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About nealr

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  1. This strikes me as a strange conclusion to reach. What we call "Hebraisms" are features of the text that people have argued are more characteristic of Hebrew than English. The possibility that a translator carries over features of the original language into his/her translation exists anytime translation takes place. It is not something a translator needs to "pick up" on; it's usually unintentional. These kinds of accidents of translation can take place in any kind of translation, even "creative and cultural" ones. Based on my experience both as a translator of ancient (Latin) texts and as someone whose studied various translations of varying degrees of "literalness," I suggest the reality is just the opposite: there is no reason at all to assume that the creative and cultural translation from the plates would not transmit some Hebraisms. I suppose, if you simply mean we shouldn't assume Hebraisms are there, that would be true. There is, of course, no reason to simply assume any translation has carried over features of the original language into the target language. But if you start to notice features that are more characteristic of the original language, well, then there is nothing unreasonable in hypothesizing that they are relics from the original language carried over by the translation. This is, in fact, the reason many scholars believe that various apocryphal texts that are only extent in medieval languages were based on earlier Greek and Hebrew manuscripts--there were features in the text that were more characteristic of either Hebrew or Greek, deemed "Hebraisms" or "Hellenisms." There was, of course, no reason to assume these would be there: but they are there, and scholars noticed them. Likewise, there are Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. That is, there are features of the text that are more characteristic of Hebrew than English. The existence of these in the text is, for the most part, not in dispute. Their significance and meaning, of course, is very much in dispute. Scholars who believe the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient text naturally see these as relics of the translation, and have argued for such. Scholars who do not believe it is a translation have proposed other explanations, such as the influence of the KJV, etc. I'll gladly admit that at this point, better work needs to be done on the believing side to try sorting out potential influence from the KJV vs. legitimate relics of translation. Skousen's work should actually help us make some progress in this regard (especially since he thinks he has found some Hebriasms that are not in the KJV). But my point here that this isn't about assuming the translation has Hebraisms. Whatever the nature of the translation, the Hebraisms are there in the text. There are a lot of problems with this comment here. First, what are typically called "Hebriasms" in Book of Mormon discourse are more properly termed "Semiticisms" in most academic literature, because they are generally characteristic of Semitic languages more broadly, and even non-Semitic ancient Near Eastern Languages, such as Egyptian. So the fact that the text claims to be written in Egyptian (rather than Hebrew) is not really a problem here. I assume that what you mean by "non-Hebrew culture," you are referring to the fact that the text was predominantly written generations after the migration to the Americas. I will grant that this does complicate the picture a bit. As with accounting for things like the KJV, better work needs to be done by the believers to try accounting for this factor. But this does not negate the possibility of genuine, Hebrew (or Egyptian)-like features were carried over by the translation. Is there reason to assume such features? Well, I suppose not. But then again, this isn't really about assuming such features are there. There are Hebraisms in the text. The issue is where they came from. Since it is entirely possible that the Nephites "reformed Egyptian" maintained features characteristic of ancient Near Eastern languages, the possibility that these are being carried over by the translation is a legitimate hypothesis (although, as I noted, it does need to be better argued, in my opinion). Whether or not they "favored Hebraisms" makes no sense to me, because properly speaking, a Hebriasm or Semiticism is a linguistic feature inherent in the language. It's not something writers would consciously favor. Either things characteristic of ancient Near Eastern languages remained part of Nephite speech and writing, or they didn't, but it's not really something they would or wouldn't "favor." I can understand the confusion though, given your example of a "Hebraism" was chiasmus. I know a lot of people, including Latter-day Saint scholars, call chiasmus a "Hebraism," and it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but it is NOT a Hebraism. It is a literary device, not a linguistic feature, and therefore is not actually a Hebraism. This makes chiasmus a bad example for your argument for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that since it is not a Hebraism, it is not really relevant. But this also means that it's use is not really attached to how well-preserved their Old World language was. Their language could have lost all its distinctive ancient Near Eastern features they still could have used chiasmus. But there is also the fact that chiasmus is found in ancient Mesoamerican (specifically Mayan) texts. It's also, for what's worth, found in Egyptian. So it's a known literary device in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Mayan, which are--assuming there is an ancient text at all behind the Book of Mormon translation--the three most relevant literary traditions to the Book of Mormon. As far as I am concerned, that alone is plenty of reason to assume Book of Mormon peoples would have favored the use of chiasmus in their writing. I'll grant the unlike Hebraisms (the linguistic features), the presence of literary features like chiasmus are more in dispute as to their actual presence in the text. Personally, I am persuaded that there are genuine chiasms in the text. So for me, the issue again is not about assuming they "favored" chiasmus or the like. I can see right in the text that the chiasms are there. The question is where did they come from? I don't personally think it likely they came from the translation process or were intentional compositions of Joseph Smith or even "accidents" of his dictation, but there are plenty of people who would disagree. But I am not really interested getting into those arguments here. My point, once again, is simply that given that the chiasms exist in the text, it is perfectly reasonable to think Book of Mormon writers favored such literary devices. So this is not really about "assuming" they favored literary devices such as chiasmus, or "assuming" their language maintained Hebraisms, or "assuming" the translation "picked-up" such Hebraisms. The existence of such features in the text as we have it is the evidence for reasonably believing these things. Not proof, mind you, and as I've said some work needs to be done on better analyzing that evidence from a believing point of view, but the point is this stuff isn't being blindly assumed. It may come as a surprise, after all of that, to know that I am not particularly invested in the Hebraism argument. At the present, in most cases I don't think it's been sufficiently illustrated that the proposed Hebraisms are not a result of translating in the KJV-esq language. There are a few interesting exceptions to this, that suggest to me there's some potential here, but as I said better work needs to be done on this issue, and I since personally lack the linguistic background to do it, there isn't much I can do about that. So, for now I don't really put much stock in Hebraism arguments. (Chiasmus, on the other hand, I do find significant, but I'll save that for another time.) So I am not really trying to "defend" Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon so much as clarify what I see as misunderstandings of the issues here.
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