Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Westminster Hebrew Syntax - More on diagramming

I have posted a number of times (HERE are all the posts) on diagramming of sentences as related to grammar, syntax, linguistics, discourse, etc. I have done so exclusively looking at the Greek New Testament, and it does appear that most work has been done with the Greek NT. (And keep an eye out for the forthcoming Lexham Discourse Greek NT.)

Poking around the web, however, I did find that at the Groves Center of Westminster Theological Seminary there is work on a Westminster Hebrew Syntax for the Old Testament. Here is an example of what their work looks like. Here is their description of the project:

Each separate sentence in the Hebrew Bible is identified and separated into its component parts (constituent analysis). In order to maximize consistency and objectivity of analysis, the computer is taught to do the analysis by giving it a complex set of grammar rules to use. The resulting database can be used for many different purposes, including Bible translation. For this reason, the Groves Center is partnering with the Asia Bible Society to build a new generation of translator tool, where the computer actually proposes translations to the translator. An essential element of this tool is a “map” between biblical Hebrew syntactic structures and the syntactic structures of the target language – in this case, Mandarin Chinese.
While this will certainly be a helpful tool for OT study, I find it particularly interesting that they are teaching a computer how to analyze the text and that this analysis can then be used to propose a translation in a new language based on syntactic structures.
This is an intriguing, albeit mechanical, approach to translation. I am imagining in the future, however, that this kind of technological could be used to generate personalized translations on the fly. Assuming that grammar rules have been defined and even given further specification according to various parameters in the target language, one could, for example, take an original language biblical text and request that a translation be generated for a speaker of American English at an 8th grade reading level.

In any case, I am looking forward to this Hebrew syntax resource showing up in my Bible software one of these days. According to the web site, they are in the "final phase" as of October 2007.

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