[b-hebrew] Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring'

Barry nebarry at verizon.net
Wed Jul 10 08:53:07 EDT 2013

On 7/10/2013 8:05 AM, K Randolph wrote:
 > First, I noticed that some words were used in ways that indicated that
 > their meanings as given in dictionaries didn’t seem accurate. It was
 > more often a nuance than a full meaning, but sometimes the latter as
 > well. Part of that is also how I understand words are used which is
 > different from how some other lexicographers understand how words are
 > used. My understanding is based on action and the range where that
 > action can be applied, theirs more often on form and affect.

Karl, this experience is shared by all who proceed beyond the 
beginning/intermediate levels of any language study. Lexicons and 
dictionaries are not exhaustive – that's simply impossible. They are, so 
to speak, the beginning of semantic wisdom. What you are describing is 
called in linguistics the pragmatics of the word, how the word is 
actually used in context. Here is a pretty good introductory lecture on 
the subject:


My comments here are restricted to pragmatic or semantic extension, not 
to the other aspects of linguistic pragmatics.

As an example of the pragmatic use of a word in English, let's say I'm 
writing a science fiction story in which I regularly use the word "car" 
to mean "flying car." Car doesn't normally mean that in English, but 
anybody reading my book would understand how its being used. At times 
what begins initially as a pragmatic extension of the meaning becomes a 
standard meaning in a particular context, such as "phone" to mean "cell 
phone" or "scan" to make digital copies of documents or pictures.

Native speakers of a language are always doing this. I remember as an 
undergraduate reading in Herodotus (I've now forgotten where) that a 
king had "executed" (Grk., QANATOW) a particular individual, only to 
read a few lines later that said individual was still among the living. 
Though my lexicon did not list "condemn to death" as one of the 
meanings, it clearly meant such in the context (and I was as pleased a 
punch that I figured it out – a published translation and my professor 
both agreed).

The difficulty for us as modern readers of ancient languages is this, do 
we use an different word other than the standard lexical glosses to 
render the usage in context, or do we use such a standard gloss and hope 
the context shows the pragmatic extension in English? I don't have a 
clue, really, but I think it has to be decided on a case by case basis.

All this to say that your lexicons weren't lying to you. The best 
lexicons provide definitions which act as guides to the usage of the 
word, descriptive rather than prescriptive.

 > I was taught two different patterns of verbal use: one where the
 > different conjugations referred to tense, which was the main
 > understanding at the time of Gesenius and Davidson, hence their use of
 > “ preterite” and “perfect” and “future”; secondly that they referred to
 > aspect; neither turn out to be accurate.
 > There is a pattern of usage for the conjugations, but that pattern
 > doesn’t fit tense, aspect nor mood.

As recent discussion on this list proves, the Hebrew verbal system is a 
matter of some controversy as our understanding of it evolves...

N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Semper melius Latine sonat

All opinions in this email are my own, and
reflect no institution with which I may be

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