Erich Lessing

“do not glean in another field,” Boaz tells Ruth, who kneels before him in this painting by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), when an overseer (at right) tells Boaz of her request to glean in his field. “Why have I found favor in your eyes?” Ruth asks him.

In Boaz’s first conversation with Ruth, he demonstrates typical male patterns of speech, which modern sociolinguists term “report talk.” His speech is long, 35 words in Hebrew, contains several active verbs and imperatives, offers solutions, and, in general, establishes Boaz’s authority as an older, male property owner. Ruth’s response, on the other hand, exhibits typical female patterns of speech, which sociolinguists term “rapport talk.” Only seven words long in Hebrew, Ruth’s response contains few verbs and no imperatives; her words display an interest in relationships as she stresses Boaz’s apparent concern for her. Although Boaz does acknowledge Ruth’s role in helping Naomi, at this time he only gives Ruth a general blessing and does not become personally involved in their struggle.