The word מספר ‘number’ in Ancient Hebrew is a floating quantifier: it can either follow a noun phrase (NP), e.g., ימים מספר ‘a few days’ (lit. days [of] number; Num 9:20), or precede it, e.g., מספר ימים ‘a few days’ (Ben Sira 41:13, MS Masada). An intermediary stage between the original meaning ‘number’ and the quantifier meaning ‘a few’ appears to be ‘limited, predetermined number’, e.g., מספר ימי חיו ‘the limited days of his life’ (Eccl 5:17). Throughout the history of Hebrew the NP+מספר order prevailed, but from the Jewish Enlightenment period onwards the reverse order is found as well, and it is conventional in Israeli Hebrew. Nonetheless, many copyeditors nowadays consider the construction מספר+NP incorrect. Online discussions on this matter in professional forums suggest that this is because copyeditors favor simple unequivocal rules and rely heavily on canonical prescriptive literature.
|Translated title of the contribution||A Number of Days|
|Number of pages||18|
|Journal||לשוננו: כתב-עת לחקר הלשון העברית והתחומים הסמוכים לה|
|State||Published - 2020|