A Biblical Hebrew lexicon for translators based on recent developments in theoretical lexicography
Two main problems that confront existing Biblical Hebrew (BH) dictionaries can be identified. Firstly, there is a lack of adequate semantic models for the analysis and description of lexemes. Secondly, data is structured in ways that do not enhance optimal retrieval of desired information from the dictionary. The failure to take cognizance of the insights from theoretical lexicography partly explains the state of BH dictionaries. This investigation hypothesizes that current insights from theoretical lexicography can improve existing lexica and create better ones. Accumulated insights from the academic community have resulted in the formulation of a theory of lexicography or metalexicography. In this light, a general lexicographic theory of components and structures of dictionaries is selected and investigated in order to establish the aspects of BH that can be improved. The point of departure is the notion of “dictionary criticism”, which focuses on the critical evaluation of existing dictionaries with the goal of improving them. Though there are other approaches to assess lexica critically, theoretical lexicography provides justified heuristics for an objective appraisal of BH dictionaries. These heuristic include notions of “frame structure”, “lexicographic function,” and “microstructure.” The frame structure focuses on the structural components of the dictionary book. The lexicographic function places emphasis on the goals that the dictionary purports to fulfill in the light of its target users. The microstructure hosts the data that is provided as part of the lexicographic treatment of the lemma sign. In addition, it is the centre of user’s look up activities, and it hosts other important structural components. The above selected notions directly affect the extent to which the user benefits from the dictionary and the success of the dictionary in general. The criticism of selected BH dictionaries in the light of the above-mentioned reveals that most dictionaries fall short in certain critical areas. Data types that are provided are either unnecessary or are not structured in ways that allow optimal and successful retrieval of desired information. Such inadequacies present evidence that existing BH dictionaries can benefit from the insights of theoretical lexicography. A model that seeks to ameliorate BH dictionaries is developed primarily for Bible translators based on selected insights from theoretical lexicography. A trial of this model of BH lexemes that are selected from different lexical classes demonstrates improved lexica in terms of the lexicographic function, the selection, and the organization of data. The trial of the model also highlights areas that need further investigation in the light of current trends in theoretical lexicography in order to better the quality of BH dictionaries.