[b-hebrew] nouns and adjectives, was re: origin of evil

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Wed Sep 13 11:38:26 EDT 2006


After agreeing to disagree, I got to thinking how I would describe
this interchange to another, and came up with the following:

Nouns are the linguistic units that we append to objects and actions.
In the sentence, "The retreat of the army was disorganized" 'retreat'
is an action and the word on the page is the noun linguistic unit
attached to it.

Adjectives are the linguistic units that modify nouns, to use a term I
was taught in grade school.

Where we disagree:

I say that an adjective used to modify nouns has the same meaning
irrespective of whether the noun is attached to an action or to an

Correct me if I misunderstand you, but I understand your position as
stating that an adjective that modifies a noun attached to an action
can and often has a different meaning than the same adjective
modifying a noun attached to an object. In other words, the subject of
a noun can and does modify the meaning of an adjective modifying that

A practical problem with your position, as I understand it, is that
one could read meanings into adjectives to suit one's ideological
position depending on the noun's meaning, while my position is that an
adjective's meaning is fixed by the aggregate of all its uses; where a
meaning is ruled out by some uses, therefore it is also ruled out in
all uses.

Actually, my position is part of my total understanding of
lexicography: when looking at a term, I look for a semantic domain
that will encompass the aggregate of all uses of that term limited
also by that aggregate of uses, while taking into account idiomatic
uses and compound lexemes (where two or more terms are combined to
make a third meaning). This is also where I disagree with BDB,
Gesenius and others who allow for different meanings in different
contexts which, as I understand it, effectively leaves terms
undefined, with meanings to be filled in by the readers, though
usually a certain number of acceptable meanings are given.

I also see that at times Hebrew uses adjectives where English uses
nouns, in cases where the noun is undefined. In such places, I
translate it as "...that which is..."

To apply the above to our discussion of Isaiah 45:7, starting with my
position, it is one of the cases where an adjective is used where the
noun is undefined. Looking at the aggregate of its uses, there are
times where "evil" is an incorrect definition for R(, therefore it is
an incorrect definition here too. Your position, as I understand it,
is that words can have different meanings depending on the contexts,
an adjective can and often does have a different meaning depending on
the definition of the noun it modifies, therefore, even though "evil"
is unquestionably the wrong definition for some uses of R(, it can be
used as the definition for R( in this verse.

We have agreed to disagree, I have written the above just to make sure
I have correctly understood you and correctly described our

Karl W. Randolph.

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