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A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching BH

Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:45 pm
by Jemoh66
William Griffin teaches BH at Evangel University. In this article he explains his approach to teaching using unpointed text.
http://www.sbl-site.org/publications/ar ... icleId=675

Jonathan Mohler

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching

Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 7:42 pm
by Isaac Fried
WPG says
Students are taught propretonic reduction, the rule of shewa, and countless other rules of vowel patterns, each with many exceptions
Says I
All this is but one big and inflated meshugas invented by deluded "grammarians", and needs to be discarded now and all. There is no such thing as "propretonic reduction" and "the rule of shewa".

WPG says
"Why does this have a patach instead of a qametz?"
Says I
We don't know for sure. The patach the qametz and the hataphim are all A. The tsere and the segol are both E. The language works perfectly well with these readings. Students should be taught to read aloud, not to decipher the mysteries of the Hebrew niqud.

WPG says
when to include the dagesh, variations for gutturals, and so forth
Says I
The dagesh is not part of the niqud and can be safely tottaly ignored. Except that present-day conventional reading requires that בכפ with an inner dot be read as "hard" BKP, that's all.

WPG says
Our students, who by and large are anything but linguists, encounter statements like, "The verb 'rr differs from sbb in one way. In the second and first position forms, singular and plural, the Geminate consonant rejects the Daghesh Forte and the Pathach under the [aleph] becomes Qamets due to compensatory lengthening.
Says I
There is no "Daghesh Forte" and no "compensatory lengthening". All this is but confused and confusing invented legends --- a science of nothing but nonsense.

WPG says
These students are not merely expected to know that such vowel patterns exist, but they are expected to be able to reproduce them as well
Says I
Yes, they need to read the text aloud, not only by eye.

WPG says
Strictly speaking, classical biblical Hebrew is a dead language. It is as dead as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Sumerian
Says I
This is a misconception, knowledge of Hebrew never ceased. Moreover, there is no evidence that biblical Hebrew was ever spoken.

WPG says
Similarly, Masoretic pointing should be treated with a skeptical eye, whether one uses it for pronunciation or interpretation.
Says I
If WPG, or other enterprising souls, wish to introduce a new Hebrew reading system, for a novel pronunciation, or for a new "interpretation", they are free to do so. They should also not forget to remove all the yods and waws.

WPG says
I frequently assign unpointed Hebrew to my students on all levels.
Says I
He should do it also with English, give his students texts with all vowels removed.

In Hebrew schools, students in first grade read with points, then they revert to unpointed Hebrew, except for poetry and liturgy. All Hebrew secular books and newspapers are printed now niqudless. This, at least for me, doubles the reading speed.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:29 am
by kwrandolph
Jemoh66 wrote:William Griffin teaches BH at Evangel University. In this article he explains his approach to teaching using unpointed text.
http://www.sbl-site.org/publications/ar ... icleId=675

Jonathan Mohler


This article has come up a few times on this list.

If I were to teach my own class, I would teach without points. I may even teach using the archaic Hebrew alphabet, but that’s harder to justify, so probably not.

When writing the grammar part of my dictionary, I noticed that I have far fewer forms to illustrate without points than with points.

I would teach the points, and tell the students what they mean, then most of the work would be done without points.

Karl W. Randolph.

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:43 am
by RGLehmann
Ignoring the vowel pointing can have a nice effect.
When I taught Phoenician last year in an Erasmus programme in Budapest, I started the class with a printout of some Biblical texts which I claimed to be Phoenician.
I only removed all vowel pointings and all matres lectionis (ehm and in one case I replaced YHWH by Baal).
It took effect and worked perfectly.

And another example: an esteemed friend and orientalist colleague once made an application for funding for a poetic texts project. Took one of these Ishtar psalms and translated it into Hebrew (and again replaced Ishtar by the Tetragrammaton) and then claimed it were a newly discovered apocryphal Hebrew Jewish psalms fragment.
It took a while until all realised what happened …

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching BH

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:52 pm
by Jason Hare
I tend to use a modern Hebrew textbook and include biblical Hebrew on the side. When I do so, I teach the vowels as groups. That is, marks with horizontal bars are a (patach, kamats, chataf-patach). Marks with two horizontal dots are e (tsere, segol, chataf-segol). Marks with one dot are i (chirik). Marks with three vertical dots are u (kubuts). I get them off of vowels as quickly as possible, though I point out that biblical Hebrew makes a lot more use of them - because of the defective spellings and how some forms are distinguished from others based on vocalization alone.

Even in a modern Hebrew course of study, I include sections of long reading from the Bible. Right now, I'm using the book of Jonah to illustrate how similar the biblical language is to what we speak in Israel. I simply pull out a whole chapter of the text and go through it over the course of a couple of days, noting grammatical differences (such as the vav-consecutive and locative heh [as on תרשישה]) and discussing how we can study the language diachronically to get the most benefit from it.

If I'm doing a course on biblical Hebrew alone, then I go through the rules of vowel length and reduction. It's absurd to say that these things don't exist. They obviously do, and we can predict what a form will be based on how the language behaves generally. It's not all topsy turvy.

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching BH

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:09 am
by talmid56
Isaac wrote:

Moreover, there is no evidence that biblical Hebrew was ever spoken.


Then why do we see conversations recorded in the Hebrew Bible? And why is it that the private letters (ostraca and papyri) found by archaeologists so often parallel Biblical usage?

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching BH

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:53 am
by talmid56
That is, Hebrew ostraca and papyri. Some of the articles I've read about them describe them as written in "good Classical Hebrew".

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching BH

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:03 am
by talmid56
כתב Karl

may even teach using the archaic Hebrew alphabet, but that’s harder to justify, so probably not.


You could justify it as a unit within a Biblical Hebrew course, so students could start to learn to read inscriptions. All known First Temple period ones (that I'm aware of) are written in this script. And, it even shows up in some Dead Sea Scrolls, and on coins (Maccabean and First Jewish Revolt from 1st century A.D.).

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching

Posted: Sat Oct 05, 2019 10:35 pm
by ralph
Isaac Fried wrote:WPG says
Students are taught propretonic reduction, the rule of shewa,


That is a very misleading quote. And you misled yourself when you said

Isaac fried wrote: "All this is but one big and inflated meshugas invented by deluded "grammarians", and needs to be discarded now and all. There is no such thing as "propretonic reduction" and "the rule of shewa"."


A fuller quote from that article is

"The typical Hebrew grammar devotes a great deal of space to the intricacies of Masoretic pointing, ...........Students are taught propretonic reduction, the rule of shewa.............I propose that we peel back this layer and focus on what is underneath."

Some of his arguments is that he thinks it is easier for his students and all the vowel patterns are a lot to learn for them and they get the same precision either way (which may be not much). It may be they translate live and are confused.. or they translate by going home and cheating by looking up the words. Ultimately it has worked for him and made an improvement.

But the fact is that scholars use vowels to translate with precision.

Re: A Case against Emphasizing Vowel Pointing when Teaching

Posted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:29 am
by kwrandolph
ralph wrote:……he thinks it is easier for his students … and they get the same precision either way (which may be not much). … But the fact is that scholars use vowels to translate with precision.


We don’t accept translations as evidence because all too often the scholars get it wrong.

Karl W. Randolph.