AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

The Function of the Tricolon in the Psalms of Ascents

by Simon Paul Stocks

Institution: University of Manchester
Year: 2011
Keywords: tricolon; hebrew; poetry; psalms; ascents; para-tricolon; function
Record ID: 1399213
Full text PDF: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/escholar/uk-ac-man-scw:119691


In Biblical Hebrew poetry the common bipartite line-form is sometimes varied to become tripartite, producing lines commonly designated ‘tricola’. Studies of the form or function of tricola have been limited in their value by inconsistent or ambiguous approaches to the colometry of the text. A review of theories of colometry finds the accentual rhythmical approach of Sievers to provide the most consistent and reliable analysis. This approach can be nuanced by the adoption of numerical limits on words and syllables that are commensurate with several other approaches, in order to provide an explicit and consistent basis for assessing colometry. The Psalms of Ascents are taken as a sample corpus of poetic texts and their colometry is assessed on that basis. Particular attention is paid to a detail of Sievers’ theory that identifies a six-stress tripartite line as rhythmically equivalent to a six-stress bicolon. Such a line is designated a ‘para-tricolon’ and is distinguished from a full tricolon that typically has eight or more stresses. Similarly, three different analyses of the macro-structure of each psalm are used to explore how it is structured through the connections between its component cola and lines.The internal syntactic and semantic structure of each tripartite line is analysed in order to facilitate an assessment of its function within the structure of the psalm and to contribute to a general characterisation of tripartite lines. The significance of enjambment is particularly explored as a distinguishing factor between different line-forms and as a means of uniting non-parallel cola.It is evident that no single defining characteristic of a tripartite line exists. The semantic and syntactic structures of tripartite lines both vary widely. However, clear differences are apparent between the form and function of para-tricola and those of tricola.