new book's views on piel and stems

yochanan bitan ButhFam at
Sun Dec 26 09:14:41 EST 1999

i just received a copy of christo van der merwe's (et al.) new book, A
Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (sheffield), and am pleased to report
that it's views on binyanim reflect current linguistic perspectives (and
what i as a speaker of hebrew and and arabic can affirm):

p 73 "The idea that the more complex stem formations are derivations of the
Qal led grammarians to assume that the Qal forms also reflect the most
basic meaning of a verb and that the meanings of the other stem formations
could thus be derived from it. Although this is often the case, recent
research has clearly indicated that this asusmption is untenable. This is
one of the reasons why the above system is no longer used in some more
recent BH grammars. Cf. also Richter (1978:73).

p 78 "About 60% of the verb stems that have a Niphal form are semantically
related to the Qal form of the verb stem. However, 10% are semantically
related to stems in the Piel, and 10% to stems in the Hiphil; while 10%
have no semantic relationship to any other active stem formation."

p 80 "All the verbs that occur in the Qal stem formation do not necessarily
have conjugations in the Piel. similarly all the verbs occurring in the
Piel stem formation do not necessarily have conjugations in the Qal. ...
should a verb occur in both the Qal and Piel, there may be a correspondence
of meaning. However, the nature of this correspondence differs from case to
case. ... (i) Factitive ... (ii) Resultative ... (iii) Denominative ... 
   The Piel must be regarded as an _independent stem formation_, the
meaning of which must be determined independently."

p 84 "(i) The Hithpael usually indicates a _reflexive or reciprocal_ 
action ...  (ii) also sometimes simply indicates _an active meaning_ of the
verb ... 
   The Hithpael must be regarded as an _independent stem formation_, the
meaning of which must be learned separately."

p 86 "Semantics (i) Causative ... (ii) A causative link between the Qal and
the Hiphil _cannot always be deduced_ ... (iii) some verbs occur _in the
Hiphil_, without any conjugation in the Qal. ...
   Note the following: (1) The factitive expressed by _the Piel_ also has a
_causative nuance_ ... (2) when a verb is used in the Piel, it indicates an
action that leads to an object ending up in a certain condition. That
object does not _do_ the action referred to by the verb.  
   The Hiphil must be regarded as an independent stem formation, the
meaning of which must be learned separately."

RB: to underline the last point i will add a mention of 'Denominative'
hiph`ils (i.e., not pi`el, e.g., he'ezin 'he heard') and 'Factitive'
hiph`ils (i.e. not pi`el, e.g. hippil 'he dropped, 'a.k.a: caused to

those of you who would like a printed reference with this more 'intuitively
centered' and linguistic perspective are recommended to get christo's book.
  how can one praise it? it's delightful, "a breath of fresh air".

elef braxot
randall buth

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list