[b-hebrew] Inflection or Synonym
kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Aug 27 12:35:45 EDT 2010
On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 5:56 AM, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:
> > When dealing with qal, niphal, piel, etc., are we dealing with
> > inflections, or are we dealing with synonyms?
> > This is the question brought up by Randall in his post on KWN.
> Yes, that is the question.
> > As far as I
> > understand his post, he treats roots as historical accidents that
> > have minimal influence on the meanings of words.
> Roots are explanations about where a word came from.
> This is true in every language.
> In fact, what more does one want from etymology?
Is it etymology, or is it inflections from a root? If etymology only, then
historical changes can make words have completely different meanings
depending on the development of usage. If it is inflections, then we are
dealing not with historical development, rather with functional changes
denoted by different forms.
> > In this, I think he is influenced by modern usage, modern
> > lexicography and translations.
> You deduce this because I happen to speak Arabic and Hebrew?
>From your background (as far as I have heard it) you can’t help but know
modern Israeli Hebrew and Arabic better than you know Biblical Hebrew. In
fact, you know those two languages so well that I think they influence how
you understand Biblical Hebrew. But that’s not the main reason for my
My understanding is that you rose through the ranks of Hebrew study, taking
all the required courses and doing well in them. I get the impression that
you do not rock the boat, i.e. that for the most part, your opinions of the
language are rather center of the road, that you do not question the main
themes of the experts who taught you. Further, the main purpose that you
studied Hebrew was for translation into other languages.
I, on the other hand, have come up through a completely different path, that
forces me to be somewhat of an iconoclast. The grammatical teachings I was
taught turned out to be unworkable, and I found that the definitions found
in the dictionaries I bought sometimes do not fit the contexts I read. I
studied to “get inside the mind of the writer” where translation is
completely out of the picture. Then, a lot of my learning was in isolation
from others, so I explored ideas concerning the language and was able to
develop some of them to the point that now when I am able to discuss them
with others, I am not overwhelmed by the “experts” of today. Having had to
reject “experts” before, I am not afraid to question the “experts” of today.
Mine is just a different background.
> The data on le-haxin להכין showed non-predictable collocations
> with 'food' in Biblical Hebrew.
I think studies in languages should not be predictive, rather descriptive.
> Do you want le-haxin basar to mean
> 'to cause the beef to be established, (immovable on a dish)'?
No, not at all.
> Or do you prefer le-haxin basar "to prepare the beef,
> (perhaps in a nice curry sauce, or maybe in today's culture,
> hot and sizzling off the charcoal)?
Looking at the meaning of the word, “to establish, in the sense of setting
up, making firm, trustworthy”, do the following fit the meaning of the
> (cf. Gn 43.16,
Yep, without going into the details of how the meal was established, set
> Ps 78.20,
> 1 Chr 12.39,
Verse 40 (Aleppo from Crosswire) fits.
> 2Chr 35.14-15.)
Any reason to doubt its use here?
Just as any student of languages recognizes that English “under” and German
“unter” come from the same root, yet the German word is used in contexts
that cannot be predicted by English usage, so here the Hebrew is expressing
a concept, an action, taken in a context where in English we would not even
express this idea, let alone use this term. Does the fact that English does
not express this concept in this context negate its use in Biblical Hebrew?
I say not.
> > I think there are many who agree with him.
> Hopefully. You might come around, too. I mean that
> in as inviting a way as it can be. It especially happens
> when people start using the language in two directions and
> noticing that they must restrict their 'predictions' in order to
> move in the direction of attested usage at any period. This is
> why I emphasize and repeat that a person must always
> take their theory out 'for a test drive'. They must actually use
> the language for communication. We do an English
> evening lecture for students called 'the leaning tower of
> Pisa' showing how beautiful, intricate systems can be built,
> 'perfect', as long as gravity is ignored.
Yes, I have dealt with some of those, starting with tense as being an
explanation of Biblical Hebrew verbal inflection. Another one was that
aspect was such. Not everything I looked at worked, but by finding out what
does not work, I at least found some dead end roads not to continue down.
> > I, on the other hand, understand these as different inflections that
> > point to different functions applied to verbal action. The qal is
> > simple action, while the hiphil indicates causal inflection, while the
> > hitpael has the action focus on the actor, often in a reflexive action,
> > and so forth.
> But how do you know and show that this "inflectional view" is not the
> influence of 'first year pedagogy' (first year lies, as you
> sometimes say) and heavy reliance on an analytical lexicon in a
> foreign language?
> There is a simple way to test.
> See what your predictions produce, and then
> compare the predictions to attested occurrences.
I try not to predict, rather just explain. Predictions can lock one into
patterns that turn out to be wrong. Explanations can be constantly updated
as new data is entered.
> > One aspect of the question: I do not expect these words to be
> > used in the same way as their nearest equivalents in other
> > languages. >
> Good advice and recommended to be followed. But this advice
> is irrelevant, except that this email is unfortunately in English.
> You are free to write in BH.
> The BH vocabulary is restricted, but we find that most things
> are communicable even within the restrictions.
If we write in BH, we could not carry on this discussion. BH does not have
technical grammatical terms, like verb, noun, inflection, tense, aspect,
mood, and so forth. Did it have those terms, but they were not recorded in
the Bible? We don’t know.
> > To give an example, NGD has the meaning of: “to be(come)
> > before, in front of ⇒ hi. to cause to be in front of, most often
> > used in giving a message, making sure the it is received,
> > i.e. “in your face” in modern American parlance”
> > Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
> I have some observations on this proposal that need to
> be discussed and cannot be overlooked if we want
> to get to the bottom of the question.
> Others are free to comment as well.
> This proposal on higgid is a triple etymological mistake.
Is this predictive, or descriptive?
> First, it does not explain why higgid yaggid is limited to
> speaking and not physical movement, weapons, etc.,
> despite the very physical 'neged' "in front of", and despite
> your implication in saying "most often", as if
> non-communication examples were known. All 369
> examples are restricted to communication. Amazing.
I just looked through a couple hundred, and there are a few that are
questionable, enough so that an argument can be made that they refer to
other than communication. But those are judgment calls which different
people can read differently.
But then the noun NGYD refers to a person.
> Secondly, it implies an agressiveness or negativity
> borrowed from English, though I am sure that this
> was inadvertant on your part and only by way of example.
My understanding of the American English “in your face” is neutral, can be
either negative, or positive depending on the context. But I see this as
more than just a report, rather it is a “laying on the table” making sure
that the recipient got the message.
> Thirdly, as a very common verb occurring 369 times,
> it does not explain the unexpected lack of nagad (qal)
> or naged (qal pa`el) or nigged (pi``el), et al.
Let’s look at another very common verb, X+), which has the basic meaning of
“to err, miss the target”. Yet, only once is this clearly the meaning in
Tanakh. Almost every other case it refers to a moral missing the mark,
usually translated as “sin”. But on the street, which would have been the
more common use?
So similarly for NGD, the limited literature that is Tanakh cannot rule out
other uses of either a qal, niphal or other binyan, nor even other uses of
> Examples like this, multiplied as many times as needed,
> in as many Semitic languages and dialects as needed,
> are why a person must treat non-passive Nif`al, Pi``el,
> Hitpa``el and Hif`il as words, (within what is called
> derivational morphology in linguistics
> [different word development], as opposed to
> inflectional morphology [same word marked with a
> syntactic/grammatical tag]).
Here you refer to cognate languages. Let’s stick to Biblical Hebrew.
> And the fact that we are having a thread like this
> may justify my claim that prevalent pedagogy
> may be problematic. People are too easily
> trained to think etymologically, without their even
> realizing that that is what they are doing. I think
> that this is a useful and necessary discussion and
> I thank you for addressing the question.
> (yes, blessings (in general), and not only "etymologically
> when on one's knees". This too has a story, like the Hebrew
> le-varex לברך pi``el but a different dialect
> developing להבריך hif`il [Edomite].)
> Randall Buth
> Randall Buth, PhD
> randallbuth at gmail.com
> Biblical Language Center
> Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
> Karl W. Randolph.
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