lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Babel Text: Genesis 11:1–9

For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copstone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything.

(Herman Melville. Moby Dick)

As I, unfortunately, don’t know Hebrew, the Lemizh text is mainly translated from the revised Elberfelder Bibel, a German translation which, to my knowledge, is pretty faithful to the original. The literal translation contains selected links to the appropriate places in the tutorial.

The English text is from the public domain World English Bible, for want of a convincing translation into the English language. The Tetragrammaton is translated as ‘the Lord’.

1 dìl worldÌi jnyý rÌny speakuýn rÌny krijwordÌy.

give-cons1 world-acc-dat2 1/1-acc-acc3 one-partacc-acc2 speak-ins-partacc3 one-partacc-acc2 ensemble-dat-word-acc-acc3.

The whole world had been given one language (= means of speaking) and one lexicon (= ensemble of words).

The whole earth was of one language and of one speech.

See Other partitives in brackets for the word order of ‘one language’; ‘one lexicon/speech’ is phrased in parallel.

2 là jàxaR prexnyÓr discoveràa plainÌi gmilkÌar hinarè, RèRjg fìar.

do-fact1 move-fact-temp2 front-nom-earth-acc-abl3 discover-fact-fact2 plain-acc-dat3 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc4 Shinar-loc-nom5 live-ing1 PIIn−1-dat-loc2.

It happened, as they moved away from the east (= the front in Earth’s coordinate system), that they discovered a plain in Shinar, and they started to live there.

It happened, as they travelled east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there.

The rules do not exclude the possibility of a first-level word in mid-sentence; and this seems an appropriate place for such a construction.

There is some dispute whether they travelled to the east or from the east.

3 speaká weì weRyneì <làxty brickanÌ bakeàny hardyÌ fÌi>. mà màna brickynù stoneynúm màna tarynù mortarÌnum.

speak-fact1 PIn−1-nom-dat2a PIn−1-nom-each-acc-not-nom-dat2 ‘want-fact-acc2 brick-partfact-acc3 bake-partfact-acc3 hard-acc-acc4 PIIn−1-acc-dat4’. make-fact1 make-partfact-fact2 brick-partacc-ins3 stone-partacc-qualins3 make-partfact-fact2 tar-partacc-ins3 mortar-partacc-qualins3.

They said to each other, ‘We want to make bricks and bake them hard’. They built with brick as if with stone, and they built with tar as if with mortar.

They said one to another, ‘Come, let’s make bricks, and burn them thoroughly’. They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.

4 speakà <làxty cityàny veÚ toweràny gmilkÌir skyÌe, nameùy veí làul vyà jaxnàUl wyÒr djnàrir jnÌar>.

speak-fact1 ‘want-fact-acc2 city-partfact-acc3 PIn−2-nom-ben4 tower-partfact-acc3 outside-cons-opposition-acc-ill4 sky-acc-nom5 name-ins-acc3 PIn−2-nom-dat4 do-fact-mot3 PIn−2-acc-fact4 move-fact-not-fact-fin4 PIn−1-acc-abl5 earth-loc-ill5 1/1-acc-loc6’.

They said, ‘We want to make a city for ourselves and make a tower ending in the sky, [which is / shall be] the means for making a name for ourselves; so that we won’t scatter (move away from each other) to the whole surface of the earth’.

They said, ‘Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let’s make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth.’

‘in the sky’ is translated with an ‘inside’ construction because the sky is seen as a discrete entity (the place of God).

Most Indo-European readers would interpret the idiom ‘let’s make ourselves a name’ as ‘let’s become well-known’, ‘let’s become famous’. Everlasting name meaning everlasting fame is already a Proto-Indo-European concept, and was probably their idea of immortality. I’d like to know what the idiom means in Hebrew. Taken literally, it might simply have been an act of constituting themselves as a nation.

5 jáx LordeÌ yfèr seeàUl mÌe cityynÌ towerynÌ fatherehumanÌe.

move-fact1 Lord-nom-acc2a up-acc-ela2 see-fact-fin2 make-acc-nom3 city-partacc-acc4 tower-partacc-acc4 father-nom-human-acc-nom4.

The Lord moved from above to see the things [being] made – city and tower – by the children of humans.

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.

6 speakà <seeaRàksy rìlne peopleyý dìlne rÌy speakùyn, tàne lèRa. là vaèR gwìlta gwày intendÌan.

speak-fact1 ‘see-fact-should-fact-acc2 one-partcons-nom3 people-acc-acc4 give-partcons-nom3 one-acc-acc4 speak-ins-partacc5 this-partfact-nom3 do-ing-fact4. do-fact1 PIn−2-fact-ing2 teach-cons-fact2 any-fact-acc3 intend-acc-partfact4.

He said, ‘One should see that they have been made one people, and that have been given one language, and that doing this [is only] the beginning of their deeds. From now on they can (= have been taught to) do whatever they intend.

The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do.

Two modern German translations, both claiming to adhere strictly to the original text as it is reconstructed today, (the Einheitsübersetzung and the revised Elberfelder Bibel) say ‘… and this is [only] the beginning of their deeds’. The English version seems to be a translation from the Vulgate (‘… coeperuntque hoc facere’).
But what a promise is contained in the last sentence …

7 làxt jànxy ilfkyír confuseàny firàr speakuìn gwiltnànil meanáy viè viRyniè speakànu.>

want-fact1 move-partfact-acc2 up-cons-opposition-acc-ill3 confuse-partfact-acc2 PIIn−1-ill-loc3 speak-ins-partdat3 teach-cons-not-partfact-cons3 mean-fact-acc4 PIn−2-dat-nom5a PIn−2-dat-each-acc-not-dat-nom5 speak-partfact-ins5.’

I want to move to below and there confuse their language, so that they cannot (= so that they are ‘untaught’ to) convey meaning to each other by speaking.’

Come, let’s go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

… and what a challenge in this verse!

8 jáx Lordeùl enèl tyèr wyÒr xnàrir jnyár cityìRnil.

move-fact1 Lord-nom-mot2a PIIn-partnom-caus2 this-acc-ela2 PIn−1-acc-abl2 earth-loc-ill2 1/1-acc-loc3 city-partegr-cons2.

The Lord scattered [them] from there to the whole surface of the earth, so that they stopped making the city.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city.

9 callà tyÒl bablarÌ confuseánOl Lordeè viàr speakúin worldÌe jnýy, jànxOl vièr wyÒr xnàrir jnÌar.

call-fact1 this-acc-psu2 Babel-loc-acc2 confuse-partfact-psu2 Lord-nom-nom3a PIn−2-dat-loc3 speak-ins-partdat3 world-acc-nom4a 1/1-acc-acc5 move-partfact-psu2 PIn−2-dat-ela3 PIn−1-acc-abl3 earth-loc-ill3 1/1-acc-loc4.

For this reason it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world, and because he scattered [them] from there to the whole surface of the earth.

Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. From there, the Lord scattered them abroad on the surface of all the earth.

Last significant change: 25 Jun 2017

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