Simple question

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Sat Mar 23 08:13:17 EST 2002


Uri wrote:

> Nor would I describe it as 'stem'
> which is another term for 'root', but perhaps others understand this
> English term differently.

I don't know. I think it's a workable distinction. At least it doesn't
require any more clarification than explaining what binyanim means :-) There
seems to be a fairly clear distinction in the way Greek verbs are
described--the root refers to the most basic form, from which all others can
be derived, while the stem refers to the base form of a verb in a given
tense. (So, for instance, the present stem is different from the second
aorist stem.) I'm not saying the distinction is semantically the same as in
Hebrew, but the way the distinction is made is quite similar.

Some standard English definitions are: stem--the main part of a word to
which affixes are added; root--an element that constitutes the basis from
which a word is derived by phonetic change or by the addition of other
elements, such as inflectional endings or affixes. In one sense, these
definitions could be describing the same thing, but I think the definition
of "root" is more carefully constructed to refer to derivational morphology,
which is exactly the kind of distinction I think we would want to make
regarding Hebrew root and stem--the actual verb is derived from a
hypothetical root, which produces a stem that can be inflected as necessary.
The distinction needs some tightening up, but as I say, I think the Greek
example shows that such a distinction is possible.

Trevor Peterson
CUA/Semitics




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