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The Scalp of Your Head: Polysemy in Alma 44:14–18
TitleThe Scalp of Your Head: Polysemy in Alma 44:14–18
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBowen, Matthew L.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
Volume20
Pagination39-45
KeywordsApostasy; Captain Moroni; Hebrew; Leadership; Nephite; Polysemy; Scalp; Wordplay; Zerahemnah; Zoramite
Abstract

The fear that Moroni’s soldier’s speech (Alma 44:14) aroused in the Lamanite soldiers and the intensity of Zerahemnah’s subsequently redoubled anger are best explained by the polysemy (i.e., multiple meanings within a lexeme’s range of meaning) of a single word translated “chief” in Alma 44:14 and “heads” in Alma 44:18. As editor of a sacred history, Mormon was interested in showing the fulfilment of prophecy when such fulfilment occurred. Mormon’s description of the Lamanites “fall[ing] exceedingly fast” because of the exposure of the Lamanites’ “bare heads” to the Nephites’ swords and their being “smitten” in Alma 44:18 — just as “the scalp of their chief” was smitten and thus fell (Alma 44:12–14) — pointedly demonstrates the fulfilment of the soldier’s prophecy. In particular, the phrase “bare heads” constitutes a polysemic wordplay on “chief,” since words translated “head” can alternatively be translated “chief,” as in Alma 44:14. A similar wordplay on “top” and “leader” in 3 Nephi 4:28–29, probably again represented by a single word, also partly explains the force of the simile curse described there.

URLhttp://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-scalp-of-your-head-polysemy-in-alma-4414-18/

Scripture Reference

Alma 44:14-18

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