Hello, fellow language learners! My name is Wesley Wood. A few days ago Jason messaged me asking if I would be willing to discuss the internet resources I have found and have been using to learn modern Hebrew. I quickly agreed to do so. In my experience, it is much more difficult to find comprehensible input for Hebrew than for other languages, and I hope that this information will be beneficial to others. In this post I have assumed that you have learned the alphabet and are to the point in your studies where you are looking for this type of material. Let’s get started!
Dr. Stephen Krashen (whom I’ve mentioned in this blog before in connection to free voluntary reading) has convincingly argued again and again in favor of the success achieved in second-language acquisition by the use of comprehensible input for the conveyance of messages between speakers. In December of last year, he published a talk on his website called Optimal Input, in which he talks about the parameters of quality input for the purpose of acquiring a second language, and these are extremely useful for those who are learning Hebrew. This is what he had to say about how language input can be optimized (Krashen, 2019, pg. 1–2):
When it comes to categorizing and labeling Hebrew verbs, we can do so in several ways. First, we can look at what general patterns (“stems” or בִּנְיָנִים) the verb appears. This is similar to Latin’s verb conjugations, by which nouns are categorized by the forms they take in the infinitive (whether -āre, -ēre, -ere, or -īre). In Hebrew, roots may appear generally in seven stems, though there are a few outliers here and there in peculiar stems as well, and we can label verbs as “qal” or “piel” or “hiphil” (or whatever stem they appear in by their nature).
Another common way to group Hebrew verbs is by the gutturals or vowel letters that they contain and the position in which they are found in the root.
The guttural letters are ʾalef (א), heh (ה), ḥet (ח), and ʿayin (ע). Resh (ר) is sometimes included in the list because it behaves similarly to them. The vowel letters (know in Latin as matres lectionis) are heh (ה), vav (ו), and yod (י). Notice that heh is both a guttural and a mater lectionis (sg. of matres lectionis). Since nun (נ) tends to assimilate into other letters, many roots with nun are also considered weak, depending on its position in the word. When these letters appear in a root, they mess up the normal pattern, and those mess-ups are predictable and regular.
Today we are going to talk about the verbs of the בִּנְיָן הִפְעִיל. These verbs usually denote an action that is caused by someone/something else. For instance:
לִזְכּוֹר = to remember
לְהַזְכִּיר = to make remember , to remind
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.
In October of last year, I pre-ordered a copy of Patton and Putnam’s much acclaimed book on discourse analysis principles as they relate to biblical Hebrew (pictured to the right). I picked it up and read quickly through it in the first week that I had it. It’s certainly not a disappointment!
The first thing that you notice about the book is its compact size. It is definitely smaller than I expected, especially given the way that Zondervan has taken to making their language series books inordinately large lately. I didn’t pay attention to the dimensions when I placed the order, so I expected to hold in my hands a volume about as large as the recent editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew and Basics of Biblical Greek. This book is nothing like those. You can easily toss it in any handbag to take it with you to the coffee house (once we’re on the other side of the COVID-19 restrictions—may it be בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵ֫ינוּ [soon in our days]!) to sit and read at your leisure and then take back home to mull over and work through the examples on your own.
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!
Dr. Stephen Krashen talks and writes a lot about the importance of free voluntary reading (FVR) in the process of second-language acquisition. Check out the following video of a lecture he gave in Hong Kong on the value of stories in acquiring a language.
When it comes to free voluntary reading, you have several types of literature that you can choose from in order to increase the exposure you have to the Hebrew language.
The second בִּנְיָן we are going to study in this series about Hebrew verbs is the פִּיעֶל. This category usually include verbs whose meaning is somehow more intense than the “simple” פָּעַל verb.
לִכְתֹּב – to write
לְכַתֵּב – to address
This way, we can see that לִכְתֹּב refers to writing in a broader sense, whereas לְכַתֵּב refers to writing a specific thing, “an address”, thus being more intense.
The following is the first English-to-Hebrew drill from Exercise 32 of Weingreen’s A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. Participation in the translation drills dropped off, so I’ve decided to continue on my own. My dear friend Jonathan is welcome to post his work as a comment on this blog post, but I’m not going to continue to post the threads on B-Hebrew when no one seems interested. Perhaps this is a personal task that I will need to go forward on alone (or with Jonathan).