Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Download Dickdook Leshon Gnebreet - דקדוק לשון עברית

I once posted a bit about Harvard's first instructor of Hebrew in the 18th century, Judah Monis. link

At English Hebraica I posted an image of his tombstone. link

Monis was sort of a pathetic figure. Of Italian or North African birth, after (possibly) serving for a short time as a rabbi in a Long Island congregation he accepted a post teaching Hebrew at Harvard in 1722 and converted to Christianity (a necessary precondition to the appointment). There is some difference of opinion as to what the evidence shows about the sincerity of his conversion, but there is no doubt that he was never fully accepted by his peers and students (who couldn't stand him, his 100 page book which they had to copy by hand or the course he taught).

His book is unusual and a very interesting historical document. I don't think you can easily acquire a copy, so here is one I uploaded of Dickdook Leshon Gnebreet: A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue (Boston, 1735) (דקדוק לשון עברית). (to download: click, not right click, the link. A new page loads and you'll need to wait a few seconds to download)

Re: Gnebreet/ עברית; although the learned readers fully understand his unusual transliteration of the letter ע in עברית, and although this point has been discussed on my blogs before, it would not be inappropriate to mention that Western Sepharadim and Italian Jews pronounced the ע as /ng/ (or sometimes /gn/, as in signor...I think). Although this pronunciation seems uncommon today, to the English speaking Jews of the 18th century this was ubiquitous. A charming remnant from the early 20th century remains at the end of the Hertz Chumash where the transliteration scheme is spelled out (pg 1053 in the edition I have). In explaining why the Chumash eschews various possible transliterations of Hebrew words it says

"In the transliteration of Hebrew words into English (Shema, tzedakah, and haftorah, and not Shema` or Shemang, sedaqah and haphtarah), the aim is not to bewilder the ordinary lay reader, for whom this work is primarily intended."

Monis' grammar ends with a most unusual page (click to enlarge):

For more info about Monis see

George Alexander Kohut "Judah Monis, M.A., the First Instructor in Hebrew at Harvard University (1683-1764)" American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Jul., 1898), pp. 217-226

God's Sacred Tongue: Hebrew and the American Imagination by Shalom Goldman

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