By W. Wright

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Extra resources for The Book of Jonah in four Oriental languages

Sample text

Poetry, and not prosaic accuracy, must be the dominant feature of speech. (Rihbany 1920, 77) Explaining, and defending, the value of inaccuracy in Middle Eastern speech (in contrast to prosaic, pedantic, pedestrian and dull accuracy), Rihbany writes: There is much more of intellectual inaccuracy than of moral delinquency in the Easterner’s speech. His misstatements are more often the result of indifference than the deliberate purpose to deceive. . He sees no essential difference between nine o’clock and half after nine, or whether a conversation took place on the housetop or in the house.

The word sadly reflects here, of course, an Anglo perspective: as Rihbany emphasizes again and again, from a Syrian point of view, there is nothing sad or inappropriate about such absence of literal correctness and accuracy—quite the contrary. What exactly does the Anglo ideal of accuracy, as intuited in Rihbany’s bilingual and bicultural experience, really mean? Drawing on Goddard’s (2004a) insights into the semantics of figurative language, I suggest that it means, in essence, a match 28 Meaning, History, and Culture between what a person wants to say with some words, and what these words actually say: ideally, the words as such should bear exactly the meaning that the person wants to convey with these words.

Here, let me try to formulate, on the basis of the discussion so far, the cultural script for ‘accuracy’ and ‘nonexaggeration’. , to say things in this way] The generalization suggested by these prototypes and alluded to in the phrase “speak like this” seems to be that in saying something about anything, it is not good to say “more” than what one really means—that is, than what one really wants to say about it. What is at issue here is the idea of the so-called “literal meaning” of one’s words.

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The Book of Jonah in four Oriental languages by W. Wright


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