[b-hebrew] Definiteness in bhebrew

James Christian jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Sun Oct 18 14:53:55 EDT 2009


Hi,

thanks for your response Joel. In linguistics theoreticians often make high
level generic grammars. Many different approaches have been tried with
various languages to arrive at a complete description of the syntax of a
language. When you take these descriptions and turn them into an algorithm
and then code it and test it on a real corpus of real data the weaknesses
and incompleteness of these descriptions is quickly realised.

What I'm really looking for are concrete clues from which we can extract
rules about how Hebrews understood definiteness. When is it OK to say Elohim
and not HaElohim? Is it ever OK to use Ha with bereshith? If not why not? Is
it the preposition? Is it the quality of the noun itself? Can we extract any
kind of generalisations whatsoever which are likely to work with any kind of
high accuracy when applied to the whole corpus? These are the kind of
questions I'm thinking about.

James Christian

2009/10/18 Joel C. Salomon <joelcsalomon at gmail.com>

> James Christian wrote:
> > Further to our dicussion on what makes a noun definite in BHebrew I would
> > add the following observation. We generally translate Genesis 1:1 as 'In
> the
> > beginning...' when there is no definite article in the Hebrew.
>
> My understanding is that Hebrew has neither an indefinite nor definite
> article, in the sense that English does; the “ה״א הידיעה” is usually
> more of a “very definite article”, with some specific emphasis.
>
> Translate בראשית as “in beginning” (or “from beginning”, according to
> S.R. Hirsch), then insert whatever article is needed in English to make
> the phrase grammatically correct.
>
> —Joel Salomon
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