whatisaword? (dictionary and beyond)
peter_kirk at sil.org
peter_kirk at sil.org
Fri Dec 24 21:57:31 EST 1999
I hesitate to disagree with you on this as you obviously know so much
more Hebrew than I do. But I do have one advantage, that I remember
better than you, I guess, what it is to be a beginner in Hebrew. And I
have experience in learning several other languages in recent years.
I don't think it would be helpful for relative beginners to have
hishliaH listed under he rather than shin. Two reasons:
1) Mainly for complete beginners: A minority of the forms of hishliaH
actually begin with that he (actually, none of the three attested
forms listed in BDB). Beginners will quickly learn to drop that he,
yod, taw or whatever the actual form begins with and look for this
under shin. In fact they may find shalaH instead and incorrectly
deduce that mashliaH is a form of shalaH rather than hishliaH. But
they will find it harder to learn when they need to add a he which is
not in the text in front of them.
2) Mainly for intermediate (and advanced) language learners as you
mention below: These learners learn by association. Their initial
associations will be over-simplistic, but even so they are very
helpful. I am all the time hearing Russian and Azerbaijani words which
I don't know but whose approximate meanings I can deduce from their
roots, related words etc. Should I deny myself that clue to meaning
because I am missing some of the nuances? I am sure that it is helpful
for these learners, on coming across an occasional form of hishliaH,
to be able to relate it to shalaH and shilleH.
Also, more theoretically, the form hishliaH does not occur, so it is
even more a construct than the root is! At least the letters sh-l-H do
occur in that order. But some such construction is necessary to make a
The basic disagreement is that I do not even agree with the first
statement of yours that I have retained below. It is certainly
over-simplistic. For example, surely the niphal of a verb like yada`
acts as the passive and/or middle of the qal form rather than as a
different verb, and its hiphil acts as the causative of the qal. To
list the niphal and hiphil as separate words would be most confusing,
especially if there is no reference back to the qal to which they
We are used to drawing a clear line between infectional and
derivational morphology and deciding on that basis what merits a
separate dictionary entry, but unfortunately that sort of division
simply does not work with Hebrew. It doesn't in Russian or Azerbaijani
either. (In Russian, are the perfective and imperfective two forms of
the same verb or separate verbs? Dictionaries are usually forced to
list them separately, not least because their formation is so
irregular. And how about the verbal nouns formed regularly with the
ending -niye? These are also listed separately, but by the same logic
English gerunds e.g. "giving", "living" used as nouns should be listed
separately.) If the same division does work in English, it is because
we have made up definitions to fit English.
So how would I list verbs, in a dictionary for beginners and for
experts? (To do something different in different dictionaries is just
confusing.) My instinct is to do something like this:
YD` root of:
NODA` (passive of YADA`) be known...
YIDDEA` ... (??)
HODIA` (causative of YADA`) make known, declare...
HITWADDA` (reflexive of HODIA`) make oneself known...
YIDDE`ONI [YD`] 1. spirit of the dead... 2. soothsayer...
NODA` see YD`
$LX root of:
$ALAX 1. stretch out (one's hand)... 2. send...
NI$LOAX (passive of $ALAX) be sent
$ILLAX send away...
HI$LIAX let loose...
$ELAX [$LX] 1. missile... 2. canal...
I would list these in order of roots and/or of nouns, basically as in
Holladay, but all out of order verb forms would be cross-referenced as
with NODA` above. Actually apart from this (and not listing puals and
hophals separately) I am more-or-less following Holladay. Also I would
make sure that what appears at the top of each page is the root, not
(as in BDB) the derived form - this would be so much more helpful for
My feeling is that the resulting dictionary would be much more useful
to beginners and intermediate students (and probably experts also)
than the one you are proposing. I think it is also theoretically in no
Even though you, like me, are in a place where tomorrow is not a
special holday, I hope you have a good day.
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: whatisaword? (dictionary and beyond)
Author: <ButhFam at compuserve.com> at Internet
Date: 24/12/1999 06:25
-- NB -- I'm pointing out, claiming, that the various stems and
binyanim, Q,N,Pi,Hitp,Hif, (=5), are DIFFERENT verbs.
I would hazard a guess that no successful second language programs
recommend or use etymology as the way to teach beginners a language. In
fact, etymology often skews the actual, current meaning of a word. (Don't
get me wrong--I do believe that it is useful as an intermediate/advanced
level skill for 'attacking' new/unknown words, in any language being
learned. even for re-press, im-press and de-press! but the etymology will
mislead and 'spin your head' if you try to make it 'active'.)
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