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They are linguistic terms that normally give most people a headache. However, in the blog below, they manage to sound completely harmless! Ulpan Aviv director, Gil Pentzak introduces Hebrew morphology and agreement.

Scared of Hebrew Grammar? Hebrew Morphology Made Simple

Morphology is the field in linguistics, which deals with breaking down a word into its smallest individual units, each with its individual meaning. A morpheme is the most basic linguistic unit, the smallest meaningful element of speech or writing. For example: let us consider the word 'uncomfortable', in English. The word is combined out of three morphemes;
A sentence in a language with a rich morphological system uses comparatively fewer words in any given sentence, than that of a language with a poorer morphological system.

Hebrew Morphology
Hebrew is a language with a rich morphological system. In many instances a single word in Hebrew, may be considered as a full sentence. For example:

A Hebrew student must recognize this fact, thus giving him/her a better understanding of what is being communicated to him/her. A natural ‘knock-on’ effect of this will be the student’s ability to converse more comfortably and accurately. We find this aspect of learning with all linguistic categories; nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc. Each linguistic feature (gender, number, tense) has its own morpheme to end with. Making sentences rhyme in Hebrew, is not, therefore, such a complicated task…

Let us take the masculine-plural suffix (morpheme) in present tense:

Now let us apply the form in a real sentence: "Good children eat breakfast, everyday". In Hebrew, all components of the sentence must agree with one another. Meaning, if we are to start our sentence with a masculine-plural noun (subject), we need to ensure that all of the other components, (adjectives, verbs, etc) that relate to that noun also appear in the masculine-plural form. In other words, we need to make sure that all components of the sentence ‘connect’ to one another by using the same morpheme. Only when sentences are written in the masculine-singular form, are there no suffixes. For example:

There are nouns in Hebrew that are irregular with regard to gender and number. For example; we find nouns that are masculine but when used in the plural form, they take the feminine-plural suffix (morpheme). This does not however, mean that the noun has changed its' gender. When describing such nouns in their plural form, we would still use the masculine-plural suffix (morpheme). For example:

When we come to describing 'tables' in Hebrew for example, as being good, we are obliged to use the masculine-plural suffix, even though there doesn’t seem to be any agreement:

Feeling comfortable using these structures is very much a matter of exposure and of course, the students’ access to good instructors when learning Hebrew.

Gil Pentzak
Gil Pentzak is a director of Ulpan Aviv - a private Ulpan program, based in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, which specializes in teaching Hebrew to English speakers. Ulpan Aviv uses a one-to-one method for its courses, and tailors its curriculums to the needs of each individual student.

For more information call: 02-5672050, or email: office@ulpanaviv.com; Web: www.ulpanaviv.com


Did you know?

Amongst its many unique features, 'English Hebrew by Subject', our popular book and 12-hour audio cd, can help you learn which Hebrew words have an irregular plural form, including maculine words that take on a feminine suffix and vice versa. Next to these irregular nouns the correct plural form is listed in brackets, so that when you learn that word, or construct a sentence using it, you will know how to use it in plural, and how to attach the correct suffix to the adjectives and verbs that follow (as with the examples Gil mentioned above).

What other unique features of 'English Hebrew by Subject' can help you learn and improve your Hebrew?
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