[b-hebrew] The spice of lexicography: Human Sacrifice

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Sat Oct 22 10:55:20 EDT 2005


Peter:

Years ago I was informed that looking at words by their 
roots was traditional lexicography for Hebrew, and that 
19th century lexicographers merely continued that 
tradition.

The problem is that the extant corpus of Biblical Hebrew 
is so limited that many of the roots are not expressed, 
secondly is that many lexemes are so constructed that 
they could stem from one of two or more roots and when 
looking at the word itself it is not obvious which root it 
stems from (one use of a word can be from one root, then 
the next use, even just a few verses further along, can 
stem from a different root, but the spelling is identical for 
both uses), thirdly it doesn't take into account language 
shifts over time, fourthly it could be part of an idiomatic 
phrase or complex lexeme which often has a drastically 
different meaning than the words that make up such, 
therefore defining "by the roots" can be misleading. On 
the other hand, where the root is clearly recognizable 
and attested to, recognizing root meanings sometimes 
can be very helpful in recognizing what the text says.

Therefore, if you use roots, use with caution.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> 
> On 21/10/2005 23:15, Read, James C wrote:
> 
> > That would be a call to me. Now then! Where shall I start.
> >
> > The most major failing of lexicography IMO is to force readers to
> > search words under their routes, which not only complicates things
> > for the untrained reader but is also downright misleading.
> >
> 
> I think you mean "roots". To be fair to lexicographers, this was a 
> failing of 19th century lexicography which has not, I think, been 
> repeated in the 99 years since BDB was published.
> 
> -- Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/


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