My question is roots in Hebrew In the learning process, to what extent is important to identify roots (biliteral, triliteral, quadriliteral) as elementary part of a word? Are there Hebrew dictionaries that contain root along with relevant words? Thanks.
Aug 25, 2014 2:08 PM
Answers · 17
It is very important to be able to identify roots in my opinion. Combining the root with the correct weight, allows to conjugate verbs easily and correctly, and especially to differenciate between similar words which may have a similar conjugation
August 25, 2014
Hi Niv, it might not be clear in English what you mean by "weight". I think that you translated the word "mishkal" from Hebrew, right? Some categories of words in Hebrew have the same form, for example mikdash, migdal, misgad, mikve etc. The initial "mem" indicates "place of" and the root the essence of the word. For example - מקדש a temple = place of קדוש holiness, מגדל tower = place of גדול big, and so on. Names of illnesses have the form gazezet, shachefet, tsahevet, etc. For example if you know that צהוב is yellow, and you know the form for illnesses in general, then you can guess that צהבת is the yellow illness, i.e. jaundice, and that. אדמת is the red illness, rubella. If you know the roots you can also make connections between words with the same root: For example סוד = secret (noun) , להסתודד (reflexive/reciprocal verb form) = to exchange whispered secrets. These are just a few examples, but the general idea is pervasive in the Hebrew language, and understanding how the roots work and being able to identify them will cut in half your learning effort. There is a dictionary called the Maskilon, which is organised by roots. It is partially on line for free: I can also recommend the "Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew". It will help with learning Modern Hebrew too. For example בגד item of clothing and בגידה betrayal, treachery, share the same root. In this dictionary, it gives the essence of the root ב-ג-ד which is "cover, present outer appearance". And thus the connection between clothing and a false outer appearance becomes clear. Sorry I got a bit carried away as it's such an interesting topic:)
August 25, 2014
Often you cannot guess what a word means by the root, but the root can help you to remember it. So for instance להגדיר means "to define." It is related to גדר, "fence." So you can think of defining a word as fencing in its meaning. Or you might remember לפנות, turn to, because it is related to פנים, "face." You can take this too far, though. You might look at צלחת, "plate," and try to connect it to להצליח, "succeed." If you see the logic in this, I commend you, but sometimes I think there really is no connection, or it has been lost. Sometimes there is a single root that has two completely different meanings, though. The classic example is ספר. In some words, this relates to "telling," like סיפור and סיפרות. But in other words it relates to cutting hair, like תספורת and מספרה. So you have to be careful, because the root can sometimes deceive you, as well.
September 19, 2014
Thanks for the exhaustive answers to everyone. I am new to Hebrew but would like to understand it better from a grammatical standpoint, so please forgive me if any errors. For example, let me tell what kind of logic I see behind the mentioned example "בגד item of clothing vs בגידה betrayal, treachery". בגד is an item of clothing, i.e. something that (presents outer appearance) by covering (hiding) the inner, and real, base. Thus, בגידה is a treachery, in the sense that when some inner, and real, base of things is intentionally or unintentionally covered (hidden), thus causing a violation of allegiance or and confidence (i.e. violation of how the things are in their base, in real condition and not covered). If this "logic" of explanation is OK, then I would like to know to what extent the whole Hebrew vocabulary can be explained using such approach? I mean are there cases when this kind of logic does not work in correlating a root to meaning of words that contain it? Thank you.
August 25, 2014
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