Answering yes/no questions in biblical Hebrew dialogue

Adina Moshavi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The question-response interchange in biblical dialogue is of great linguistic as well as literary interest. In order to successfully serve purposes such as characterization and plot development, question-response interactions in a literary composition must authentically reflect the linguistic forms and conversational practices characterizing natural spoken language. The present study analyzes the linguistic characteristics and patterns of use of responses to questions in Biblical Hebrew dialogue. Its findings show that the semantics and syntax of answers to yes/no questions are closely related to the affiliation or misaffiliation of the answer with the question’s accompanying assumptions, expectations, and agendas. These associations between semantic/syntactic types and social cooperativeness, which closely resemble those found in modern spoken conversation, contribute to the authenticity of the style of biblical dialogue, and enable the question-response interaction to function effectively on the literary level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-104
Number of pages15
JournalVetus Testamentum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020.


  • Answers
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Conversation analysis
  • Dialogue
  • Direct speech
  • Linguistics
  • Questions
  • Syntax

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Questions and answers
  • Hebrew language, Biblical -- Semantics
  • Hebrew language, Biblical -- Syntax
  • Dialogue in the Bible


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