Known or Considered

Cover72. How the Hebrew Language Grew by Edward Horowitz

This had the potential to be a really interesting book, about the history of Hebrew as a language for the everyday, then religious use, and then the development into a modern language. If that weren’t what the author meant to imply by the title, then his thoughts (presented as opinion) on how the language works and some of its many quirks as spoken in 1960 (and yes, it’s a new enough modern language that change is noticeable at least in attitudes towards it since then) are often fascinating, if decidedly arguable rather than definitive. Unfortunately the book rather falls down on that very point. Written by a schoolteacher, each chapter, many of which contain pure speculation on his part, is ended with a series of questions expecting a rote repitition of the purported facts presented in the text.

Horowitz quite obviously does know Hebrew very well indeed, and some of his suppositions are quite fascinating, even plausible. Others unfortunately make what seems to me little or no linguistic sense. I could have really enjoyed this as an academic argument, where the reader is invited to pick holes and the author attempts to defend his thesis. Presenting his thoughts as facts, however, put me off entirely, as it did my DH. He gave up on the book one or two chapters in. I finished it, more for the vocabularly presented than for anything else.

I should point out that DH got this book several years ago because he thought it would be a language history. It was definitely not recommended by my course.


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