I am fascinated by the varying lexical collocations different languages have in their linguistic toolkits. In English we use the metaphor of distance or travel to refer to time. For instance, in English we can say that some romantic episode is “past” or that my birthday will “come” soon. But English does not collocate time words with elevation (“up” or “down”) or thickness (“thin” or “thick”). Hebraisms in the biblical language texts contain a number of references to time in terms of capacity. So, the equivalent of English the time has “come” would, in Hebrew thought, be that the time is “full.”
The Cheyenne language, which has been the focus of my study since 1975, collocates price with degree of “ease”. So, something which is inexpensive is literally “easy-priced.” English, on the other hand, allows price references to collocate with vertical words such as “up” or “down”. The stock market goes “up” and “down.”
In English the color green collocates with the emotion of jealousy, while red can collocate with anger. A major mistake can be a “black” mark on someone’s reputation. In some languages there are no color collocations with emotions.
English speakers can, according to English lexical rules, refer to someone in terms of their intelligence as “bright”, or “sharp,” or “dull.” None of these terms is an appropriate collocation with references to intelligence in Cheyenne.
What English translation equivalents would you consider most appropriate for expressing the meaning of the following literal translations of biblical language collocations:
- ripeness: “He lived to a ripe old age.”
- easy: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
- say in the heart: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
- taste: “Some standing here will not taste death until the kingdom of God has come.”
- rich: “God is rich in mercy.”
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