Reading Biblical Hebrew poetry through the lens of Information Structure theory

  • Veronica Ann Vandervliet

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


It is generally recognised that the constituent order of Biblical Hebrew poetry is more variable than that of narrative. Often, this is taken as a matter of stylistics and largely ignored in translation. Where the Information Structure (IS) is analysed, it has been recognised that the order within non-initial cola of parallel cola is more flexible than that of initial cola. Finding previous IS models inadequate for the task of analysing Biblical Hebrew, this thesis begins with an outline of a new model drawing on theory and insights from the field of IS, which is then applied firstly to narrative and then poetry. It is suggested that the constituent order of non-initial cola of poetry may be used as a guide in understanding how the semantics of parallel cola interrelate. Too often, parallel cola are deemed to exhibit ‘synonymous parallelism’ and are thus understood as a simple restatement in different words. A more nuanced approach is to be encouraged, using constituent order as an aid in discerning whether the cola represent one idea, or two that are to be compared, contrasted or deemed to be in some other way connected. It is found that attention to the IS of parallel cola may remove some types of ambiguity and give commentators confidence in the interpretative decisions that they make. Furthermore, this research indicates that an understanding of how IS is expressed in both source and target languages enables translators to produce renditions in which the pragmatics of the original are more faithfully reproduced. A further outcome of this research is the reiteration of a warning concerning the use of one lexeme within parallel cola identified as ‘synonymous’ to aid the translation of another.
Date of Award11 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorDavid James Reimer (Supervisor) & William Arthur Tooman (Supervisor)


  • Biblical Hebrew constituent order
  • Topic
  • Comment
  • Presupposition
  • Focus
  • Focus typology
  • Topicalisation
  • Thetic
  • Parallelism
  • Pragmatics

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 11 April 2025

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