Hebrew Syntax.

Randall Buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Wed Apr 10 18:06:38 EDT 2002

shalom Hevre,

Wow, whole threads come and go in 24 hours. 

Peterson katav:
>Anyway, the long and short is that I was reasonably satisfied with the way
>explained his criticisms after further questioning, although I never got
>feeling that I quite knew what he meant by "brittle" in his original 

I suppose I look for a grammar to explicate the flexibility in a real
language. e.g., van der Merwe's intermediate grammar makes explicit 
that the binyanim do not mean any specific thing, predictably. That 
prevents the etymological problem of students trying to conjugate 
roots into binyanim words. STudies of binyanim are studies of 
etymology, valid in themselves, but should always be one-directional, 
from actual usage backwards. I had objected to a presentation of 
binyanim in which it was suggested through parable that students 
could/should learn Hebrew well enough to 'call/create the binyan' from 
the root and situation desired. Words like niggash 
'he came to the place [ni.suffix tense]' and yiggash 'he will come to the
place [qal-prefix tense]' show a different reality. 

[[from another email from Trevor:
>Now, where I'm not quite sure what I think about this idea is regarding
>medio-passive forms, which seem to have a much more straightforward
>relationship to their active counterparts. If I understand correctly, Buth
>sees them as falling into a different category, and I guess I can see
>I'm just not entirely sure about it myself. Hopefully that's of some help.
>I'm sure he could explain his own view much more adequately than I can.

Yes, the Pu`al and Hof`al are productive and should not be considered 
true binyanim. They are not independent vocabulary items.
In that sense there are only five main patterns, and only 
three of which are PILLARS: Pa`al, Pi`el, Hif`il, with supporting 
 hitpa`el and nif`al as potentially independent binyanim, (e.g., when
nif`al is 
not a reflex passive to an active pa`al).]]

The most unfortunate thing of all for Hebrew students is that grammars 
leave a student twice removed from the language, in an unnatural 
situation that needs much care to deal with. 1. They lack a 
communicative context and 2. they typically deal with the inside of 
a metalinguistic framework within another language. Normally, a 
person receives immediate correction and interaction from users of 
the language as they learn it. Then metalinguistic frameworks are taken 
with a grain of salt. E.g., no one learning English, even from speakers
of English as a second language, overly care about 
'minimalist-generative' English, or 'functional' English, or 'structural' 
English, or any other kind of 'grammatical' English. For example, me 
thinks far too much ink has been spilled on whether Hebrew verbs 
are tenses, aspects or moods. If a grammar thinks that their choice 
of metalanguage is crucial, that Hebrew speakers were conscious of 
specifically one of those parameters, then they may be too brittle. 
If you know a language well enough you can survive misnamings. 
Naming an English verb system does not help me read Louis 
L'Amour any more than "naming" the Hebrew verb helps me read 
Isaiah. One uses and continually "maps" a language between its available 
structures and referential situations. The resulting cognitive spagetti is
the 'grammar'. Grammarians will fight over how to best describe 
this and I wish them well because I are one. Meanwhile, what 
students need is to roll up their sleeves aand learn the language 
inside-out so that they can unconsciously manipulate the morphology, 
follow a story as it is spoken and respond in kind, in the language.
The opening chapter to Isaiah is magnificent, rolling back and forth
on itself. I suppose I want students to feel the alliteration in  zera`
mere`im and to instinctively hit damim in 
yedexem DAMIM male'u
'specially' as focal. Or justify another reading. :-)
  Today, a tutorial asked me about a sentence that came to 
"hinne soraf"(Lv 10):  Was I aware of the binyan as I hear/
heard/read that word?. With a smile I replied, "Specifically, no, but
I was immediately conscious of something being burned." [though by 
being asked, the answer was already there.] Just like 
in English, I am not conscious of what tense to call "being burned" 
while I am using the language. [The above is doubly tongue in 
cheek, because after stopping to ask the question, it was also 
obvious that though the form of soraf is "pual", knowing that the 
word in active senses is pa`al I am able to call it a qal-passive in 
my metalinguistic system.]
   I suppose the above is trying to say that students and 
grammarians, all, must appreciate Ullendorf's old title, "Is Biblical 
Hebrew a language?", in order to deal with the language.

Maybe I should just go to bed, it's been a long day.
layla tov,
shalom uvraxa,

Randall Buth

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