An Accordance user recently blogged about a Hebrew search he tried to do in Accordance that didn't get him the results he expected. He was looking at a Qumran fragment which supposedly contained a quote from the Bible, and wanted to find that quotation by searching the Hebrew Bible in Accordance for a sequence of letters contained in the fragment. Using wildcard symbols and a search command, he constructed the following search:
Basically, he wanted to find a word ending in either shin-tav or sin-tav, followed by another word beginning with tav. There are a number of ways he could have constructed this search, but the way he chose should have worked just fine.
When he performed the search, however, Accordance only returned two results, even though he was aware of others that should have been found. In looking at some of the clear examples which got missed, he noted the presence of certain cantillation marks which he assumed were throwing off the search. So he asked the readers of his blog how to get Accordance to ignore the cantillation marks and just do a consonantal search.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned here:
First, know where to get help. If you want an answer to a question about Accordance, you're better off turning to the Accordance Forums rather than to the blogosphere in general. Most of the comments on this user's blog post amounted to something along the lines of, "I'm a PC user who doesn't know anything about Accordance, but . . ."Second, even power-users make mistakes. I point this out to make you first-year Hebrew students feel better that you're not the only ones who get confused. Professors and power-users sometimes do, too.Third, it's important to understand the distinction between lexical forms and inflected forms.
The reason this search failed to find every occurrence of that string of letters had nothing to do with vowel pointing or cantillation marks. Accordance ignores those marks unless you specifically indicate that you want them to be considered. The real reason he didn't get the results he expected was that he was searching for lexical forms when he really should have been searching for inflected forms.
By "Lexical form" (or sometimes "lemma"), we mean the dictionary form of the word as representative of all forms of the word. For example, if you enter beth-resh-aleph in the Search window and click OK, Accordance will find all occurrences of the Hebrew word bara, no matter what particular inflected form it happens to take (yivra, barati, etc.). This would be like searching for "run" in English and finding "runs," "running, "ran," etc.
In Accordance, if you want to find a particular inflected form of a word, you need to enter that form and enclose it in quotation marks. Here's how I would search for the inflected form yivra:
If I were to enter this form without the quotes, Accordance would look for a lexical form with the spelling yodh-beth-resh-aleph, and give me an error message if no such lexical form exists.
It's important to understand that inflected forms are the words as you see them in the text, while lexical forms represent every form of the word. Beginning users will sometimes try to copy an inflected form from the text, paste it into the argument entry box, and then wonder why they get an error message telling them no such lexical form can be found.
In the same way, the user searching for a phrase from a Qumran fragment entered the text as it appeared in the fragment (inflected forms), but because he did not enclose the phrase in quotes, Accordance assumed he was searching for lexical forms. Here's how his search should have looked:
By the way, the reason this user entered two phrases and joined them with an OR command is that he wanted to find words containing either a sin or a shin. Did you know that typing shift-C in Accordance's Hebrew font will enter an unpointed sin/shin character? Thus, a simpler way to enter this search would be like this:
In this post, I've talked at length about the distinction between lexical and inflected forms. Understanding this simple distinction, and knowing that Accordance defaults to searching for lexical forms, will help you avoid confusion when constructing Hebrew searches. (This distinction is also important when searching Greek texts, but for some reason, users seem more likely to get confused when working with Hebrew.)