[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53:8

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Dec 10 18:07:00 EST 2004

On 10/12/2004 14:39, Samuel Arnet wrote:

> Karl Randolph wrote:
>> The construct LMW occures over 50 times in Tanakh. Though the
>> majority of its uses are for plural subjects, it refers to what is
>> unquestionably a singular subject often enough that the numerical
>> value of the -MW cannot be determined from the form. The only people
>> I have run into before who insisted that LMW had to be plural did so
>> for ideological, not linguistic, reasons.
> L/F^MOW is a plural form. For a discussion, and some literature, see
> http://whi.wts.edu/WHI/MORPH/BugTracker/7
This is an interesting question which goes to the heart of what is meant 
by form and meaning. Samuel states that this is "a plural *form*", my 
emphasis. But in this link he says:

> It seems best, therefore, to understand LF^MOW this way:
> in form, it is always plural;
> in meaning, it is most often plural, but it can also be singular.

But on what basis do we say that the FORM is plural? Is this even a 
meaningful question? After all, there is nothing inherently singular or 
plural about any form, it is only by convention that certain forms may 
be used to indicate number or any other grammatical category.

If the word is in fact to be parsed lam-o, the -o suffix is 
unquestionably generally singular, and so we have to say that this is a 
singular FORM, even though the meaning of this particular combination is 
most commonly (but not always) plural - just as ELOHIM is a plural FORM 
but its meaning is usually but not always plural.

If rather we parse the word l-(a)mo, as Karl does, we have to look at 
all of the uses of this -mo suffix (or is it a root and l- a prefix?). 
How do we decide whether this is singular or plural? Is it sufficient 
that in the majority of cases it signals a plural meaning? But it does 
not in all cases. At least by the strict rules of some on this list, the 
existence of some singular exceptions implies that -mo cannot carry 
plurality as a semantic component (but then the same applies to -im when 
you consider singular ELOHIM). In such a situation, perhaps the only 
safe conclusion is that -mo indicates neither singularity not plurality, 
that it is number neutral.

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

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