Rasmus Underbjerg Pinnerup
pinnerup at privat.dk
Fri Nov 21 08:33:47 EST 2003
Dear Karl (and list members)
At 00:12 21-11-2003, Karl wrote:
>Seriously, this question has raised some rather interesting, even
>apparently contradictory, responses. Hiphil and Hophal clearly have the
>causitive sense, Hithpael reflexive, but what is the distinction between
>Qal and Piel?
There is no one overarching pattern, but a number of individual patterns
can be identified. Here I list them from Joüon-Muraoka with a few examples:
Factivive: »'âbad« "to perish" > »'ibbad« "to make someone perish", the
same with »qâda« > »qida« and »gâdal« > »giddel«
Declarative-estimative: e.g. »niqqâh« "to declare clean"
Pluralising: »liqqeq« (to lick, multiple subjects) and »illax« (to
dispatch, numerous objects) (BTW, it is mighty tempting to point out the
similarity btween "liqqeq" and "lick", PIE *ligh)
Frequentative: »i'el« "to beg" (Qal: "to ask") and »ibber« "to break into
pieces" (Qal = to break)
Denominative: »kihen« "to act as priest", »'illem« "to bind sheaves ('alummâh)"
Privative: »dien« "to remove fat", »ere« "to uproot" (contrast »hirî«
"to strike root")
Adverbial (rare): »ixxet« "to act wickedly", »'iwwel« "to act in an
iniquitous manner", »mihar« "to act quickly".
>One, off line response, said that the difference was between that of
>transitive and intransitive verbs (in which case, many verbs are
That is a rather misleadingly simplifying take on the matter.
>If the Piel is causitive, then what's the difference between it and
>Hiphil? Other times some say it is the same as Qal.
The Piel is often said to denote bringing about a given state ("to make
someone holy"), whereas the Hiphil is said to denote bringing about a given
action ("to make someone walk") - these aspects are called factivive and
>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
You are still here assuming that the binyanim (Qal, Piel, Hiphil etc.) are
merely inflexions of a given verb - that is most likely not the case. With
regular inflections, a relationship such as you describe would exist - that
is, when you place an -ed (and its various allomorphs) on the end of an
English verb, you get the meaning "past tense" - this rule almost always
holds true. The Piel (and other binyanim), however, is not an inflection
like this - it is more like word-derivations, comparable to the prefix
"in-" in English, which can also have different meanings like "direction
into" (inscribe) and "negation" (incompetent). I'm sure someone can think
of a derivational morpheme which more possible meanings. The point is that
when we see a word with the prefix "in-", we cannot know beforehand what
this signifies - we have to learn word for word (it took quite some time
before I realized that "inflammable" meant "highly flammable"). We have to
learn the meaning as a lexical unit - as if it were a new word, so to speak.
With some serious studies, we might narrow the given derivation (in-, Piel)
down to a fixed set of possible meanings, but we cannot even then always be
sure - for instance, the word "inflammable" doesn't really seem to fit
either of the two meanings listed above.
Rasmus Underbjerg Pinnerup
More information about the b-hebrew