vav conversive (re: root vs. stem)

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Thu Sep 2 10:28:39 EDT 1999

> Brian Tucker wrote:
> > > > > 4. What is the best way to describe the difference
> between a root and a
> > > > > stem?
> > > >
> and Dave Washburn responds:
> > > > Depends on what you mean by "stem."  If you mean
> binyan,
> > > > there's an obvious difference.  If you're using it in
> another way, I
> > > > don't know.
> > >
> BT
> > > Paul Zellmer's post answered this question. As it
> pertains to binyan,
> > > how would you characterize the obvious difference?
> >
> DW
> > The root is the lexical form most of the time, although
> the term is
> > also used of the non-pointed (usually-)three-radical base
> from
> > which words are derived (e.g. )HB for both )FHAB the verb
> and
> > )FHFB the noun).  The stems or binyanim are inflections of
> the root
> > that are formed using various infixes and affixes.
> Inflections are usually thought to have grammatical meaning,
> no?  But with the stems or binyanim, the markers of the
> stems do not have grammatical meaning or semantic meaning
> (in and of themselves) at all, and, in fact, are not
> morphemes at all.  The stem system is a mechanism for
> multiplying the meanings of the roots by augmenting the
> formation of a verb form with a handful vocalic and
> consonantal additions.  We may think that the meaning of a
> verb form is the sum of form (e.g. wayyiqtol) plus root
> (e.g. 'hb) plus stem (e.g. Qal).  To remain friends with
> Randy Buth I will add a qualifier: *certainly*, a native
> speaker of Hebrew does not normally think in terms of root +
> stem when he understands a word.  To him yatsa' in the Qal
> stem is simply a different word with a different meaning
> than hotsi' in the Hiphil stem.

Yes, thank you for making this clarification.  I would point out two 
things: first, while the native speaker of Hebrew would likely 
understand the stems this way, in his third grade Hebrew class 
s/he would be taught the relationships among the stems and how 
hotsi' was formed (I plucked "third grade" out of the air, and will 
now don my flameproof suit).  Second, and it's a minor quibble, to 
keep ideas of syntax and semantics separate, I prefer the 
expression "grammatical force" to "grammatical meaning".  Again, 
that's a quibble and really not worth the bandwidth it takes to 
express it.  I just had to nitpick.

Dave Washburn
"Ich veranlassenarbeitenworken mein Mojo."

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