Tag Archives: Grammar

Review: Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Hebrew

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For many of us (Americans) grammar is not our strong suit. I certainly speak for myself. Besides adverbs, I did well in high school. But high school was ten years ago, I’m learning Hebrew now, and I am becoming very much aware that ten years is a long time. Gary Long knows the struggle, and has written this book to teach underlings like me how to work with both English and Hebrew grammar.

Summary

Long’s book is divided into three parts:

Part I: Foundations explains the basis of language. He covers linguistic hierarchies, from phone(me) -> morph(eme) -> lex(eme) -> word -> phrase – clause. Sound production comes next, which is surprisingly helpful in remembering why Hebrew vowels change from one vowel to another. Next comes the syllable (a requirement to understand Hebrew), and translational values.

Part II: Building Blocks expands upon the grammar concepts one would find in a grammar book: gender, number, article, conjunctions, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, infinitives, gerunds, participles, verbs, tense and aspect, mood, the imperative, the jussive, and voice.

Part III: The Clause and Beyond. Doing just as he says, Long moves from words to clauses, semantics, and discourse analysis (a relatively new field). This will not be for beginners, but it will be understandable for those who are working through this in class now or who have worked through this already. Long is able to spend 52 pages on these topics, and that’s plenty more you’d get from most (or any) grammar book.

Long beings by showing how a topic (adverbs) work in English before he teaches the reader how it works in Hebrew. While one could resort to Google to understand the definition of an adverb, Long provides phrases and sentences in Hebrew for the reader to see how the grammar functions. The Hebrew is provided, the interlinear is given underneath each word, and parsing is given for the particular grammatical word in view.

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Long strives for simplicity whenever possible, and warns the reader that, at times, they may find the language overly simplistic. This depends on the individual. In some cases everything made good sense, but in other places I didn’t know what I was reading and thought, “There must be an easier way to say this.“ Though, those thoughts only occurred in section 3, a section I haven’t yet been taught in class. But again, this book isn’t to be read on its own.

Throughout Long’s book, he gives you many cross references to other grammatical concepts. So in the section on demonstrative adjectives, there’s a clear distinction from demonstrative pronouns (which you can find on p. 51). This is helpful because there many concepts to grasp, and a quick guide to the exact page saves time instead of scanning through each page of the chapter on pronouns. Yet the system is a tad cumbersome. Perhaps in the next edition the cross references could be put in the margins or turned into footnotes. That would leave the main text free while keeping the pointers on the page.

Recommended?

What must be said about this book is that it is “designed to complement standard teaching grammars” (xvii). A grammar is best not read alone (it’s best to have a teacher), and this book should not be read alone. This is not meant to be read cover to cover, but a slice at a time when one comes across a difficult concept. It is a reference work. You will have trouble understanding Hebrew grammar if you try reading this book on its own. Teachers would do well to use this to make explaining grammar easier. Grammar books just can’t use as much space as Long does. That’s a huge benefit with Long’s volume. He can use more space to explain concepts from the ground up. Beginning Hebraist will derive a good bit of help from this book, primarily Parts 1 and 2. Part 3 will likely be over their heads as that section moves from basic grammatical functions to the clause, syntax, and discourse grammar.

These are not topics Elementary Hebrew students pick up. But that does mean this book will grow in its usefulness to the student when he or she has walked through the door and made themselves at home with syntax and exegesis. Really, predication and semantics won’t make sense to the beginner if they only read this book. Even some topics in Part 2 won’t make sense because the beginner hasn’t been taught this yet. I found his chapters on tense and aspect, mood, and voice to be understandable, but a book can only do so much. If you’re a teacher, this book will come in handy as a supplement to the student. If you’re a student, you need all the help you can get to understand grammar (at least, if you plan to take some exegesis classes). It’s vital to understand the grammar of any language your learning. How much more should we use the resources at hand to know the words of the One who redeems us from death?

Lagniappe

  • Author: Gary Long
  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 2 edition (April 15, 2013)

Buy it on Baker Academic or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Colloquial Norwegian

colloquial-norwegian

It’s one thing to know the structure of the language, it’s another to be able to speak that same language to others. While Norwegian Grammar has many good helps with idiomatic phrases, it’s incredibly helpful to have a few Norwegian books with exercises in them. Colloquial Norwegian is one of those books.

Each chapter includes two Dialogues, one in Norwegian and the other in English. After this is a Vocabulary which contains new words found in the norsk dialogue. Then there are fill-in-the-blank, true or false, or writing exercises. Some chapters have a Culture section that explains an aspect of the Norwegian way of life related to the subject matter of the chapter. There are Language Points that explain some of the grammar from the chapter. There are charts and lists throughout the book, and in many places if you have the CD you can listen to the pronunciations of words (such as with the Dialogue sections). 

After Unit 14 there is a short reference grammar, a few pages on nynorsk, the book’s answer key, and then both a Norwegian-English glossary and an English-Norwegian glossary. 

Recommended?

You should begin learning Norwegian by working through Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day. It gives basic understanding of the pronunciation by actually translating it phonetically next to the ‘norsk ord,’ and it teaches you a lot of basic Norwegian terms and phrases dealing with food, time, work, play, etc. 

Then move on to Colloquial Norwegian and then to Teach Yourself Norwegian. Personally, I favor TYN over CN, although with TYN the dialogues are mostly in Norwegian, with the occasional English sentence given for guidance. TYN also has sections on grammar and how to say a wealth of phrases in Norwegian. Both books are very similar, through they have their differences, and both books would serve you very well. 

The back cover of Colloquial Norwegian says that after completing this book, “you will be at Level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages, and at the intermediate level on the ACTFL proficiency scales.” I think this is well worth working through so that you can be at that level. I didn’t receive the CD that comes with the book, but it would benefit you to use it. You might even impress your norsk neighbors (naboer) with your fancy pronunciations (meaning you don’t sound too American and you can actually roll your R’s).

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Margaret O’Leary og Torunn Andresen
  • Series: Colloquial Series
  • Paperback: 391 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (May 12, 2016)

Buy from Routledge or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Routledge. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Norwegian, An Essential Grammar

norwegian-grammar

Learning a new language is exhausting. Reading, writing, listening, recognizing, speaking – it will make you tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You don’t understand the road signs, you can’t tell if your neighbor is a gentleman or a shyster, and when you try to relax with some TV, even the children shows seem to be mocking you. Åse-Berit and Rolf Strandskogen are professors at the University of Oslo, Norway, and they teach Norwegian as a foreign language. Thankfully, from their experience has come a book for us foreigners (utlandinger). 

Outline

I  Parts of Speech

  • Verbs
  • Articles
  • Nouns
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Pronouns
  • Conjunctions
  • Interjections
  • Numerals
  • Prepositions

II  Sentence Elements

III  Sentence Structure

IV  Word Order

Why is this book important?

Test Case: Prepositions

You don’t think much about prepositions until you have to learn another language. In Norwegian, the word “om” means “about” in English. So the phrase “Boka handler om en stor hval” would mean “The book is about a great whale.” 

Yet propositions are tricky.

  • In English, you can sit in a chair or you can sit on a chair, but books always go in a bookcase and on a shelf.
  • Or, you were born in 1990 on July 4th. You wouldn’t say you were born on 1990 in July 4th.

That sounds wrong, and when you hear a foreigner mix up their prepositions you know they’re either still new to the country, or they have a ways to go in the English language (unfortunately, this fault is also found with many Americans themselves). But in order to impress your Norwegian neighbors and family, learn your prepositions (and everything else for that matter).

So what about Norwegian? The word “om” doesn’t always mean “about.”

  • “Jeg skal på ferie om to uker”  =  “I am going on vacation in two weeks”
  • It does not mean “I am going on vacation about two weeks.”

If you don’t know any better, hearing this in a sentence will throw you off, and you will lose precious words in the conversation leaving you wondering why everyone except for you is nodding their heads. Reading this book as you continue in your Norsk immersion will help you to nod your head and laugh right along with everyone else, and [as well as] it will help you avoid sitting in a corner alone eating the rest of the lefse at the next juletrefest.

The grammar and terms in which the book is written was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. I could actually understand the grammar the authors were explaining. This is essential in a grammar book. It is a huge help to be able to read this book and understand how the grammar works without needing a teacher to explain it to you (though if you’re living in Norway and learning Norwegian, you will probably need go to through a language course. However, reading this book will put you much farther ahead than if you began school without any prior knowledge of the language). The authors not only provide many examples, but they also provide plenty of subtle, idiomatic phrases. You’ll never need another Norwegian grammar (though others would be beneficial as well).

Section I (which is made up of 10 parts) is 169 pages. Each piece is filled with explanations, examples, and comments. Sections II-IV are only a few pages long each, but they’re essential. What goes first in a sentence? Why? Where do the adjectives go? Adverbs? Time references? All are essential to becoming a pro at reading, hearing, writing, and speaking Norwegian. 

Recommended?

The Stranskogen’s aim has been to provide the non-Norwegian with a “simple, step-by-step presentation of the grammatical rules and systems of Norwegian” (Preface). It is a “practical guide to modern Norwegian as it is used in an every day context” (Preface). Grammar is essential to learning a foreign language, and this book is essential if you are learning on your own, if you want to be ahead in class, or if you just want to understand what your mail says. And for me, if I ever want to be able to express the gospel to anyone, it’s best to learn their mother tongue or else I”ll be just another American with wacky ideas. 

You won’t want to have only this book on hand. While slowly working through this book you should also be going through workbooks such as Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day, Teach Yourself Norwegian, and Colloquial Norwegian. A good website is also Norwegian on the Web.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Åse-Berit og Rolf Strandskogen
  • Series: Routledge Essential Grammars
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reissue edition (December 22, 1994)

Buy from Routledge or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Routledge. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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