[b-hebrew] "Shaf`el" in Hebrew?
yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Feb 5 18:13:42 EST 2005
Karl Randolph wrote:
> > In modern Hebrew, we have a great many
> > quadratic verbs with t as the first letter and related semantically to
> > other verb forms. ... Perhaps extensive Akkadian influence
> > in the ANE created a similar situation in ancient times.
> We are not discussing modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew is a far different
> language. Modern Hebrew possesses many similarities because of its
> history. The rest is speculation.
Both Biblical and Modern Hebrew are Semitic languages. Both have a
tendency to fit foreign words into specific verb or noun forms that are natural
to the language. Simply saying "Modern Hebrew is a far different language"
does not allow you to learn about similar processes that might have taken
in the language. Yes, Biblical Hebrew is a far different language. It amazes
me how every time I think I have some verse completely figured out, I find
another detail I missed. I don't deny it. But arguing that a Shafel could have
formed out of foreign Akkadian influence on Hebrew, creating a small set
of quadratic roots beginning with $ that have a causitive relationship to the
three letter roots due, in part, to Akkadian and Hebrew's shared history as
Semitic language, and showing as an example the case of Hebrew verbal
prefix ti- as a way a small verb form might be created, is an appropriate
analogy, in my opinion. And it's not unwarranted speculation.
> Again, I ask if you are using modern, Northern European and American
> concept of "pitch"? I just checked Wikipedia
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_%28resin%29 which stated the same as
> which I thought is the full understanding of the noun, that it refers also to
> that which is not black because it was derived from plants, not coal nor
> crude. So how do you know that it means "black"? In fact, its use in Isaiah
> implies that it was a fluid, maybe sort of like a paint that hardens when
> spread out thinly.
A dictionary definition of pitch: (n) a thick black sticky substance obtained
by boiling down tar; v.t. to cover, smear with pitch
tar: a dark brown or black viscid liquid, a by-product in destructive
distillation of wood (esp. pine), coal, etc. used for waterproofing,
etc.[OE. teru, meaning pitch]
(translation of Modern Hebrew defn of zefet): A black, sticky substance made
of burning of wood, tar, etc. (itran, (tar) is used in Mishnaic Hebrew
2:2, "You don't light with tar because of the Shabbath's holiness." Zefet is
used as a verb in Mishnaic Hebrew, in Kelim 3:7, "bronze utensils that have
The above suggests that even if pitch wasn't black, it was dark brown. That
pitch in ancient times was solely made of tar (hence the OE tar, meaning
pitch). That in both English and Hebrew pitch became also a verb in the same
sense, meaning to cover with tar. It further seems to me that molten tar/
pitch would be much more fluid (as apparently suggested in Isaiah). But note
that in Isaiah, not only the streams are compared to Zefet, but also the earth.
This would be very proper for a very slow liquid such as tar or pitch, as is
suggested by the web page you brought here. Furthermore, pitch, even
when made of wood could be black. And all of this fits very well with the
meaning expected by "tanning". The use of tar for protecting ships shows
that it is indeed the substance probably referred to in Exodus.
Your page shows no evidence that pitch is green or yellow, or I don't know
what color you expect it to be when it is made of plants that is not dark,
comparable to black, and fitting for a word meaning "tan". In the end, your
figurative picturesque meaning is really just a forced meaning when refusing
to recognize the Akkadian influence in the area where there was a
Shafel form. I didn't say it must be Shafel form, but I think it is much more
likely that the poem was borrowing a Shafel form from a foreign language for
> > Q(R is found in Exodus 25,29, Num 7:13.
> I wrote that the root Q(R is not found. Both of these examples are of the
> noun Q(RH (a derivitive).
I think you misunderstand Hebrew. Hebrew doesn't have verb roots. It has
roots. The roots can be used equally well in nouns or verbs. Both nouns
and verbs (and adjectives and adverbs) fall into verb forms and noun forms.
These can in turn be conjugated. In Biblical Hebrew we only have two
"conjugations" that are distinct for nouns, namely the regular and the
locative. But there probably also existed nominal and objective and
genitive forms in pre-exilic times. The thing is that while one noun form
may have no semantic relationship to another, it usually does, because
usually the root carries only very few basic meanings. So if we have Q(RH
meaning "bowl", and the root "Q(R" means "a bottom of pit", we can
definitely see the semantic relationship here. The above was a general
review, and really, for details, you should look in a suitable grammar of BH,
but you shouldn't view nouns as derivatives, and verbs as the primary
conjugations of a root. They are on equal footing, and sometimes the noun
forms are primary and sometimes the verb forms are primary.
> You seem to be putting a lot of effort to defend an idea that you claimed
> you were just asking about. If these are the strongest arguments pointing to
> the existance of the shafel in Hebrew, and all of them have perfectly good
> explanations without invoking the shafel, that makes the evidence weak at
What I was originally looking for was where Rabin got his statement. His
own article, reviewing quite a few quadratic $ roots from various related
Aramaic and Hebrew languages, must have been his basis for "enough
evidence shows it originally existed." It further qualifies this "originally
existed" with "due to external Akkadian or Amorite influence on Hebrew
causing a large amount of Shafel type verbs to be borrowed." I also found
the answer to my original question on ANE, which having found *who*
suggested shaqqamti was a Shafel, I found he later dismissed the idea (so
my ANE question: Is this still held to be the case? was answered in the
negative). I also found evidence showing that my objections to the Shafel
that I thought I located were misplaced and properly answered. I don't think
your explanation is perfectly good for $e$azaphathni. I think in this case,
the Shafel form wins out. I think Shalhevet is also a good clear example.
I think those are the best examples of a possible Shafel. There are also
some good candidates in Aramaic, such as $(BD. This also has
implications for the Song of Deborah because the Song of Deborah has
many similarities to Aramaic, and also we know the Northern Israelite
language (based on such documents as the Balaam "sefer") was similar
to Aramaic. It is definitely your decision to see this as "weak at best" and
I guess on that point we will definitely have to disagree because I see these
points as very strong evidence for the borrowing of a few various verbs from a
foreign language in the Shafel form in early Hebrew.
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