Unmarked Gender in BHS

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brycebeale
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Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by brycebeale »

Perhaps this is a basic question with a basic answer, but I've noticed that in my BHS on Logos Bible Software the morphological tags for words list almost every noun as "unmarked gender." The basic Hebrew grammar I used taught that nouns ending with He should be considered feminine, while all other nouns (with various exceptions) should be considered masculine. Was that just an oversimplification? I've noticed that BDAG also avoids assigning gender to nouns, although some of my other lexicons do.

Here, for example, is the data for אִישׁ in 1 Samuel 1:1:
BHS Unmarked Gender.png
Why isn't that listed as masculine?
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Bryce Beale
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Jason Hare
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by Jason Hare »

First, feminine nouns are often marked with a qamats-heh or with a tav (not only heh). There are several feminine nouns for which this is not the case (for example, כּוֹס “cup,” שֶׁ֫מֶשׁ “sun,” and יָד “hand”). It is not correct to claim that all feminine nouns end in heh.

Second, which BHS version are you using on Logos? I can confirm that my version marks אִישׁ as “unmarked gender.” I assume that this is to encourage people to understand that אִישׁ can specifically refer to any person, whether male or female. I’d be interested to see that “almost every noun” is marked this way in the software.

Third, the grammatical gender of אִישׁ is clearly masculine. If I were searching for it morphologically, I would have gone with the masculine gender. That somewhat bothers me. Sometimes שֶׁ֫מֶשׁ “sun” appears to have a masculine gender in the texts, so it is “unmarked” because it can appear as either. Maybe that is their motivation. I looked up יוֹם “day” and יָם “sea,” and they are both marked specifically as masculine.
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brycebeale
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by brycebeale »

Skimming through the tags for 1 Samuel 1, I suppose I overstated the case—it seems more like half the nouns are listed as unmarked gender. I'm using the 5th edition.

Your answer makes sense to me. I knew that several words could be either masculine or feminine and thought perhaps that was why they were unmarked, but then I came across so many that were unmarked that I began to wonder if something else were going on.
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by Jason Hare »

brycebeale wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:10 am Skimming through the tags for 1 Samuel 1, I suppose I overstated the case—it seems more like half the nouns are listed as unmarked gender. I'm using the 5th edition.

Your answer makes sense to me. I knew that several words could be either masculine or feminine and thought perhaps that was why they were unmarked, but then I came across so many that were unmarked that I began to wonder if something else were going on.
I took a moment to look at 1 Samuel today and also saw weird things. If the justification for אִישׁ is that it can refer to both men and women, then why is יְלָדִים listed specifically as masculine? It’s odd.
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brycebeale
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by brycebeale »

I think I may have figured it out.

It seems to me that singular nouns that do not have the usual feminine ends of Hey or Tav, or that are not proper nouns with natural gender as well as grammatical, are always tagged as "unmarked," since they are not explicitly marked as masculine or feminine. I tend to still think of certain nouns as being certain genders based on what adjectives typically modify them or what verb forms they take, but of course many Hebrew nouns can be either masculine or feminine. So they're tagged as unmarked if there's no explicit marking of the gender.

If a word is plural, like יְלָדִים, then it is marked for gender because the plural ending indicates explicitly whether the noun is masculine or feminine. In this case, it has the plural masculine ending, so it is masculine.

I'll see if this theory holds up as I read, but it seems to make sense.
Last edited by brycebeale on Thu Jan 26, 2023 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by Jason Hare »

brycebeale wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 6:57 am I think I may have figured it out.

It seems to me that singular nouns that do not have the usual feminine ends of Hey or Tav, or that are not proper nouns with natural gender as well as grammatical, are always tagged as "unmarked," since they are not explicitly marked as masculine or feminine. I tend to still think of certain nouns as being certain genders based on what adjectives typically modify them or what verb forms they take, but of course many Hebrew nouns can be either masculine or feminine. So they're tagged as unmarked if there's no explicit marking of the gender.

If a word is plural, like יְלָדִים, then it is marked for gender because the plural ending indicates explicitly whether the noun is masculine or feminine. In this case, it has the plural masculine ending, so it is masculine.

I'll see if this theory holds up as I read, but it seems to make sense.
Interesting and strange. I don’t think I like such a method.
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brycebeale
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by brycebeale »

Me neither! I wish they would put the gender that a word typically has, which is what beginning grammar's do. I'm sure there's a reason they do otherwise.
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kwrandolph
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by kwrandolph »

Jason Hare wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 4:29 pm I took a moment to look at 1 Samuel today and also saw weird things. If the justification for אִישׁ is that it can refer to both men and women, then why is יְלָדִים listed specifically as masculine? It’s odd.
I don’t know the book to which you refer, but tradition in most cultures and languages has been that when the gender of the subject is unspecified or in languages such as Hebrew with its masculine and feminine nouns, the masculine is what has been used in the default use. In Hebrew, when there was a mixed subject, the masculine plural noun or pronoun was used. In English, the proper way to refer to an unspecified individual is the pronoun “he”, “him” or “his”. The plural “their” or “them” is wrong. But I see many people improperly using the plural pronouns for singular subjects, and the only reason I can see for that is that people are afraid of the woke nazis.

Another point, just because a noun ends in a ה does not mean that it is feminine for all cases. If the noun is derived from a verb that ends in a ה, then the noun can be masculine even though it ends with a ה.

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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by Jason Hare »

kwrandolph wrote: Fri Jan 27, 2023 10:17 pm
Jason Hare wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 4:29 pm I took a moment to look at 1 Samuel today and also saw weird things. If the justification for אִישׁ is that it can refer to both men and women, then why is יְלָדִים listed specifically as masculine? It’s odd.
I don’t know the book to which you refer, but tradition in most cultures and languages has been that when the gender of the subject is unspecified or in languages such as Hebrew with its masculine and feminine nouns, the masculine is what has been used in the default use. In Hebrew, when there was a mixed subject, the masculine plural noun or pronoun was used. In English, the proper way to refer to an unspecified individual is the pronoun “he”, “him” or “his”. The plural “their” or “them” is wrong. But I see many people improperly using the plural pronouns for singular subjects, and the only reason I can see for that is that people are afraid of the woke nazis.

Another point, just because a noun ends in a ה does not mean that it is feminine for all cases. If the noun is derived from a verb that ends in a ה, then the noun can be masculine even though it ends with a ה.

Karl W. Randolph.
We’re talking about the morphological tags on the Logos version of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.
Jason Hare
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brycebeale
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Re: Unmarked Gender in BHS

Post by brycebeale »

kwrandolph wrote: Fri Jan 27, 2023 10:17 pm
Jason Hare wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 4:29 pm I took a moment to look at 1 Samuel today and also saw weird things. If the justification for אִישׁ is that it can refer to both men and women, then why is יְלָדִים listed specifically as masculine? It’s odd.
I don’t know the book to which you refer, but tradition in most cultures and languages has been that when the gender of the subject is unspecified or in languages such as Hebrew with its masculine and feminine nouns, the masculine is what has been used in the default use. In Hebrew, when there was a mixed subject, the masculine plural noun or pronoun was used. In English, the proper way to refer to an unspecified individual is the pronoun “he”, “him” or “his”. The plural “their” or “them” is wrong. But I see many people improperly using the plural pronouns for singular subjects, and the only reason I can see for that is that people are afraid of the woke nazis.

Another point, just because a noun ends in a ה does not mean that it is feminine for all cases. If the noun is derived from a verb that ends in a ה, then the noun can be masculine even though it ends with a ה.

Karl W. Randolph.
Good point, the masculine is a sort of default in Hebrew. I simply wondered why the BHS Hebrew Bible on Logos doesn't tag unmarked words that usually take masculine forms of adjectives and verbs as masculine.
Bryce Beale
Evansville, IN
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