[b-hebrew] Origins of the definite article of BHebrew

Herman Meester crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Mon Dec 19 10:50:23 EST 2005

2005/12/19, Peter Kirk <peter at qaya.org>:
> On 18/12/2005 21:50, Herman Meester wrote:
> >... - alif al-wasl for stems vii, viii, x (surely
> >no historical hamz!), and some more.
> >...
> >
> >
> >No, neither the alif al-wasl of article, stem vii, viii, x, the words
> >ism, ibn, etc., nor the alif at the end of the 3rd person plural
> >perfect verb (the latter is only a vertical line I think to seperate
> >words), represent historical consonants.
> >
> >
> Let me clarify a point here. The Arabic verb stems you refer to are the
> ones cognate with Hebrew hiphil, hithpael etc, right? And with Aramaic
> 'aphel etc? So we are talking about causative verb forms which in Hebrew
> start with he, in biblical Aramaic with alef (possibly silent), and in
> Arabic with silent alif. In all these languages, in the prefix
> conjugation the initial consonant is replaced with the personal prefix,
> i.e. in Hebrew the hiphil "imperfect" is yaqtil, not something like
> yehiqtil, and similarly in Arabic and Aramaic. Ethiopic/Ge'ez seems to
> have the same pattern, with the basic causative verb starting with the
> equivalent of alef.

No, I'm sorry for not having showed some examples more elaborately,
but the stems I refer to are *not* cognate to the Hebrew hif`il, etc.
So this is getting confusing. The "Arabic hif`il" is the stem iv:
'af`ala, with real hamz, and I didn't use this example. That alif
never disappears either in the perfect. The stems vii, viii, ix and x
(I mention a few more now, I've been a little lazy before), however,
totally different stems, have only prefixed -n- and infixed -t-, srd
cons. gemination (which is, I repeat, productive in Arabic!), and
prefixed sta-.

fa`ala, stem vii: nfa`ala
fa`ala, stem viii: fta`ala
hamara, stem ix: hmarra (usually for colours, etc.)
fa`ala, stem x: staf`ala

So that's why we need, only in pausa: (i)nfa`ala, (i)fta`ala,
(i)marra, (i)staf`ala.

I agree, if they would have been cognate to hif`il and hitpa`el, I
don't have a point. But the stems vii, viii and x, as well as some
other seperate words, are my evidence for this original, not
secondary, alif al-wasl. I hope this convinces you, I'm sorry for the

For your convenience, I send you a jpeg containing a little survey of
W. Stoetzer's Dutch Arabic grammar (great book, should be translated)
of stems i-x; there are more stems, xi-xv, which are rare. They are
usually confined to the lexica.

Regards, herman

> This situation seems closely parallel to the article. Very likely the
> prefix in both cases originally started with a vowel, which became
> written with he and pronounced with an H sound in Hebrew and perhaps
> also Ugaritic and north Arabian; became written with alef and perhaps
> pronounced as a glottal stop in Aramaic and Ethiopic; and became written
> with alef but not pronounced in classical Arabic. There seems to be a
> clearly parallel pattern here.
> So I tend to go for an original form of the article which was perhaps
> originally an- but became al- in central Arabia. Or possibly vice versa,
> except that we then need to explain why the form han- is apparently
> found in both Ugaritic far to the north and (if I remember correctly) in
> South Arabian. The original alternation between al- (less likely to
> assimilate) and an- (more likely to assimilate) in different Arabic
> dialects may account for the variable and apparently inconsistent
> assimilation rules.
> --
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list