[b-hebrew] Boring grammar again

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Fri May 6 16:37:16 EDT 2005

To All:

At the risk of sounding stupid or just unable to learn, here is a question that is bugging me, what exactly is the Piel? I’ve brought it up before: either I am too stupid to understand the answers that several of you put forward, or I found that there is still some contradiction from the answers I got.

Back in Hebrew 101, the only class I took, I was taught that there was Qal, simple active, with Niphal as its passive, Piel as intensive Qal with Pual as its passive, Hiphil as causative with Hophal as its passive, ending with Hithpael as reflexive with the object being the same as the subject.

Now here’s my problem: after reading Tanakh through a few times without points, I find no evidence for the Piel according to the above grammatical structure. There are no contextual clues that I have found that indicate the intensive Qal.  From my experience, all the other binyanim fit the above pattern, but Piel and its passive Pual don’t seem to fit anywhere.

Peter Kirk and others have pointed out that Piel in modern Hebrew has a causative meaning. If that is also the case for B-Hebrew, what is the difference between the Piel and the Hiphil? What contextual clues indicate that difference? In this scenario, both Piel and Hiphil are causative.

Now one option is that the Piel is just an alternate conjugation for Qal. That would explain the lack of contextual clues. Conversely, it could be an alternate conjugation for Hiphil.

Are there any verbs where the uses in Qal and Piel are split about 50-50? Are there any where the uses are split about 50-50 between Piel and Hiphil? Verbs where all the uses except once or twice are one or the other could be an indication of scribal error. Further, if the once or twice is a Piel or Pual participle, those could be alternate spellings for Hiphil or Hophal participles, given the fluid spellings at that time. I could find out the above data myself, but if someone has already done it, why not take advantage of his scholarship?

Of course, we can’t leave out the possibility that I’m just dense. If that’s the case, please excuse me for boring you all (though then I’m too dense to recognize my own denseness).

Thanks again, Karl W. Randolph.
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