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Homograph Indicators

Homograph Indicators

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Certain databases that contain morphological and lexical form analysis of the Bible in various ancient languages include codes to distinguish between homographs. Often this code is just a number, but in many databases there is also a part-of-speech component as well – or even only a part-of-speech component without a numeral where that is sufficient to distinguish between homographs.

In some databases, such as the Targums from the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project, the homograph indicators in the Bible text will exactly match the homograph numbers in a lexicon where the lexicon is part of the same dataset. It is also not uncommon for a given database to generally follow a particular lexicon when assigning homograph numbers. But homograph indicators from one database to another, or from one lexicon to another, vary greatly. It is important to remember that homograph indicators have no meaning outside of the database that they come from. To more clearly communicate this, Libronix DLS puts an abbreviation for the database that a homograph indicator came from in parenthesis after the indicator itself.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that homograph indicators are not like Strong’s Numbers or GK Numbers in that they also have no meaning without a corresponding lexical form. The ‘number’ component starts counting over at 0 or 1 (depending on the database) with each new unique lexical form (or lexical form + part of speech in some databases). Since Hebrew and Aramaic can be written with or without vowel points, one of the things you’ll notice is that databases that don’t use vowels to help distinguish between lexical forms, such as the Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text of the Hebrew Bible and the CAL Targums, will have many, many more homographs and homograph indicators than databases like the Westminster 4.2 morphology that use vowels to help distinguish between words. You could think of the pair of a homograph indicator + a lexical form as being similar to something like a GK number in that the pair together is used to identify a unique word, but there is no attempt to make these indicators into industry standards – they are features of a particular database only.

So an example of a lexical form with a homograph indicator would be:

v #1 (WTS) ברא

Indeed, if you are running the latest version of Libronix DLS, this is exactly what you’d see if you right-clicked on the first verb in Genesis 1:1 of the BHS with Westminster 4.2 morphology and selected 'Display Information'.

Using Homograph Indicators

Many uses of homograph indicators are automated in Libronix DLS. For example, if you right click on a word in a resource that has homograph indicators and choose 'Selected Text' you are given the option to select the lexical (dictionary) form of the word by choosing the form with '(Lemma)' appended to it. When you select the lemma, if you choose 'Speed Search This Resource', Libronix will generate a concordance search that uses the lexical form AND homograph indicator to get more accurate search results.

Likewise, if you execute a Bible Word Study report from the right-click menu, the report will make use of homograph indicators in the searches it runs.

When using the morphological search dialog to construct queries of morphologically tagged bibles, version 3.0a has new lists of lexical forms to help you select which word you want to search. As you start typing the lexical form you want to search in the lemma text box, the list below shows all the words that start with the letters you typed, along with a simple gloss to help you select the correct word. When you select the word from the lemma list, the search query fills in the homograph indicator in the text box to the right of the 'lemma' text box. This feature can also be useful for seeing how a database divides words into different homographs. For example, the Andersen-Forbes database of the Hebrew Bible categorizes true noun participles as nouns, not as verbs, which is different from most other Hebrew databases. With these lists of lemmas and glosses, you’ll be able to see words with the same spelling and similar glosses lined up so that you can make sure you are searching on all the forms you are interested in – such as seeing that the pure noun participles are searched separately in the Andersen-Forbes texts.

Since homograph indicators are just another data type, you can also use the rules of data type searching to make use of homograph indicators in other search dialogs, such as the Graphical Query Editor or the Basic Search Dialog or the Bible Search Dialog. An example of a data type search would be:

hg = "v #1 (WTS)"

The 'hg =' identifies this as a data type search and identifies that it is the homograph data type that is being searched on. The portion of the search string in quotes is the actual homograph indicator itself. This string matches what you see in the Display Information example above. Of course, when searching on a homograph indicator, you will almost certainly want to use an ANDEQUALS or similar operator to tie this to a lexical form as well, such as:

(hg = "v #2 (WTS)") ANDEQUALS (lemma:exact(ברא))

Note the use of the 'lemma:' to limit the search to where ברא appears in the lexical form tag and the use of 'exact()' to match the lexical form on vowels (or absence of vowels in this case) rather than just on consonants. In many cases the search results will be the same without the 'lemma' or 'exact' operators, but they are useful to know.

Homographs and KeyLinking

Because homograph indicators are tied to one database, they are not a cure-all solution for linking into the correct lexicon entries. Libronix DLS uses a more sophisticated, table-based approach to solving the problems associated with getting from any given word in the biblical texts to the correct article in any of the lexicons. For more information on KeyLinking and homographs, see the following articles:

Last Updated: 9/19/2006