Modern Hebrew 4-cats

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Sat May 18 19:57:53 EDT 2002

shalom Trevor, 

Your comments below seem to be going in a positive direction though 
I need to correct one point concerning our training here.

>my own part. I suspect that at least part of what he was trying to address
>the issue of how one achieves real fluency in a language like Biblical
>The vocabulary is too small and the range of attested applications too
>to suit the needs of day-to-day speech. In other words, it is not a living

>language and lacks the materials for a proper revival. 

So far so good.

. . .
> Another would be to develop a hybrid of sorts, which is what 
>I suspect happens in a program like Randall's Biblical Ulpan. As much as 
>possible is based on Biblical Hebrew vocabulary and grammar, but where
>appear, they are filled in with later material. 

That was a reasonable guess but misses our mark.
We just go around the gaps. There is plenty of material for beginners 
without filling in gaps artificially. It would become a problem as one
intermediate levels and tried to push into advanced levels.

We do point out to our students that we WILL NOT TALK ABOUT 
CATS in the ulpan, because "HATULIM lo nimtsaim ba-miqra" and 
"lo shama`tem Hatul mimmenu". (Neither is miqra in the sense 'bible'.) 
Such is tongue-in-cheek, of course, and our 
students do see that there are many accidently holes in the language.
Some are not afraid to try out "ani Hafets be-hamburger" at a 
restaurant and we even let them know that moderns prefer the 
semantically related biblical word "rotse".

So we can teach about horses, donkeys, and dogs, without bothering 
with cats, (lions in various flavors excepted :-).

If you want to know more about what goes on in this ulpan,

We have an exciting new undergraduate program outlined there for 
for Christian biblical studies majors as a year-abroad at
Rothberg/HebrewU 2003.

>To do that requires fluency in 
>Modern Hebrew, at least on the part of the instructor, 

Practically speaking, that seems to be the case. So Hebrew 
teachers we an eye on efficiency in language teaching just might 
want to take note.

. . .
>But scholarly writing in Modern 
>Hebrew is growing, and whatever we may think of that trend, we do have to 
>decide what we're going to do (or not do) with this literature.

How about reading it?
Hopefully, the day will come when people will read it smoothly. 

I assume that you've
noticed that people who are fluent in modern Hebrew are generally
quite positive about its effects on BH learning?

As another BH teacher said in this town recently, 
"I'll listen to someone claiming that modern Hebrew isn't important 
when it comes from someone who is fluent in the language."

Please note: "important" is a synonym for "useful" but does not 
imply or mean that modern Hebrew is necessarily evidence for 
anything by itself. Mishnaic Hebrew is always better evidence 
than modern. There are really quite a few processes and trends in
late biblical Hebrew that are better understood by watching the 
trajectory into mishnaic Hebrew, as well as a wealth of semantic 
and cultural information.


Randall Buth

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