A Nerdy Complaint

This is probably not something that very many (any?) of my readers would care about, but I felt like complaining about it, because it’s just irritating. One expects to find continuity among the classifications of Hebrew vocabulary among the dictionaries and lexicons, especially in terms of classifying homonyms. This, however, is not consistent at all. The word I found this morning that was inconsistently classified was חָלַק. This is a homonym, meaning that there are two completely different meanings of the word for the exact same spelling, much like the word “lie,” which can mean “recline” or “falsehood.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, חָלַק I means “smooth” while חָלַק II means “divide.” The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis agrees with this classification. However, the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew reverses the classification, and makes חָלַק I “divide” and חָלַק II “smooth.” Why the alteration? No reason is given. This kind of confusion does not make it helpful when commentaries simply reference the one or the other Roman-Numeraled definition, as if everyone is supposed to know the classification. It would be nice if at least the classification was the same, even though advances in linguistics will ensure that the definitions will not always be the same. Ok, nerdy rant is over. I can’t believe you actually read to the end.

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5 Comments

  1. reiterations said,

    June 28, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I can’t, either.

  2. June 29, 2017 at 10:42 am

    This is extraordinarily frustrating throughout Hebrew grammar as well. Some people call the verbs YQTL or QTL; others imperfect and perfect; others prefix forms and affix forms; and there are probably others. Hebrew desperately needs a standardization in terminology.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    June 29, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Chris, agreed. It can be difficult and confusing at times to see grammars using terminology that is unfamiliar to the categories one was taught by. It can make you think you’ve forgotten all your Hebrew!

  4. Richard UK said,

    June 30, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Much, much interesting to a non-Hebrew scholar than you might realise. Thank you. More on such homonyms please!!

  5. Frank Aderholdt said,

    July 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    For perhaps the first time in my life, I’m among the coveted 1%, and thrilled to be there. In this case, of course, that’s the 1% of the people reading your post who actually care about your problem.

    Please consider my three little bits of advice to help you resolve your dilemma, reach closure, and return your life to “normalcy” (if there is such a thing!):

    (1) Be thankful that you’re now fully settled into your new home and charge, with time on your hands to fret over such things;

    (2) Put brain in gear; and

    (3) Research!


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