[b-hebrew] history of the hebrew language by Bedilloz

wattswestmaas wattswestmaas at eircom.net
Sun Mar 27 13:09:46 EST 2005

Hi,  I have taken the liberty of finding a balanced and informative survey
of this book and hope that it helps

Chris Watts,  Ireland.

This is an excellent work that reconstructs 3000 years of this ancient
language. It is not however an easy read. the subject matter is rather
arcane - the changes in pronunciation and usage throughout the history of
the language. If you have a professional interest in dating hebrew texts
using grammatical features, this book is indispensible. If your interest is
more personal, you don't really need to be linguist to read this book, but
two things are highly recommended--1) At least one year of college-level
biblical hebrew study.2) A high interest in the mechanical and psychological
details of language.If you think this subject might interest you, but would
like to start with something simpler but still top quality -- try William
Chomsky's "Hebrew: The Eternal Language."

This is an excellent introduction into the internal linguistic history of
the Hebrew language. The bibliography is 66 pages long, in rather small
print, and is constantly referred to in the text. As a starting point to get
an overview of this field of scholarship, it is probably without equal
today.As a technical work, presenting a summary of a highly technical field
of study, it is astonishingly accessible to the non-specialist. Much more so
than, for example, the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon, in that for citing
examples only two alphabets are used: Hebrew, of course, and a Latin based
phonetic alphabet defined in a table on page 19. It does not assume a
knowledge of the scripts of Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Aramaic, Akkadian
cuneiform and so on. Even mastery of the Hebrew alphabet is not strictly
necessary to use the work because all citations in Hebrew are accompanied by
transliterations into the phonetic alphabet.The author employs the
terminology and methods of descriptive linguistics, but those who have had
an introductory course in this field will have little difficulty with it. It
is assumed that the reader knows what is meant by terms like phoneme,
allophone, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, isogloss, synchronic, diachronic,

This is very probably a great book. Scholars and linguist majors may well
find it a treasure. But it is nearly incomprehensible to the layman -- and
needlessly so. The author uses a torrent of highly technical terms but never
defines or explains them. There is no glossary. There are no parenthetical
or footnoted explanations. What is worse is that the author makes almost no
attempt to state clearly just what he is talking about. For example, he
spends much time stating, and describing in mind-numbing analytical detail,
the technical differences between Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, and
modern Israeli Hebrew. But he never once gives an example of how a typical
sentence would read in Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew and Israeli Hebrew.
The same is true of his comparisons between early Hebrew and cognate Semitic
languages. The reader is left bereft of simple, helpful statements. The book
is best left to the linguist. Laymen avoid!

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