[b-hebrew] Inflexions?

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Nov 20 18:43:33 EST 2003

On 20/11/2003 15:12, Karl Randolph wrote:

>Dear Peter:
>>If Karl can't tell the difference between giving birth and acting as a 
>>midwife, do we need to start with the birds and the bees?
>LOL! Wait till I tell my kids (?Uh?, kids?, it looks as if I?m not your father??).

>I believe that languages are basically simple that can be mastered by children, except for rare, specialized cases. If the Piel is to be recognized in a case by case basis, then it fails the child masterable test. So what I am looking for is a test that I can apply consistently from verb to verb. Knowing such a test would also make it easier to recognize definitions in the contexts that verbs are found.
But languages do have irregular verbs which have to be recognised on a 
case by case basis. Not just dead languages like Latin, Greek and 
Hebrew, but modern ones as well. Try Russian for a good crop of them. Or 
try English - we native speakers don't realise how irregular it is! Yet 
Russian and English are child masterable, though not easily. There is no 
reason to expect Hebrew to be any simpler.

>A followup question after your helpful response and that of Ken Penner, could the Piel represent instrumentality? In the case of a midwife, one who helps in the birth. In the case of BQ( I?m not sure what the difference is. In the case of XLH again it looks like a form of instrumentality. Any thoughts?
>Karl W. Randolph.
I just don't believe that there is any single simple distinction. 
Whether or not words have a single "core meaning", the grammatical 
category Piel doesn't seem to have a "core meaning". This is clear not 
just from ancient Hebrew but from modern Semitic languages like Arabic 
where the corresponding "stem" forms are easily seen not to have clearly 
defined semantics.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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