whatisaword? (dictionary and beyond)

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Mon Dec 27 00:02:05 EST 1999

Dear Randall,

Yes, I agree that we are not as far apart as it might have seemed. I 
see your point about hishliaH existing in the competence, though of 
course there may be exceptions to such generalisations cf. Latin and 
Greek deponent verbs, and I seem to remember hearing of stems which 
occur only in prefix or only in suffix conjugations. (Perhaps these 
are putative Qal passives.) I am not quite sure why you treat Niphal 
differently from Hiphil, as Niphal is not simply the passive of Qal.

So what I come down to is more or less what you do, and what is done 
in Azerbaijani: all passives, causatives etc are listed as separate 
verb forms - even though the meanings in Azerbaijani are more 
predictable than in Hebrew, apart from some idiomatic usages. (But in 
Azerbaijani the morphology is all suffixes so the derived forms are 
always close to the base form.) If we differ, it is in ordering, and 
that is essentially a trivial matter if there are cross-references to 
help beginners.

Best wishes,

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[3]: whatisaword? (dictionary and beyond)
Author:  <ButhFam at compuserve.com> at Internet
Date:    25/12/1999 11:48

PK:>2) Mainly for intermediate (and advanced) language learners as you 
>mention below:  ... I am sure that it is helpful
>for these learners, on coming across an occasional form of hishliaH, 
>to be able to relate it to shalaH and shilleH.

agreed. as you mentioned i mentioned.

>Also, more theoretically, the form hishliaH does not occur, so it is 
>even more a construct than the root is!

Here we may part on views of what a language is.

for me, if yashliaH exists, then hishliaH and any other predictable forms 
"exist" in the competence/langue of the language user. the decoder is one 
side of the communication equation.

on the other hand, if nimlaT 'escape' exists, one CANNOT postulate *malaT. 
that was not part of anyone's competence, as far as we know.

as you can see, i am asking that we treat BH like a real human language. 
when a person uses a dictionary of any language they do not run out to 
check attestations, they process according to langue.

incidently, the contextual forms are shillaH, and yidda` (as pi`el), 
forms with "e" would be 'pausals' [shilleaH, yiddea,] which i treat as 
  but maybe you've got a point:
shilleaH.  hu shillaH oto.
(do you like that?)
on hitvadda`. reveal himself. i wouldn't  join to the hif`il, even if 
semantically close. there are quite a few hif`il that have 
reflexive/passives in either nif`al or hitpa`el. but i treat them as 
unpredictable and therefore needing separate listing.

>The basic disagreement is that I do not even agree with the first 
>statement of yours that I have retained below. It is certainly 
>over-simplistic. For example, surely the niphal of a verb like yada` 
>acts as the passive and/or middle of the qal form rather than as a 
>different verb, and its hiphil acts as the causative of the qal. To 
>list the niphal and hiphil as separate words would be most confusing, 
>especially if there is no reference back to the qal to which they 

i think you've over-read, or under-read, my one-liner, which hadimplicit 
assumptions (notice my statistics on 'qal' included nifal numbers!). so we 
almost agree on this. i would not list separate nif`al if they were only 
the passive of qal. i would list nif`al that were reflexive/passive of a 
hif`il or had no qal.

on hodiia`, though, i would list it separately. the fact that it is the 
causative of a qal is irrelevant to the fact that it exists and its 
existence was unpredictable, even if expected.

>We are used to drawing a clear line between infectional and 
>derivational morphology and deciding on that basis what merits a 
>separate dictionary entry, but unfortunately that sort of division 
>simply does not work with Hebrew.

here we disagree. prefix/suffix are inflectional. 
binyanim, ignoring passives, are derivational. listable.
(by the way, in arabic the passives are NOT given binyanim status. 
but 'nif`al' [which did not take over the qal passive in arabic] 
is given status, as well as reflexive 't' forms.)
another rule of thumb on the 'passives': when in doubt, list it.

a parting note: i do notice that at least you list each binyan under a root 
separately. you may be tacitly acknowledging their 'word' status, as 
opposed to "inflected roots".
like i mentioned, that is what hebrew-hebrew dictionaries do without any 
the point i am trying to isolate and excise is the 'inflected root' idea 
widely generated among students learning hebrew. you may be close to 
agreeing on this.

randall buth

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