determining roots

Al Silberman alfred.silberman at
Fri Sep 11 10:50:24 EDT 1998

Dear Bryan:

You wrote:
>Now here's a chuckle.  You say you prefer the traditional grammarians to
>Gesenius.  I say say Gesenius *is* an old tradition with which I also have
>a few complaints.  It's all relative, right?  :-)

The thing I do like about the Gesenius text is that it is very
comprehensive due to the successive editing that has been done to the
original text. I don't know of any other text where I can easily find
information on any issue. People can quibble about the resolution of the
issue but at least there is discussion that can be referenced.

Having said that, I can only repeat that I have not seen any texts or
discussions on the origin and derivation of roots for the weak verbs.

>A few reservations occur to me about your idea that we should consider the
>possiblity of a second synonomous root rather than try to explain the
>anomolous appearance of a prefixed verb form.
>1.  It would be truly remarkable for one root to be exclusively used in,
>let's say, prefixed verbs and a different but synonomous root used
>exclusively in affixed forms.

The idea is not mine and I gave the example of "went" [heh-lamedh-khaf].
There are others. There are many different but synonomous roots. Nothing
exceptional about that.

> E.g. it is simply unreasonable to suggest
>that *only* prefixed forms of a commonly attested root like _lqx_ are _nqx_
>instead when _nqx_ is otherwise unattested.

It all depends on what the driver is. If the form is the driver then one
has no choice but to posit _nqx_ as the root. If the driver is comparitive
semitics or noun forms or majority occurrences then you may be right. As I
said, I would love to see an analysis of what the drivers are (were) for
root determination.

>2.  It makes more sense to deduce the radicals of a root in a prefixed verb
>form from an attested noun form than it does to alledge that a root exists
>which is otherwise unattested with all three radicals visible either in the
>Biblical corpus or other cognate languages .
>3.  Comparative Semitics in many cases provides us with likely alternatives
>for roots which are not apparent in the Biblical corpus.

Again, it depends on the how roots were derived.

Under the older theory of uni-literal. bi-literal and tri-literal roots,
grammarians simply said that it was not _lqx_ or _nqx_ but simply _qx_. Of
course, they had other problems to deal with.

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