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ART. V. - A Manual Hebrew Grammar for the use of
Beginners. By J. Seixas. Andover. Flagg, Gould, & Newman. 1833. pp. 54.
Judah Monis, a converted Jew, for a large part of the last century Hebrew instructer in Harvard University, prepared a small Hebrew Grammar, adapted to convey in a simple, intelligible form all necessary elementary instruction. His arrangement is natural, his examples are well chosen, and his book is entirely free from those unprofitable details by which an author often aims to convey this simple idea ::“1 am a marvellously learned man.” Professors Sewall and Willard followed the example of their predecessor ; and the Hebrew Grammar of the latter we deemed (until we saw that of Seixas) the best that had appeared in this country, and were very solicitous that it should be republished for the use of the University. But it has for several years been superseded by Professor Stuart's Grammar, - a work redolent with Oriental learning, but marked by many great faults, some of which we beg leave to enumerate.
And in the first place, the student, on opening Nr. Stuart's Grammar, is appalled by the barbarous orthography of the names of Hebrew letters and characters, in order to acquire which he is obliged to tune bis voice to an entirely new pronunciation of the elements of his mother tongue,
- nay, to annex sounds to combinations of letters which no mortal ever sounded before. For instance, the names of three of the vowel points which Seixas writes and Stuart pronounces Kaumets, Kibboots and Kheerek, Stuart writes Qamets, Qibbuts and Hhireq. Then Stuart's systein of Hebrew pronunciation is very defective. He gives no definite direction for sounding the letter V, makes no practicable distinction between the pronunciation of 17 and n (the former of which he represents by h, the latter by hh), and attaches to several of the aspirated consonants sounds but remotely allied to those attached to the same letters when dageshed. His system of the vowel points is complicated and obscure. It was rendered peculiarly so in his first two editions by the introduction of a class of medial vowels, which differed not materially in sound or position from the corresponding long vowels. In the last edition we notice VOL. XV. - N. S. VOL. X. NO. I.
several redundancies in the table of the vowel points, though the medial vowels are merged in the long. We farther dislike Mr. Stuart’s book on account of its style. He has been too exclusively conversant with other tongues, to write English concisely, purely, or even lucidly. He in this Grammar uses fewer foreign words than in his other works ; but his idioms are all foreign. He multiplies technical terms unnecessarily. Where the point to be illustrated is very manifest, he obscures it by his prolixity, and seldom permits himself to write concisely except where the difficulty of the topic would demand diffuseness. His Grammar is also overloaded with Masoretic lore. It contains a great deal which none but the thorough Hebrew scholar can understand, and a great deal that rests on mere hypothesis; and all this is so blended with the elementary and indubitable principles, that it would require a well practised eye to make the necessary discriminations. The nouns, as arranged in Stuart's Grammar, could never be mastered by a tyro; and we doubt whether any man, but its author, ever retained in memory his system of declensions. 'He divides the nouns into thirteen declensions, and this not on any general principle of subdivision, not on thirteen definite affinities, but on partial and vague resemblances. The fact is, that there is no ground whatever for the division of Hebrew nouns into declensions, unless we should make a declension for every five or six nouns.
But the greatest objection to Mr. Stuart's Grammar is its inaccuracies, which are numerous in the body of the work, and from which even the long list of errata is not free. While therefore we value this work as a Thesaurus of philological learning, we cannot recommend it as a manual for beginners.
A book worthy of all commendation as a manual we are glad to see issued from the Andover press. It bears the name of a gentleman of Jewish parentage, to whose skill in the language of his fathers several hundred pupils are ready to bear witness. He modestly expresses a doubt whether his Grammar is competent to impart a good knowledge of Hebrew without an instructer. We have entertained a similar doubt with respect to every other Grammar that we have seen ; but with no other aid than this a man of mature mind might, in our opinion, make himself a good Hebrew scholar
In the book before us conciseness of style, precision of statement, and a natural arrangement seem to have been the author's aim. He discriminates in pronunciation between some of those consonants that usually bear the same sound, and are consequently interchanged in the memory of the student. There still however remain three pairs of consonants which cannot be discriminated in pronunciation, viz. ♡ and m, 3 and p, D and v. Since grammarians ordinarily assume the right of adjusting the pronunciation of a dead language to the convenience of its living readers, we would humbly suggest the propriety of distinguishing these letters from each other in sound as well as shape. To this end we would propose that both and n be pronounced like th; p like qu, and both w and i like sh. Then, with Seixas's pronunciation of the other consonants, every student would be able to spell correctly any word the sound of which he remembered.
Seixas divides the eight vowels into three long, three short, and two (Kaumets and Kheerek) common. Stuart divides the same vowels into A, E and O classes, to two of which two of the vowels belong; and makes three long and five common vowels, giying very prolix and intangible rules for ascertaining whether these latter in any particular position be long or short. Seixas's table of the vowels occupies half a page, and his additional remarks on them nearly a page ; and he makes the whole system perfectly clear. Stuart occupies a dozen pages or more upon them; and the pupil whom his teacher inconsiderately tasks to peruse these pages, is strongly moved to throw up Hebrew in despair.
Seixas attempts no division of the nouns; but lays down distinctly the principles on which the vowel points are changed or fall away, leaving the pupil to apply those principles to the construct and suffix states of nouns.
We like the mode in which our author has arranged the paradigms of nouns and verbs; and would recommend it in the construction of grammars for any language. The usual practice is to take some simple ground-form, and decline it through each case, number, gender, or person, writing under each the entire word. Seixas in declining indicates by a dash the place occupied by the letters of the ground-form, and writes only the preformative or sufformative letters appropriate to the case, number, gender, or person. The following paradigm of the future tense of the regular verb will serve as an example.
"SINGULAR. (KAL.) Paragogic Letters.
he visited. · he shall or will, let him, it, may he, it.
" let her, thou shalt,
By a paradigm like this a learner will be able to perceive at the first glance what changes must be made in any groundform whatever to give it a particular meaning, and can mentally fill the blank with one ground-form after another. But where this blank is filled, it requires a two-fold operation to decline a new word; for the learner must mentally expunge the letters appertaining to his example, and then fill this imagined void by the new ground-forin, - an operation in which, as every teacher knows, practice rarely makes perfect.
Notwithstanding the small compass within which this Grammar is comprised, we find nothing omitted which ought to be inserted, and nothing inserted which is not correctly and clearly expressed. But little is said of the syntax of the language, the usual rules of which are not needed by one who is familiar with the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and would be useless to any one else. With the exception of such rules and much nugatory Masoretic lore, the whole substance of Stuart's large Grammar is contained in this very small one. An additional value is given to this manual by two supplementary tables, one containing the Imperatives, and Infinitives of Defective Verbs, and the other an alphabetical list of Peculiar and Anomalous Forms found in the Hebrew Bible.
"Those who read this work,” says our author in his Preface “ will doubtless wonder at, or find fault with, the singular arrangements of the rules; but although I do not follow the order of philosophy, yet I follow, as it seems to me, the order of
nature; or perhaps I should say, the order which I prefer for my pupils." - p. iii.
In accordance with this principle, Mr. Seixas places nouns before verbs in bis Grammar, though in the Hebrew the former are generally derived from the latter. In accordance with the same, he scatters orthographical rules through the whole of his book, instead of rolling them together into an insurmountable mass at its very threshold. This we deem an invaluable principle in the preparation of literary and scientific text-books. Let every elementary work commence with those facts or reasonings which the pupil can understand most easily; let these be followed not by detached facts or reasonings, but by such as he can combine with the preceding; and let the work be so laid out, that, if the pupil should suspend his study at the end of any one of the subdivisions, the part he may have studied shall be a complete whole, and shall have given him thorough and connected information on some aliquot part of the whole subject. This mode of preparing text-books would usher in a new era upon our schools and colleges.
In conclusion, we give the book before us our unqualified commendation, and its author our hearty thanks for his services to the cause of Biblical learning.
Art. VI.-Memoirs of the late Reverend Thomas BEL
SHAM, a brief Notice of his published Works, copious Extracts from his Diary, together with Letters to und from his Friends and Correspondents. By John Wil
London. 1833. 8vo. pp. 776.
Mr. Belsham's name became generally known in this country in 1815 by the publication here of the account of American Unitarianisın given in his Memoirs of Lindsey. It was the practice of the orthodox at that time, and for some years afterwards, to cull out of the works of English Unitarians, and particularly of this „writer, offensive and objectionable passages, garbling then where it was necessary, and to represent these as affording a fair specimen of the doctrines held by the liberal churches in Boston and its vicinity, This course had the effect to propagate among the ill-inform