Saturday, October 29, 2016

Project status after 2 years

The intent of this project is to find a rendering in English of the Old Testament text that could be set to the music that is embedded in the Hebrew text. Hearing the text with music is like hearing someone speak with vocal intention, tone of voice, rather than either hearing a monotone or projecting our own tone onto the text.

Recurring sounds
As I read, I find problems with traditional translations that are like mine, word for word. I imagine that a word is a word, though I do expect words to shift in usage over time. But within the same passage, I expect a word to have the same or a related gloss if it is repeated. In music, it is a matter of sound. Biblical Hebrew has patterns of repetition, sometimes even repeating the same root twice in a row, perhaps for emphasis, perhaps not. English composition, as I was taught it, had a rule that repeating the same word too close to another occurrence was bad form. And this rule is followed in translations from the 16th century on.

If your guest language has a rule that says 'repetition is important' and your host language says 'it is bad form', this is a conflict. A translation that fails to repeat the same sound when it recurs in a passage would be positively misleading the intent of the original language. It is a failure of hospitality in the translation. The KJV fails here repeatedly. It follows a literary rule that does not apply. And some of what it is translating in any case is not 'literary' in a 17th century sense. Sometimes also there are ambiguities, things the teacher would send back to the pupil saying, correct this. But it is not possible to correct. In fact its very ambiguity may be intentional. It is the reader's responsibility to recognize when a sentence is ambiguous and accept the fact that it is unresolved.

I have a rule that tries to avoid using the same English gloss for two separate Hebrew roots. I have 239 exceptions of this rule in nouns and verbs and modifiers, but my exceptions are uncountable in prepositions and other particles. It is the nature of the translation problem. I also try to reduce the number of synonyms I use in English for the same Hebrew root. Sometimes this is easy, even 1:1 is possible. But sometimes it is impossible. Either there is a Hebrew homonym, or a set of glosses is required in English for the same Hebrew root in different circumstances.

Computer Assistance
I have implemented my rules in computer algorithms. These help me to translate consistently across the whole of the Hebrew Scripture. But every rule requires judgment. Sometimes, for example when restrained by a word-game like an acrostic, I must allow the rules to fail. 22, about 10% of my exceptions come from this constraint.

Personal Bias
I am probably not even aware of my bias. I think the earlier translators may have been aware that they should not offend the king, and therefore should write things like 'God save the king', into their translation. It is a false reading.  Psalm 20 is close, but it reads: Yahweh save, let the king answer us in the day of our call. It does not read: The Lord save the king, answer us in the day of our call. The music makes this an impossible reading.

I have in any case, no need to defend the divine right of kings. But I may err inadvertently in defending feminism, liberalism, literalism, or even love. My rose-coloured glasses blind me.

I have to date read 389 out of 929 chapters completely. They are still subject to change, but I have read and decided on every gloss in 41.9% of the chapters. These chapters comprise 33.8% of the verses and 28.3% of the words.

I have touched 87% of the verses 20184/23151. That is at least one word in 87% of the verses has a guessed gloss. Some of these are reasonably certain, some not. Some are based on phrases up to 6 Hebrew words in length, some on only one. The formation of an English sentence is done for 35% of the verses, some of these in incomplete chapters. The English sentence in my latest technique is formed automatically and then arranged in acceptable word sequence.

I have a reasonably good guess based on algorithms for 57% of the words. 131011/304727.

Rate of work
Chapters get touched by automation in various ways. Unfortunately, I have a semantic domain experiment running in parallel with reading. And I think it distorts the number of actual gloss changes that are made after completion of a chapter. Those are relatively few but not insignificant. Blog frequency is the easiest to measure. I 'completed' the Psalms first in 2013, and I started the reading of 'the rest of the Bible' beginning November 2014. Since then, I have read 241 chapters and published on the blog 3 chapters in November, none in December, and in the next 22 months, 238 chapters, or about 11 per month average. There have been large variations.
In the last 12 months with the project in full swing, 168 chapters, 14 per month average, 3091 verses, and 66,918 words (drafted with automation). The pattern matching only began about a year ago. It promises to speed up translation considerably as it learns more words. I do not at this point, however, plan any further programming tasks around grammar. 

(But you never can tell if I will get distracted. I do have an implemented algorithm that analyses each word, and if I turned it on with pattern matching, I might speed things up even more. But my feeling is that the time used to try to go faster would be lost in the programming effort. Someone else can do this for their fun.)

As I complete each major section, say 100 to 150 pages, I hope to write some of the text into the libretto of selected parts of the section, and publish the work. People have asked for the psalms alone without all the analytical charts of Seeing the Psalter. So I expect to have a Psalter by June 2017. It is fully drafted with musical examples. But it is mostly simply a readable Psalter. I would welcome readers. Almost every Psalm has had some change. Job is next, and it is drafted. Thereafter, the Five Scrolls, only one chapter left before I review them against the music, and thereafter or concurrently, The Book of the Twelve, only a few chapters left there to read.

This promises to keep me occupied at least 2 full time days a week for the foreseeable future.

It is fun for me. I hope it is somewhat useful for any who read. The major thesis of the work, the music of the Old Testament, is in my new book, The Song in the Night, due out next month.

I do not think I can attempt to underlay in translation the whole 6000+ pages of music. It is quite astonishing to think that it was done at all in Hebrew and with such consistency. I am an explorer and puzzler in a large space. Many others will discover things there too.

I may be able to finish reading the whole Bible, but I probably don't need to worry whether I do or not.

And I add, I am limited by my sin, But there is forgiveness with thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.

If you love this work, then learn the original tongues. But do it as you read if you want to cover the whole body of the text. There is a lot of ground to cover. Don't be discouraged. Just start. Do 15 minutes a day, and keep going.

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