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Nehemia Gordon discovered this quote, and others.

The first known grammar of Hebrew was written by the 10th century Rabbi Eli Ben Judah the Nazirite. He figured out the rules of Hebrew by studying the Bible. He then went to Tiberias to make sure he had gotten the rules right by listening to people speak! Here's the quotation:

"I investigated and researched at length and began to investigate Scripture and the spoken language and it became clear after much toil and intensive investigation in which I checked and drew analogies in this matter from Scripture and from the spoken language. I used to sit at length in the squares and streets of the city of Tiberias listening to the speech of the simple people and of the masses investigating the language expressed in speech to see if it contradicted any of the rules which I determined or whether anything was lacking from what I had deduced."

-Eli ben Yehudah the Nazirite, “Principles of the Hebrew Language”, 10th century, published by Nehemiah Alony, Leshonenu 34 pp. 98–101
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Masoretes study in Tiberias - the living language of Hebrew
http://www.purebibleforum.com/showthread.php?1274-Masoretes-study-in-Tiberias-the-living-language-of-Hebrew