A Quick Tip for Understanding Word Frequency Stats in the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew

The Concise Version
The Concise Version

Recently I’ve been paying more attention to the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew and its Concise counterpart (see here).

It took me a little while to figure out how to read the frequency stats in DCH/CDCH. So I’m posting this little tidbit here to save some folks a bit of time.

The introduction to the concise version of the lexicon reads:

2. Statistics. Next comes a notation of the number of occurrences of the word in each of the four corpora of ancient Hebrew: the Bible, Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Inscriptions. Thus the notation 334.5.13.32 means that the word occurs 334 times in the Bible, 5 times in Ben Sira, 13 times in the Dead Sea Scrolls and 32 times in the Hebrew Inscriptions. If there is only one number in the statistics, the word occurs only in the Hebrew Bible, and if the notation is, for example, 0.0.7, it means that it occurs only in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that 7 times. In the case of verbs, occurrence statistics are also given for each of the voices (or, binyanim).

The entry for נתן has a frequency count of “2015.62.228.26.” That’s straightforward enough. But then with the entry for תרומה the frequency given is “76.2.18.” This means it occurs 76 times in the Bible, 2 in Ben Sira, 18 times in the DSS, and 0 times in the Inscriptions. Another entry that has “11.4″ means 11 times in the Bible, 4 times in Ben Sira, 0 in DSS and 0 in the Inscriptions.

What took me a little while to figure out is that some entries have counts like “376.0.1,” which means 376 occurrences in the Bible, 0 in Ben Sira, 1 in DSS, and 0 in the Inscriptions.

The 0s are not noted, then, if there is not still a number to come after it that is 1 or more. In other words, you’d have “376.0.1,” but never “376.1.0.0″ or even “376.1.0.” That would be abbreviated instead to “376.1.”

It would have been easier if all the 0s were inserted in every case, so that you were always looking at 4 actual numbers (thinking of 0 as a “number” for the moment), but I am guessing that this is because the longer DCH (at 8 volumes in print) likely couldn’t afford to be filled with 0s, where they could otherwise be deleted.

In summary, the four corpora in this lexicon are:

  1. Hebrew Bible
  2. Ben Sira
  3. Dead Sea Scrolls
  4. Hebrew Inscriptions

Committing that sequence to memory (and better understanding when a 0 is used and not used) makes use of the lexicon even easier. I appreciate DCH/CDCH’s inclusion of frequency statistics, as I use it to build my Hebrew vocabulary.

I use the Concise DCH for regular Hebrew reading in Accordance, but have just recently been really getting to know it as a lexicon. The print version of The Concise DCH is here; in Accordance it is here. The full 8-volume set from Sheffield Phoenix Press is here, found also here at Accordance.

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