[b-hebrew] VERBS

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Jul 28 02:27:24 EDT 2005

Dear James,

I have no experience with data programs designed to help Bible translators,
and therefore I have no objections to your use of phrases (=a verb+its
argument(s), adverbial or another element) as the basic unit in such
programs. However, the phrases cannot be used as the fundamental units in
the analysis of the verbs of Hebrew. In this case we must use lexical words
(substantives, nouns, adjectives etc) and morphosyntactic words
(participles, infinitives, YIQTOLs, QATALs etc).

The less problematic unit to use in linguistic studies is the minimal pair, 
where the difference is
just one letter, and any differences in meaning must relate to that single 
letter. We may say that the certainty of an interpretation is opposite in 
proportion to the number of units that we try to account for at the same 
 This means that words are the units that we must deal with in order to 
analyse meaning in Hebrew.

In my curriculum, when I studied applied linguistics at the University of
Oslo, was the following book of Peter Newmark (1988) (who had spent several
decades as atranslator) "A Textbook of Translation". (Newmark`s book was
awarded the British Association of Applied Linguitics prize in 1988.).  He
writes (p. 2) "Many translators say you shall never translate words, you
translate sentences or ideas or messages. I think they are fooling
themselves. The SL (source language) texts consist of words, that is all
that is there, on the page."  This book is highly recommended for all
translators and for those interested in the meaning of the Hebrew text of
the Bible. Newmark does not deal with bible translation, though.
At a meeting of Bible translators in Oslo this year, one of the participants 
told the audience that in France several translators he communicated with 
had returned to the word.  Their method was idiomatic, but they tried as 
much as possible to render each original word with one French word.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Read, James C" <K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk>
To: "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at nyx.net>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 7:20 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] VERBS

> This is why I continue to hold that the phrase is the basic unit
> of translation and not the word. 'Started to build' is a fixed
> phrase with its own immutable meaning, which as already observed
> is conditional on societies mutual decision to understand this
> meaning.
> We are yet to receive simplistic answers from Rolf about how his
> research should affect translation of verbs. This is something that
> interests me greatly and so I await his answers with anticipation.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Dave Washburn
> Sent: Wed 7/27/2005 7:12 PM
> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] VERBS
> On Wednesday 27 July 2005 11:17, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>> Dear Joel,
>> See my comments below.
> [snip]
>> For example, the word BN) (build) is marked for durativity and
>> dynamicity,
>> but not for telicity. However, if we add an object, we can get a telic
>> verb
>> phrase, as in "build a house". Please look at the clause below.
>> "Last Year Al started to build a house, but he never finished it."
>> It is clear that the end was not reached, but does that mean that the
>> telicity of "started to build a house" is blotted out?  Not at all.
> [snip]
> Actually, this example says nothing about the question of telicity in
> "build,"
> because the main verb of the clause is "start."
> -- 
Sorry, James, but here you are wrong.  Let us start with the word, namely
the verb BN). As I wrote, this verb is marked for dynamicity and durativity.
When you add the object "a house," the verb plus the object becomes a
phrase, and this combination adds a new property, namely telicity. The 
completion of
the house is the *conceptual* goal of the phrase.  The main verb of the 
clause is not
"start," but "build". The verb "start" is used to qualify, to give the main 
verb "build"
an ingressive meaning, i.e. the beginning and the first part of the building
work is made visible for the audience. It serves as a grammatical element, 
and such an element is independent of the Aktionsart of the verb. So the 
verb "start" has no influence
whatsoever on the telicity of the phrase; it only makes visible a particular
part of the building work.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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