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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Started learning the Hebrew alphabet for kicks -- I suspect it is really work avoidance (aka Resistance!) . It is very challenging, though -- I have a pretty good eye for little visual details (calligraphy), an ability to make truly shocking noises with my throat when the need arises (high school drama), and a degree which included phonology, dialectology and comparative linguistics, and I /still/ have a dickens of a time telling my 'Aleph from my elbow! It's great though -- like a really challenging puzzle. What's especially difficult -- besides the fact that the letters are so different from anything European and the fact that many of them look almost identical -- is that the relationship between the letters and sounds seems so counterintuitive. This is of course only because we are essentially brainwashed from an early age to believe that there is a necessary connection between letters and their sounds -- in OUR language, of course. Naturally all other languages are just /dumb/ (goes the thinking). All the stranger an attitude inspeakers of English, a language which has a seemingly endless lack of respect for anything resembling consistency.

In reality letters (of any alphabet) and their sounds have a completely arbitrary relationship, and it is fun to tackle a system so foreign that one is confronted with this fact again and again.
I mean, how can it be that upon this little tail-y thing depends the difference between a 'b' and a 'k'? How can this dumb little dot make an 'f' sound like a 'p'? How can a molecule-sized difference in length turn a perfectly good 'w' into an 'n', but /only at the end of a word/!? Arrrrrrgh!

And I haven't even attempted the vowel system yet. In my naivete I thought there wasn't one. Sigh.

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