A Clitic in Jonah

About a year and a half ago I sat in on Larry Perkins’ paper at SBL Chicago entitled “The Order of Pronominal Clitics in Greek Exodus – An Indicator of the Translator’s Intentionality.” You can read about my summary of the presentation and Perkins’ findings here. At the time I thought the paper was fascinating, but wasn’t entirely sure it would be anything other than…well…fascinating.

As I was working through Jonah 1:9 today, I found a perfect example of what Perkins was talking about. Here’s what I wrote:

מַה־ מְּלַאכְתְּךָ֙
τίς σου ἡ ἐργασία ἐστί;


The first question hurled at Jonah concerns his occupation. Sasson notes that it may seem odd to modern readers that this would be the first question the sailors ask. It is customary in common parlance first to ask a person’s name.[1] He goes on to observe that this should not strike us as odd. The sailors are on the cusp of death frantically trying to circumvent their inevitable fate. We would only expect the most important question to be placed first. After all, and as the reader already knows, it is precisely Jonah’s occupation and his flight from duty that has created the problem.[2] The LXX translator seems to pick up on the importance of this question as well. Larry Perkins argues that the normal word order for clitics (words like μου and σου) in the LXX follows Hebrew syntax: noun + pronoun. Where this order is reversed, however, the translator recognizes and marks significant development within the narrative.[3] The translator of Jonah 1:8d places the pronoun σου before the noun it possesses. Of the nineteen instances of μου or σου in Jonah, this is the only instance where the translator places it before the noun. He means to draw the reader’s attention to this question. How will Jonah answer this probing question? What will the sailors do when they learn what the reader has known all along? The subsequent questions slow the narrative down creating tension as the reader dwells on these questions and their implications.


[1] Jack Sasson, Jonah, 113.

 [2] Ibid.

 [3] Larry Perkins, “The Order of Pronominal Clitics in Greek Exodus – An Indicator of the Translator’s Intentionality” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the SBL, Chicago, Il., 11/18/2012).

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5 Responses to A Clitic in Jonah

  1. Anonymous says:

    So how would you bring that out in translation?

    • jacobcerone says:

      I’m thinking something along the lines of “Your occupation, what is it?” I’m not altogether comfortable with that option since the whole noun phrase is not fronted (σου ἡ ἐργασία τίς ἔστι;). I think it is close, though, as the focus, according to Perkins, is not on the pronoun but on the development within the narrative signaled by the position of the pronoun. Thoughts?

  2. Pingback: Septuagint Studies Soirée #8: The One Week Late Edition | Words on the Word

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