Saturday, January 10, 2015

Preliminary examples of Jacobson vs Vantoura

Jacobson is very thorough. He will approach the accents in the Hebrew text of the Bible from several points of view. I will begin with the earliest examples and work through the book page by page. I can let it dovetail with my translation intentions. In these first three examples, he argues for the need for accents as punctuation. Nothing he says is not accomplished by the accents as musical signs and it is accomplished better.

I have ignored some signs - in fact, I ignored almost all of them at first. I ran from them as from a gorse-bush or a handful of nails offered as food. The descriptions of disjunctives and conjunctives is unbelievably obtuse. I have not read this article in detail. Perhaps I will some day - but only to question their homework. This article (and others also) tells me this "Atnah (also called Etnahta) is the main verse divider for the twenty-one books as ole veyored is for the three." This is simply a false statement as far as I can see the data.

I have not got all my data loaded yet, but the preliminary data for the psalms shows that ole veyored occurs somewhat frequently but atnah 5 times more often in a selection of about 10 psalms. A brief look at Job 3 confirms that. Ole veyored occurs only once in the chapter. But atnah 23 times. I will be returning to this problem later when I have developed better search tools for the necessary statistics. (I will admit that where both occur, so far, the atnah is always second. See first article on stats here.)

The atnah continues its role as the major disjunctive within a verse. (Here Jacobson agrees so far, I am glad to say). In brief SHV has the atnah as a cadence on the subdominant. In her work, there is no radical difference in the roles of the accents between the three books (Psalms, Proverbs, and the speeches of Job) and the remaining 21 (more of them if you count as in the OT). There are differences, but they are not so blatantly contradictory.

Here's a bit of Jacobson's intro.

You can see some minor problems here:
  1. 'the inflection had to be memorized'. As punctuation this is humanly impossible. As music it is humanly possible. 
  2. the signs were 'devised' in the 'seventh century'. No substantiation for this is offered. 
  3. 'one symbol would have been enough, not thirty'. I am not sure there are thirty. But 24 or thirty is too much for punctuation and enough for music. [31 here but not all actively used]
Nonetheless, let me not be ungenerous. I will learn some music from this book, even if he is struggling with the idea of punctuation as the primary explanation.

And from Jacobson's first several examples, we do learn how accents distinguish the same word as two differing words, how they aid pronunciation and stress, and how they resolve ambiguity. All this without getting to the music! The music does this also of course, through cadence, recitation change, and ornament.

Example 1: Genesis 29:6-9, two ways to pronounce באה (ba-ah) and hear its meaning. This is rather good - clearly I should use these signs for automated translation as well as music - but I'm not there yet. The first is accented on the second syllable, a natural result of that syllable falling on the first beat of a bar, the second is accented on the first syllable, the result being produced by the ornament. Same word, two meanings: is coming, and came. (Here I am quoting Jacobson, not analyzing verbs).
Example 2: 1 Kings 8:48, two identical sets of letters, two differing roots. I bet my root algorithm got this wrong. The differing words are known again by the stress that the music gives them. Oh punctuation! Can you imagine memorizing punctuation! The first is the root שׁוב, (to turn, return) the second is שׁבה, (to capture).
Example 3: decoding the grammar. The music makes it clear who is speaking and what he is saying. The choices are: A servant said, I am Abraham, or Abraham's servant said, It is I, or He said, I am Abraham's servant. This is the best example to support punctuation, but music does the job admirably.