Linguistics Handouts

This spring I’m teaching a General Linguistics course at HBU that provides an entrée into the main subfields of linguistics: speech production (phonetics), sound patterns (phonology), word formation (morphology), sentence structure (syntax), aspects of meaning (semantics and pragmatics), and language change (historical and comparative linguistics). Our goal is to enable our BA and MA students to engage in linguistic analyses of Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek.

For those taking the course, and for those who aren’t but are interested in what we’re doing here at HBU, I’m making the handouts available here.

If you’re interested in our MABL (Master of Arts in Biblical Languages), go here.  Information on the BA in Biblical Languages can be found here.

AFRIZO: Free Concert at Houston’s First Baptist Church


If you are interested in seeing more, you can click here to see Daystar University’s webpage featuring Afrizo.  Here is a little blurb:

Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya is sending its African gospel style musical group, Afrizo to sing in concerts across the U.S. in fall 2009. Afrizo sings music from South, Central, and East Africa, drawing on rich African traditions. The group hopes to raise $350,000 for scholarships to send promising young people to college who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.


Official Announcement: HBU to begin MA in Biblical Languages in Aug 2009

Houston Baptist University has announced the inauguration of her newest M.A. program:  the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages (MABL):

“Houston Baptist University will begin offering its tenth master’s degree program, the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages, in August 2009. In addition to permitting students to establish a master’s level proficiency in both Hebrew and Greek, the program will include work in linguistics, hermeneutics and Aramaic.

Students completing the 30 hours in biblical languages required to earn the degree will learn from three nationally and internationally recognized linguists who each work in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. The Master of Arts in Biblical Languages program will equip graduates to read the Bible and related literature in their original languages with an understanding of grammatical, syntactical, semantic, discursive, rhetorical, exegetical and hermeneutical issues.”

Read the whole press release here.

For a basic intro to the MABL, go here.

To apply for the program, go here.

To see program requirements, go here.

For MABL faculty, go here.

Brian Webster has a new Hebrew Grammar out

Daniel and Tonya at Hebrew and Greek Reader just posted a 20-questions interview with Brian Webster of Dallas Theological Seminary.  It sounds very much like he has just gotten published the Hebrew Grammar that *I* was planning to write some day!  🙂  Having also been influenced by Isaac Jerusalmi directly (I studied Syriac with him at Hebrew Union College during my Ph.D. studies  in Louisville at Southern Seminary) and indirectly (through interaction with Russell Fuller and working through his textbook), I found a lot in the interview about his pedagogical approach that jibed with my own.  I’m looking forward to checking it out and seeing if it’s what I was really hoping to write!

All I can say is, “Where do I get my autographed copy?”  Congratulations to Brian Webster, and thanks to D&T for posting a fascinating interview!

Some Humor from James Anderson on “Tweeting”

My friend, James Anderson (one of Reformed Theol. Seminary-Charlotte’s newest professors in philosophy), just posted a hysterically funny post on his blog about Twitter. He constructs 19 different types of arguments on why one should not tweet. Click here for a good chuckle. Bravo, James!


I’ve been inspired to provide one more argument against Twitter to add to James’ post:

Here’s a Wittgensteinian argument:

1. A word’s use determines its meaning.
2. I do not use Twitter.
3. Therefore, Twitter is meaningless.

Yes, I know, I know, this suffers from the fallacy of equivocation (due to differing senses of *use*).  But, in satire, anything goes!

Gutterals: The Gutts Gang

The following is my silly approach to teaching Hebrew students about the gutteral letters. I often try to tell a story (apocryphal, to be sure!) with certain features of Hebrew phonology and orthography as an aid to memory. We often remember data when there’s a memorable story or pattern around which to organize the data. So I talk about things in my Hebrew classes like “The Gutts Gang,” the “Red Ryder Problem,” and the “Borg Problem.” I’ll share these as time goes on. For now, enjoy this news flash that Hebrew is afflicted by gang activity of the most distressing kind. But if we learn how to tame the Gutts Gang, maybe in time we will stop hating Hebrew’s gutts. 🙂

Warning: The Hebrew font is terribly small and my WordPress set-up doesn’t permit me to increase it (as far as I can tell!). So if you want to see this better, increase the viewing size of your browser window by keeping the CONTROL key pressed and clicking on the “+” key until the size is appropriate. To decrease the size, keep the CONTROL key pressed and click on the “-“. Second, my accent marks are not showing up *above* the stressed syllable, but beside it. If anyone knows how to fix this (I use Cardo fonts in my word processor), please let me know!


Ross Lessons 6

Gutterals: The Gutts Gang

Ever heard of the notorious street gangs of Los Angeles–the Bloods and the Crips? Well, there is a bit of “gang activity” in the Hebrew language. This gang runs around, wreaking havoc and causing trouble throughout Hebrew. They’re called the “Gutts Gang,” and they consist of the following gutteral letters:

ר / א ה ח ע

In reality, only the first 4 letters are initiated, full-fledged members of the Gutts. The fifth letter, ר, is a Gutts-wanna-be. Sometimes he acts like a Gutt because he wants to be initiated, but he’s not an official member of the gang.

You can spot one of the Gutts from a mile away. No, it’s not because they wear the colors red or blue. It’s because of the kind of problems they cause for polite, linguistic society (that’s you–the student!). Here’s a short summary of the characteristics of the Gutts: =============================================

The Gutts Gang: ר / א ה ח ע .

1.  All: No DF inside.

2. All except ר: No VS under; instead, takes CS. [SS is OK.]

3. All except ר: Prefer A-class vowels/CS. [But א often prefers segol.]


Let’s talk a little about these characteristics.

1. If you can’t put a DF (dagesh forte) inside a Gutt, then you normally either lengthen the preceding vowel (compensatory lengthening), or you leave the preceding vowel short but treat the syllable as if a DF were present, closing the syllable (implied/virtual doubling). For ex., to make a noun definite, you normally attach הַ to the beginning of the noun, with DF in the first letter of the noun: הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ, the king. But, since עִיר begins with a Gutt, the ע rejects DF and the paṯaḥ of the article compensatorily lengthens: הָעִיר, the city.

2. Sometimes it’s necessary, due to changing stress and syllable structures, to reduce a vowel to a VS (vocal shewa). Since a Gutt can’t take a VS below it, the VS will be replaced with a CS (compound shewa). For example, the plural of עֶ֫בֶד (servant) should be עְבָדִים, with VS under the ע. However, due to #2, we have CS instead: עֲבָדִים.

3. Gutts have a tendency to change the vowels under them, and/or right before them, to a-class. For ex., the normal vowel pattern for singular segolate nouns is the double-segol: מֶ֫לֶךְ (a king), כֶּ֫סֶף (silver, money). But if the middle letter is a Gutt, then the segolate noun’s double-segol pattern changes to double- paṯaḥ: נַ֫עַר (a youth).

You need to memorize these 3 characteristics. We will have opportunity, over the course of the class, to see how these Gutts Gang characteristics affect different grammatical situations. If you learn these now, then later, when we face an “irregularity” related to gutterals, you’ll actually realize that what you’re seeing is not really an exception to what you’re learning. Instead, you will simply be applying something you already know (gutteral characteristics) to new linguistic information.

Welcome, Lingua-Nuts!

This site is devoted primarily to my language students in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  If you’re not one of them but have an interest in biblical languages, you are very welcome here!!  As I teach my Summer Elementary Hebrew course at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Houston) and my Summer Elementary Greek course at Houston Baptist University, I will be uploading new things to the site to aid in language learning.  Please have a look around.  If you find anything among the materials that is inaccurate or contains typos, please let me know asap.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is not really a “blog” type of site where I write regular posts.  I am using it primarily to make language resources available to those who want to learn the biblical languages and read Sacred Scripture.  I will from time to time create entries where I deal with certain grammatical issues, textual questions, or exegetical issues.  These will usually be driven by a desire to have students interact, sharpen their skills, and apply what they’re learning.  But you’re welcome to join in on a conversation if you are a gracious guest and want to stimulate the learning process.

Phillip Marshall, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in Biblical Languages, Houston Baptist University

PS.  If you’re interested in our B.A. or M.A. in Biblical Languages, please visit us here.

Promoting the study of Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, and Hellenistic Greek

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