Author Topic: The mystery of "would"  (Read 1648 times)

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Offline Southern Noachide

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The mystery of "would"
« on: January 18, 2019, 02:35:12 PM »
I know I haven't posted here in a long time, and I apologize for that.

I have a lifelong fascination with languages but so far (and I'm now 61) have had absolutely no success with any.  My one and only success in learning another language has been with Biblical Hebrew, which is a textual language and thus learned and used in a way completely different from a living, spoken language.  My Bibliophilia (bordering on Bibliomania) made Biblical Hebrew fairly easy for me to learn.  I thought at the time that this would give me a leg up in learning Israeli Hebrew.  I took one course and audited a few more (as well as tried numerous books and cassettes), and while I didn't have to learn the verb conjugations from scratch, all in all I was extremely frustrated.

I found the inductive method of learning extremely difficult, if not impossible (textual languages are learned deductively).  Also, there is a big difference between a language that exists on paper (and is appropriated visually) from one that whizzes by one's ear at a zillion miles an hour.  I noticed that even when a word I was familiar with from the Bible was spoken I couldn't understand it.  Then there's the fact that Biblical Hebrew has a strictly limited vocabulary while any living language has literally an infinite vocabulary.

But now to the subject of this post: in all the classes I have taken or audited, in all the books I have read or tapes I have listened to, there is one question that so far I have been unable to fine answered anywhere.  That is, how does one express what one "would" do if one were able?  All I can do is guess.  Let me give a typical example (and please be aware that I don't have Hebrew in my keyboard, so everything will be transliterated):

"I would help you if I could."

How does one express such a thing in Hebrew?  I have been told some things and have guessed at others, but I simply so far have not found the definitive answer.

Here are just a few ways that **might** be used to translate the above phrase:

Hayiti `ozer lekha 'illu hayiti yakhol.

Hayiti `ozer lekha 'illu 'ani yakhol.

Hayiti `ozer lekha 'illu 'ukhal.

'E`ezor lekha 'illu 'ukhal.

Mi yiten e`ezor lekha!

Halvai(?) she 'e`ezor lekha!

'Ani rotze she yakholti/'ukhal/hayiti yakhol le`ezor lekha.

Now I have no idea which, if any, of the above methods is the correct way for expressing what one "would" do were it possible.  I know that "would" in the past ("this is what I would do") is expressed by the combination of the appropriate past form of "lihyot" plus the present participle of the verb (Hayiti mitpallel kol boqer, eg).  But is this the same way to express what one "would" do in the future???

As I am quite isolated from any Jewish community not on the Internet, I realize I really should take advantage of this section of the JTF forum.  I will try to use it more often from now on and ask everyone's forgiveness for ignoring it for so long.

Thank you all.

Online Hrvatski Noahid

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Re: The mystery of "would"
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2019, 03:46:25 AM »
Would is a modal verb. If Hebrew does not have modal verbs, there is no perfect translation. I think you need the conditional, but I am not sure.



Offline Southern Noachide

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Re: The mystery of "would"
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2019, 10:41:44 AM »
Would is a modal verb. If Hebrew does not have modal verbs, there is no perfect translation. I think you need the conditional, but I am not sure.

Thank you, dear friend.  Chaim has privately told me how the sentence would be expressed, so that's good.  But yes, Hebrew can take a lot of words to say something that in English takes much fewer (is that what they call "periphrastic?").  This is ironic since Biblical/Mishnaic/Rabbinic Hebrew can say in just a few words what takes many more words to say in English (eg, "qal vachomer").

I have been fascinated by languages my entire life.  Even as a kid I would read the encyclopedia and wish I could see or hear such exotic languages as Albanian, Basque, Mongolian, etc.  One of the best thing about the Internet is that now I can see how just about any language looks when written *and* hear what it sounds like.

I go into and out of "kicks" (I always have) and I'm just coming out of another language "kick" where I've been watching videos about other languages.  This  inspired me to try learning Israeli Hebrew again.  I spent much of yesterday studying one of my books which is very well-written and teaches through reading and writing, which is how I learned Biblical Hebrew.  The problem: even if I systematically worked through the whole book I still wouldn't be able to speak Hebrew!  I took Spanish courses in high school that were based on this same principal but despite being able to translate on paper and making good grades, I was still totally unable to speak Spanish!  Evidently I am simply unable to learn the way living languages must be learned.  I prefer deductive to inductive learning, but I am finding out that deductive learning doesn't teach you how to speak a language--only how to translate it on paper.  Even reading aloud the Hebrew lessons in this book is extremely difficult for me.  Whenever I try I stumble and stutter something terrible.  This contrasts with Biblical Hebrew which I can read pretty fast.

I really don't know what the problem is.  Maybe it's because I'm somewhere on the autistic spectrum.  Or perhaps it's because I don't have the requisite patience (and at 61 I don't have much time left) or perhaps it's just laziness.

What I really need to do is to think in Hebrew.  The problem here, is when one learns inductively one first learns expressions for which I have absolutely no use.  I don't conduct very many conversations with anyone to tell the truth, and I certainly don't order stuff in restaurants.  My mother and I are basically homebound.  Any attempt to begin learning are frustrating because they always deal with how to say things I'm probably never going to say.

One blessing/curse of being on the spectrum is that despite my provincial background I nevertheless find myself constantly Thinking Profound Thoughts which run continuously in the background of my mind, and I simply no of any way to think these thoughts in Hebrew.  Most language lessons don't teach how to think about conceptual things in the new language.  It's always "how are you today?" or "I would like to order some coffee" or some such.  I never think these things!

The simplest explanation may simply be that because I learned Biblical first I don't have the patience to start with stuff I already know, yet I can never find where precisely to "rejoin" the lessons later.  I have heard that learning Israeli first makes Biblical harder, but I have also told the reverse isn't true.  It seems to be true for me.

But in a few days I'll be off this kick altogether and obsessing about something else altogether.  Maybe that's the problem.

Sorry to be so long-winded.  How do I say all this in Hebrew??? 

Online Hrvatski Noahid

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Re: The mystery of "would"
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2019, 02:37:57 PM »
Dear friend, I don't speak fluent Hebrew, but some things are obvious to me from general linguistics.

Yes, periphrastic means "expressed in two or more words rather than by an inflected form of one." https://www.dictionary.com/browse/periphrastic

Periphrastic forms are longer and weaker. Nevertheless, some periphrastic forms are better than inflected forms for complicated reasons. For example, Croatian has a periphrastic perfect tense formed with perfective and imperfective verbs. This allows Croatian to express all past actions with the perfect tense.

I know how you feel. Linguistics is one of my main secular interests. I learned Spanish for three years in high school, but it was incredibly hard. I hate the way languages are taught. You do learn useless things! 

JTF is the best place for Thinking Profound Thoughts. I learned that JTFers do not fear the dark. The dark fears JTFers!   
 


 

Offline Southern Noachide

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Re: The mystery of "would"
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2019, 06:21:57 PM »
Dear friend, I don't speak fluent Hebrew, but some things are obvious to me from general linguistics.

Yes, periphrastic means "expressed in two or more words rather than by an inflected form of one." https://www.dictionary.com/browse/periphrastic

Periphrastic forms are longer and weaker. Nevertheless, some periphrastic forms are better than inflected forms for complicated reasons. For example, Croatian has a periphrastic perfect tense formed with perfective and imperfective verbs. This allows Croatian to express all past actions with the perfect tense.

I know how you feel. Linguistics is one of my main secular interests. I learned Spanish for three years in high school, but it was incredibly hard. I hate the way languages are taught. You do learn useless things! 

JTF is the best place for Thinking Profound Thoughts. I learned that JTFers do not fear the dark. The dark fears JTFers!

 ;D