[b-hebrew] Fact of language?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 04:15:37 EDT 2010


I see we have very different concepts of “inner structure”. For me, they
refer to the actions of the language under the surface, not readily
observable. Apparently for you, if I understand you correctly, it refers to
the surface appearances.

On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 10:56 PM, Pere Porta <pporta7 at gmail.com> wrote:

>  > Karl,
>> > biblical Hebrew and today Hebrew are the same language if for "language"
>> we understand its inner structure rather than its vocabulary.
>> >
>> What do you mean by “inner structure”?
>> ____
> Dear Karl,
> By "inner structure" I mean the way the basic lines of the language are
> built up.
> For instance:
> 1. The masculine plural is in -ym (masc.) and in -ot (fem.) in both
> biblical Hebrew and today Hebrew.
> Hebrew plurals (of nouns) are not made up with suffix -S as in Spanish
> (casa, house > casaS, houses) nor with suffix -K as in Hungarian (no, woman
> > noK, women)
> 2. The behaviour of conjugations (binyanim) is the same for both types of
> Hebrew. Of course there are some differences (*) but the BASIC behaviour is
> the SAME.
> 3. In both the object marker is preposition ET.
> And so on....
> (*) In today Hebrew: no trace of the "conversive waw" that causes a change
> in meaning of the "time"...

These are what I would call “externals”, the “outer structure” of the
language. And even these differ somewhat from Biblical Hebrew, as you noted
with your asterisk.

> _______
>> You can’t mean grammar, because, for example, qatal in Biblical Hebrew had
>> a completely different meaning than the modern grammatical qatal. And that’s
>> just one grammatical difference, of several.
>> ___________
> I think that grammar of Biblical Hebrew and grammar of today Hebrew are
> essentially the same, quite the same. Of course there are differences
> between them, but nothing essential (to my mind).

When I look at the two, I see major differences. Yes, they both look the
same, but act very differently. For me, “inner structure” refers to the
actions, where the differences are found. “Outer structure” would refer to
the appearances, where fewer differences are noted. For me, the differences
in the actions are far more essential than the similarity of forms.

For example, the actions of qatal and yiqtol do not refer to tense, nor
aspect, nor any other grammatical structure that I know from western
languages. Because I have no references in grammar to which their actions
refer, for the most part I merely call them qatal and yiqtol.

But in modern Hebrew, they refer to tenses, past and future, western
language style. That to me is a big factor in recognizing differences.

> _________________
>> From what little I have seen of modern Hebrew, it treats the binyanim
>> differently than did Biblical Hebrew.
>> __________
> In which sense does modern Hebrew treat the binyanim differently than did
> Biblical Hebrew?

>From what I have seen in Biblical Hebrew, the binyanim modified verbs by
imparting meaning to them—qal referred to simple action, hiphil to causative
action, niphal to passive simple, etc. I have found that recognizing these
effects has been very useful as a lexicographer in understanding Biblical
Hebrew verbs and the actions to which they referred.

Now it could be the dictionaries I looked at while bookstore browsing, but
from what little I have seen, it appears that modern Hebrew treats verbs as
separate entries depending on in which the binyan they appear, rather than
as a verb modified, i.e. with additional meaning added to it, by the binyan.
Now part of that could be that modern words often have different meanings
than they did in Biblical Hebrew, so I merely misunderstood the
dictionaries, but I often did not recognize the patterns found in Biblical

> _____________
>> And the spelling, … wow … is all I can say.
>> So what do you mean by “inner structure”?
>> ________
> What I'm saying... is it enough?

Obviously not.

> Pere Porta
> (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain)

I think that if one of the pre-Babylonian Exile prophets were to return to
modern day Jerusalem, that he would not understand the language spoken,
because of the many differences.

>> Karl W. Randolph.

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