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So, for anyone knowing Hebrew, I've been having a question regarding the Hebrew particle "she" (שֶׁ). Now, if I'm not wrong, it comes from "shel" (שֶׁל) which is a relative, like "asher" (אֲשֶׁר). Is this particle a late grammatical feature of Hebrew?

Some examples of its usage (exilic and post-exilic, for this instance) include: 1 Chronicles 5:20; Ezra 8:20; and Lamentations 2:15. Is the use of "she" (שֶׁ) an invariable sign of lateness? Or can it appear earlier on? If yes, how far back in time would you say?

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  • I'm pretty sure that שֶׁ does not "come from" שֶׁל . Rather, שֶׁל is a compound שֶׁ-ל "which (is) to" i.e. "of". This is transparent in the personal forms such as שֶׁלי֙ .
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 26, 2019 at 23:20

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While the particle šĕ (שֶׁ) is predominantly found in "later" books -- especially Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs -- it is not an inevitable sign of lateness in the language.

There are also examples in early books, one of the most striking occuring in the "old" poem, the Song of Deborah, in Judges 5:7 -

The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel,
Until I [עַ֤ד שַׁקַּ֙מְתִּי֙], Deborah, arose,
Until I arose, a mother in Israel. NASB

The standard work on this is Gotthelf Bergsträsser, "Das hebräische Präfix ‫שׁ‬," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 29 (1909): 40-56; Paul Joüon's grammar (§ 38) also asserts that it must have "existed at all times in the vernacular".

So far as I'm aware, Bergsträsser is still followed in the view that the particle is related to Akkadian ša. For a very full discussion of this phenomenon, see Robert Holmstedt, "Historical Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew", in Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, ed. by C.L. Miller-Naudé and Z. Zevit (Eisenbrauns, 2012) with the relevant discussion on pp. 113-119.

So, no -- the use of this particle is not necessarily a pointer to lateness in biblical Hebrew usage.

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  • Doesn't the question imply a more widespread use of the particle, rather than its mere presence? Dec 21, 2019 at 22:33

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