along with that

Can anyone tell me how to make the Biblical Hebrew noun rwkb — transliterated in my source as “b@kowr” — into a plural? (Alternatively, tell me if Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have plurals.)

Edited to add: Okay, I suspect this word is more often transliterated as bekhor, which makes the plural either bekhorot (the form generally used when talking about the Passover slaughter) or bekhorim (if we’re talking classical Hebrew, which apparently flings around masculine and feminine plurals without much concern for the gender of the original noun). Interesting. This is what happens when it’s two a.m. the night before Thanksgiving: I wander off on impromptu lessons in Hebrew grammar.

Now I need a way to turn the feminine noun chereb into something that could pass for a man’s name.

0 Responses to “along with that”

  1. kizmet_42

    Seraphim is a man’s name. Does that help?

  2. icedrake

    Do you mean “firstborn?” It exists in both masculine and feminine forms, making it בכורות-בכורה (bekhora-bekhorot)
    or בכור-בכורים (bekhor-bekhorim) (and it’s incredibly weird how Chrome changes the key direction in the middle of a right-to-left text… arrows reverse themselves)

    • Marie Brennan

      That’s more or less what I found. (In the context of an interesting discussion about how modern Hebrew only uses the masculine plural, but biblical used both, and for some reason uses the feminine plural for Passover — this was used as the starting point for a linguistic discussion of the evolution of plural formation in Hebrew.)

      For singular nouns, is there a pattern for which endings are generally masculine and which are feminine? If so, could you give me the most common ones? I don’t want to accidentally stick a character with a wrong-gendered-looking name.

      • icedrake

        Modern Hebrew only uses the masculine plural? Could you point me at the link? Because if they’re talking about the language in general, that’s incorrect.

        As for patterns… I’m tempted to say there isn’t one. Each noun in Hebrew, like in English, is gendered, except Hebrew does not have a neuter gender.
        But basically, you’re supposed to know what gender each noun is. Hebrew’s big into the whole memorization thing 🙂

        For example, the only somewhat consistent rule I can think of is that if a noun ends in “a,” it’s most likely feminine. The reverse, however, is not true.
        “Shulhan-Shulhanot” (table)
        “Ahron-Ahronot” (closet). To confuse the matter more, Ahron is a male name. My middle school gym teacher sure resembled a massive freestanding closet, come to think of it… Though many people would, from my then-4ft. height.

        I can’t think of any examples going in direct counter to that one rule at the moment, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

        If you want, I can do a sanity check on any particular names you have in mind. I also can ping a practicing linguist — she’s a better source of rule-based information, anyway.

        • dr_whom

          Pretty sure she just meant modern Hebrew doesn’t use the feminine plural for “bekhor”.

          I’m also pretty sure that “shulhan” and “aron” are both masculine nouns in Hebrew, even though they take the plural ending “-ot”. The name is “Aharon”, not “aron”.

          And English nouns don’t have gender.

          • icedrake

            I should’ve tried to remember this a bit more. You’re right about shulhan and aron being male; I stand corrected.

            The name was, in fact, as I originally stated.

            You’re right; English nouns don’t. I was thinking of Russian, and my mental wires crossed.

          • Marie Brennan

            1. Yes.

            2. That was more or less the topic of the article I read, which posited that Hebrew used to have a wide array of non-gendered pluralizations, of which -im and -ot have gradually been winning out and acquiring gender associations.

            3. Right.

          • dr_whom

            Hmm. I believe that even in Ancient Hebrew, there were only two plural endings, “-im” and “-ot” (plus a dual “-ayim”, which also survives in Modern Hebrew); and on adjectives and derived nouns, at least, “-im” was the regular masculine plural ending and “-ot” the regular feminine. So if Hebrew ever had a wider variety of plural endings, which is very likely, it was before the earliest texts recognizable as Hebrew.

          • Marie Brennan

            I think that was what he meant, yes.

      • errol_q_spunkle

        noun endings, etc.

        Huh…that’s a tough one. Things that end with a “hay” are usually feminine, although obviously not always. Things that end with a consonant sound tend to be masculine more often than not. I am not sure, but I think things that end with a “taf” like “machberet” are often feminine as well. But, don’t quote me on that.

        Anything feminine, ending should be “ot”, and masculine, should be “im”. (There are plenty of exceptions, but as a rule, just stick with that.

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