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Number word pair forms

Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:08 pm
by Cbrundage
I am confused about the use of number word pair forms. In the text I am using there are two examples - “ obey the voice of the six angels “ and 6 is in the word pair form. Then there is “ obey the three women” with 3 not in the word pair form. Is it because in the first example, I should think of it as “obey the voice of the six of the angels“?

Also, the book says numbers more than one can be used with a noun that can be singular or plural, for instance, 20 men or 20 man, both correct. Confusing!

Any help gratefully received – I’m doing this learning on my own (at age 80) and sometimes it’s a bit difficult without a teacher.

Christina Brundage

Re: Number word pair forms

Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:35 pm
by Schubert
Hi Christina,

Welcome to the B-Hebrew forum. Since no one else has jumped in, I'll provide my thoughts even though I'm still not much more than a beginner myself.

I'm curious which textbook you're using. I'd not heard the expression "word pair form" previously – although I've now googled it and found a few references to it.

I'm not an expert on numbers but my textbooks say exactly what yours does: 20 men or 20 man are both correct.

Re: Number word pair forms

Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:28 pm
by S_Walch
This is the difference between 'construct state', and 'absolute state' - in either case, the nouns could either agree or disagree in number, yet still indicate more than one thing.

A good example of this is Genesis 31:41:

זֶה־לִּ֞י עֶשְׂרִ֣ים שָׁנָה֮ בְּבֵיתֶךָ֒ עֲבַדְתִּ֜יךָ אַרְבַּֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ בִּשְׁתֵּ֣י בְנֹתֶ֔יךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים בְּצֹאנֶ֑ךָ וַתַּחֲלֵ֥ף אֶת־מַשְׂכֻּרְתִּ֖י עֲשֶׂ֥רֶת מֹנִֽים׃

Here we have examples of absolute forms:
עֶשְׂרִ֣ים שָׁנָה֮ = עֶשְׂרִ֣ים / twenty, plural + שָׁנָה֮ / year, singular, yet meaning years, so "twenty years".

אַרְבַּֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ = אַרְבַּֽע / four, singular + עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה / ten, singular + שָׁנָה֙ / year singular, yet meaning years, so "fourteen years".

Or construct forms:
שֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים = שֵׁ֥שׁ / two, singular + שָׁנִ֖ים / years, plural, so "two years".

עֲשֶׂ֥רֶת מֹנִֽים = עֲשֶׂ֥רֶת / ten, singular + מֹנִֽים / times, plural, so "ten times".

Notice, in the "ten times" example above, the morph that the number 'ten' takes in the Hebrew - it is different from the "fourteen" example.

Re: Number word pair forms

Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 9:42 pm
by SteveMiller
You have a typo - שֵׁ֥שׁ is 6, not 2.
I didn't want Christina to be confused.

Re: Number word pair forms

Posted: Sun Sep 30, 2018 2:52 am
by S_Walch
Ouch, thanks for the catch, Steve!

Must've read שש as שני due to the שנים following :)

Re: Number word pair forms

Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:10 pm
by SteveMiller
Christine & Ste,
thank you for your posts. I had not realized that when modified by a cardinal number, a noun could be plural or singular in Hebrew.
I had seen this with the noun "generation" and thought that I could translate the singular as plural if it fit the context better, but that is not true. It is only when modified by a number that the singular generation would be translated as plural in English. So I have corrected my translation of Ps 24:6.

It certainly is strange that a noun which has distinct uses for its plural and singular forms can use either one when modified by a cardinal number.
In English, a number modifying a noun is an adjective. In Biblical Hebrew a number is a different class. Adjectives normally follow the noun they modify, but cardinal numbers precede the noun. Why? I don't know if anyone has researched it. That is a good research project for me.