[b-hebrew] Karl's lexicon

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Aug 24 14:11:46 EDT 2007

Dear James:

On 8/24/07, JAMES CHRISTIAN READ <JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk> wrote:
> Hi Karl,
> I've read through your introductory comments and had a quick look through it and have a number of constructive criticisms to make. These constructive criticisms can be divided into two categories:
> i) Programmer based
> ii) Methodology based
> Please allow me to first offer my opinions as a programmer:
I am a user, not a programmer. Therefore I have used the tools
available to me. Further notes on programming below.

> You write in your introduction:
> KWR: One way to find entries is to copy the word to be found in the unpointed text that one is reading, copy it to the clipboard, then paste it into the find function of the word-processor that has opened this file. Another way to use the dictionary is to type in the word that one wants to look up in the find function, then hit return.
> JCR: While this method is functional enough to locate exact words the electronic copy of the exact consonantal order of which is available it lacks a lot in the area of usability.
True, but even so, it is a big improvement over looking up in a paper
edition, which had been my other option before.

> Also, the chosen format of your dictionary makes it difficult and none routine for developers to make use of your data and extend the functionality of your electronic dictionary.
> If your electronic dictionary was a simple text file of comma separated variables it would be routine for me to load your data into a MySQL database back end and extend the functionality of your dictionary by making it hyperlinked and therefore browseable. Such a format would also make it routine for me to make your lexicon multilingual. However, as it stands your chosen format requires an element of time consuming hand work which could put developers off working with your data.
> Now please allow me to make a constructive criticism from a methodological point of view. I remember you somewhere making the statement that your dictionary was designed with the student in mind and not the lexicographer. Then in your introduction you say:
> KWR: This dictionary does not list all grammatical constructs, or Binyamim, the use of it presupposes the reader's recognition of basic Hebrew grammar. This requires the recognition of the forms, both prefixes and suffixes, because they will not be listed in this dictionary except for some irregular forms. The definite article and interrogative ה prefix will not be listed here. The prefixed ב, ו, כ, ל and מ will almost always not be listed, except in cases where the same spelling can be understood as deriving from more than one root or they are recognized as making up a noun, so again using this dictionary requires basic understanding of Hebrew.
> JCR: I have to say that I find these two statements incompatible. Students are often frustrated with the level of prior knowledge that lexicons presuppose and your dictionary could be made far more accessible to beginning students by including a listing for each and every attested form with possibly real life, in context, natural examples taken from the corpus.
I considered that, and I still haven't ruled it out. But at the same
time I don't want to handhold the student for every form. After all,
there are already analytical lexica to serve that purpose. So I tried
to hew a middle course, listing irregular forms and those derived from
two or more sources, while asking students to recognize regular forms
(if I were a teacher, I plan on teaching the regular forms within the
first few weeks: it's the irregular forms that cause all the

> Progressively, I also feel that your lexicon could benefit from entries for bi-grams and tri-grams which could amply demonstrate the shades of meaning brought out by greater natural contexts of individual words.
The question I have, how many of those bi-grams and tri-grams are
complex lexemes, i.e. those where two or more lexemes make up a third
meaning that is not found in those lexemes when taken separately? I
have made note of such when I have found them, but other than for
illustrative purposes, would not listing bi- and tri-grams become
noise that greatly increase the size of the dictionary? After all,
when a student reading through Tanakh looks up a word, is he looking
up for a long, involved description, or just for the definition?

> With these changes I could routinely integrate your dictionary into my interactive Aleppo Codex reader, concordance and frequency charts therefore making it possible for a user to click on a word, bi-gram or tri-gram and smoothly be brought to a translation in the language of their choice.
> James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
> http://www.lamie.org/hebrew - thesis1: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex
> http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc - thesis2: language acquisition simulation
On the programming side, were I to make this just one large file
separated by commas, how would I deal with all the definitions that
have commas within the definitions (e.g. as part of complex
sentences)? Wouldn't MySQL split those up, even though they should
remain together? The same where I list alternate spellings before
giving a definition? Shouldn't data bases use a different character,
not a common one like a comma, to mark field borders so such
confusions don't occur?

I used an analytical lexicon when learning Hebrew, but when analyzing
my use, with rare exceptions (which made me feel dumb when I did it) I
did not look up regular forms, only those which were irregular or
could come from two or more sources. Thus when deciding of which forms
to include in the dictionary, I have not included the regular forms,
only those which are irregular or could come from two or more sources.

This fits in with the way I learn foreign languages: learn basic,
regular grammar, then go out and make mistakes. By learning basic
regular grammar, I then have an idea what I am looking for when trying
to understand a new word. I also have a basic framework to use to hang
the words I look up in a dictionary so I can start speaking right
away. I don't try to learn all the nuances of grammar at first, as
those will come in their own time as I master the language. Yes, it
starts out translating, but as my stock of vocabulary grows, it
doesn't remain translating.

One idea that I had was to include every form, programmed in such a
way that when one clicks on a word while reading Tanakh, that it calls
up the words that could generate that form. But that is beyond my
programming ability. I know what I would want, just don't know enough
programming to accomplish it.

What I ideally wanted is a text written in the so-called Phoenician
alphabet (is it not possible that the Phoenicians acquired that
alphabet from the Hebrews or another common source? After all,
according to historical sources, the Hebrews had the alphabet
centuries before the Phoenicians.) with a dictionary keyed to the

While checking up a lexeme today, I found a bi-gram that you don't
list, depending on alternate spellings, it occurs 5–8 times in Tanakh:
(L )DWT   על אדות

Karl W. Randolph.

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