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Peter O'Kennedy
779979.  Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:27 pm Reply with quote

Did you know the english word 'he' means 'she' in hebrew. Did you know that 'who' in english is 'me' in hebrew. Did you know that 'he' in english is 'who' in hebrew.

780048.  Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:50 pm Reply with quote

I knew none of that, but I'm happy to learn something new!

Welcome Peter O'Kennedy :-)

780209.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:55 am Reply with quote

It's one of those things dual speakers of English and Hebrew tend to observe almost immediately when learning the second language, it's a strange coincidence.

I'm also reminded of a recent Qi episode wher they were talking about how words were created to mimic sounds, I remember immediately thinking of the Hebrew word for bottle, "Bakbuk" (the Ba sound is glottal), which is like the sound you get when you try to drink quickly from a bottle.

780220.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:23 am Reply with quote

My ex-Israeli Rabbi learned Hebrew by total immersion, from the 3 year old daughter of the family in his Kibbutz. He spoke back to her in the female tense - which her mother had taught her - but she kept correcting him, and making him repeat the phrase in the 'male' tense, as he was a man.

Aged about 4, she was ready to accept tuition from men as well as from women, as she had learned to alter her tense structure according to whether it was her speaking, or a man's words being recited.

When he began to teach me Hebrew, I had to learn both versions of a phrase, but only speak the female version aloud.
Hebrew is a deeply sexist language. My heart bleeds for any transexuals learning Hebrew, as this goes way beyond the 'Do I use the gents or the ladies loo? query.


780315.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:53 pm Reply with quote

Hebrew is not unique in having sexual verbs (as well as plural). I'm not an expert on international languages, but I'd suggest English is rather less common in it's lack of such verbs, which is probably why it's so easy to pick up, yet incredibly difficult to master.

To explain how these verbs work, look at "Go":

A man saying "I go" would say "Ani olech"
A woman saying "I go" would say "Ani olechet"
A group of men saying "We go" would say "Anachnu olchim"
And so on.
Then there are the past and future verbs, "halachti", "halachta", "halacht", "alachnu", "olchim", etc. You have to remember which tense and mood, as well as gender.

780394.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:59 pm Reply with quote

I now remember why I gave up learning it. It is flipping hard to learn.

I ended up just speaking ‘Bedroom Hebrew’, and I was still reprimanded for misuse of gender.

No more Rabbis for me. Sorry, CB27


780413.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:52 pm Reply with quote

That particular feature of Hebrew - that the first person singular of the present tense varies according to whether the subject is male or female - is actually quite unusual.

Even Arabic doesn't do it in the first person, although it does in the second person singular (so the verb in "You are coming" would be in a different form depending on whether "you" are male or female).

Then again, the Hebrew verb in the present tense does not change form for person - the verb has the same form in "I (f) am coming", "You (f) are coming", and "She is coming", and the same different form for the masculine equivalents of these. Ultimately it's swings and roundabouts - just about every language has what an English speaker perceives as easy bits, and also what he perceives as complicated bits.

Now, a question. Japanese is another language which requires different forms depending on whether one is male or female. But some trendy young women use male forms in casual conversation, a thing which their grandmothers consider horribly crude.

Do trendy young Israeli women use the male forms of verbs in the same way? And are their grandmothers similarly horrified by this?

780422.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:48 pm Reply with quote

I wouldn't know about women using male verbs, I don't get to talk Hebrew much these days (everyone speaks English now).

It's more than just verbs that have these rules, nouns also have them as well. If you take the word for Cat, "Chatul", though this is a general word for cat, it's a masculine word, so if you want to show it's a female cat you'd say "Chatula", and cats are "Chatulim". The general word for a noun tends to determine "sexual" verb used (this is different to other languages, like French, which don't seem to have a set rule as to which verb to use for a noun), and it would usually be male or female, but there are unique words which only have a plural word and therefore use plural verbs, one example being water, "Mayim".

780438.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:04 pm Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
unique words which only have a plural word and therefore use plural verbs, one example being water, "Mayim".

The technical term for that is plurale tantum, and they are particularly common in the Baltic and Slavic languages. They don't seem too strange when they refer to water or - as happens in Russian - money, but it is somewhat odd that the Polish word for violin is of this kind. (In Polish, you play a tune on your violins.)

Modern Hebrew is a fascinating language, and there have certainly been papers written on how they decided which modern terms to borrow from Arabic and which from (especially) English and German. Even so, I can't help thinking that in the fullness of time, English will take over in Israel.

Trivial fact: Deaf Israelis use Israeli Sign Language, which is effectively signed Yiddish - it's based largely on German - rather than signed Hebrew. There was little option, since the sign languages of the Arab world have only really been documented in the last twenty years.

780439.  Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:02 pm Reply with quote

Ooh, I don't think saying English will take over in Israel will come over very well in some circles :)

Personally, I'd hate to see it happen, I find the sound of the language, especially in song, is quite pleasant, and for some reason it seems women especially have found ways to write songs that sound good as well as having beautiful lyrics. Naomi Shemer is a prticularly fine example, and especially "The Eucalyptus Grove" (look it up in youtube and find the lyrics to see what I mean). Then again, I also think the same can be said of some dialects of Arabic as well (some Yemeni Arabic can sound good).

As for the Hebrew written language, and grammar, I think it's amazing to consider that modern Hebrew is not completely the same as would have been spoken a couple of thousand years ago, yet it's not difficult for anyone with a good knowledge of modern Hebrew to read and understand the OT, they'll probably find it easier than English speakers reading some of Shakespear's work, and that's only 400 years old.

827360.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:09 pm Reply with quote

Well, that's because English has actually been spoken over these 400 years, so it had a fair chance to evolve. :-)
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Israeli pupils are already struggling heavily with Biblical Hebrew; in a few generations the Bible would, in all likelihood, be quite unintelligible to speakers of Modern Hebrew.

Suze: Present tense verbs behave like that (i.e. don't show person, and do show first-person-gender) because they are, at least technically speaking, not finite verbs, but rather participles. For example, one can find them governed directly by a definite article, without any other noun: "ha-holex" - "the (something-masculine who is) walking". They are, however, no doubt part of the tense system. So their role, both in Modern Hebrew and in Biblical Hebrew, has been the subject of many scholarly debates.

As for the aforementioned trendy young women: they do exist, but are not numerous. There are also trendy young men, almost always homosexual (but not necessarily transsexual), who use the feminine forms of the first person. A much commoner trend, however, has to do with the plural forms. The unmarked gender in Hebrew is usually the masculine - so, when referring to a group of people which comprises both males and females, one ought to use the masculine forms. Many feminists consider this sexist, and make a point of using the feminine forms when referring to heterogeneous groups.

985183.  Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:51 pm Reply with quote

An interesting milestone for Israel in their last census shows that there are now just over 6m Jews in Israel, out of the 8m+ population. This is significant as most historians believe it's about the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust.

It also means that Israel is now established as the country with the biggest Jewish population, having taken over from the US.

The rise in number of Jews in Israel is not so much to do with a growing Jewish population, but rather a move from many Jews in other parts of the world to Israel.

Unfortunately, despite WWII having ended nearly 70 years ago, the worldwide Jewish population today (nearly 14m) is still far below that of 1939 (17m-18m). Such was the destruction and impact.

985187.  Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:21 am Reply with quote

OP wrote:
Did you know the english word 'he' means 'she' in hebrew. Did you know that 'who' in english is 'me' in hebrew. Did you know that 'he' in english is 'who' in hebrew.
Thanks Peter, it's really interesting to see how the words/sounds are used in another language.

There's something similar in Greek that got me when a nipper and put me off. I think Okey with a nod means No. And Nai with a Shake means Yes.
(hope I remember that right)

985223.  Fri Mar 29, 2013 5:18 am Reply with quote

Something like that.

And 'no' in Arabic is 'la', but with a 'yes' nod.
*vague memory - could be wrong*

985408.  Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:03 pm Reply with quote

I don't know about nodding the head, but No in Arabic is La, and in Hebrew is Lo, I guess they have the same root.

The same can't be said for Yes. In Arabic it's usually Naam, though Egyptians and other North African people I know often use Aiwe, whereas in Hebrew it's Ken.


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