Genesis 1:6

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at
Thu Dec 13 08:25:00 EST 2001

While it is true that I learned Hebrew by talking and reading and 
writing, and reading Tanach and Rashi as well as modern Hebrew 
literature, in school through 9th grade, as a full curriculum all its 
own, alongside the English curriculum, I also learned the old - 
fashioned Dikduk - Hebrew grammar, with verb and conjugation tables 
to memorize and "Yotzei min HaClal" - exceptions to the rule.  I 
remember the Binyanim, the simple ones as well as hiphil, hitpael, 
pual, and more, but there are many many binyanim that we did not 
memorize, at least not by the 10th grade.

I am also very very aware of the relationship between Hebrew words of 
the same root - particularly between nouns and verbs (Samech Ayin 
Daled  = to dine, Misada = restaurant,  Seuda = meal  or  Mem Tet 
Raish = a type of light rain, Mitriya = umbrella, LeHamtir = to cause 
it to rain, etc.)

The problem for me now, is that, since my formal learning Hebrew 
began in kindergarten and continued for 10 years in school, and 12 
years or more living and talking in Israel, and dreaming of 
conversations and even reading letters in Hebrew, I have internalized 
everything I learned and now I don't remember the rules, but I know 
how to implement them - it's just become part of me.  And I can't 
understand everything you write here when you are writing Hebrew 
words in Capital and lower case English letters.

Some of the "exceptions to the rule" are root words which are only 
two letters, not three.  And I just don't remember the root B D L - I 
think however that I remember this being derived from the two letter 
root - D L, which means "poor" or "lacking in", (and indeed someone 
has related the word Mavdil to this sense of the word Dal).  That's 
not to say that I am correct - but I just don't remember B D L, I 
don't have any of my grammar books to check, and I am not sure my 
children, now in Yeshiva high school, are learning dikduk the old 
fashioned way, and if they have dikduk books or not.  There is, if I 
can find it, a very very detailed and sophisticated dikduk book in my 
father's library, next time I go to the house, probably Sunday for 
Channuka, I will look.


Actually the issue between Shoshanna and the others here is not a
grammatical one but one of language learning. I guess that Shoshanna has
learned her Hebrew by more natural methods of talking and reading, not from
grammar books. Those of us who have learned from old style grammar books,
comparative Semitics etc base our understanding of Hebrew on abstract and
often reconstructed triliteral roots and stem/binyan types. But the native
speaker doesn't think in terms of a root BDL and a hiphil form, he or she
thinks, as Shoshanna has shown, in terms of a single verb MABDIL which has
particular inflections, and may not even recognise the connection between
different forms of the same root until this is pointed out. The same happens
to us English etc speakers in our own mother tongues; only a few days ago I
noticed the connection between two rather similar English words, obviously
related when you think about it.

Peter Kirk

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