[b-hebrew] Rules of root identification - changed subject

Chris Watts dekruidnootjes at eircom.net
Mon Jul 1 07:58:15 EDT 2013

Jason and other Gentlemen, I appreciate your gentle comments about  
the perspectives others adopt in their reading of the hebrew  
language.  Thankyou. And it does indeed help.

I am quite surprised that native Israelis in general do not make too  
much of a distinction between a tsere and a seghol.  But after a  
little thought I can understand.  I know that the masoretes were of  
course extremely precise grammarians and were dedicated to ensure  
that the written langauge of biblical prose and writings were  
pronounced as accurately as possible.   But, and this is a big  
'However', I am sure that at many points in their discussions on how  
something needed to be pointed there were three different ways of  
saying a particular word, one masorete probably discussed the fact  
that where he came from they said such and such this way, and another  
said well this is how we say have always pronounced it?  And the most  
common or popular or clear manner prevailed.  I only throw this out  
because I often find myself saying a particular word as if it had a  
seghol when in actual fact it is a tsere, not because I forgot its  
pronounciation, (I have it it in front of me) but that is how it  
flowed naturally out of my mouth. My children have grown up in an  
Irish environment and I cringe at some of the ways they pronounce  
very common English words that I grew up with even though we are a  
Dutch family in essence.  My practical experiences of living in a  
three language environment has helped to ease my dependency on a  
burdensome self imposed pedantic grammatical correctness on my  
biblical hebrew pronounciation.  (This does not mean that I don't  
seek to always get it right).

I do not say all this to contradict the way we are to learn biblical  
hebrew and pronounce it correctly, it is simply that biblical hebrew  
is a living language that carries feelings and emotions and it took  
me years before I realised that these are not just lines and dots on  
paper, but peoples' lives and language and medium of expression.    
Since I had nothing else other than books books books and being  
influenced by a myriad of books all the time (and never ever being  
able to speak to anyone who knows hebrew let alone biblical hebrew  
even to this day) my perspective was narrow with regards to the  
incredible aesthetics of language learning, that was until I learned  
dutch by living in the environment for 10 years.  It is within this  
context that I realise that if my children had to point my writing  
because they needed to preserve the pronounciation, their vowel  
pointing would disagree with mine on many words. English 'thankyou'  
is a classic and well known example, would the h be silent if any  
other person in the world had to point this word, but an English  
grammarian preserving for posterity would definitely insist that the  
'h' be pronounced. How would this be decided?  I only throw this out  
because I wonder if perhaps this is the case with many words in  
biblical hebrew.  Realising that, unlike other languages, a single  
hebrew word comprised of 4 consanants is heavily dependent on correct  
vowel pointing in order to get the correct translation , perhaps a  
pronounciation in the middle of that word with a quick short  
utterance instead of lengthened breath is not too important?

Is there any merit in what I feel or is their evidence that this  
simply is not the case? I am interested.

Chris Watts

On 1 Jul 2013, at 09:54, Jason Hare wrote:

Some people on the list may not be aware that Isaac has his own  
opinions that generally contradict those of the majority. Especially,  
he views word roots and connections between letter groups, rejects the
functions universally attributed to the dagesh (which is functionally
similar to the Arabic shadda, which he might also argue doesn't  
exist) and
repudiates any distinction between the vocal and silent sheva, among  

It would be good for these people, who may be new and slightly
"uninitiated" in the interactions of B-Hebrew personalities, to know  
it is with good reason that Isaac's posts often go without reply. He
doesn't speak for the whole body of participants on B-Hebrew, the  
of whom, I'm sure, are well aware of the uses of these features of the
Hebrew language.

I will say that the only people that I can imagine taking Isaac's
minimalist stance on grammatical orthography are those who grew up in
Israel and never learned the nikkud system properly in the first  
place. I
rarely meet an Israeli who knows the difference between segol and tsere.

Jason Hare
Rehovot, Israel
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