Friday, January 22, 2021

A long time ago

I wrote this as a 'page' when I was in the middle of my analysis of the Hebrew Bible. Now with the new concordance, we have come a long way from this initial attempt.

From the archives, a record of a learning process... (unedited)

This will take shape over time. I did a full two-way Biblical Hebrew-English glossary for my 2013 book Seeing the Psalter. Clearly, after working through the whole canon since then, things have changed. I work with a self-developed interactive app using the GX LEAF framework. I don't have the funding to put such a thing on the web, but this page will at least capture the data for others. There is value in the analysis. I have a complete list of stems as a starting point for anyone who wants to critique it. If I am wrong, I am consistently wrong, and several of the areas of weakness in my puzzle solution will be apparent.

I am not working from a rote-learned theological position. I have axes to grind, but they will be obvious. I believe humans have to take responsibility for their actions whether good or bad. Generally you can tell the difference by what the action cost you and how it benefits others. Cheap to you, hurts others: bad. Costly to you, good for others: good. You didn't know what you were doing and your motives were questionable but it proved the lesser of evils to others: probably good. You didn't know what you were doing and it was an embarrassment to others: bad. Is it possible that God will help? Work hard at it and you may find that good is what it is all about.

All this is in the record of the Hebrew Bible. The love in the Song, the unknown in Qohelet, the glory in the Psalms, the failures there and in the former prophets, the judgments in the later prophets, the agony in Job, the pith in the Proverbs, the record of the moment in Chronicles, the formation in Torah, and the hope for restoration and renewal in Ezra-Nehemiah.

Here is a simple list of every gloss by stem.
  • the dominant gloss is the one with the highest count
  • glosses are largely reduced to their English root form
  • I have excluded links - available from a full concordance to be published. 
If you search for (1), you can see immediately which glosses are unique and which stems are unique. You can see real hapaxes (unique stem) and artificial hapaxes (unique gloss) created in the process of translation. An artificial hapax may be caused by a use of an English synonym purely for variety, or the example may be of a unique use for a stem that has multiple uses.

As far as I know I have allowed all true hapaxes to have unique English glosses that do not overlap with any other Hebrew stem.
Aleph Bet Gimel Dalet Heh Vav Zayin Xet Tet Yod Kaf Lamed
Mem Nun Samek Ayin Peh Tsade Qof Resh Shin Sin Taf

The first numeric column counts the 305,368 words of the Hebrew Bible by first letter of the stem.
The second numeric column shows counts of the same words by first letter of the Hebrew word.
Note the significant differences (in bold) where the first letter may be a prefix.
א 62219
ב 19846
ג 6016
ד 7282
ה 12088
ו 38
ז 5388
ח 11401
ט 1876
י 28600
כ 17739
ל 14636
מ 16127
נ 13054
ס 3203
ע 28886
פ 7631
צ 4684
ק 7909
ר 10120
שׁ 20194
שׂ 3443
ת 2988
א 44180
ב 24723
ג 2929
ד 4230
ה 30726
ו 51001
ז 2152
ח 5412
ט 892
י 24047
כ 14298
ל 24920 
מ 20097
נ 6910
ס 1423
ע 16372
פ 3432
צ 2530
ק 2982
ר 4250
שׁ 9411
שׂ 1552
ת 6899

How many? (from an answer I wrote on

There are (at my count) 305,358 words. My word count does not double ketiv (what is written) and qere (what is read), and I count words separated by spaces after replacing every maqaf (hyphen) with a space.

There are 36,364 distinct word forms in these words (excluding names), 39,750 with names. Some of the word forms are derived from different stems. There are, at my current stage of processing, (95% complete), 4,031 distinct stems, 2250 excluding names.

A stem is the entry point to a dictionary or glossary. If you don’t know the stem, you will be lost in a Hebrew dictionary for a while.

Some of these stems may be homonyms, i.e. they are more than one distinct word but they are not distinguishable by their letters. (I do not distinguish verb stem from noun stem and I have kept a few stems distinct that are clearly related.)

Most stems are 3 letters long. My stem counts are as follows:
4 of length 1,
130 of length 2,
1,762 of length 3,
272 of length 4,
67 of length 5,
6 of length 6,
2 of length 7,
and 1 of length 9.

The unique 9 character stem is borrowed, אחשׁדרפנים for satraps (occurs 6 times). It could be reduced in length by removing the plural. The two of length 7 are סומפניה (symphonyah!) and פסנטרין. I have rendered these in reverse order as psaltery (4 times, Daniel 3:5,7,10,15) and symphony (3 times, missing from Daniel 10:7). This is of course the scene with Nebuchadnezzar:
You, O king, you have set up a warrant that all mortals who hear the tone of the horn, the flute, zither, the sackbut, psaltery, symphony, and all kinds of music,
will fall and pay homage to the image of gold.

The four shortest stems of 1 character never occur by themselves and so cannot be counted easily in my data. They are parts of the prefix for some word forms. In Latin characters, they are K כ ך (like, as etc), L ל (for to etc), M מ ם (from etc) and B ב (in etc). I use them as a last resort for words that are composed without a significant stem, e.g. לי mine = prefixed preposition + suffixed pronoun. But something like לדוד would not show under ל but under דוד, itself many words including David, aunt, uncle, mandrake etc.

All prepositions (bar none) are notorious for assuming a host of variations depending on the English context. In grammar class you are taught the dominant gloss but that’s only an approximation of what you need. (It’s a similar story for word forms - especially in poetry.) So anyone who bases an interpretation on an English preposition is showing ignorance of the real translation problem.

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