Interlinears

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 5th, 2015, 4:53 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Once English words have been understood as pseudo-Chinese, I can then produce a standard English sentence, that is better understood than the first time I spoke it. Another way is to give phrase-by-phrase equivalents in Chinese then English - the limited number of transforms, allows an almost 100% transfer from the meaning attained in Chinese to the what is produced in English. It is very different from speaking English, then explaining it in Chinese, because the comprehension only happens some time later, and it is not applied back to the target language. I will say that this is really a last resort type of way of dealing with students who otherwise have unworkably low levels of comprehension.
I would contend, though, that this is quite a different context than people reading an interlinear on their own, week by week, to 'get closer to the Greek'. This is one learning a language under the tutelage of a skilled teacher. It is a language LEARNER, whose instructor has chosen an unusual tool to help him/her along. Quite specific, and fashioned for a specific outcome by a skilled instructor with the intent, I trust, that the crutch will be left behind once its purpose is served.
I do not recommend this approach. I only brought it up to lead to the point that what is usually thought of as an interlinear is what I think would be good as an initial step towards a Koine Greek speaker to learn English. So for an English speaker, it might work to read a phrase in English, look at the Greek words diced up under the English word by word, then read the Greek phrase in the same order. That more-or-less replicates what I think is going on in my students comprehension process. It's not perfect but it makes more sense to me than reading Greek first with no comprehensible input, and leaving comprehension in the muddled English.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Arranging Greek in English word order actually makes more sense to me than arranging English in Greek order, which would seem (by analogy with what seems to work for me with my own students) to be the way that a Greek speaker wanting to learn English would arrange the text. Adapting Greek to English to make the Greek "easier" could work for some, but definitely adapting the English to make the Greek easier doesn't make a lot of sense.
This just won't go down, for me. But, once again, in the context of a learning technique under the oversight of a skilled teacher, it has a whole different meaning than using a "reverse interlinear" to understand 'what the Greek really says'!
Presumably people with interlinears are the ones who are looking for a way to access Greek that doesn't require them to attend college, or to understand the workings of grammar in abstract.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 6th, 2015, 12:33 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
What, for example, does a person who doesn't know Greek, and doesn't intend to learn it, expect to gain from an interlinear. The answers to this are scary, from my anecdotal sampling.
Same sort of question you might put to a first year NT greek student. The answers are equally scary. I generally keep my mouth shut. You don't want to discourage people who are going to the trouble of doing "serious" bible study. There are enough defeaters out there already. People who are willing to at least put aside some time for study are rare. Last thing I would do is tell them they are wasting their time because they want to use an interlinear. I don't see interlinear use as threat. It is just a level of work about equal to word studies. I used to think the best advice you could give someone regarding word studies is "don't do them." But the bible reference book publishers have been promoting this method for eons.
I too want to encourage serious Bible study. That's why I warn them about interlinears!
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 6th, 2015, 12:51 pm

There is a kind of interlinear that might be more useful - a "phrase by phrase" interlinear, especially the kind Andi Wu has demonstrated at SBL and other places, where you can climb up and down the syntax tree in Greek or the English translation, and see the equivalent in the other language.

This doesn't use a stilted translation concocted especially for the interlinear, it just uses a translation.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 6th, 2015, 3:37 pm

I mean, we are speaking of quite a mishmash of people here, and quite a broad scope of motives and applications. You can't really speak as if it was one homogenous group. No doubt there will always be lots of folks using interlinears of whom it may be said:
They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?
Then there are those who know little or no Greek, but who use interlinears and other such tools to create an impression from the pulpit or in the classroom etc. that they are giving important insights into the original language. I have been told recently by one who ought to know that interlinears and like tools are replacing real familiarity with the language for many preachers and teachers.

And then there are those who are struggling and striving to learn more about the original language(s) of Scripture. These groups are all quite different and different things must be said about (and to) each group. If in your time off from your day job you want to use an interlinear to prove that a certain 17th century English translation is supreme over all, so be it. But if you are misleading a whole flock of people from a pulpit by dishonestly claiming to have insights into a language which you really don't understand, then some'un oughta say someth'un!

And if you are desiring to learn more about NT Greek, and are using an interlinear as a 'first step', then someone should be able to point out the shortcomings of your current method, and the next useful step in your search.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 7th, 2015, 12:56 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:I mean, we are speaking of quite a mishmash of people here, and quite a broad scope of motives and applications. You can't really speak as if it was one homogenous group. No doubt there will always be lots of folks using interlinears of whom it may be said:
They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?
Then there are those who know little or no Greek, but who use interlinears and other such tools to create an impression from the pulpit or in the classroom etc. that they are giving important insights into the original language. I have been told recently by one who ought to know that interlinears and like tools are replacing real familiarity with the language for many preachers and teachers.
Interlinear use ≠ ignorance of Greek. Now, as a reader of Greek with an awareness of my knowledge and ignorance, an interlinear serves as a reader's lexicon. I only know somewhere roughly in the vicinity of 4,000 words of the New Testament's fifty-seven hundred odd word vocabulary. That means I need to either guess or look up approximately 1 word in 40. Or perhaps I don't actually have to look up that many, because when we say "know" it has a flexible meaning sometimes.

There is sometimes a fudge-factor double-speak redefinition of "learn", when we say "learn in context". There are many words that I "know in context", but out of context, I don't "know" them (or even recognise them), so in fact, so... I didn't actually "learn them" in context, but rather "learnt them in context". Within the New Testament context that is okay for some words, like βρυγμός, which only ever occurs in the phrase ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων. But is it actually learning, or just acquiring the ability to recognise in familiar contexts? If that is enough for someone's Greek usage needs, all good and well, let the matter rest in peace, but otherwise, what could we do?

If we were to change ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων from a fixed phrase to something like βρύχειν τοὺς ὀδόντας, we would look at it from the perspective of what those people were doing, rather than the action itself in abstract. That grammatical flexibility is one step towards "learning". There is still, however, then the question of whether we "know" the meaning of βρυγμὸς. Does knowing a gloss, "gnash", or "grind" mean we "know" βρυγμὸς? Well, it means something like the teeth come together with the jaw moving either sideways or up and down but with no food, or with the teeth coming together rapidly to eat quickly or to shiver (i.e. it may or may not be involved with ἐσθίειν "to eat"). It is a word with a different meaning to δάκνειν "to bite" (take into the mouth) or τρώγειν "to eat", "to chew" (prepare in the mouth then take into the body, though βρύχειν too is used to describe (part of) the preparation process "chew"). It is also different to μασάομαι. [BTW: Don't be confused by the LXX reference you will find in LSJ, which is related to the verb βρυχᾶσθαι "to roar", "to bellow", not directly to this βρύχειν here]. But who does that sort of grammatical change or those comparisons by / while "learning in context" or even "learning" in context? To do it on the fly, from the point of view of ignorance would produce fanciful (or at best analogous) results.

What most often happens then is that we settle for single word glosses. That is where an interlinear can help a reader who knows Greek. Think about one of the aspects of reading...

If somebody knows basic Greek, i.e. mastered the basic grammatical words and the frequently occurring forms, they will be looking up 1 word in 4 or 5 in the dictionary, and needing help with parsing of 1 of them. The progress to that point is easier, and by the time we come to moving from 1 word in 20, to 1 word in 40 it requires more than double the vocabulary learning. Learning vocabulary for translation and word-by-word understanding really gets bogged down in the law of diminishing return at that point. I mean "bite" is a familiar word to us, basically because it is familiar in the contexts of our life - it is something we do often as children, and presumably δάκνειν "to bite", (and κτενίζεσθαι τὰς κόμας "to comb your hair" to boot) would be familiar and common to someone who uses Greek for their daily life too, only like but not in our literature.

While I think there is some value in keeping to only the New Testament and perhaps other early Christian writings, to keep one's understanding in a basically "Christian" sense, it does produce a slightly skewed or unreal understanding of the language. Of course if you would only read the Bible in English, as some of my friends I've had over the years have done, then of course reading widely in Greek is not up for discussion. They can benefit greatly from the scholarship and wide reading of others without needing to do it themselves. Let me say though, that effective rote learning of New Testament vocabulary reaches its limits of efficiency at about 2,000 or 2,500 words. Beyond that you need to go broader. I think that if you want to learn 4,000 words then you need to be aiming for an overall Greek vocabulary of about 8,000 words and to effectively master all 5,624 words, you need to be looking at taking Randall's suggestion of 10,000 to 15,000. That sounds weird, but actually the value you can get from the lesser learnt words is needs some degree of freedom to be effective - seeing them in different contexts and in different grammatical and syntactic structures brings them to life of the pages of the word list.

In some cases for some readers, an interlinear could serve as a source of single word glosses for readers of intermediate competency who were not distracted into following the pseudo-English and who didn't want the distraction of referring to a reader's lexicon. That would be using an interlinear as a running vocabulary list. Personally I find even versification distracting, but I'm not everyone.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:And then there are those who are struggling and striving to learn more about the original language(s) of Scripture. These groups are all quite different and different things must be said about (and to) each group. If in your time off from your day job you want to use an interlinear to prove that a certain 17th century English translation is supreme over all, so be it. But if you are misleading a whole flock of people from a pulpit by dishonestly claiming to have insights into a language which you really don't understand, then some'un oughta say someth'un!
Keeping one's peace till one is called to do better is also a good strategy. Everyone has imperfections, for preachers, it is in their (approach to) preaching. The prophetic ministry dressed up in the flash and pizazz showmanship of Greek apparel is still effective. Using one's knowledge of Greek to challenge others knowledge or understanding of a verse or two, can be a distraction from listening to the content of a sermon with the attitude of heartfelt reflection that we should listen to the word with. There will always be people who know less than you in some areas. One aspect of acquiring knowledge is learning to deal with your own reactions to that. The young will always be what you would expect them to be. Beginners will always make ungrounded claims that seem just perfect to their own thinking. Most of those things will sort themselves out over time.

Personally, I'm on my way to understanding the Greek as well as any, and I don't think I have insights by reading in Greek, it's just that the text and meaning seems to flow better and be less ambiguous when read in Greek rather than in English - has different ambiguities at least.
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Wes Wood
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Wes Wood » January 7th, 2015, 1:59 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Let me say though, that effective rote learning of New Testament vocabulary reaches its limits of efficiency at about 2,000 or 2,500 words.
This! This is 100% my experience. I "know" about 3,500 glosses. I know about 150 words :|
Stephen Hughes wrote:In some cases for some readers, an interlinear could serve as a source of single word glosses for readers of intermediate competency who were not distracted into following the pseudo-English and who didn't want the distraction of referring to a reader's lexicon. That would be using an interlinear as a running vocabulary list. Personally I find even versification distracting, but I'm not everyone.
I have never used an interlinear for personal study, but I had great difficulty initially comparing my translation of a text with the Bible. It was difficult for me (again, I *was* almost completely self-taught) to know if I had the "pieces" correct. Between my latent familiarity with the texts I was reading and the changes that most translations make for good English, it was hard to tell what I understood about the text and what I cheated my way through. My solution at the time, for better or worse, was a "literal" translation of the Bible. I can trace some/many of my habits back to that practice.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 7th, 2015, 11:28 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Personally, I'm on my way to understanding the Greek as well as any, and I don't think I have insights by reading in Greek, it's just that the text and meaning seems to flow better and be less ambiguous when read in Greek rather than in English - has different ambiguities at least.
I think brother Luther would say you're being far too modest! Both as a Greek reader and as a member of the community of Greek readers, you are a witness to what has been written, and thus by definition a guardian of the text. Besides, "flow better", "less ambiguities", and even "different ambiguities" are not insignificant. Speaking for myself, I would say that I definitely and regularly have new insights reading in Greek. The reason isn't first of all, that there are hidden meanings in the original, but that I must think about the text in a way I do not have to think about it in English, unless perhaps I memorize it in English.
Wes Wood wrote:This! This is 100% my experience. I "know" about 3,500 glosses. I know about 150 words :|
Beautiful! My only difference is that I don't think I've attainted to either of your numbers yet! The "glosses" though, are perhaps not quite so thin as they might appear at first blush. After all, there is big carry over of concept from Greek to English so that many 'glosses' bear a considerable amount of the same freight in both languages. I mean a if you look at the lexical scope of a word like κύων, these are basically the associations which obtain in an English lexicon. This surely is true on a large scale, given the English inheritance of Greek vocabulary.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 7th, 2015, 11:48 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Wes Wood wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Let me say though, that effective rote learning of New Testament vocabulary reaches its limits of efficiency at about 2,000 or 2,500 words.
This! This is 100% my experience. I "know" about 3,500 glosses. I know about 150 words :|
Beautiful! My only difference is that I don't think I've attained to either of your numbers yet! The "glosses" though, are perhaps not quite so thin as they might appear at first blush.
For many things a gloss suffices, especially for many adjectives and some nouns. Where you have to ask the questions, How is that used? What is that used with? Does that have a special construction? Is that ever the subject? or similar function in the sentence questions then you need to go beyond the gloss.

I think that glosses are completely inefficient to learn, but a good way to start. Internalising any language you want to learn is a form of learning. It's one of those "price you pay" things that leads to comprehension. Surface understanding gives one the opportunity to understand deeper as time goes by.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:The "glosses" though, are perhaps not quite so thin as they might appear at first blush. After all, there is big carry over of concept from Greek to English so that many 'glosses' bear a considerable amount of the same freight in both languages. I mean a if you look at the lexical scope of a word like κύων, these are basically the associations which obtain in an English lexicon. This surely is true on a large scale, given the English inheritance of Greek vocabulary.
Another thing apart from the volume of borrowing into English, there are concepts like what we find in the Swadesh list. They are basic words that are more or less recognisable in any language without explanation. [It's amazing how few of them I know in Greek :oops: ]
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Interlinears

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 8th, 2015, 2:20 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Personally, I'm on my way to understanding the Greek as well as any, and I don't think I have insights by reading in Greek, it's just that the text and meaning seems to flow better and be less ambiguous when read in Greek rather than in English - has different ambiguities at least.
I think brother Luther would say you're being far too modest! Both as a Greek reader and as a member of the community of Greek readers, you are a witness to what has been written, and thus by definition a guardian of the text. Besides, "flow better", "less ambiguities", and even "different ambiguities" are not insignificant.
I'm not sure that I would be able to understand what our mate Martin was saying, my German is not just rusty, but has started to decompose due to rust and my Latin was never good anyway.

Well, modesty has its place. I'm the clown in the room who talks a lot, but the person talking a lot is not usually the person who knows a lot. Shake a full bottle and it is fairly quiet. Shake a bottle with just a couple of centimetres in the bottom and it makes a lot more noise. There are quite a number of people here whose Greek is demonstrably more significant than what I've been able to acquire. The other point is that with a dead language we are dealing with lighter and darker shades of ignorance and less or better targeted conjectures. Given that situation, modesty is well advised.

The things you've quoted me on: "flow better", "less ambiguities", and even "different ambiguities" were a reference to the words used to create the text. Pronouns, demonstratives, etc. are deceptively similar enough to their counterparts in English for a translation to not have to change the overall structure of a passage. The Greek language has its strengths and weaknesses in presenting ideas and sometimes the flow of the text takes advantage of / or avoids them. English has different strengths and weaknesses, so a paragraph / passage structured well for one language doesn't always work well in the other. People's expectations of the order things will be presented is another issue that sets languages apart. Problems in English come when things pass verse boundaries. That is what I meant. Maybe it's "significant", but common too. I think that most readers of the Greek find the same sort of things.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Speaking for myself, I would say that I definitely and regularly have new insights reading in Greek. The reason isn't first of all, that there are hidden meanings in the original, but that I must think about the text in a way I do not have to think about it in English, unless perhaps I memorize it in English.
I understand what you mean by that slowing down and trying to understand the text thoroughly. The type of insights that one gets in a new situation - including reading in Greek - pass after some time, when the new wears off and you have gotten used to things. They are generated more or less automatically by the extent of the difference between what your used to (in English) and what you find new (in Greek). Saying things like Greek has more words for "word" than English does, or Greek seems more precise about time, mood or aspect than English indicate that the person saying those things is still coming to terms with the difference between their own language and the new one. That passes after a while when we realise that both Greek and English are an expression of the same human nature in language - the more insider's view.

Memorising Greek is good too for thinking.
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