Adjacency pairs are cool. Translators do well to watch for them. This is the final installment in a series on a little word in a specific context, כי at the boundary between frame and quotation in Biblical Hebrew. It would take a full-length monograph to go through the relevant examples in the Hebrew Bible (Esh  counts 60; Miller [1996: 105, n. 21] adds others).
To quote Luther out of context, “one little word” is enough to “fell” a translator. Translators trip on function words rather often because they think of them in terms of presumed semantic content. That is a recipe for disaster, since function words tend to be, by definition, lexically empty.
Ruth 1:10 contains an example of כי at the boundary between frame and quotation. Most English translations get the pragmatics of Ruth 1:8-10 right. KJV on the one hand and NIV/ TNIV on the other do not. Details below the jump.
Here is Ruth 1:8-10:
וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי לִשְׁתֵּי כַלֹּתֶיהָ
לֵכְנָה שֹּׁבְנָה אִשָּׁה לְבֵית אִמָּהּ
יַעַשׂ יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם חֶסֶד
כַּאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם עִם־הַמֵּתִים וְעִמָּדִי׃
יִתֵּן יְהוָה לָכֶם
וּמְצֶאןָ מְנוּחָה אִשָּׁה בֵּית אִישָׁהּ
וַתִּשֶּׂאנָה קוֹלָן וַתִּבְכֶּינָה׃
כִּי־אִתָּךְ נָשׁוּב לְעַמֵּךְ׃
And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.” May יהוה treat you with kindness, as you treated your dead and me with kindness. May יהוה grant you and each of you find, the security of a home with a husband.” She kissed them good-bye. They wept loudly and said to her, “No, we will go back with you, to your people.”
For a discussion of כי in this passage, see Miller (1996: 111-113, including n. 43). Following Schoors, Groß, and Esh, Miller favors assigning it an adversative sense. That seems to be the nuance in context. Miller’s paradigmatic example of adversative כי is well-chosen: Gen 17:15.
לֹא־תִקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמָהּ שָׂרָי כִּי שָׂרָה שְׁמָהּ
You are not to call her Sarai; rather, her name is Sarah.
From the point of view of pragmatics and syntax, it is essential to note the adjacency pair in Ruth 1:8-10. It compares to the structure of Gen 17:15. “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s house!” They said to her, “[We will not go back to our houses of origin]; rather, we will go back with you, to your people.”
It is excellent that NLT got this, however unsatisfactory other aspects of NLT Ruth 1:8-10 may be. Here is NLTse:
But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.
“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”
The adjacency pair is adequately represented: “Go back to your mothers’ homes.” “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”
KJV botched it: “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.” In isolation among recent translations, NIV / TNIV is also far from ideal, though it nicely captures the “go back . . . go back” echo in the source text. TNIV:
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.” May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
She kissed them good-bye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
The lack of an equivalent for כי in NIV/ TNIV Ruth 1:10 occults the adjacency pair. One assumes that the (T)NIV translation team understood it as a כי recitativum. Contrast NJPSV, NRSV, ESV, REB, NJB, and NET. All begin the quote reported in Ruth 1:10 with “No, we . . .” Contrast NASB: “No, but we will surely return with you to your people” (a double translation of כי). A translation with “No” highlights the adjacency pair. It is the better translation.
Ruth 1:8-10 is a tear-jerker, part of a larger narrative that is full of pathos. It deserves to be translated carefully, with no detail neglected or set to one side.
שאול אש, על מלות־פתיחה לפני דיבור ישר בעברית, לשוננו כב (תשי״ח) 48-53 = Shaul Esh, “[On Particles Introducing Direct Speech in Hebrew],” Leshonenu 22 (1957) 48-53; Walter Groß, “Satzfolge, Satzteilfolge und Satzart als Kriterien der Subkategorisierung hebräischer Konjunktionalsätze, am Beispiel der כי-Sätze undersucht,” in Text, Methode und Grammatik: Wolfgang Richter zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. Walter Groß; Hubert Irsigler, and Theodor Seidl; St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1991) 10207; Cynthia L. Miller, The Representation of Speech in Biblical Hebrew Narrative: A Linguistic Analysis (HSM 55; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996) 103-116; Antoon Schoors, “The particle כי,” in In Remembering All the Way . . . A Collection of Old Testament Studies Published on the Occasion of the Fortieth Anniversary of the Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap in Nederland (ed. Adam S. van der Woude; OTS 21; Leiden: Brill, 1981) 240-76; 256-257