Adjunct or argument?

The most recent One Big Happy:

Joe’s version of Job 3:1 is the one I recall:

Job cursed the day he was born.

and it suffers from an ambiguity, between the day he was born as an argument (the direct object of cursed) and as an adjunct, or modifier (a time adverbial, in fact a bare NP adverbial, an alternative to the PP adverbial on the day he was born). The intended reading of Job 3:1 is the argument reading, but Joe got the adjunct reading.

The argument reading provides an answer to the question

What did Job curse?

while the argument reading provides an answer to the question

When did Job curse?

Now it trns out that the version in the KJV is not the one above, but has cursed his day, and many other translations have cursed the day he was born, which is more satisfyingly modern than cursed his day, but has the same argument/adjunct ambiguity as cursed the day of his birth.

You could accuse Joe of willfully misunderstanding, since it’s extraordinarily unlikely that anyone would be cursing on the day they were born — but then Joe’s just a little kid, and maybe things worked differently back in biblical days.


One Response to “Adjunct or argument?”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Modern translations (NRSV, NIV) have “the day of his birth”. KJV, following the Masoretic text, says “cursed his day”. The “of his birth” is an emendation from the Syriac translation.

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