Ivrit Express 6: Asking Yes-No Questions

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A brief lesson on asking yes-or-no questions in Biblical Hebrew. Learn by example and then dig into the underlying grammar!

A brief lesson on asking yes-or-no questions in Biblical Hebrew. Learn by example and then dig into the underlying grammar!

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  • 1. ‫עברית‬EXPRESS Lesson 6: Asking Yes-No Questions
  • 2. The Ivrit Express series presents compact lessons in Biblical (not Modern) Hebrew grammar. It aims to reinforce (not replace) your classroom experiences.
  • 3. This lesson introduces the basics of asking yes-or-no questions.
  • 4. Relax, watch, and listen as you advance through the next few slides.
  • 5. ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬ ‫ִי‬‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬
  • 6. +ְ‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬ֲ‫ה‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 7. ‫ִי‬‫ל‬ ‫ֵין‬‫א‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 8. ‫*שׁ לוֹ‬‫י‬ֲ‫ה‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 9. ‫ֵין לוֹ‬‫א‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬ 
  • 10. 3ָ‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬ֲ‫ה‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 11. ‫ִי‬‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬ 
  • 12. ‫ָהּ‬‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬ֲ‫ה‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 13. ‫ָהּ‬‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬ ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬
  • 14. ‫ָה‬‫תּ‬ַ‫א‬ַ‫ה‬ 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 15.  ‫י‬9‫נ‬ֲ‫א‬ 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 16. ‫ִיא‬‫ה‬ַ‫ה‬ ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 17. ‫ִיא <א‬‫ה‬ ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 18. ְ‫תּ‬ַ‫א‬ַ‫ה‬ ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 19. ‫9י <א‬‫נ‬ֲ‫א‬ ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 20. ‫ַהוּא‬‫ה‬ 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 21. ‫הוּא‬ 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬
  • 22. I recommend that you go through the foregoing picture slides at least three times before advancing to the grammatical discussion.
  • 23. In this case, tone of voice provides important cues to the picture lesson.
  • 24. In English, you turn a statement into a yes-or-no question by changing the word order and adding a question mark. You can’t hear a question mark in English, so we also use a rising pitch at the end of the question.
  • 25. In ancient times, written Hebrew did not have any punctuation marks. The “half-syllable” ֲ‫ה‬, affixed to the beginning of a statement, turns the statement into a yes-or-no question.
  • 26. If I say ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬ ‫ְוֹ‬‫ל‬ ‫*שׁ‬‫י‬, I am stating that a particular man (“he”) has a sheep. If I say ‫ֶשׂ‬‫ב‬ֶ‫כ‬ ‫*שׁ לוֹ‬‫י‬ֲ‫ה‬, I am asking whether he has a sheep.
  • 27. In some cases, such as before subject pronouns, the ֲ‫ה‬ can change to ַ‫ה‬ or even ֶ‫ה‬.
  • 28. The trickiest thing here is that the definite article, the word “the,” is usually a prefixed -ַ‫ה‬. ּ
  • 29. In pointed Biblical Hebrew, the letter following the definite article ַ‫ה‬ usually gets a ‫ֵשׁ‬‫ג‬ָ‫דּ‬ (there’s one in the first letter of ‫ֵשׁ‬‫ג‬ָ‫דּ‬ itself). That can usually help you distinguish between the “question mark” ֲ‫ה‬ and the definite article ַ‫ה‬.
  • 30. To practice recognizing the distinction, review slides 14-21 of this lesson.
  • 31. In consonantal written Hebrew, you’ll generally have to rely on context to distinguish the two.
  • 32. Review slides 14-21, and take note of how the man and woman on the edges answer the questions posed by the man in the middle.
  • 33. In Biblical Hebrew dialogue, yes- or-no questions aren’t actually answered with a mere “yes” or “no.” Instead, they’re answered with a short but complete sentence or, sometimes, just one significant word.
  • 34. So when asked 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬ ‫ָה‬‫תּ‬ַ‫א‬ַ‫ה‬, the king answers 3ֶ‫ל‬ֶ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬ ‫9י‬‫נ‬ֲ‫א‬. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t use just a simple “yes.” (Modern Hebrew does.)
  • 35. Likewise, when asked ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬ ְ‫תּ‬ַ‫א‬ַ‫ה‬, the woman answers ‫ָה‬‫כּ‬ְ‫ל‬ַ‫מּ‬ַ‫ה‬ ‫9י <א‬‫נ‬ֲ‫א‬, not just ‫.<א‬
  • 36. Answers like these may seem a bit formal if you’re used to conversational English, but they’re good Biblical Hebrew style—and good practice when answering questions in class or on homework assignments!
  • 37. CREDITS Scripted and narrated by Dr. Chris Heard, Pepperdine University Partially funded by a Pepperdine University Faculty Innovation in Teaching and Learning Grant Artwork licensed via iStockphoto