Sunday, December 9, 2018

Unique readings in the Hebrew Bible

Why my totals of hapaxes by stem are fewer than traditional: I have boiled down some words to their related or probably related stem more often than other glossaries. So, for instance, I consider גפר gopher, Gen 6:14 also as the stem of גפרית. It is unique in that it is a unique word form. The stem itself occurs 8 times so I don't count it as a hapax from a stem point of view. This unique usage does suggest that the ark is made of that highly flammable wood like the wood we used to heat our house in Turkey. It might hang together well in water. But it also suggests that Noah's barge תבה (can't be an ark ארה in a concordant translation) has something of the breath of Yahweh in it, like a torrent of pitch. (Isaiah 30:33). It is a story about judgment after all.

Percentage of unique Hebrew word forms by book
I expect almost all my differences are for this reason. Though there are other differences, e.g. Genesis 21:16, טחה the shot part of bow-shot. This same stem occurs twice as inward part. Psalms 51:8, Job 38:36. It is perhaps difficult to derive the bow-shot from the inward part, but not impossible. It is what you feel like when you are punched in the stomach (metaphorically). משׁק Genesis 15:2 likewise occurs twice as steward. Rare but not a hapax. I am beginning to think there is little point is going further. I think I will find more blunders just by reading.

I must admit that the list I am comparing with is very hard to use. See if it doesn't give you a headache. First I have to read the fuzzy pictures, then decipher Roman numerals for chapter numbers, then compare my database which can be sorted for ease with a randomly sequenced set of verses. It is a very low-quality web page, but probably a very old web page before the common use of Unicode.

I checked how many Hebrew words there are that are unique in their form. As I thought, it is quite high. My count is 18,971. These represent 2,072 stems outside of the domain of names.

For example, the very common stem בוא, come, go, bring, etc has 123 unique word-forms. A quick scan by their combination of prefixes (verb forms and prepositions and conjunctions) and suffixes (verb forms and pronouns) in Hebrew word order shows that they are each unique. (I won't make you do it but if you want the lists, just let me know and I will figure out a way to publish them.) My simple prediction algorithm made no attempt to translate these automatically, so as puzzle pieces they remained unknown to me until I came across them.

Percentage of unique Hebrew stems by book
The distribution by book is in the graph. You can see clearly how books differ from each other in terms of percent of unique word forms.

The primary history (including Chronicles) is very consistently under 5% unique forms apart from Deuteronomy. Isaiah stands out as different among the major prophets, Nahum among the 12, and the Song among the Scrolls.

Here are the percentages for my stricter view of hapaxes by stem.

(Graph replaced - had the wrong axis by mistake)


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