The Value of Register Analysis for Psalm Classification: Psalms 18 and 68 as a Test Case

Is it possible to analyze the Psalter as a macro discourse? One way to approach analyzing the macro discourse of the Tehillim is to synthesize whole discourses of individual psalms into analyzable, comparable data. Utilizing the methodological approach of register analysis, as distilled by Halliday, the register of two Hebrew psalms will be compared in order to ascertain genre distinctions. The language variation occasioned by the composition situation of a historical praise psalm, for instance, will likely require the composer to reach for some consistent literary features, lexical choices, rhetoric, or other discourse features. Register analysis is a well-poised tool to uncover such distinct features. Psalms 18 and 68, two comparable psalms, will be investigated. The former psalm was chosen since any distillation of the discourse’s situation of context can be verified by comparing the near-verbatim repetition of the psalm in 2 Sam 22 and the surrounding textual setting. The latter psalm was selected because no clear situation of context has been asserted for Ps 68, providing a counterpoint for tentative conclusions about the register of both texts. Both psalms are generally considered to report historical narrative within a poetic frame; both are Davidic according to the superscripts, and in light of close attention to each text. Despite their similarities, differences can illuminate issues that arise when comparing each text’s register. Both lengthy psalms issue from different portions of the canonical “books” of the Psalter; both present different text critical issues; and both convey their communicative purposes in much different ways. Nevertheless, little work has been done in proving or disproving the value of register analysis at the canonical level. After investigating each discourse’s constituent field, tenor, and mode, a summative assessment will be made for the likely value of register analysis for a macro-structural analysis of Hebrew psalms. The paper will ultimately find that the register of Ps 18 provides helpful insight into the register features of Ps 68, and also provides a helpful test case for analyzing the genre features of the psalter.

Tentative Argument Sequence
I. IntroductionMethodology – Register Analysis and Key Notions
II. Analysis of Ps 18
a. Field
b. Tenor
c. Mode
d. Summary
III. RA of Ps 68
a. Field
b. Tenor
c. Mode
d. Summary
IV. Synthesis
a. Register Comparison
b. Similarities
c. Differences
d. Value for Discourse Psalter Study

5 thoughts on “The Value of Register Analysis for Psalm Classification: Psalms 18 and 68 as a Test Case”

  1. Not ready for presentation
    The scholar has sketched out a broad but unfocused line of argument. I would want to see him get his material in better order before presenting on this topic.

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