[b-hebrew] Hebrew and English word order

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Jul 7 07:15:02 EDT 2005

On 07/07/2005 06:48, C. Stirling Bartholomew wrote:

>On 7/6/05 10:34 PM, "C. Stirling Bartholomew" <threetreepoint at earthlink.net>
>>Two questions come to mind. Alter's stated purpose includes "... stylistic and
>>rhythmic integrity as literary English". I don't think "With God Noah walked"
>>meets this criteria. L. de Reqt is suggesting that "With God Noah walked"
>>reflects the information structure of the Hebrew Text placing the focus
>>element up front. But I don't think this is how English would handle this. In
>>English the focus element is often marked by vocal emphasis and it can be
>>clause final. 
>I have already thought of the first objection that will be raised. What de
>Reqt wants to see is *contrastive* focus information structure in the
>English translation. I don't see (it's late!) how  "With God Noah walked"
>accomplishes this. I think to bring out the contrastive focus a paraphrase
>would probably be required.
We should bear in mind that de Regt is not a mother tongue speaker of 
English - although he speaks English very well. (I have met him several 
years ago, but I have not read his paper - I would be interested in a 
copy.) So we should not expect him to suggest good readings in English.

The correct English way of bringing out this contrastive focus 
unambiguously, at least in written language where vocal emphasis cannot 
be used, would be something like "But it was with God that Noah walked". 
That would probably be overtranslation in this context. Or since there 
has just been a mention of "the people of his time" (NIV), a good 
alternative might be "Unlike them, Noah walked with God". Some might 
reject this as "paraphrase", but it is simply impossible to render all 
of the information structure of Hebrew into English simply by word order.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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