Monday, 3 October 2022

Jonah - pondering bits and pieces of this story

Yesterday, there was an article here by Rabbi Bob (not me) on responses to Jonah by Kimhi and other sages. Kimhi notes that there is no mention of Israel. Answer: Nineveh on one warning turned completely from their evil compared to Israel, "rebuked from dawn to dusk" who do not turn. Radak then says that God granted the Ninevites mercy (even more so when they are many). He is seconded by R. Yehoshua ben Shuib.

These two are then contrasted with Don Isaac Abravanel and R. Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Wisser who note that Nineveh is being preserved to correct Israel. (Maybe an unstated part of the story line.) Ibn Ezra is reported as noting the god-fearing nature of the Ninevites (3:3). That's interpreting Elohim as God rather than gods in this one verse -- a bit of a stretch.

Jonah is a very short book, full of subtlety and complexity. It is hard to sort out the motivations of each character.

I note a second article on Jonah by Yitzhak Peleg today -- He explains that Jonah is the focus of Yom Kippur. Both the writers use repentance as their gloss for תשובה. I never gloss this root wvb as repent, because repent is a religious word whose meaning in the modern mind has been associated with various theories of God. I always use the direct sense of the word: to turn towards or away from. Whether one is turning to the good or turning away from what is not good, turn is an active verb - not a religious thought process. 

What is Yahweh God doing with this tale? Peleg calls it a didactic lesson. Both articles are worth the read.

The music at the beginning shows an autocratic call in verse 2 -- preceded by a drum roll -- ornamentation around the tonic. Jonah was not your typical obedient prophet in whom the word of God burned till he paid attention, and we don't hear any initial complaint from him. His actions speak his response -- he obeyed the first part, he arose, but he ran in the other direction.

The first thing God does in this book is make the word happen to Jonah. It's the same phrasing as for Samuel or Nathan or Elijah and a few others in the stories in 1 Kings. This phrasing is more frequent in Jeremiah (27 times) and Ezekiel (43) and Zechariah (7). But it doesn't occur at all in Isaiah. Isaiah uses oracle 25 times. Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve, even more frequently -- over 300 times. Is happen active or passive action on Yahweh's part? This word (to be) could just be: and the word of Yahweh was for Jonah. I used happen, since the gloss fits in a lot of other places as well. Who knows how the word of some mysterious being - whether autocrat or not - comes to a person? Perhaps happen is picking up on what happens, and oracle is more direct speech.

Several words refer to the deity. God (al) is used as a word only once in Jonah (4:2). God (Elohim) is used in every chapter - 16 times altogether. The sailors, the pilot, Jonah, the king, the Ninevites all refer to the generic God. Yahweh God is used once (Jonah 4:6). The authoritative God appoints and speaks only in chapter 4. The narrator (ah, another mysterious character - the omniscient story teller) is the one who tells us who's doing what to whom. The narrator tells us that Yahweh is Jonah's God (2:2) and Jonah's psalm confirms it (2:7).

Yahweh is the origin of the words, and Yahweh is the face (presence) that Jonah is running from, the target of prayer, fear and offerings from the sailors, and vow and attribution from Jonah. Yahweh is not part of the Ninevite section. 
In chapters 1 and 2, Yahweh:
  • makes the word happen
  • hurls the great wind on the sea
  • appoints a great fish
  • answers Jonah
  • hears Jonah's voice and brings him up from destruction
  • talks to the fish
In chapter 3, God sees and sighs, and refrains from the evil designated for Nineveh.

Then in chapter 4, it is a bit more complex. In the face of Jonah's anger, and his prayer for death, Yahweh asks whether this is good. Then it is 'God' who
  • appoints a tender plant and makes it come up over Jonah
  • appoints a worm
  • appoints a sultry east wind
  • and then asks if it is good to be burning with anger
Finally Yahweh speaks about Jonah lamenting the lesser - the tender plant - now withered, and therefore how much more should Yahweh not spare the greater - Nineveh.

The music of the final speech of Yahweh is so lyrical. The shape of it mimics part of the Duruflé requiem (the rise from tonic to the sixth then tonic to the fifth). Yahweh's final speech is one of my favorite bits from my arrangements. It's the 12 8 rhythm that does it. I always have Yahweh speak with multiple parts since I think the word happens to us through the interactions and pressures of many voices. The final speech begins at bar 164.

Here are the questions raised for me:
  • Jonah finds himself saved from the great fish, but is he saved from himself?
  • What is Nineveh thinking except to escape from the judgment? It will continue with its incorrigible imperial desires.
  • Is it then enough to say that this is a lesson in universal mercy? Or that this is about Israel?
  • Why does Jesus use the sign of Jonah? It's a much bigger story than the '3 days'. 
  • Does this story have application to us today? Who is Jonah? Who is the imperial power whose evil deeds are in Yahweh's face? 
  • Is God's character as portrayed acceptable or is it just one of many ploys in the narration?
Russia today is trapped in its merciless religious and imperial framework. Iran is trapped in its fear of women. China is trapped in its need for uniformity. Half the US is trapped in its own lies. We are all trapped in the climate crisis. How far away are we from turning away from the evil that has come up in our own faces? Is there a prophet who would preach to us?

There are many reasons to run away and hide - not least because, like Nineveh, there is a deeper problem to be fixed - the violence that is in our own hands. Is there a multi-voiced word to us: sanctions, drought, floods, storms, death, destruction? Perhaps we, like Jonah, must be part of the solution.

Doesn't seem to be any magic here. Nor does it stop future violence. A prophet today might well sit on the sidelines and hope for 'change'. And the sidelines are a sultry wind destroying our tender plantings, our supply lines, our water, pollination, and growing seasons. 

The chapter on Nineveh makes no mention of mercy or kindness. Nineveh's turning is a 'who knows' gamble in terms of belief, and a self-protective move, but it does stop the stench of its imperialism momentarily. This is a pragmatic and political move and it works.

So God sighs over the evil that was designated for them. And it was not done. I don't find myself sighing about anyone's imperialistic tendencies - whether it be a nation, or a religion, or myself. The enforcing of power over another is anathema to the gospel.

The end of the story leaves Jonah silent with respect to the question reasoning from lesser to greater that God asks. Silence is not an option. Kindness comes up twice in the story: First in the comment of the Psalm in chapter 2:9: 
Those who keep vain futility,
forsake their kindness.

Then in Jonah's citation of Exodus 34:6 and his excuse for stalling and running away:
(4:2b) For I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and of abundant kindness, and who sighs over evil.

We had better hope that this is the case for Jonah and ourselves as well.

Sunday, 2 October 2022

Cook: Introduction to Aramaic

Jim Davila points out a new CUP volume, Biblical Aramaic and Related Dialects, An Introduction. The 23 page introduction available in the preview is worth the read if you want a quick overview of the language and its use in the Bible. 

Friday, 30 September 2022

The music of a word

Here's a little more analysis of that five-letter word - viamr - your hebrew-dle for the week. It's used 2079 times out of the 5491 times that amr appears in the Hebrew canon. It has a number of distinct vowel patterns - and also distinct accents with these vowel patterns. It's small enough in this high level extract from the concordance to analyse by hand.

The music is varied. The same accent is not always used. In fact I think almost every accent is used with this word in the Bible.

Here are some examples that begin with vav and a schwa (:) and the accent is on the third syllable, and the aleph is silent - 6 of those. (My mapping of the vowels from Hebrew to English is here.)

viamr _:_o__a-֗_ 1 Hab 2:6(10)
viamr _:_o__a-֣_ 3 e.g. Isa 44:16(14)
viamr _:_o__a-֥_ 1 2Kgs 9:17(21)
viamr _:_o__a-_֙ 1 Isa 44:17(10)

Then (below) there are 16 instances of v with an /a/ sound, and the accent on the first syllable, or the first and second syllables (it's music).  The first example from Job below is the very common up and down 'revia-mugrash' giving a lighter accent on the first syllable.

The qarne (horn) on 2 Kings 9 verse 27 is striking and will produce a slowdown on the first syllable and probably an unaccented accent when the vocal line returns to the subdominant.
Unexpected accent on the first syllable of viamr in 2:Kings 9:27
In the remainder of the next table, the three examples are moving to a new reciting note on the first syllable.

viamr _a-֝_o֗__e_ 1 Job 36:10(4)
viamr _a-֠_o__e_ 12 e.g. 2Kgs 9:27(12)
viamr _a-֤_o__e_ 1 Gen 32:17(7)
viamr _a-֥_o__e_ 1 Jdg 10:11(1)
viamr _a-ֽ_o__e_ 1 2Sa 13:15(14)

The ones below are generally one accent but sometimes two on the second and third syllables. You can see there are lots of them with various accents. I am choosing a few that exhibit some of the variations. 
viamr _a-_o֔__e_ 15
viamr _a-_o֕__e_ 116
viamr _a-_o֖__e_ 97
viamr _a-_o֗__e_ 131
viamr _a-_o֙__e_֙ 140 e.g. Gen 48:19(3)
The setting in Gen 48:19 for viomr.
Note the dots: the yod has a dagesh and the aleph an o.
The remaining quarter circle above the aleph is the accent and it's repeated.
The distinct placement is not treated as significant in this deciphering key.

Next we have 1500 or so that are all accented on the second syllable. And another 100+ that are accented on the third syllable. I am going to miss them out of this list because it is becoming tedious.  But here's one that is unique - and it's a good place to end - splitting the word over three reciting notes right at the end of the verse. A spondee for emphasis.
Stressing syllables 2 and 3 in the final statement of Judges 12:5.

Names and shapes of all the accents are here. The full list for amr is here.

Can you begin to imagine how many research papers are required to expose the uniqueness of all this music.

New version of the concordance

I need to make the concordance sensitive to a change in vowel patterns. The vowels catch only the first instance of a particular word form. The square text is in the concordance, so there is no real error. The sort sequence is right, but there is no break that will show the change in vowels. The user simply has to look at the square text.

This came to light with the example of twvvy, a word form that occurs twice, once with a furtive patah and once without. It is also clear from viamr, which occurs with differing vowel patterns. This is typical of programming. I included the vowels as an addendum to the algorithm. I should have made it a control break as well. That will make it more complete. Readers who read the square text are not lacking information at present. But the vowel patterns are incomplete.

This is an interesting problem. I have a choice to include or not the accent with the vowel pattern. This dramatically alters the condensation of the concordance, and reveals for instance how differently accented some of the names are. It increases the number of lines since the vowels appear in the 'heading' of each group.

But it has several revealing aspects to it for the importance of the accents. It may occasionally show sarcasm with name usage, e.g. with Amos's comment to Amaziah. (Check out the unique use of the accent on the last syllable where I have tried the new version with 'am'.) I have also restored the '__' because it shows where two consonants appear together without a vowel - typically this is where one of them is silent. If anyone other than me uses the concordance, let me know what you think.

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Dung in the KJV

This will be a post about shit.

I'm grateful to Claude Mariottini for giving me a foil to respond to. He is very gentle. He corrects false readings as best he can for those who follow him. His latest post is on the verbal structure of Jezebel. It is fascinating - and gives potential insight into political and social relationships in the times of the kings. He explores a play on words with the name that has become Jezebel.

He writes: The identification of Jezebel’s name with dung is found in 2 Kings 9:37: “the body of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel, so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.”

There are four different Hebrew stems that KJV glosses as dung. I thought when I read this from Claude, Surely I will see this play on words in the Hebrew. But the word translated as dung in this passage is דֹּמֶן d-m-n compost - perhaps offal would be a gloss that did not overlap with other words for dung פֶּרֶשׁ, and גָּלָל and צאה and אַשְׁפֹּת in the KJV. I use manure for prw, dung and dunghill for gll, filth for xah and dump / garbage dump for awpt. There are other choices that might be better, but I see no need whatsoever to overlap these five different words to the same English gloss. That's one of my many beefs with the KJV. It is just not accurate. I may be wrong, but I am consistently wrong and my mistakes will be transparent and changeable. There are lots of synonyms for dung in English.

Now here's the SimHebrew (in my experimental reading form) for this verse about Jezebel.

lz vhiith nblt aizbl cdomn yl-pni hwdh bklq izryal
awr la-iamru zat aizbl

I liked Claude's story - and it is referenced elsewhere on the internet, but it has nothing to do with a Hebrew root zbl. You won't find that root in this verse for dung. The root here is dmn. This I have rendered as compost. If there is a play on words, it is outside the text of the Bible whatever language that is that has zebel as a word signifying ordure.

And the corpse of Jezebel will be as compost on the surface of the field in the division of Jezreel,
that they will not say, This is Jezebel.

You can find and critique all my glosses in the online concordance. Just look at the glossary. As you can see there, these words are not frequently used. 

There is another reference to human waste in Deuteronomy 23:14. Note how discreet it is. It uses a very common word as if we were deer or geese.

id vitd thih yl-aznç
vhih bwbtç kux vkprt bh vwbt vcisit at-xiatç
'tv ci ihvh alohiç mthlç bqrb mknç lhxilç vltt aoibiç lpniç vhih mknç qdow
vla -irah yrvvt dbr vwb makriç

And a peg you will have with your spade.
And it will be when you sit outside, you will dig deep with it, and will turn back and cover what comes out from you.
For Yahweh your God walks within your camp to deliver you, that he may give your enemies before you, so your camp will be holy,
and he will not see among you something exposed, and turn from following you.

Even the most mundane text has its own music
Deut 23 vv 14-15 Each of these verses has a unique sequence of accents


Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Teaching and learning

 In this recently started New Year, I am learning again. Learning for me comes best when I try to teach an idea and discover that I can't make it easy. Of course Hebrew isn't easy but while I recoil from the names assigned to the grammatical forms, I must learn to read better.

So here is Psalms 146 with the popups for vowels and accents. I want to see if I am roughly on target with respect to pronunciation.

Hey! You say. You've been translating for 16 years and you still can't read! 

You're right. All my learning has been visual rather than aural. The music helped me get away from the visual but you should have heard me in a modern Hebrew class during the pandemic. For the better part of the year, I was basically mute. (Of course everyone's accents were different etc etc but you know what I mean.) I did learn a lot about the differences between MH and BH. 

The superscripts below are the verse numbers. Note that on a mobile device you have to be using the web version for the popups to work. If you see a word without accents, note that it is connected by a hyphen to another word that will have an accent.

Vowels and stress in one popup - if you need them

 Here's what can make the initial reading easier. And you can ignore the popups when you no longer need them. These also include the Hebrew accents. They will look like a small dot on the page, but they do contain accentual information. For instance viamr can be either narrative or future depending on the vowel pattern, and the stress is on the second syllable when narrative but on the third syllable when future. And see how the vowels are different. We saw this word in Genesis 12, the first word: viamr.

The same letters occur in Isaiah 58. Verse 9, the 6th word. viamr. Click to popup the vowels and the accent. Click again to close the popup.

Then you will call and Yahweh will answer. You will cry and he will say, Here am I,
if you put aside from your midst your hegemony, the extending of a finger, and the word of mischief.

You can see that the music will show you the tense of the verb.

Isaiah 58:9

Here is the full verse with popups on every word.
So now we can hide the vowels, but we can also see them for new patterns. 

Some combinations are not going to be easy to explain. twvvy occurs twice ony in the Bible, here and in Job 24:12. This instance lacks the furtive patah. Job includes it. The music lyric is correct in both cases. But the vowel algorithm is too simplistic to recognize that these are different. Worse, the concordance links them together. I must find an explanation. In a later post.

Inventing a new usage of the Latin Alphabet

Over the past decades, Jonathan Orr-Stav, language specialist and translator, set about to create a reliable Hebrew usage of the Latin alphabet using ASCII characters - those normal run-of-the-mill letters that we use every day. There are already multiple uses of the Latin alphabet - e.g.

English: And Yahweh said to Abram, Go for yourself from your land, and from your kindred, and from the house of your ancestors,
to the land that I will show you.

Czech: Hospodin Bůh řekl Abramovi: „Odejdi ze své země, ze svého příbuzenstva a ze svého otcovského domu do země, kterou ti ukážu.

German: Herren havde sagt til Abram: „Forlad dit land, dine slægtninge og din fars hjem, og tag af sted til det land, jeg vil vise dig.

French: L’Eternel dit à Abram : Va, quitte ton pays, ta famille et la maison de ton père pour te rendre dans le pays que je t’indiquerai.

Spanish: Dios le dijo a Abram:
«Deja a tu pueblo y a tus familiares, y vete al lugar que te voy a mostrar.

Italian: Il Signore disse ad Abram:
«Vàttene dal tuo paese, dalla tua patria
e dalla casa di tuo padre,
verso il paese che io ti indicherò.

And so on - You see immediately that many European languages have their own usage of our shared alphabet - and they all have differing rules for reading and pronouncing the letters. To read the French as if it were English would result in nonsense to a French speaker. Similarly for Italian, Spanish, and so on.

SimHebrew is likewise a reliable way of rendering the Hebrew directly using the Latin character set. (It is also useful for URLs, technical programming and so on.) In this series I want to derive the rules for the pronunciation of the Hebrew text - and I want to remember it somehow. If you are just starting, I also started late - with this same puzzle in front of me.

The SimHebrew for Genesis 12 the first verse: viamr ihvh al-abrm lç-lç marxç ummoldtç umbit abiç 
al-harx awr araç

And the music -- according to the hand-signals in the text, those marks of taste (te'amim) - so that we can judge the phrasing of each of these words in context. 

Genesis 12 verse 1 - to observe the phrasing of the whole.

You will notice that accents have differing roles in the pronunciation schemes of the Latin letters in the European languages. There are no such accents in the SimHebrew. With a few exceptions, the accents in the Hebrew text are music. The musical phrase reveals the shape and tone of voice in the Hebrew. Given the music, can we draw out the rules. The exceptions (the metheg) should be ignored but since it has the same shape as the silluq, this requires fuzzy logic. I have encoded this in the algorithm for the scores.

I outlined the letters in the previous post which I will take as having been read. I also mentioned one rule earlier - and I would like to see if it applies: Where there are two consonants together, insert a schwa between them. In fact this rule does not apply. A schwa also may have the effect of terminating a closed syllable - so there is more technical detail here than I can put into a guideline. Let's say there is a grunt between consecutive consonants but it may be an unaccented /a/ or /o/ or /i/ and we must learn the rules. Also some letters that are there - particularly aleph, may be silent. And some root letters disappear with the suffixes and prefixes attached.

I haven't bombarded you with incomprehensible grammar. I hope to approach this problem as a child would by hearing its parents speak the language. But I will make the speech visible. I may even be able to include a bit of solfege in the visual aid - some day.

You can see that the first word is viamr. The prefix v identifies this verb as being in its narrative form. This particular verb form with root amr, appears over 2000 times in the text as part of the narrative flow of the story, so it's a good one to memorize. The pattern for the word is _a-_o_e_ va-io-mer. How can we know this? It happens to be the narrative preterite -- it is signaled by the /v/ Much of the Bible is narrative as well as song, so the forms are common. But there are 5,544 distinct vowel patterns for roots of length three letters. This is not how to approach such a problem.

So here is the verse with the vowel pattern visible. a- is a lesser a, the : is schwa.

viamr _a-_o_e_  This is a stem a stem with aleph in the first position. In this form, the aleph is not pronounced at all. It's awkward to pronounce it. Note from the music that the stress is on the second syllable.

ihvh _:_a_ The divine name we have mentioned. There aren't enough vowels in the pattern. Substitute Adonai.

al _e_ The aleph in the preposition carries an /e/

abrm _a-_:_a_ Abram.

_e_: A command from the root hlc (walk). The h drops away in this form.

_:_a The preposition /l/ carries a schwa. The suffix /c/ (you) carries an a.

marxç _ei_a-_:_:_a The prefixed preposition /m/ carries /ei/. The aleph morphs into an /a-/ sound.

ummoldtç u_i_o_a-_:_:_a One long word - hard to merge with your eyes. The prefix vav becomes u before the second prefix mem (=from), The word mold is derived from ild. It is a noun form of birth - so signifying family or kindred. But I don't use family to avoid overlap with another stem. The /t/ is a connector to the suffixed pronoun (you).

umbit u_i_ei_ Same as above for the um, then the word for house with the vowel /ei/. The /t/ puts this in construct form and connects it (that's the real connector - not accents!) to the next word.

abiç _a_i_a Plural construct form of ab with suffixed c again. There are many passages in the Scripture that feature this drum-like 'you'.

al _e_ Same as above, word 3.

harx _a_a_e_ - again, the land arx with the prefixed definite article /h/ ha'arets. Here the aleph keeps its guttural presence.

awr _:a_e_ The :a is an even lesser a - more like a schwa.

araç _a-_:_e_a The hardest word for the last. The first aleph disappears into its lesser a. The second aleph carries an /e/ and the caf is as before - that word you again. The root is rah (to see).

This sort of thing could be hidden behind a click. I am still experimenting. I have only used a few grammatical terms: construct - the concatenation of nouns, suffix and prefix - all languages use them, but Hebrew uses them frequently, narrative, a form of verbs, schwa and variations on /a/ sounds. I refrained from naming any of the vowel names - because they are not the language. They are the names of the pieces of language - and they go in one ear and out the other.

Monday, 26 September 2022

Elementary, my Dear Watson, Learning the Alphabet and the Music of Biblical Poetry

 Are you ready for another verse? I was going to do this one, but then I thought better of it.

Who am I?

Do you recognize it? Hint, it's chapter 1 verse 1 of something and the Hebrew name for the something is in the second word.

Instead of the above, I thought I would repeat the poem I put into my letters to my children. 

First, take a few minutes to learn the alphabet a b g d h v z, k 't i c l m n s y, p x q r w t. The quick summary below will do it. (These spellings are from the Unicode site.)

Letter Name Sounds Like Letter Name Sounds Like
a Aleph Carries a vowel
or is silent
l Lamed l
b Bet b or v m Mem m
g Gimel g n Nun n
d Dalet d s Samech s
h He h y Ayin Carries a vowel
v Vav v - vav is interpreted
as o, u where needed
p Pe p or f (final p)
z Zayin z x Tsadi ts
k Het ch as in loch q Qof q
't Tet t r Resh r
i Yod i or y
(ii sounds like yi)
w Shin (Sin) Mostly sh
sometimes s
c, ç Kaf hard c
ç for final c
t Taf t

What! An alphabet with only 22 letters and some of them seem redundant! What's missing? /e/ is not used, and /j/, /o/ and /u/ appear but are not listed above except under /v/, and /f/ is listed under /p/. That reconciles as follows: 22 less 1 (for the doubled and escaped 't - tet) plus 5 = 26.

Sing column 2 to the English alphabet song. It works. You have to make up an ending. (I did sing it at one point for a Sunday School class about 15 years ago - but the server that held it is no more.)

These are the very few differences to English pronunciation: 
  • k (het) is a harsher aspirate than h (he).
  • the gutturals a and y take vowels that have to be learned for the given words - like ab - father - is an ah sound, but abn - stone - is an eh sound. Sometimes the vowel is explicit.
  • aleph, ayin, he, and het - as the final letter of a word - will usually have a furtive /a/ sound before the aspirate, if any.
  • x (tsade) is ts.
  • i by itself (like y in English) is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant. The double ii is pronounced yi. The yod can carry a vowel, so him, the sea, is two syllables ha + yam.
  • c is always hard even before a schwa.
Here's the poem in SimHebrew preceded by a formal transcription. The task is to derive the rules and exceptions to be 'memorized' for the pronunciation of the more compact SimHebrew.
yose shamaiim va’arets
’et-haiiam və’et-col-’asher-bam
hashomer ’emet ləyolam
yose mishpat layashuqim
noten lekem larəyevim
ihvh mattir ’asurim
ihvh poqeak yivrim
ihvh zoqef cəfufim
ihvh ’ohev tsaddiqim
ihvh shomer ’et-gerim
iatom və’almana iəyoded
vəderec rəshayim iəyavvet
yowh wmiim varx
at-him vat-cl-awr-bm
hwomr amt lyolm
yowh mwp't lywuqim
notn lkm lrybim
ihvh mtir asurim
ihvh poqk yivvrim
ihvh zoqf cpupim
ihvh aohb xdiqim
ihvh womr at-grim
itom valmnh iyodd
vdrç rwyim iyvvt
A formal transcription of Psalms 146:6ff
The raised comma is aleph, the raised /y/ is ayin.
The SimHebrew for the same passage.
Note the compactness and derive the rules.

Here's the music with my usual informal transcription. Notice how every verse begins with a leap of a sixth. I have set this in the major key. It is a celebratory psalm. Sing it with free flexibility to the pulse of the accents. Notice where each word is accented - it is either the first word in the bar - so for instance lkm is stressed on the first syllable, or the ornament shows the verbal stress. (Nothing whatsoever to do with punctuation.) 

Yesterday I noted that each word must have at least one accent. Note in the music that vat-cl-awr-bm is a single word composed of separate words connected by hyphens. This 'word' has a single stressed syllable. The accents give you the clues as to which syllables define the pulse of the music. Do not sing the syllables woodenly as if the note value was constant. Everything is recitative and moves from pulse to pulse in the musical line until there is a rest point. It's a human pulse - not mechanical.
Psalms 146 beginning at verse 6.

The musical line, the rests, and the sense of the words tell you all you need to know about so-called disjunctive and conjunctive accents. These unmusical names and the law of continuous dichotomy should be utterly purged from your vocabulary. 

If you do the work required by these posts, you will be well on your way to reading SimHebrew. You are at the beginning of a delightful journey.

alh hdbrim awr dibr mwh al-cl-iwral bybr hirdn 
bmdbr byrbh mol suf bin-parn ubin-topl vlbn vkxrot vdi zhb

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan,
in the wilderness, in the steppe, in the forefront of Suf, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazerot and Di Zahab.

You can find the square text in lots of places on the web so I haven't included it in this post except in the automated transcriptions of the music.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Another verse explained (from 1 Kings 11)

At this rate it will only take 21,000 days or so to complete the Hebrew Canon.

In the Ely Cathedral Eucharist today, the bishop mentioned Lancelot Andrewes twice in connection with translating the Hebrew from Genesis to 2 Kings. I am assuming my reader knows no Hebrew but knows the Bible, so I don't need to elaborate on things unrelated to the language. 

Here is one verse from 1 Kings 11. The preacher said that Lancelot himself translated this famous passage. 

וַיֹּ֗אמֶר צֵ֣א וְעָמַדְתָּ֣ בָהָר֮ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָה֒ וְהִנֵּ֧ה יְהוָ֣ה עֹבֵ֗ר וְר֣וּחַ גְּדוֹלָ֡ה וְחָזָ֞ק מְפָרֵק֩ הָרִ֨ים וּמְשַׁבֵּ֤ר סְלָעִים֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א בָר֖וּחַ יְהוָ֑ה
וְאַחַ֤ר הָר֨וּחַ רַ֔עַשׁ לֹ֥א בָרַ֖עַשׁ יְהוָֽה

It's a bit longer than the first verse of Genesis that we looked at yesterday

'Ah,' you say. 'Still incomprehensible.'

I get that - so let's look at it in SimHebrew so at least you will know which side is up.

viamr xa vymdt bhr lpni ihvh vhnh ihvh yobr vruk gdolh vkzq mprq hrim umwbr slyim lpni ihvh la bruk ihvh [lf]
vakr hruk ryw la bryw ihvh

I have put the music below also - but note the line feed almost all the way through the text. I marked it with [lf]. The accent on the prior word represents the cadence on the subdominant - a mid-verse rest on the fourth note of the scale. The fourth note is A. The accent looks like ^ but it is smaller and under the syllable. It occurs at most once per verse. 

(It's called atnak, or atnkta if spelled in SimHebrew. You will find it spelled in various ways in English: atnaḥ and etnaḥta, are the most common. I tend to the shorter names. I don't use the h with the dot below it, since it is a pain to type and is largely irrelevant to the pronunciation. In SimHebrew this rougher /h/ aspirate is a /k/, a letter traditionally used for kaf - but c is the mirror image of כ kaf - which really should be spelled caf. The k as an opportunistic option for chet -- which can now be spelled ket and is pronounced et.)

Every verse that contains a cadence on the subdominant moves from the start of the verse to that rest point, and then moves from the rest point to the end of the verse. Notice that it is not half-way through. The atnak is not division by 2, but rather separation into 2 sections. Its placement is often surprising --  so pay attention to the release of tension. It's a miniature sabbath in the text of 93% of the verses in the Hebrew Bible.

So let's look at this phrase by phrase. Wow - that's harder without the accents as a guide to the phrasing! So we cheat for a minute and use the English and its punctuation as a guide to the phrasing:

And he said, Go forth and stand on the hill in the presence of Yahweh. And behold Yahweh passed by, and a great and resolute wind rent hills and broke cliffs in the presence of Yahweh. Not in the wind, Yahweh.

And after the wind, a quake. Not in the quake, Yahweh.

viamr, xa vymdt bhr lpni ihvh. vhnh ihvh yobr, vruk gdolh vkzq mprq hrim umwbr slyim lpni ihvh. la bruk ihvh. 

vakr hruk, ryw. la bryw ihvh.

Word by word: sound them out as best you can:

viamr, [And he said] xa vymdt [Go forth and stand] bhr [on the hill] lpni ihvh [in the presence of Yahweh]. vhnh ihvh yobr [And behold Yahweh passed by], vruk [and a wind] gdolh [great] vkzq [and resolute] mprq hrim [rent hills] umwbr slyim [and broke cliffs] lpni ihvh. la bruk [not in the wind] ihvh.

vakr hruk [And after the wind], ryw [a quake]. la bryw ihvh.

You should now recognize ihvh and lpni ihvh, and perhaps ruk and la and ryw. Let's look at these one at a time: 

  • ihvh is the 4-letter name, God's personal name, usually rendered the Lord in small caps. The transcription substitutes adonai but you can still tell that it is a substitution since adonai requires three notes but there are only two in the music.
  • lpni - the root is pnh. In this form the prefix l is a preposition, the h is dropped for the plural im and the m is dropped for this 'construct' form. The construct form is common in Hebrew. It is a concatenation form for nouns, in this case 'the faces of' often rendered as 'the presence of'. You can check out all the glosses I use for this word here. This word also functions as a preposition, before or facing.
  • ruk looks like a single syllable but it is two ru and ach. It is spirit or wind.
  • la is a negative, one of several. The /a/ carries an o sound. So it can be confused with lo = to him, since la - no/not sounds the same. One needs to tell from the aural context. (Good example in Psalms 100 - see vs 3).
  • ryw is quake - also two syllables. /y/ is ayin, a guttural also, a bit deeper than aleph (/a/). Like /a/, /y/ can carry any vowel. Below it carries an a in bar 2, an o in bar 4, an i in bar 5 and an a in ryw in bars 10 and 12.
  • The syllables and pronunciation are clearer in the music.

Notice that every word has at least one accent. [A word is a sequence of consonants and optionally a maqaf -- that is a hyphen-equivalent.] Sometimes the accent is just a repetition of the reciting note that we are on. That shows that the accents show both music and (as one would expect) accentuation or stress. They do not show punctuation. If you study these, you will note some common accents and learn something of their continuity or pausal impact in the musical line.

1 Kings 19 verse 11
You can clearly see that this is more complex music than the start of Genesis. Here there are several ornaments representing the accents above the text. Notice how much of the tune is recitation on the dominant (the fifth above e).

The accented syllables (rather than just the letters as in the earlier post) are in red.
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר צֵ֣א וְעָמַדְתָּ֣ בָהָר֮ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָה֒ וְהִנֵּ֧ה יְהוָ֣ה עֹבֵ֗ר וְר֣וּחַ גְּדוֹלָ֡ה וְחָזָ֞ק מְפָרֵק֩ הָרִ֨ים וּמְשַׁבֵּ֤ר סְלָעִים֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א בָר֖וּחַ יְהוָ֑ה
וְאַחַ֤ר הָר֨וּחַ רַ֔עַשׁ לֹ֥א בָרַ֖עַשׁ יְהוָֽה

These red syllables should correspond to the changes of notes in the music and lyrics. Note the differing types of syllable, open (consonant [+ vowel] alone), closed (consonant [+ vowel] + consonant), and notice the reversal of the vowel and consonant when there is a final guttural - as in ruk = ru-ach in the lyrics. (Final y, ayin also will support this reversal, called a furtive patah. There are names for everything, but I haven't included them because it distracts from hearing the Hebrew itself.)

Must we include the next verse also? This post is getting long - but here it is:

וְאַחַ֤ר הָרַ֙עַשׁ֙ אֵ֔שׁ לֹ֥א בָאֵ֖שׁ יְהוָ֑ה
וְאַחַ֣ר הָאֵ֔שׁ ק֖וֹל דְּמָמָ֥ה דַקָּֽה

vakr hryw aw la baw ihvh 
vakr haw qol dmmh dqh

We already know a bunch of these words from the last bit of the previous verse: vakr hruk ryw la bryw ihvh.

And after the quake, a fire. Not in the fire, Yahweh.
And after the fire, a voice muted, finely ground. 

Ah Lancelot, I didn't copy your still small voice

You can read the whole Bible in SimHebrew. For a non-Hebrew reader, I recommend it. Of course I do since I am a co-author. You can order it here for example - and put it on your phone - and you will be able to look at any verse with my close translation (for the music) at any time. The music is all transcribed and available freely on the web in several places as described on the music page in the menu. 

I will guarantee that you will not find that SimHebrew takes away the fun, nor does it stop you from learning the square text from right to left. You can convert anything freely on the web here.

ואחר הרעש אש לא באש יהוה 
ואחר האש קוֹל דממה דקה

If I told you that aw was fire, I suspect you could have translated most of that verse. Notice the definite article (h - prefix). The last three words, qol dmmh dqh - are voice - muted... the final root is dqq - my glosses for it are here.

1 Kings 19 verse 12

Would you like to see any more posts like this? Suggest a verse and I will go for it. I learn from this exercise too.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

There must be, there must be a better way to teach Hebrew to a non-Hebrew speaker

Without the music - there is no understanding!

I will be blunt. Music is an essential aspect of every part of the Hebrew Bible. To study without the music is to be deaf to the tone of voice. Abstraction by itself is dry and bitter.

Suppose you are starting from scratch - never seen a jot of Hebrew in your life.

OK let's go. Let's take apart the first verse of Genesis

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים
אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

You say, "I can't read a bit of this! If I print it I can't tell up from down."

OK - let's put it into SimHebrew

brawit bra alohim 
at hwmiim vat harx

I have lost some information - but the symbols are at least readable b-ra-wit - what's wit? w is pronounced sh (usually) so it is roughly b-ra-shit - between the b and the r is a schwa - a 'nothing' vowel - sometimes noted with an upside down e. English has tons of schwas - you perhaps just hear them without wondering about them. But they're there.

When you see two consonants together without a vowel - insert a schwa (at a minimum). So the second word is b-ra - and the third word is Elohim - it's a plural and it signifies (means if you like that word) God.

You will notice that the sign for /a/ occurs three times in these first three words - and each time it is a slightly different pronunciation. (English is every bit as bad - there are many shades of /a/ in English.) You just learn them! The first /a/ in brawit is more like a schwa. It is not accented. The second /a/ carries the sound of /a/ as in are, an ah sound. The third /a/ carries the sound of /a/ as in many, an eh sound. 

But I have lost the music. SimHebrew is fabulous and you can learn to read it just like English or French or Spanish or Italian in its Latin text. (All those languages have slightly differing uses and pronunciations of the letters). SimHebrew is a one-to-one onto (isomorphic for you maths folks) mapping of the full Hebrew text. But the music is missing there too.

The above 7 words in the square text include the music. It too can be sight read! It is somewhat incompatible with left to right processing of course. So I have automated the transcription. (With a roughly phonetic lyric line - see below.)

Let's read it:

For convenience, let's start on e - a note that is easily sung by most people. That e can be our default starting note for a verse - unless some other note or flourish is indicated. So sing b-ra- on the e. Then notice that בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית on the third syllable has a rounded half parenthesis leading up below the w. That changes the note to a g (g# in the default mode). So sing wit (w=sh) on the g# and stay there till you are told to change. All the instruction is contained in the accent when you meet it - and the rule never changes! It's a coded system of signs and therefore it is coherent and consistent.

The next word bra continues on the g# until the second syllable ra בָּרָ֣א. The angle bracket under the text raises us to the fifth. The first two syllables of Elohim El-o- remain on the fifth. On the third syllable -him אֱלֹהִ֑ים we come to a rest on the 4th note of the scale.

Then on the second part of the verse, the reciting note changes to an f on the object marker (aleph-taf) אֵ֥ת at.

Then note the return to the g#, הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם - same accent under the text - same note as before. The accent rising to the left is g#, the similar looking half-parenthesis going down to the left is f.

The direct object marker in each case is sung on the f, וְאֵ֥ת but stay on the g# for the first syllable of course.

We continue on f for the first syllable of the last word. The final accent on the second syllable of h-a-rx הָאָֽרֶץ returns to our starting note, e.

Each note change shows accentuation as well as pitch. Funny thing about music, its shape and sound include accentuation - the pulse of the sound. Here you are hearing the pulse of the voice of the cantor singing the word of God.

There are no accents above the text in this verse. The whole of the emerging created order of space-time is encompassed by 7 words.

Here's the score:
The text and music of Genesis, the first verse
direct from the Leningrad codex without human intervention

For a fuller introduction to the music, please see here. To read without the music is to fail to hear the tone of voice. This will often result in a poor interpretation on the content.

Relating the Hebrew to the SimHebrew is a matter of mapping the right to left transcription with a few differences. Most letters are one to one with the Leningrad pointed text. A few additional vowels may be noted - so the 'lo' of Elohim and the 'ii' (pronounced yi) of hwmiim. All my programs written over the last 17 years use SimHebrew internally as an abbreviation for the Unicode. It makes the programming much easier.

There's much more that we can say about the letters and roots in this verse. If you are seeing Hebrew for the first time, you would want to know that the first letter /b/ is a preposition, that the root it precedes is raw (rosh) often glossed as head among other things. The letter /b/ in the second word is not a preposition but part of the root /bra/ to create. Elohim is a masculine plural form. The suffix /im/ reveals it. The direct object marker is rarely glossed. The second time it is used it is preceded by /v/, a very common prefix signifying and (in this case). And twice we see the definite article /h/ used as prefix. Heavens (wmim) is also a plural -- that is its root form also. You can find all these words in my online concordance at the link in the menu.

The accents of the Hebrew Bible

Ken Schenck has been exploring accents and includes an example for Jonah 1:4

Here is an image of what the original is when translated (by automation) into the music:

Jonah 1:4 - the raw data with a superimposed rough English translation

Jonah - the whole story is interpreted here in my arrangements of the tunes from the accents with the odd nod to Gershwin.

 

The accents are music or I wouldn't have had a chance to do this. The story is very aptly set to music - it is a 'tale' of course.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Translating rare words

Claude Mariottini has another post on translating, this time of rare words.

He deals with various renditions of xnk. You can see the 70 words beginning with xn here.  

The three occurrences of tsade-nun-chet can be seen as variations in putting something down. In each case, the figurative nature of language is evident and sometimes there is an apt word in the host language that expresses it. So - 'dismount' perhaps rather than 'putting herself down' from the donkey, or 'pierce' rather than 'putting the tent peg down' into the earth. The troubles with the apt word are twofold: 

  1. that it will it may be a gloss for some other Hebrew root, or
  2. it will create an artificial hapax in the English text itself.

It makes the puzzle tougher if we translate for real concordance.

An interesting example is another one beginning with the same two letters, tsade-nun-mem - unique indeed in Gen 41:23. A real hapax in English for this uniquely used stem xnm would be 'frazzled'. And behold, seven stalks of grain, frazzled, flimsy, blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. Other translations use 'withered' and use the same gloss for other stems like yod-beth-shin (ibw). So the uniqueness is lost in translation. 

It is interesting that xn (tsade-nun) is a rare letter combination for the first two letters of a root - there are only 70 words in the Hebrew canon (WLC) that begin with xn.

Disclaimer. I am self-trained. I learn by doing. I began learning Hebrew at age 60, 17 years ago. My work has been aided by algorithms that I wrote to stop me from using similar sounding glosses in English for two different Hebrew stems. I have sometimes deliberately allowed artificial hapaxes and I have allowed some overlap between English glosses and multiple Hebrew stems -- for some common words like walk, come, go, it is absolutely awkward to force concordance. For prepositions also, it is impossible for a large number of reasons related to the variety of ways that prepositions are used or implied or avoided for verbs.

You don't need to believe me, but you do have to do the work of learning the Scripture well, and you have to leave behind those assumptions that are related to the desire to be right or to have power over others.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Verses containing qarne

 The verses containing the qarne of one sort or another are only 16. The only one more rare than this in the prose books is shalshalet (7 occurrences). For the counts see The Song in the Night page 131, Figure 27 Frequency by verse of ornaments in the text of the prose books. Qarne does not occur in the poetry books but shalshalet is more frequent in the poetry books.

Surprising still how few there are.

Chap-vs Notes Ornaments Accents Musical Phrase
Nehemiah 5:13 19 14 33 e B rev,e paz,B d e qar,t-q,pas,e ger,B rev,qad,B z-q,d f g# ^A pas,e ger,rev,e qad,z-q,f g# f e
Ezekiel 48:21 21 13 34 e B B B B e B d qar,B t-q,pas,f zar,B seg,rev,t-g,pas,f qad,qad,B z-q,f g# ^A e qad,B z-q,f g# e
Nehemiah 1:6 22 9 31 e B B e B e d qar,B B paz,B t-q,pas,C qad,B z-q,f g# ^A rev,C e qad,B B z-q,f g# e
Numbers 35:5 18 9 27 e tar,B rev,B d e qar,t-q,pas,ger,B B e rev,pas,f d f g# B ^A C B z-q,g# e
2 Chronicles 24:5 16 10 26 e zar,B seg,B paz,B d qar,t-q,pas,ger,B B e rev,C qad,z-q,g# B ^A f e g# e
Esther 7:9 17 9 26 e B t-g,pas,ger,B rev,B B d qar,e tar,c B rev,qad,B z-q,g# B ^A f g# f e
Nehemiah 13:5 10 12 22 e pas,ger,B rev,B d qar,t-g,pas,ger,rev,C qad,B z-q,qad,z-q,g# ^A g# e
Nehemiah 13:15 19 7 26 e B paz,B e B e B paz,B B e d qar,ger,C qad,z-q,f g# B ^A z-g,g# f e
Joshua 19:51 17 7 24 B paz,B B B B d qar,B e B t-q,pas,C qad,B z-q,g# B ^A z-g,e g# e
Ezra 6:9 18 7 25 e B paz,B B B B B d qar,tar,B B rev,pas,C e qad,pas,f d f g# f e
2 Samuel 4:2 18 6 24 e B B e B d qar,t-q,pas,e ger,c B rev,d f e g# B ^A C z-q,g# e
1 Chronicles 28:1 19 6 25 e B B B paz,B B B B d qar,B B B paz,B t-q,pas,ger,c d e f g# e
2 Chronicles 35:7 14 7 21 e B B d qar,tar,B e zar,B seg,rev,qad,B z-q,g# B ^A g# f e
Jeremiah 13:13 13 8 21 e pas,ger,e B rev,B B B d qar,B t-q,pas,ger,B rev,d f g# e
Jeremiah 38:25 18 5 23 e B zar,e B seg,B B e d qar,e pas,ger,c d f g# B ^A f g# e
2 Kings 10:5 15 6 21 e B B d qar,t-q,pas,C qad,B z-q,d f g# ^A e B z-q,f g# e