Monday, March 22, 2004

Here's a idea I'd never encountered before: there was a time in Jewish history when Hebrew grammar was a radical innovation. The Arabs were the first to do a systematic grammar of a Semitic language; they developed classical Arabic grammar in order to study the Koran and its commentaries.

Rabbis brought this new method of text study to Torah study, with interesting results, but it was controversial (apparently Rashi and his grandson had some rousing discussions about it). I was astonished to learn that at least one medieval commentator wrote about the various "voices" in the text, pointing out that Moses couldn't have written the last chapter of Deuteronomy, etc. That method of studying text more or less died out in the middle ages, not to be tried again until modern times.

It's been a while since anyone was accused of being a radical for parsing a Hebrew verb.

No comments: