Thursday, February 2, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- aspects not tenses

The next part of Genesis 1:1.
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:
Transliteration: B’reshit bara elohim et ha-shamayim v’et ha-arets.
Translation:     At the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth
Letters in this lesson: בּ, ר, א, שׁ, י, ת, ל, וֹ, ה, ם, שּׁ, מ, ץ
Vocabulary in this lesson:
on, in, at (place or time), by (swear by), with (by means of), against
at the beginning
direct object particle
הַ, הָ
and, or, continuation particle
earth, land, world
Verbs. Semitic languages have a common feature about their verbs. Verb roots have mostly three letters. A few have four but we’re not going to come across many of those before we’re done.
Verbs belong to a root class depending on the letters in the most basic form. Some of them belong to more than one class. The verb root class controls conjugation, but it does that in combination with the binyan and the aspect. Hebrew has a different set of verb root classes than the other Semitic languages.
Verbs are used in a binyan, a feature which has parallels but not identical features in other Semitic languages.
What they all agree on is a base called qal in Hebrew (Akkadian and Ugaritic G-stem, Assyrian I-stem, Arabic Form I).
They all have a transitive binyan with dagesh in the middle letter, piel in Hebrew (Akkadian and Ugaritic D-stem, Assyrian II-stem, Arabic Form II).  In Hebrew, there are letters that CANNOT take dagesh and piel does not override this restriction.
Most of them have a binyan, hifil in Hebrew (Akkadian and Ugaritic Sh-stem, Assyrian III-stem, Arabic Form IV), the function of which depends on the verb.
Almost all of them have a binyan that takes a nun as a prefix, Hebrew nifal (Akkadian and Ugaritic N-stem, Assyrian IV-stem, Arabic Form VII). Aramaic is an exception.
They all have at least one reciprocal binyan with “t” inserted before the first root letter, Hebrew hitpael. (The other Semitic languages have one of these for each of the other stems or Forms.)
Biblical Hebrew verbs do NOT use tenses.
They use aspects, which they share with the ancient Semitic languages and Arabic.  Mishnaic Hebrew and Modern Hebrew use tenses.
Aspects fall into three categories.
Imperfect aspect is for uncompleted action. There is a quirk to this which will show up in the next few verses and is crucial to the rest of Torah.
Perfect aspect is for completed action. Torah also has some twists on this.
And finally, there is progressive aspect. This covers eight different functions and relates closely to nouns and adjectives as you will see.  This is specific to Hebrew; other Semitic languages use a form of imperfect aspect.  Arabic tends to use participles.
Stopping here. Memorize the list of aspects and binyanim.  Keep repeating them through the next lesson.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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