kwrandolph at email.com
Thu Feb 12 18:36:01 EST 2004
Sorry for the mixup in my previous posting. The following is what I thought I had sent.
Renier de Blois took this discussion off list, but he brought up issues that I think are broader than just those between the two of us, so I bring this discussion back on line.
> cognitive linguistics the meaning of a word is linked to a mental image.
> Every word invokes a mental representation in the mind of the person who
> hears it. This representation depends on culture, world view, etc. If a
> dictionary uses glosses only there is a big chance that the English word
> used evokes a picture that is significantly different from the one that
> existed in the mind of the Hebrew speaker. Therefore we are trying to
> use definitions that contain several kinds of information, such as:
> -descriptive information (what does it look like)
> -source information (to what category does it belong, what is it
> made of, why is it done)
> -function (what is it used for, what is the purpose?)
> -connotation (how is it regarded?)
> -participants (who is doing what to whom? Is it an inanimate
> object, it is human, is it God?)
> People can use SDBH to study Hebrew in two ways: They can look up the
> lexical domain of rope and find other words, such as (ABOT, )AGUDDAH,
> etc. The comparison of XEBEL with those other words help to really
> understand the difference between these three words. A solid and well
> structured definition of each word is needed in order to be able to do
> this well. A Bible translator needs this in order to be able to find
> equivalents in the target language.
> At the same time, the user can do a search on the basis of a frame. If,
> for instance, XEBEL is used in the frame of measuring. A search for the
> frame yields a list of words that belong to this frame, both objects
> (measuring rope, measuring reed) and events (to measure). That is
> another perspective.
> Lexical domains (or cognitive categories) give a paradigmatic
> perspective (words belonging to the same category) and contextual
> domains (or cognitive frames) a syntagmatic perspective (words belonging
> to the same frame. Both aspects can be very helpful to understand how
> the Hebrew language worked including its culture and world view. So all
> the divisions of meanings and submeanings are needed in order to be able
> to get to the internal coherence of the language within its system of
> experience, practices, and beliefs.
Is this the way ancient Hebrews thought? Or are we imposing our modern way of thinking on the ancient Hebrews?
Lets take a modern example: What image do you see when you think of an automobile, or what we Americans call a car? Is it any specific example, or general shape, or is the image lacking totally? Renier de Blois statement made me stop and think.
For me, when someone mentions car, I dont get an image. Cars come in so many different sizes and shapes that the term car has no image connected to it in my mind. All I see (perceive) is a function: a car is a self powered vehicle owned (or leased) by an individual for the transportation of himself and/or a small group. (A car is sometimes owned by a government or company to fulfill a specific function, such as a police car.) A sedan is a car defined by its shape, so I get a generalized picture when a sedan is mentioned. The same with a hatchback. A station wagon is a sedan with its cabin stretched backwards to make a squared off back. A van is shaped similar to a miniature bus, a vehicle that can fulfill many functions in and around town. A pickup truck is an outlier to the definition, but it is often used as a car, thus making it a subset of car. What about a SUV? They range all the way from the diminutive Suzuki to the monsters made by GM and Hummer, a
nd many different shapes in between. It is harder for me to get an image of a SUV in my mind. Like car above, a SUV is defined by its function more than its shape.
With this in mind, what did the ancient Hebrew think of when he thought of, for example, XBL? Did he see an object, long and snake-like, or did he perceive a function of binding or grouping together where a rope is just an excellent object to fulfill that function? Did the ancient Hebrew see the form or function first?
As I understand Renier de Blois, he defines XBL first by form, namely a rope. He then looks at the varied uses of the lexeme in all its forms, to see if it fits together. It doesnt all fit together. As a result, he posits four different etymological roots for XBL.
I, on the other hand, view XBL first as a function, namely binding together or grouping together (where there is no object doing the binding). All the uses of XBL that I have analyzed fit that one function. As a result, I see only one etymological root.
My question comes down to: to what extent is it legitimate for us to use our Weltanschauung, our way of thinking, when defining Hebrew lexemes and when does it become an imposition of our categories, a distortion of the ancient Hebrew understanding?
> I should clarify one other
> thing here: SDBH is a dictionary primarily intended for Bible
> translators all over the world. Many of them are not native English
> speakers. English is just a vehicle of communication. Therefore more
> extensive definitions are needed so that the users get a complete
> picture of the meaning of a word. Glosses are often misleading.
Renier de Blois has a valid critique of what I have done. I wrote my dictionary assuming a native speaking knowledge of American English, including nuances and unspoken understandings that a non-native speaker often does not know. If I wish my dictionary to be used by non-native speakers of American English, I need to flesh out my definitions with full definitions, instead of glosses where my understanding of the Hebrew term is almost identical with the gloss.
> I believe
> that XBL in Nehemiah 1:7 and Job 34:31 refers to that type of inner
> corruption, hence my suggestion: I will not sin.
Are these the only examples in Tanakh where you claim that XBL has the to destruction meaning? If so, I read the verses so differently from you that I do not see how your definition fits at all. Does the to destruction come from cognate languages? In both verses, I think the binding together meaning fits the context better than the to destruction meaning.
To close, here is my methodology (to contrast with Renier de Blois listed above) (Renier, I list it only to bring others up to speed on what we have discussed):
1) A lexeme almost always has only one meaning. It may have no equivalent in English (even for words from the same etymological root) or there may exist an almost exact equivalency. The meaning may be very broad and general, or it may be very narrow and specific, or in between.
2) Where a lexeme has more than one meaning, there is usually a discernible connection, for example, Birne in German means both light bulb and pear, the connection being that the early light bulbs had a pear like shape.
3) Where a lexeme has a narrow and specific meaning, it often is either partially or wholly a subset of another lexeme. Therefore, one way to learn a lexeme is to compare it to its synonyms.
4) Lexeme meanings are best recognized by the action they refer to, not the form. This is especially true of ancient Hebrew.
5) Lexeme understanding and usage may be influenced by the context, such as literary style, figures of speech, use as euphemism, or where the presence of a specific lexeme may actually make it part of a complex lexeme (two or more words combining to make another meaning, e.g. strike out having a different meaning than strike alone, but the historical connection is still discernible.)
6) This may be unique to Hebrew, where a noun of an object can be a reference to an action. For example, David and his men were a XWMH a protective barrier for Nabels sheep and shepherds, i.e. their actions protected.
7) This is, after all, a dictionary from one language to another, therefore, as much as possible, I used as few words as possible, preferably one, to describe a Hebrew lexeme as long as that was accurate. For example, XB), used about 34 times, has almost the exact same meaning as conceal in English, though sometimes in Hebrew it is with a niphal where English would have a reflexive or active. (There is a slight but noticeable difference between XB) and XBH, so I list them separately.)
(Though Biblical Hebrew was written over a span of 1000 years, most of it was written during a time when the language was pretty stable. There was some change which is discernible and an example of dialectal variation, but almost none that I could recognize that would change the definitions of lexemes.)
In reference to category 4) above, ancient Hebrew seems to categorize according to action or function, not according to form or appearance. For example, (WP or (WP KNP is usually translated as bird, but that is not accurate. It actually refers to flying creatures where the action is the deciding factor, hence a bat or flying insect is (WP while an ostrich or penguin is not. (This is also an example of 1) abovethere is no equivalency for this term in English.) Similarly, a XBL rope would be defined by its ability to bind things together, not its shape.
So what do youall think?
Karl W. Randolph.
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