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Proverbs and Proverbial Language: Post-Biblical Period

(2,964 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
A proverb is a common, pithy, and succinct statement which has been current in a language, usually for generations, and which encompasses daily experiences as brief ‘words of wisdom’. This genre is commonly associated with the ethos and folklore of a certain society, although parallel proverbs are found even in remote cultures, which have never been in contact with each other. Proverbs are easily registered in people’s minds, regardless of their upbringing and social background, and are often use…

Synonym: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,768 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
1. Introduction Although most of the biblical lexicon is used in Rabbinic Hebrew, either as part of the latter’s own vocabulary or in reference to biblical passages, i.e., quotations or allusions, many biblical words and phrases do not appear in the Mishnah, in either of the Talmuds, in the midrashim, or in other Rabbinical works. Moreover, we may assume that the texts that have reached us do not contain the complete linguistic wealth of Hebrew used at the time, but only the vocabulary the writers of the texts required for their writings, so t…

Numerals: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(2,742 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Numerals are the numbers used for counting or arranging things, usually by order of priority. There are four types of numbers: (1) cardinal; (2) ordinal; (3) fractions; (4) double or multiple. Biblical Hebrew has all these types and the conventions for their use are usually adhered to, with certain exceptions. 1. Cardinal Numbers Numeral masc. abs. fem. abs. masc. const. fem. const. 1 אֶחָד ʾ εḥā̊ḏ אַחַת ʾahaṯ אַחַד ʾaḥaḏ אַחַת ʾahaṯ 2 שְׁנַיִם šənayim שְׁתַּיִם šətayim שְׁנֵי šənē שְׁתֵּי šətē 3 שְׁלֹשָׁה šəlōšå̄ שָׁלֹשׁ šā̊lōš שְׁלֹשֶׁת šəlōšεṯ שְׁלֹשׁ šəlōš 4 אַרְבָּעָה ʾarbā̊ʿå̄ אַרְבַּע ʾarbaʿ אַרְבַּעַת ʾarb…

Obsolete Meanings and Words

(1,363 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Obsolete meaning refers to the case of a word which had more than one meaning, but which, in the course of time ‘lost’ one of its meanings, while obsolete word refers to an archaic word which is no longer used. Like most languages, Hebrew, too, has, over the years, ‘lost’ both meanings and words, because they have ceased to be used orally and/or in writing. That is to say, certain meanings and words did not pass from the stratum of the language in which they were current into succeeding strata of the language. Thus, many biblical and …

Idioms: General Overview

(3,100 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
1. Introduction An idiom (Hebrew אידיום ʾidiom, ניב niv, בטוי biṭuy, מטבע לשון maṭbeaʿ lašon) is a fixed combination in which the components do not retain their original meanings, but jointly create a new sense. An idiom differs from a Collocation in that the components of the latter retain their original meanings. The branch of phraseology that deals with the study of idioms is called idiomatics or idiomaticity. For example, combinations such as red herring, to kick the bucket, to poke one’s nose into, once they are used in the sense of deception, die, and interfere, respectively, are co…


(901 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Metathesis is a linguistic process which involves changes in the position of consonants or vowels in a word. This process may reflect ‘convenience of articulation’, childhood language development (e.g., hospital > hopsital), speech disorder, perhaps as a result of an injury or a stroke (aphasia or dysphasia), or a mistake (e.g., ask > aks). Such a transposition in European languages is mainly the result of historical processes which brought about only one form (e.g., Old English waeps and brid > late English wasp and bird, respectively), or yielded two separate words that share…

Agreement: Rabbinic Hebrew

(1,489 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Though the morphological marking of person, gender, and number in Rabbinic Hebrew largely complies with the norms of the biblical grammatical system, Rabbinic Hebrew sometimes deviates from the conventions of Biblical Hebrew with respect to agreement. 1. Pronouns and Pronominal Suffixes The biblical personal pronouns, pronominal suffixes, and verbal prefixes and suffixes (with the exception of the feminine plural in the imperfect and the imperative, which were amalgamated with the masculine plural) are generally used in Rabbinic Hebrew…

Collocation: Modern Hebrew

(2,433 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
1. Definition The term collocation refers to two or more words which habitually associate in a lexical bond while retaining their individual meanings. Thus, the words precious and stone, when used together mean ‘gem, piece of jewelry’. The cohesion of collocations is so strong that it does not usually allow for substitution or reversibility of components. Thus, we speak of heavy snow but not weighty snow, heart attack but not heart assail, fish and chips but not chips and fish, and to and fro but not fro and to. The ability of words to collocate is termed ‘collocability’. Collocabi…

Word Order: Rabbinic Hebrew

(2,876 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Although Rabbinic Hebrew shares many syntactical structures with Biblical Hebrew, a large number of sentences differ from the biblical model. However, as the structures of many sentences are variegated, the following discussion deals only with the most common types in Rabbinic Hebrew. Special cases are found in the literature mentioned in the References section. Most languages, including Hebrew, single out five main types of sentences: (1) simple; (2) inclusive; (3) compound; (4) complex; and (5) periodic. 1. The Simple Sentence The simple sentence is regarded ‘simple’ becau…


(380 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Biblical Hebrew preserves only residues of the dual, i.e., the יִם ַ  - - ayim suffix added to certain substantives, e.g., to numerals (שְׁנַיִם šənayim ‘two [m]’, מָאתַיִם må̄ṯayim ‘two-hundred’, אַלְפַּיִם ʾalpayim ‘two thousand’) and to nouns denoting time (יוֹמַיִם yōmayim ‘two days’, שְׁנָתַיִם šənå̄ṯayim ‘two years’) and other units of measure. Also nouns consisting of two parts, like מֹאזְנַיִם mōznayim ‘balance/scale consisting of two parts’, may be considered to be real duals, although they are not opposed to either a singular or a plural, because, theoret…


(78 words)

Author(s): Shivtiel, Avihai
Phraseology is a branch of linguistics that deals with fixed combinations of words that do not normally allow any changes in their structure by means of substitution or reversibility of their components. Phraseology distinguishes between two main types of combinations Collocation and Idiom. To these one may add a third type of fixed combination, viz. Proverb, which is usually studied as part of folklore, but may also be discussed linguistically. Avihai Shivtiel (Emeritus, University of Leeds)