[b-hebrew] Post biblical forms of Hebrew

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Thu Oct 15 03:07:57 EDT 2009

>As Randall said this will be good for deep
internalisation because you are communicating in Hebrew all the time. This
will be good when you meet similarities but might be disadvantageous when
their are differences in semantic meaning of terms as used presently and as
they were once used. >

I would redirect this last statement. The bigger disadvantage is not
internalizing the language. Fluency in a shared dialect is good for the
similarities and are even good for differences. Someone fluent in a language
can rapidly compare other options for saying things and can rapidly survey
attestations and usage from a wider group of sources. Even more
importantly, from within a language a person can remember words and
structures better than from outside a language and they can better remember
the collocations of structures and words than if trying to piece them together
through the grid of an outside language. In the long run, the person
with a fluent control of the language will be much better off, they will cover
more text, faster, and with better comparison  and comprehension while
doing this.

It is like English and Chaucer and Shakespeare. Fluency in modern English
will give someone an opportunity to be better than they otherwise would have
been. It does not guarantee freedom from mistakes, far from it, but the
mistakes from remaining outside a language and doing everything from an
artificial grid are even more serious.
Fluency doesn't guarantee that the person will be a Shakespeare scholar
at all, but it raises the person to a level of language processing that they
otherwise could not have participated in. Personally, I think that graduate
programs of Hebrew literature should require that students are fluent in
Hebrew and capable of academic discussion in the language. That is a
minority opinion in the 'academy' but is not among those who speak
Hebrew. If implemented, it would 'raise the bar' in the field and future
generations would not likely consider going back.

>This is the kind of problem that exists with the
relationship between modern Greek and koine Greek. I don't know about
modern Hebrew because I don't speak it yet but I assume that a similar
problem will exist.>

It is good to get advice on these questions from people who control the
parameters, in this case, who speak modern Greek and at least read
ancient, and who speak modern Hebrew and read ancient. It is somewhat
like students who ask about learning a language. They may get advice from
everyone, often conflicting. I recommend that they especially value the
language learning advice from those who have successfully learned the
language. Even in disagreement there will be threads that link the advice
from successful learners together.
(PS: I agree with James' recommendation of immersion
techniques, but in principle, if he hadn't recommended them, then you
might need to ask advice from those who have successfully jumped the

Also, those who control both Greek and Hebrew may question whether
Greek and Hebrew are a helpful comparison. Modern Greek morphology
and ancient Gk morphology are different. modern Hebrew morphology
maps onto ancient/biblical morphology 100%. (Allowing, of course,
for high register modern "matsiti" 'I found' to map onto mishnaic Hebrew,
while standard modern "matsati" does fit biblical "matsati". If exceptions like
this are disallowed, then you can use 99+% as the comparison figure.)


Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list