[b-hebrew] Fact of Language and 'was Ruth'

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Mon Jun 14 14:40:35 EDT 2010

karl katav
>In Biblical Hebrew, the binyanim are not the same as etymology, rather they
>act like conjugation—adding meaning to the roots. What I see in modern
>Hebrew is that the binyanim apparently act as derivatives from the roots,
>not as conjugations.

The problem here is not the modern (which was admited as not known, so the
'analysis' above should not be assumed to be a reliable testimony)
-- but the biblical.
When people talk like this I normally think that
either (a) they don't control biblical Hebrew very well, (or any
Semitic language)
or (b) we are miscommunicating in English.
(by 'not well', I mean 'not internalized, 'not able to think in/with
the language')
(By the way, I am only explaining from experience the way that I think,
I am not claiming that someone take my word as final/authorative.)
'Conjugation' sounds like someone takes a root and 'conjugates' a
word in a binyan that they would like. That they imagine what would/might be
biblical Hebrew. To use words from this and related threads, that is what
could be called a 'first year lie'. (and an unnecessary lie if Hebrew
is taught as
a real language.  Please see below before/if responding.)

>> … For BH we know what hishlik השליך means--'throw', but there
>> is no way to know what *shalak might have meant or if it even existed in
>> the
>> biblical period, or any period.

>When we look at the many times $LK is conjugated and written in Tanakh, it
>certainly calls into question the claim that they were all hiphils.

In the MT they are all hif`ils. Plus, there are unambiguous forms that are
hif`il, (like Gn 37.22, Ex 1.22, Ex 4.3 [2xx], 7.9, 7.12, Lev 1.16, 14.40,
Num 19.6, 35.20, 22, Josh 8.29, 10.11 and many more thruout the HB)
so the hif`il is solidly attested,
but there are NO UNambiguous forms that are qal.
someone might doubt and fantasize on the 'ambiguous' forms. But,
please not on the list, without real data.
(there is plenty of supportive and parallel data to biblical Hebrew,
but that does require expert control of comparative and historical linguistics
along with several of the major Semitic languages from multiple periods.)

>> We know heezin האזין 'listen
>> attentively'. But we
>> don't know if or what *azan might have meant, if it existed. izzen, אִזֵֹן
>> on the other hand appears to mean 'balance/arrange'.

> Has it ever occurred to you that when we run into a hiphil, that we add “to
> cause to” then see what action then comes into view?

So you are suggesting that *azan existed and that it meant
"hearing exists" or 'I am speaking' or ??. To me that is not very satisfying,
helpful, or necessary. And without supporting data. It sounds like
someone applying a 'first year lie' to a human language. see
below with shillam.

>> A more preferred style in my opinion would be to list any verbal roots
>> without
>> vocalization if the qal is unattested.

>Why not list all Hebrew words without points, seeing as how many times those
>points are wrong to begin with? That’s what I do.

I'm not sure that a person learns the language very well that way.
Nor internalizes. In fact, this is an understatement from all of my personal
contacts over the years.
In real languages
people can communicate across dialects fairly well in many cases, but
people need to internalize at least one dialect. Once someone has internalized
at least one dialect of Hebrew, then communication can take place.

>> And pyscholinguistically, I would
>> advocate listing verbs like izzen and heezin separately under alef and
>> he, as long as they were glossed in the past 3ms, otherwise one should
>> list azzen and ha`azin. vocabulary is best learned individually and in
>> context, not in cognate groups (see Paul Nation's studies, for one. Or
>> think about how to best learn 'to oversee' and 'to overlook'. or nouns
>> 'oversight' and 'overlook', and 'overview'. The interference can short
>> circuit the long term memory.)

> According to this argument, “went” should be listed separately from “go”, as
> if there were no connection between the two. The same is true of any of the
> really irregular verbs. By this response, you answer both Pere Porta’s and
> your own request from the top of this message.

I'm afraid we're miscommunicating here. 'go' and 'went' are part of the same
verb. We don't conjugate 'goed', nor 'he wents later today'. Hebrew has lots of
suppletion (two pieces of a two verbs to make one verb: halax he went and
yelex 'he will go' from roots h.l.k. and y.l.k. respectively. Or niggash Nif`al
//yiggash Qal, a complication certainly not invented by the massoretes,
which would have been very unnecessary.)

(and for Ishnan, I am not defending a 'same root' "z/dh" etymology
here, I'm only
talking about what is seen in the resulting BH.)

> If the binyanim act like conjugations,

well, they don't.
but they are patterns -- so that if one knows both
the suffix and prefix form of a verb they should be able to
use the word. E.g. shillam 'he paid' yeshallem 'he will pay'.
(NB: this does not mean 'transitively/intensively completed' nor
'made complete many times'. The ancient language users chose to
make this word mean 'paid (what was earned/an obligation/)'. And the
MT dialect lets us know that the 3ms form in that dialect is
shillam [Lev 5.4, Ju 1.7, not shillem as in a 'first year lie' or as a
pausal form [unattested].)

>> Anyway, the etymological fallacy is something that is ingrained into many
>> beginning Hebrew students by the way in which the language is often
>> taught, contrary to the way in which anyone ever learned through direct
>> usage, and some common HB pedagogical grammars even list things like
>> tsawah צוה 'he commanded'.

and a related question/thread:
>Just wondering what analytical lexicons would be recommended?
>Richard Conaway

Most of the 'analytical lexicons' inadvertantly teach and reinforce
'first year lies' by dissecting all the way back to a root. This might
explian why Karl thinks that 'roots are conjugated'.
(sometimes the analytical lexicons
do this wrongly, like with hishtaHavah if they erroneously point to
sh.H.y/h. [the root is H.w.y/h.] but that is a separate issue.)
As discussed above, students using 'analyticals' often think that
hebrew users took 'roots' and conjugated a 'binyan word'. As long
as students also learn to communicate (understand and respond
in BH) then analytical lexicons may not hurt them. there is nothing
wrong in itself with pointing out a root or an etymological connection.
But if students learn well through communication to the point of
internalizing the language, they won't need an 'analytical'. And the
reference grammars can be used for the truly unexpected forms.
(Unfortunately, within current practices in the BH field, the IF in the
previious sentence is a very big, virtually unavailable IF.)


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

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