Historical Grammar of Biblical Hebrew

Fall 2017
W 1:30-3:20pm
Area I
Permission Not Required
No Limit to Enrollment
Course Description: 

The course examines the development of the sounds and forms of Biblical Hebrew, paying particular attention to the following (partially hypothetical) stages of the language and its predecessors: Proto-Semitic, Proto-Hebrew, Hebrew in the Iron Age, and Hebrew in the Second Temple Period. The course begins with an introduction to Hebrew in relation to other Semitic languages and an introduction to the alphabet. Then, the course addresses the phonology of Hebrew as attested in the time of the Masoretic scribes, then in the time of early Judaism and Christianity, then in the time of the Persian era, and finally in the time of the Iron Age and in earlier periods. Finally, the course addresses specific morphologies of Biblical Hebrew: nouns/adjectives, verbs, and particles. 

By the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding of Biblical Hebrew phonology and morphology, especially how these things have developed over the course of two millennia, from ca. 1000 BCE to 1000 CE. Students should expect to be able to reconstruct the base forms of Biblical Hebrew nouns and verbs given their knowledge of the history of the language, the Masoretic Text, and a decent dictionary (like BDB). This knowledge will be of practical use to students in that such an understanding will enable them to explain (or, make an educated guess about) many of the philological problems found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Furthermore, a grasp of historical Hebrew grammar is essential in moving on to the study of other ancient Semitic languages associated with the study of ancient Israel and the Bible like Phoenician and Ugaritic.

Background Expected: 

At least one year of Biblical Hebrew

Course Requirements: 

Students are responsible for reading assigned texts; attending class and participating in class discussions; completing weekly assignments and writing a midterm and final exam. 

Basis of Evaluation: 

Grades are determined based on participation in class (especially in the reviews of homework assignments) and in the actual performance on homework (25%), a midterm (35%) and final exam (40%).