Verbs occur in a variety of contexts and these contexts influence their meaning. In order to render a verb consistently within the syntactic pattern in which it occurs, it is necessary to take into account: the presence of a direct object (one, multiple, or none), the possibility of an idiomatic expression involving the direct object, and the presence and particular function of prepositions in relation to the verb. Though some would like to maintain a strict distinction between semantics and syntax, the significance of a sentence is contained in and expressed by the patterns of elements occurring in it. Lexica often provide a broad range of meanings for a single verb, including specific significances when accompanied by particular prepositional phrases, but because a pattern might be affected by a combination of elements, it is not always clear under which conditions a specific significance is applicable. Exegetes and translators sometimes take the liberty of choosing rather freely from the offered dictionary glosses, apparently not being sufficiently aware that elements present in the context could pose restrictions on the choice of rendering. Using examples containing the Hebrew verbs נשׂא, עשׂה, and שׂים, we will explore the significance of the specific patterns in which these verbs occur. Variety in the translations of these verbs are presented and analyzed. The insights are brought together in a Flow Chart for Hebrew verbs in which the questions asked guide one to a consistent rendering of the pattern in which the verb occurs.
13 Nov 2013
Keynote Lecture for the Bible Translation Section at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature