[b-hebrew] Ancient Language Acquisition

Trevor Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Mon Mar 1 20:12:33 EST 2004

Peter Kirk wrote:

> On 01/03/2004 15:39, Trevor Peterson wrote:
>> ... It would seem counterproductive for students to internalize a 
>> conglomerate that is not really any one dialect.
> Doesn't this apply equally to all methods of learning ancient languages?

My point is that when beginning students are led to communicate in an 
ancient language, there is a greater risk of internalizing inappropriate 
configurations. As long as you're focused solely on reading existing 
texts, at least whatever you're working with is authentic data (assuming 
none of it is later forgery). And yes, the risk is still there for 
students to combine features of different dialects in the biblical 
material (although steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of this 
happening). But I think the danger tends to increase when two-way 
communication is sought, because the whole Hebrew Bible is a small 
enough corpus as it is to come up with the necessary material. If it 
were restricted to particular dialects, there would be even less to work 
with. The other factor that increases the danger in this situation is 
that under more traditional methods it takes a lot longer for students 
to internalize the material; by that point, they have had time to 
acquire a fuller picture of the language, which can provide a useful 
corrective to whatever misconceptions may arise. A student learning by 
the methods applied for conversational spoken language will necessarily 
absorb phrases and structures before understanding how they work. 
Undoubtedly, it provides a faster track to fluency; but if the result is 
thorough acquisition of a poor construct, it could do more harm than 
good to the student's future learning.

Trevor Peterson

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