Jerusalem, neuter plural

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at
Mon Sep 6 13:02:27 EDT 1999

[Note: this thread originated on B-Greek, and I am afraid that I was the one
who inadvertently replied on B-Hebrew; the discussion seems to be continuing
on B-Hebrew at this point, so there I will respond, but I will also try to
send individual emails to those who have been following the thread.]

Jim Denley asked (Thursday, September 02, 1999 1:13 PM):
> I'm not so much interested in the etymology of IEROSOLUMA as I am a
> general set of rules.

Peter Kirk responded (Friday, September 03, 1999 11:27 AM)
> you may be interested in the Russian convention for borrowed place
> names, as used extensively in places like Azerbaijan. In general (and
> with some oversimplification) place names ending in a consonant are
> masculine, those ending in -a are feminine, those ending in -e and -o
> are neuter, those ending in -i are plural (in Russian, gender is not
> distinguished in the plural). These are the normal default rules for
> Russian common nouns, and the place names then decline as if they were
> Russian nouns. But place names ending in -u (e.g. Baku) do not match
> any Russian noun classes and so are treated as undeclinable, and I
> think masculine.
> The rules are slightly different for personal names as the name must
> have the same gender as the person. Personal names of men ending in -a
> can be masculine (though they decline as if feminine - many native
> Russian names follow this pattern), but womens' names ending in a
> consonant are undeclinable, presumably because the regular declension
> of nouns ending in a consonant implies masculine gender. Personal
> names ending in -e and -o are also taken as undeclinable, I believe.

Carlton Winbery noted (Saturday, September 04, 1999 3:49 PM):
> In the NT a number of place names are brought into Greek as neuter plural
> nouns; hIEROSOLUMA (67), QUATEIRA (4), MURA (1), PATARA (1), hRHGION (1),
> SAREPTA (1), SODOMA (9). One place name is brought in as a neuter sing.
> noun; ILLURIKON. Most  place names in the NT are brought into Greek as
> indeclinable feminine nouns; IEROUSALHM (77) BHQZAQA (1), BHQLEEM (8),
> BHQSAIDA (7), BAQFAGH (3), GEQSHMANI (2), GENNHSARET (3), etc. I know of
> hard and fast rules for how such names are brought into Greek. I read
> somewhere that Jerusalem was spelled in the plural out of respect, but I
> see no evidence for that.

And others have added notes, chiefly on the particulars of 'Jerusalem', its
form in Hebrew (whether early or later), and the assumed part that this Hb
form played on the borrowing process into Greek.  The above two notes,
however, provide the most data to use as a springboard, from which I have
looked around some more at the GNT personal name and place name data.

The following is a suggested analysis (quasi-)couched in terms of
'Optimality Theory'.  (This is a relatively new theory that has proved very
effective on the borderlands between Phonology and Morphology, which is
where we find ourselves.)  Certain constraints are opperating, both on the
phonology and on the morphology, and these constraints can be satisfied or
violated depending on the relative ranking of the constraints.  I.e., if two
constraints conflict, one has to give, and the higher level constraint wins

Hypothesized Constraints (in order of relative importance):

1- Match Number and Gender (according to Gk morph./semantic rules)
2- Preserve source phonemes (C's and V's)
3- Match V/C of Gk declension (usually in Nom.)
4- Decline all Nouns

(These appear able to account for Peter Kirk's Russian data as well--Peter
can check me on this!  Other languages may reorder constraints: Decline all
nouns c/b on top.)

There appear to be three ways indeclinable nouns are found in the GNT: 1)
the last constraint is overridden by a higher ranking constraint (#2), or 2)
the noun is treated as an instance of code switching--it is a token from a
different lg (Hb or Aram.), and has not (in this instance) been adopted into
Gk, or 3) a noun of the second class becomes frozen in form.  The 2nd
cattegory is especially true of the lesser-knowns, such as individuals deep
in the genealogies of Mt, Lk: NAASWN (Mt 1.4).

The first constraint must be expanded by what Gk morph./semantic rules
(constraints) are:
1A- Regions are, esp. using -IA: IOUDAIA, GALILAIA, IDOUMAIA, GALLIA,
    but: ILLURIKON
Note: regioins are likely standardized by official decree or status

1B- Cities are regularly or (but w/ exceptions--this is the
messiest category!) using -A: hIEROSOLUMA, SODOMA, GOMORRA, QUATIRA, LYSTRA, MYRA,
(not all of these are borrowed, and where borrowed, not all are from
Hb/Semitic, but they still reflect the different morphological alternatives
in Gk)
All of this variation may be accounted for in many ways: local preference,
source lg influence, phonology.  Regarding the constraints above, it may be
that at different times (and places) the ordering of constraints were
different, or the morph./semantic options were different, producing
different results in the borrowed form.  (Also, there are certain
cross-overs between city and region names.)

On 'Jerusalem', it appears that form (1) hIEROSOLUMA came from Hb
(Y:RW$FLAIM f.du.--the dipthong -AI- or consonantal Y in -AYI- must account
for the upsiolon U/Y in Gk: the difference between I/Y and upsilon is that
latter has +rounding), and form (2) hIEROUSALHM came from Aramaic
(Y:RW$:LEM).  The fact that Aramaic was a living lg would contribute to the
fact that this latter form was retained as indeclinable--code-switching was
active between Gk/Aram.  For form 1, code switching was not (as) active, and
the form was adopted into Gk w/ full inflection.

Regarding the use of form 1 as a, this occurs only once and only in
the Nom. (Mt 2.3).  This dual usage (between and appears
somewhat common--cf. SODOMA and GOMORRA, where the same occurs, *but always
in the Nom.* where the form itself does not change.

IMHO, the source of hIEROSOLUMA from Hb as f.du. might (I say this by way of
concession only) influence the choice
of ** declension in Gk, *but* it is not necessary to suppose that it
does, and the evidence really does not support the claim.  A more relevant
question is: in general, what influences the choice of pl. for the name of a
city? size, hills (*but cf. RWMH), villages put together???  This question
is more likely to provide insight on the decision for hIEROSOLUMA,
and it is a question relevant not just to borrowed place names, but Gk names
as well (FILLIPOI).

Note the distribution of forms 1 (Hb) and 2 (Aram.) (parentheses indicate
minimal representation in a bk):
form1        form2
Mt            (Mt-1x)
Mk            --
(Lk)            Lk
Jn              --
Acts          Acts
Gal            Gal
The Hb form is found in Mt and Jn as is to be expected.

1C- Finally: personal names (here too, there is some variation as to how (or
whether) a name is declined)
morph. gender must match physiological gender!
3rd decl: SOLOMWN, IHSOUS, hRWiDIAS f.

Well, that's my analysis for now.  It's an interesting topic, and we are
still just getting our feet wet.

God Bless!

Joe Friberg
Arlington, TX

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