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Welcome to the home of the IBR Research Group, Linguistics and the Biblical Text!

This website is intended to facilitate discussion and interaction between members of our Research Group. To be part of the group, create an account and begin editing.

Annual meeting: 10 December, 2020, 1-3pm Eastern time

Official IBR webpage

Our schedule for the meeting is:

  • William Ross, Reformed Theological Seminary, Welcome (5 min)
  • David J. Fuller, McMaster Divinity College, Cohesion as a Criterion for the Pragmatics of Biblical Hebrew Word Order: A New Proposal (20 min) Download full manuscript, Mode Charts, and Field Charts
  • Kevin Grasso, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)
  • Aaron Michael Jensen, South African Theological Seminary, Fronted Adjuncts and What They Teach Us about Information Structure (20 min) Download full (long) manuscript or Abridged manuscript
  • Travis Wright, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)
  • Business Meeting (15 min)

Other interesting info

We had initially hoped to have a communal website with a regular newsletter, but that was ambitious and impractical. Nonetheless, these may be interesting to some.

Linguistic Fallacies

(here is a place to begin cataloguing errors we all too often make)

The Hasty Generalization Fallacy

This fallacy is when an inadequate amount of evidence is used to support a (potentially faulty) conclusion. A generalization is made before all the evidence comes in, evidence that may overturn the verdict.

This is quite common in semantics (and in phonology), especially when a form or word is frequently, but not always, used a certain way. Let's take the "plural" morpheme in English -s as an example (the following discussion is taken in large part from (Borer 2005: ch. 4)). When we come across a pair of words like cat and cats, we may hypothesize that the -s morpheme takes a single "cat" and turns it into multiple cats, i.e. -s indicates that there is a plurality in the referent. Many other pairs of words would support this conclusion: dog(s), table(s), ball(s), etc. would all seem to confirm the meaning of -s that we proposed.

A plausible next step would be to check to see if our hypothesis jives with the syntactic contexts that we would expect to find with a true plural morpheme. For example, we would expect cats to be incompatible with one but compatible with two, and likewise, cat should be compatible with one and incompatible with two. Again, we would find strength for our hypothesis with this data, since #one cats contrasts with two cats as does one cat with #two cat. It sure looks like -s is a plural morpheme.

But when we dig a bit deeper and look at more data, some problems arise. For example, what do we do with zero cats vs. #zero cat. How can -s be a plural morpheme if it is compatible with the number zero and even required by it? At this point, we are left with two options for our analysis: we can either completely abandon our original hypothesis about the meaning of -s denoting a plurality, or we can revise our semantics of "plurality" to include things like zero cats in it. While the former may seem radical (and it is in some ways), it shouldn't be too bothersome to us. All we need to do is propose a meaning for -s that includes the notion of plurality, but CRUCIALLY is not limited to the notion of plurality. Either way, the generalization we made from the cat(s) data was a bit too hasty. Thinking through ALL of the ways the plural morpheme can be used gives us the foundation to come up with a better generalization, i.e. one that includes all the specific instantiations of the form.

This fallacy is one we are all prone to, and a large part of doing semantics is coming up with (or searching for) all kinds of different contexts in which a morpheme can be used, so that the generalization we make about its meaning captures everything we need it to capture. It may seem a bit complicated for an abstract morpheme like -s, but we do the same thing all the time with lexical words. When we see a bulldog called a dog, we cannot conclude that dog means a pudgy fat, slow animal with four legs. We need all the data we can get to make the correct generalization.

So when we engage in linguistic analysis, we need to make sure we have all the data before we start generalizing.

Annotated Bibliography

(put here your favourite resources that you've found under-utilised)


These books by Paul Kroeger were foundational in helping me (E. Robar) think like a linguist. They're always the first ones I recommend for somebody who wants to truly study linguistics.


Because Relevance Theory is a comprehensive theory of language, I (I. Allen) recommend the books below in order to grasp the theory. RT developed as a species of Linguistic Pragmatics (not to be confused with pragmatics as functionalism within Discourse Analysis), and few biblical scholars have truly grasped its significance for interpretation. Among the best voices on the juncture of RT and biblical studies are Regina Blass, Philip Goodwin, Gene Green, Ernst August-Gutt, and Stephen Pattemore (example works below).

  • Smith, Billy. Relevance Theory. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge University Press: 2013.
  • Blass, Regina. Relevance Relations in Discourse: A Study with Special Reference to Sissala. CSL 55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  • Casson, Sarah H. Textual Signposts in the Argument of Romans: A Relevance-Theory Approach. Atlanta: SBL, 2019.
  • Goodwin, Philip W. Translating the English Bible: From Relevance to Deconstruction. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2013.
  • Green, Gene. “Relevance Theory and Biblical Interpretation.” Pages 266–73 in Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation. Edited by Steven L. McKenzie. Vol. 2. London: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Gutt, Ernst-August. Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. 2nd ed. Manchester: St. Jerome, 2000
  • Pattemore, Stephen W. “On the Relevance of Translation Theory.” RevExp 108 (2011): 263–77.
  • Pattemore, Stephen W. Souls under the Altar: Relevance Theory and the Discourse Structure of Revelation. New York: United Bible Societies, 2003.
  • Pattemore, Stephen W. The People of God in the Apocalypse: Discourse, Structure, and Exegesis. Cambridge: 2004.
  • Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Meaning and Relevance. Cambridge: 2012.
  • Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996 (1st ed., 1986).

People willing to review

If you're willing to review others' work, put your name and interests here. Save your email address for now, in case this becomes a spam problem.

  • Elizabeth Robar (Particularly interested in verbal systems (Semitic, but also Greek), but also all general linguistic, exegetical and historical matters.)
  • Isaiah Allen (PhD on application of Relevance Theory to Biblical Interpretation, especially GNT epistles; familiar with various schools of Discourse Analysis and applications of Speech-Act Theory)
  • Shawn C. Madden (Discourse Analysis/Text Linguistic comparison of the Hebrew text and the Greek translations of that text in the TNK)

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