Mar 2, 2009 David Lang

So What Is This Stuff Good For?

I suppose it was bound to happen. After the recent challenge to use search symbols and commands, someone asked for examples of where these kinds of searches are actually useful:

Could you think of some situations where these search criteria could be used for actual significant Bible searches; I'm not sure I'll ever have a need for knowing what the longest word in Isaiah is. ;-)

Admittedly, the kinds of things I asked you to find are not the kind of searches you're going to do every day, but knowing how to use search commands and symbols can come in very handy, especially if you need to do sophisticated original language searches. Here are a few practical examples:

First, don't knock that search for long words. For example, try searching the tagged Hebrew Bible for any lexical form eight letters or longer (????????*). Now click the Details and take a look at the Hits Graph and the list of words in the Analysis. Do you notice a particular pattern when it comes to the longest words in the Hebrew Bible? Where do they tend to appear? What does this tell you about Hebrew as compared with other Ancient Near Eastern languages?


Knowing how to use wildcard symbols becomes extremely useful when it comes to finding particular word patterns. For example, you could search the tagged Hebrew Bible for all geminate verbs (verbs in which the second and third letters of the verbal root are the same), by entering ???(=2)@[VERB].

On our user forums, we get questions about how to do these kinds of searches all the time. Someone recently asked for help constructing a search for middle-weak verbs in Hebrew. The answer was to use three question marks and constrain the second one to the letters he, yodh, or nun: ??(hyn)?@[VERB]. Now that you know how to do this, how would you search for all I-yodh verbs? III-gutturals? What about I-guttural/III-He verbs?

These kinds of searches aren't just useful in Hebrew. A Greek professor recently asked for a way to find all liquid verbs; that is, verbs whose stem ends in lamda, mu, nu, or rho. By searching for *?(lmnr)w@[VERB], he was able to get a list of verbs whose present stem ended in a liquid. (As it turns out, not all such verbs are true "liquid verbs," but it was enough to give this professor a solid starting point).

The FIELD command also has numerous practical applications. For example, the Greek particle de typically appears as the second word of a clause or sentence, but does it ever appear as the first word? By entering de <WITHIN 1 Words> [FIELD Begin] and setting the Search within every pop-up to Clause, I can find out immediately that in fact it never appears as the first word of a clause.

Now, how often does de appear later in a clause than the second word? We can find that out by entering de <WITHIN 3-20 Words> [FIELD Begin]. An interesting little exercise is to increase that first number to search for places where de is used later and later in a clause. In general, it appears that the later de is used in a clause, the more likely it is to express a contrast, and be translated as "but" or "yet." When de is near the beginning of a clause, it tends to be translated as "and" or simply left untranslated.

While most of us are not typically going to be doing these kinds of sophisticated searches, a sizable percentage of Accordance users depends heavily on them. Searching for repeated letters, vowel-combinations, and proximity to the beginning or end of a literary unit is good for far more than solving the crossword-style clues I threw at you. And for those who need that level of sophistication, Accordance makes it easy.

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