. An explicit subject follows the verb in attributive position. An example of an adverbial phrase coming before the finite verb would be Ps 102:9a:
כָּל־הַ֭יּוֹם חֵרְפ֣וּנִי אוֹיְבָ֑י
all day my enemies surround me
The Nominal Clause
- We call a clause a nominal clause (NC) that makes a statement about a subject.
- A subject of the NC is a substantive or an equivalent of such (pronoun, substantive adjective or participle, substantive clause).
- A predicate of a nominal clause can be (1) a substantive, (2) an adjective (participle), (3) a pronoun, (4) an adverb, or (5) an entire clause. The last possibility is important in that it leads the third classification, the compound nominal clause.
The Compound Nominal Clause
- We call a clause a “compound nominal clause” when its predicate consists of an entire clause, a NC or a VC.
- In the predicate of the clause, a back-reference to the larger subject can take place.
- When a so-called copula is used in a nominal clause, it is regarded as a compound nominal clause.
Here are two examples, the first is a CNC with a NC as predicate, the second with a VC as predicate. Both have a nominal at the front about which a whole clause makes a claim.
וַאֲנִ֤י תְפִלָּתִֽי־לְךָ֙׀ יְהוָ֡ה
As for me: my prayer is to you, Yhwh.
יְֽהוָ֗ה בַּ֭שָּׁמַיִם הֵכִ֣ין כִּסְא֑וֹ
Yhwh [he has done this as a characteristic]:
he has established his throne in the heavens.