Hebrew Syntax.

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Tue Apr 9 19:36:12 EDT 2002

Clay wrote:
>  Trevor,
> Could you explain what this means? What is "productive" in this context?
It's a question of where the line is drawn between inflectional and
derivational morphology. When we speak, we inflect words "on the fly."
That's why dictionaries don't list the present and past tense forms of the
same word as separate entries, or singular and plural, etc. It's one word
with various inflectional forms that can pretty much be processed at will.
Even if a given word has never been observed in a particular inflection, it
can be formed appropriately without a second thought. That's productivity. A
non-productive form falls under derivational morphology. Yes, there is a
relationship between "king" and "kingdom" in English. But that doesn't mean
it's a relationship that can be applied at will to any other noun, or even
to another noun of the same class. (It's principality, not princedom.)
Granted, a word like "princedom" is conceivable and could probably be
understood, and if there were enough need for such a word, someone would
probably come up with it, but the point is that it would be recognized as a
new word, not just a self-evident inflection of the one word "prince."

Buth's contention is that some of the presentation of stem forms in W-O'C
tends to suggest that the stems are productive features of the
language--that, for instance, a speaker would take a known G-stem verb and
inflect it as a C stem to show causation or as a D stem to show whatever D
stems show in relation to corresponding G forms, etc. Buth argues that this
is not how the stem system works for living speakers of any Semitic
language; rather, the verbs--the individual lexical entries--are formed of
both root and stem. While there is an evident relationship between a G-stem
verb and a D-stem verb from the same root, it is a derivational relationship
that is generally fixed in the mind of the speaker. That's not to say that a
new word cannot develop when the need arises; but it's the same type of
thing as "princedom."

Now, where I'm not quite sure what I think about this idea is regarding the
medio-passive forms, which seem to have a much more straightforward
relationship to their active counterparts. If I understand correctly, Buth
sees them as falling into a different category, and I guess I can see that;
I'm just not entirely sure about it myself. Hopefully that's of some help.
I'm sure he could explain his own view much more adequately than I can.

Trevor Peterson

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