And now, back to the basics!
The following is a handout that I presented to my students in our last Hebrew 1 session (if you would like to purchase access to the recorded [unlisted] videos, contact me here). Reading Biblical Hebrew is a necessary component for efficient learning, and in order to do that, you need to know how to divide words into syllables, just like we did when we were learning English. Here are the principles used for syllabification/syllable division.
This post continues the series of word order in Biblical Hebrew. Previously, we examined several features of Biblical Hebrew syntax that affect word order, namely grammatical words at the heads of clauses, and Irreal mood (parts available here and here). If we accept that standard, unmarked word order in Biblical Hebrew is SV, each of these triggers inverted VS word order.
Arguably the most common feature that triggers inverted word order is the traditionally-called wayyiqtol or waw-consecutive pattern. In the past, it was thought that the waw-consecutive form “converts” the meaning of a usually present-tense verb to past; however, we now are reasonably certain that the wayyiqtol form is, in fact, a true past-tense form, having evolved from the protosemitic form *yaqtulu, distinctive from the imperfect *yaqtul. Therefore, we should not think of this form as merely “converting” the verb tense from present to past; rather, we should see the wayyiqtol form as its own unique form, independent from the imperfective yiqtol form.
That said, let’s look at some examples. Since unmarked Biblical Hebrew word order is relatively rare, I have constructed my own examples, showing how they would exist in unmarked word order, followed by how they exist in the past narrative form.
I would like to begin the HEB 101 course sometime in mid-August! More information is available here. Basically, the cost is $200/student. I plan to meet twice/week and cover what is equivalent to one semester of Hebrew at the graduate level. So, if you are planning to go to seminary or another graduate school, by the end of the course you should be well-prepared to test out of at least the first semester.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in signing up! Hope to see some of you there!
REAL/IRREAL MOOD AND WORD ORDER
In the last postI introduced the concept of real and irreal mood in Biblical Hebrew. In this post, we’ll take a look at real and irreal phrases and clauses in the Bible.
Recall that certain grammatical words at the beginning clauses indicate irreal mood. These include:
- The negatives אַל and לֹא;
- Conditional clause markers (אִם and כִּי אִם)
- Volitional forms: Imperatives (second-person), jussives (second- or third-person), traditionally-called cohortatives (more properly, first-person jussives).
- Purpose clause markers, such as לְמַעַן
Both the Imperfect and Perfect forms can express irreal mood.
I am working on a post on real and irreal mood. It is really long, so I think I’m going to cut it into further parts. Besides, Jason reminded me that “No one knows what real and irreal moods are!” So, that’s what this post is for.
Real and irreal mood is more or less the same thing as the indicative and subjunctive moods in English. Real mood (indicative) is a statement grounded in reality. Most often, this is a simple statement.
Irreal (subjunctive) mood includes sentences or statements that are one step removed from reality, i.e., something that may or may not have happened. “Irreal” is a linguistic description derived from the Latin irrealis. Irreal mood may also be called “unreal” mood.
In recent years, there has been lively discussions concerning word order in Biblical Hebrew. For last century, and until very recently, the consensus among most scholars has been that Hebrew exhibits VERB-SUBJECT word order. For example:
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֲלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָעָרֶץ׃
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.¹
At the head of the clause, we have an infinitive followed by the perfect verb ברא, followed by the subject אֲלֹהִים. The verb is first, followed by the subject. While this is the most common word order, I argue (following John A. Cook and Robert D. Holmstedt) that it is not the “default” word order. Instead, the default word order is SUBJECT-VERB, as in English.
I have learned many things over the course of my years teaching and tutoring Biblical Hebrew. For most people, the process of learning a new language is an intimidating one. This feeling of intimidation is compounded when you learn an ancient language, especially a Semitic one. The letters are foreign, apparently consisting of symbols rather than letters. It sounds strange to the ear. OK, more than strange – downright foreign. So, when it comes to learning a language like Biblical Hebrew, what is there to be done?
The answer is “plenty.” But there’s one thing in particular that “must” be done: you need to learn how to READ it.