Syntax and Thinking in the Study of Language

Before I express my thoughts, I should provide my background. First of all, I haven’t had the opportunity to read much literature about linguistic theory. So, while I may be touching upon ideas present within linguistics, I am not aware of how I am doing so. Secondly, I have taken a year a biblical Hebrew. Third, I am actively learning Germany via Fluenz and Greek via Decker’s Reading Koine Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014). Greek, though, has been a struggle to keep up with because I’ve been so busy.

Anyway, as I worked through my German today, I began to consider the relationship between the syntax and how I actually think through information. For example, German places the infinitive verb at the end of the phrase:

German: Ich möchte eine rote Tasche kaufen.

English literal: I want a red bag to buy.

English: I want to buy a red bag.

Such differences intrigue me because the German sentence must be approached totally differently from how one would approach the English sentenced due to the syntax. That said, how might I prepare myself to not only read a different language and think in a different language, but to alter my approach to language all together?

After all, language is not a static entity; rather, language is living and dynamic, infiltrating every aspect of human life. Taking into account the issue of approach to language and dynamic nature of language, the vastness of human culture is illustrated. It is done so only by recognizing that language is, in many respects, defined by its own culture, that in which it is utilized.

With this understanding, biblical studies, my own especially, should always take into account that simple things, such as how a native American English speaker approaches Hebrew, Greek, or German, make huge differences as to how it is read and interpreted. When one takes the leap from Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic to an English translation, there are then two cultures to take into account.

Thoughts, questions, or advice? I’d love to hear your response!

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