Friday, 28 May 2021

Exploring Modern Hebrew

When learning Hebrew, I did not use a total immersion process, but I am sort of doing that now, only sort of and only once a week and it is nearly impossible at age 75 to fix a total discontinuity between the mouth, the ear, and the eye.

The eye is slow but can look things up, and my eye has two tools, 

  1. the SimHebrew concordance which reveals all the uses of a given root in the canonical texts. 
  2. searches in my system to allow me to find the full Hebrew texts in both pointed and unpointed forms and my English translation. I have not yet figured out a way to expose this fully on the web.
The ear is fast but needs so much training that I despair of any magical super-saturation that will make me less deaf.

The mouth is slow of speech and slow to read in a foreign tongue.

But I can do one thing.  And that is to trace back a new word in Modern Hebrew to possible Biblical Hebrew roots and then see how this root has morphed or not in its possible glosses. There are some definite conflicts and some funny results. (Real etymologists may have better theories.)

For funny we found footnote in a discussion of publication terms, and furniture from this poem.

Footnote הערות שוליים appears to be based on the BH skirt (wvl) and exposed (yrh). yrh is the only root I can find that could give a shade of meaning to the first of this pair of words. /yr/ must be in the root because these letters never disappear. /hy/ cannot be the beginning of a root since there are no BH roots beginning with hy, and vt is a feminine plural ending so it is not likely part of the root. Curious that the feminine ending does not match the masculine ending of wvl.

Furniture רְהִיטִים seems to be based on the BH rh't girder (Song of Songs 1:17, 7:6) . I see that the translations vary to the point that you can't identify the underlying frame in the Song, so here is mine:

1:17 qorot btinu arzim rhi'tnu brotim
The rafters of our house are cedar. Our girders are fir.

7:6 rawç yliiç ccrml vdlt rawç cargmn 
mlç asur brh'tim
Your head upon you like Carmel and the tresses of your head like purple,
a king is bound in the girders.

The same root is used for trough (The stories of Jacob and the genetic manipulation of the flocks in Genesis 30:38/41 and in Exodus 2:16).

These are both examples where words rarely used in the Bible have taken on modern senses.

In some cases, the present day usage has morphed into a different meaning. /cys/ I have rendered in BH as grieve, or grief. MH carries the sense of anger. The ancient meaning does not appear to have carried forward into the modern era. But BH no longer uses /ap/ (nose) for anger as BH does, so there has been both displacement and change in the sense of cys. You can explore my glosses in the domains of wrath and grief here. (Search for wrath or grief to see all the roots under that label.) 

Am I justified in using grieve / grief for cys? It is certainly in partial use for this root already, and I don't think traditional translations are necessarily softening the word. My uses are grieve 46, grief 28, grievous 1, grievous behaviour 2, provoke grief 2. And precisely since it is not anger (ap), it fits better everywhere. 

There are 79 verses where cys is used. That is too many for a blog post, but you can see them all in the tooltips in the concordance. And you can compare them to NRSV (if the verse numbers match, which they sometimes don't). NRSV agrees with my rendering of grief sometimes, and also uses provoke or provoke to anger. I have used provoke twice as noted above but always with grief. I use provoke and its derivatives alone for /mrh/. NRSV uses rebel, but also uses rebel for another stem (srr) where I use rebel

It's a common problem with near synonymous terms that are not really synonyms. I put a software harness on my translation to stop me from such random freedom. All the translations in the tradition of the authorized version use synonyms far more freely than I do. The result is a shift in tonality for the words that is not justified by the music.

Translators always impose a tone on the Scripture whether they are musical or not. So do I. The only shifts in tonality that are permissible are shifts that might be noted between early and late Biblical Hebrew. Did early Hebrew experience cys as grief or as anger? My guess is grief. I think it consistently fits the usage of the word and I had no reason to vary it.

Where does my bias come from? Technically, I have to look at the words as they are used, and the parallels and contrasts that they are used with. Personally, like anyone, I know both anger and grief. I think that anger controlled, like fear controlled, is a better management of my own behaviour than anger expressed. Grief expressed even if exasperation, (sighing) can be shown with less harm to the one who you might be mentoring. I also have believed that I have been shown something of the love of God, and while God can be angry, God can also, like any parent, be grieved by the behaviour of humanity. That is why the human prays, Psalms 6:1. 

Yahweh, do not in your anger correct me,
and do not in your heat chasten me.

Perhaps if we fear to be corrected or chastened in anger, we will respond when grief is revealed.

Grief /cys/ occurs 7 times in the Psalms. Grief fits everywhere. Anger would fit, but it isn't needed. Which one is a modern projection?
P68עָֽשְׁשָׁ֣ה מִכַּ֣עַס עֵינִ֑י
עָֽ֝תְקָ֗ה בְּכָל־צוֹרְרָֽי
ywwh mcys yini
ytqh bcl-xorrii
Swollen from grief my eye,
viscous in all my troubles.

מכעס from grief
S1014רָאִ֡תָה כִּֽי־אַתָּ֤ה ׀ עָ֘מָ֤ל וָכַ֨עַס ׀ תַּבִּיט֮ לָתֵ֪ת בְּיָ֫דֶ֥ךָ
עָ֭לֶיךָ יַעֲזֹ֣ב חֵלֶ֑כָה
יָ֝ת֗וֹם אַתָּ֤ה ׀ הָיִ֬יתָ עוֹזֵֽר
rait ci-ath yml vcys tbi't ltt bidç
yliç iyzob klch
itom ath hiit yozr
Regard you will, for you yourself take note of toil and grief to give by your hand.
To you the hapless defer.
The orphan you yourself will help.
וכעס and grief
A3110חָנֵּ֥נִי יְהוָה֮ כִּ֤י צַ֫ר־לִ֥י
עָשְׁשָׁ֖ה בְכַ֥עַס עֵינִ֗י נַפְשִׁ֥י וּבִטְנִֽי
konni ihvh ci xr-li
ywwh bcys yini npwi ub'tni
Be gracious to me Yahweh because of my straits.
Swollen with grief are my eye, my being and my belly.
בכעס with grief
L7858וַיַּכְעִיס֥וּהוּ בְּבָמוֹתָ֑ם
וּ֝בִפְסִילֵיהֶ֗ם יַקְנִיאֽוּהוּ
vicyisuhu bbmotm
ubpsilihm iqniauhu
And they grieved him with their high places,
and with their graven images moved him to jealousy.
ויכעיסוהו and they grieved him
M855שׁ֭וּבֵנוּ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׁעֵ֑נוּ
וְהָפֵ֖ר כַּֽעַסְךָ֣ עִמָּֽנוּ
wubnu alohi iwynu
vhpr cysç yimnu
Turn us O God of our salvation,
and thwart your grief with us.
כעסך your grief
S10629וַ֭יַּכְעִיסוּ בְּמַֽעַלְלֵיהֶ֑ם
וַתִּפְרָץ־בָּ֝֗ם מַגֵּפָֽה
vicyisu bmyllihm
vtprox-bm mgph
and they grieved him with their wantonness,
and a plague broke out among them.

ויכעיסו and they grieved him

11210רָ֘שָׁ֤ע יִרְאֶ֨ה ׀ וְכָעָ֗ס שִׁנָּ֣יו יַחֲרֹ֣ק וְנָמָ֑ס
תַּאֲוַ֖ת רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד
rwy irah vcys winiv ikroq vnms
tavvt rwyim tabd
Rebel will see and will grieve. So will his teeth gnash and decay.
The desire of rebels will perish.
וכעס and will grieve

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