Universiteit Leiden

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Die biblisch-hebräische Partikel נָא im Lichte der antiken Bibelübersetzungen. Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer vermuteten Höflichkeitsfunktion

My research addresses the function of the much-debated particle -nā in Biblical Hebrew, often translated with “please”, from the point of view of the most important ancient Bible translations (Greek, Syriac, Latin). It combines textual criticism, translation technique, discourse pragmatics, and the study of politeness in language.

Peter Juhás
24 November 2015
Leiden University Repository

The bewildering amount of variation in the rendering of this particle in the ancient versions can be explained as the result of a conscious choice by the translator or as a reflex of a different Hebrew original. After a survey of previous research, a systematic and comprehensive investigation of the evidence shows that the pragmatic function of this particle is strongly conditioned by the context and cannot be explained by a unified denominator.

Its primary function appears to be emphasis, hence it sensitizes the addressee/reader. Cases of schematic translation can indicate with relative certainty where -nā was present or not in the Hebrew original of a given translation. By and large, the following tendencies can be observed: the Greek often has dē as the most obvious translation equivalent, the Syriac only translates it occasionally, and the Latin connects it most directly with politeness by a Latin expression for request (generally obsecro or quaeso).


  • Prof.dr. Holger Gzella
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