[b-hebrew] Karl's lexicon

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk
Tue Aug 28 12:29:16 EDT 2007

> thrrf  - he went
> ghtrf  - he came
> sdfrf  - he gave
> wsdrf  - he took
> By process of generalisation can you figure out which
> affix indicates the 3rd masculine singular in the
> verbs above?
KWR: But if he doesn't know that he is to look for a 3rd masc. s.  suffix,
will he notice it?

JCR: Good question. I should have given an example like 
the following:

 thrsf  - she went
 ghtsf  - she came
 sdfsf  - she gave
 wsdsf  - she took

What generalisation can you make about the above 
translated examples? We are given no questions about 
grammar as we grow and acquire language but we figure 
it out on our own by process of making generalisations.

This process of over-generalisation causes us to make 
errors of the type 'Yesterday I goed...' but we get 
there in the end.
I'm not saying don't teach grammar at all. One method 
of teaching grammar used by works such as Athenazde, 
for teaching classical Greek, is to provide a text with 
several of the new forms included e.g. 3rd person 
verbs, and then after reading the text (this gives the 
student the chance to work it our for themselves) the 
grammar is presented (just in case they didn't figure 
it out or as a confirmation that their conclusions 
were correct).

My Hebrew classes largely consisted of verb 
conjugations that are not even attested in the Tanakh 
just for the sake of learning complete conjugations.
Exams consisted of producing conjugations of verbs or 
recognising the syntactical form of an already 
conjugated verb or transforming a noun into its plural 
and vice versa. 
The fast majority of verbs in the Tanakh are 3rd 
person, a natural consequence of any narrative. Perhaps
the course would have given me a better preparation for 
reading Hebrew if it had concentrated on accumulating 
a vocabulary of verbal forms that actually are attested and frequently occur. As it stands, all the course 
prepared me for was to pass a Hebrew grammar exam.

I guess what I'm saying is that teaching can be
function oriented rather than grammar oriented. A 
student can be taught that word X means 'he went'. They 
don't really need to know the grammar behind it, unless 
of course they really want to, in order to understand 

Generally people learn what they are stimulated to 
learn. It's like the difference between placing a cup 
of water on a table in the reach of a person and 
throwing a bucket of water over their head without 
their request. They will drink more water when they are thirsty and decide to pick up the cup of water than in 
the scenario of having the water thrown over their 
head. Likewise, a student is more likely to gain a 
permanent understanding of grammar in the moment they 
demand it. After seeing , reading and understanding a
few 3rd person verbs in context and in that moment 
where they are trying to figure out what is going on, 
that is the moment when they are most likely to learn.

In TEFL courses we refer to this kind of learning as 
the discovery approach. An example exercise would be 
to present an object and name it. Present a few of the 
same object and name them. Repeat this for a few 
different objects so that they get to hear the 
similarities between a few examples and then ask them 
questions which lead them to the answer of how to 
recognise a plural.

Of course, different learners learn in different ways 
and an ideal course would give learners multiple 
learning routes to follow so that the learner can take 
charge of their own learning and follow the direction 
that works best for themselves.


James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science 
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       -  thesis1: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex 
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  -  thesis2: language acquisition simulation


n learning and follow the direction 
that works best for themselves.


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