The Grammar of Sacrifice: A Generativist Study of the Israelite Sacrificial System in the Priestly…

Hardcover | August 31, 2014

byNaphtali S. Meshel

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The notion that rituals, like natural languages, are governed by implicit, rigorous rules led scholars in the last century, harking back to the early Indian grammarian Patanjali, to speak of a "grammar", or "syntax", of ritual, particularly sacrificial ritual. Despite insightful examples ofritual complexes that follow hierarchical rules akin to syntactic structures in natural languages, and ambitious attempts to imagine a Universal Grammar of sacrificial ritual, no single, comprehensive "grammar" of any ritual system has yet been composed. This book offers the first such "grammar." Centering on L - the idealized sacrificial system represented in the Priestly laws in the Pentateuch - it demonstrates that a ritual system is describable in terms of a set of concise, unconsciously internalized, generative rules, analogous to the grammarof a natural language. Despite far-reaching diachronic developments, reflected in Second Temple and rabbinic literature, the ancient Israelite sacrificial system retained a highly unchangeable "grammar," which is abstracted and analysed in a formulaic manner.The limits of the analogy to linguistics are stressed: rather than categories borrowed from linguistics, such as syntax and morphology, the operative categories of L are abstracted inductively from the ritual texts: zoemics - the study of the classes of animals used in ritual sacrifice; jugation-therules governing the joining of animal and non-animal materials; hierarchics-the tiered structuring of sacrificial sequences; and praxemics--the analysis of the physical activity comprising sacrificial procedures. Finally, the problem of meaning in non-linguistic ritual systems is addressed.

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The notion that rituals, like natural languages, are governed by implicit, rigorous rules led scholars in the last century, harking back to the early Indian grammarian Patanjali, to speak of a "grammar", or "syntax", of ritual, particularly sacrificial ritual. Despite insightful examples ofritual complexes that follow hierarchical rule...

Naphtali S. Meshel is Assistant Professor of Religion and Judaic Studies at Princeton University.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:August 31, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198705565

ISBN - 13:9780198705567

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Table of Contents

The "Grammar" of SacrificePreface1. Introduction2. Zoemics3. Jugation4. Hierarchics5. Praxemics6. Meaning7. The Grammar of Sacrifice and the Sacrifice of GrammarBibliographyA Grammar of LZoemicsJugationHierarchicsPraxemics