[b-hebrew] A Jewish perspective on reading biblical hebrew

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Nov 25 20:16:07 EST 2004

On Thursday 25 November 2004 11:40, wattswestmaas wrote:
> Hallo All,
> I am wondering whether anybody would like to comment on an awkward issue
> that I am facing, and I do not really know from what perspective I should
> base continued learning on.
> Am receiving help with my studies from an Israeli who is doing a PHD at
> Cork University.  Having chatted to him about how he reads and how he was
> taught biblical grammar at school over a period of 12 years his perspective
> was somewhat surprising BUT very understandable.  We chatted for some time
> about imperfect and perfect and he told me to forget about it, putting it
> shortly. He sees a simple past present and future tense.  I understand that
> there are issues of Mother-tongue here and the need for grammarians to
> dissect and for the native person to just simply read unaware of his own
> grammatical formulas and all the fuss that foreigners make.  However I am
> wondering what comments you could make that would help me to continue on
> the right perspective.
> I did mention that the general idea behind the perfect was a 'completed
> action' and imperfect 'incomplete action' but he did not even agree with
> this.  Is this a native speaker's personal view or do you think that it is
> really how the bible is taught to Jewish children and on into adult hood?
> Is this how they really understand it.

The tense thing is from modern Hebrew, which William Chomsky described as more 
Indo-European in nature than Semitic.  But as you may have gathered from this 
board, the perfect/imperfect thing doesn't exactly work, either.  We're 
fairly sure that BH isn't tensed, but it doesn't really seem to be aspectual, 
either.  That's why many of us are engaged in ongoing research, trying to 
figure out exactly what it is (at the moment, we can only tell you what it 

Dave Washburn
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk

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