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

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Fri Sep 15 22:53:07 EDT 2006


Dear Karl,
Please do not be offended if I do not read all your posts.
I do not read many posts, actually.
It only depends on the subject line.
Yours truly,
Liz Fried

> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On
> Behalf Of K Randolph
> Sent: Friday, September 15, 2006 10:03 PM
> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] nouns and adjectives, was re: origin of evil
> 
> Liz:
> 
> You and I have been on this list together for how long? Yet it appears
> that you have not read my posts.
> 
> After carefully saying that looking at the uses of R(, it appears that
> its semantic domain lies between and overlaps with "displeasing" to
> "harmful" where harmful includes spiritual and mental harm all the way
> to physical death, means that the best way to translate that word (a
> completely different exercise than defining the semantic range) would
> include also close synonyms of those terms.
> 
> However, the many times it is used in contexts that exclude the moral
> aspect that is an integral part meant by the term "evil" means that
> the semantic domain of R( does not overlap "evil".
> 
> If one insisted that one use the same term each time R( is used in
> Tanakh for translation, one would have to use the two paragraphs
> above, an impossible task.
> 
> You most likely have forgotten that shortly after I joined this group,
> I mentioned that )BD אבד means to become lost, often used as a
> euphemism for to die. It is sloppy lexicography not to recognize its
> euphemistic use and simply define the term as meaning to die.
> Likewise, it is sloppy lexicography to claim that R( includes the
> moral aspect that is inextricable from "evil" in some of its uses
> while unquestionably excluding it in other uses. Languages don't act
> that way. However the term does include harm, from the minor harm that
> results in mere displeasure, to major harm of death and calamity.
> 
> On 9/15/06, Lisbeth S. Fried <lizfried at umich.edu> wrote:
> > Dear Karl,
> > Sorry for taking so long to reply, things got hectic around here for a
> > while.
> > >
> > >
> > > 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
> > > object.
> > >
> > > 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
> > > noun.
> > >
> > > 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.
> 
> > Dear Karl,
> > I don't think that this is your understanding either.
> 
> This is my understanding. Furthermore, your answer does not address
> the theoretical lexicography questions I raised above. Are we like
> Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the looking glass, where he arbitrarily
> defined terms irrespective of how others used the terms? Or do people
> choose terms they use as they are defined by common usage in order to
> communicate?
> 
> > ... You would not
> > translate the word RA( the
> > same way in every context. You can't possibly. The same Hebrew word would
> > make sense in one context would be nonsense in another context. I don't even
> > think that you could come up with one English word that would fit all the
> > uses of Ra( that occur in the Hebrew.
> >
> Where have I claimed otherwise? How does this answer the question I
> raised above?
> 
> > >
> > > 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.
> > Languages don't work like that.
> 
> How does that answer the above paragraph?
> 
> > ... Semantic ranges of words in different
> > languages are not one to one.
> 
> Where have I ever made that claim?
> 
> > ... They overlap in some areas, but not in every
> > area. Words have to be translated according to context. Context has to
> > provide the clue to meaning.
> > Words don't occur in isolation.
> > >
> > > 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.
> > Absolutely. You think that you are being rigorous, but I don't believe that
> > you can translate the Hebrew bible or translate any text, using the same
> > English word for every occurrence of a single Hebrew word, or a single
> > German or French word. Languages don't work like that.
> > >
> > > We have agreed to disagree, I have written the above just to make sure
> > > I have correctly understood you and correctly described our
> > > disagreement.
> > Yes, but I don't believe that you believe what you are saying.
> > Liz Fried
> 
> Yes I do believe what I wrote, it is just that you are so fixated on
> translation, and it appears to be the translation of a particular term
> in a particular context in a particular way, that you have
> misunderstood and misrepresented what I wrote.
> 
> Now that we are talking past each other, and not discussing the same
> subject, we can neither agree nor disagree. Do you want to try again,
> or just throw up your hands and say "I give up!"      .....     ;-)
> > >
> > > Karl W. Randolph.
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