[b-hebrew] Piel etc.

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed May 11 22:30:08 EDT 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> On 11/05/2005 23:14, Karl Randolph wrote:
> > ...
> >
> >
> > While recognizing that each binyan tends to cluster around a 
> > meaning, or maybe more than one meaning, it is my desire to find 
> > out what is that meaning and the breadth thereto. As a 
> > lexicographer, then, if I understand the Piel, for example, then 
> > I could predict what the Qal, the Hiphil and other binyanim 
> > meanings would be. ...
> >
> Do you mean that you assume that this is true, or that you have 
> proved that this is true?
In my research on the meanings of words, I have found, for example, that the Hiphil always means causative of the Qal. So far, I have found no exceptions. Of course, it may be a circular argument, I came to the table expecting to find a fairly rigid rule, and found one, while one who does not expect such won’t.

In a way, this is sort of like the English imperfect: verbs in the imperfect define the simple past, therefore verb forms relating to the simple past are imperfects. The same is true with all the time based grammar rules in English. 

> > ... But if they don’t follow the pattern, then it is a good sign 
> > that I didn’t understand the Piel correctly in the first place 
> > and I need to go back and do more research. But if I just blindly 
> > go on, treating each semantic domain as an isolated unit, 
> > treating each verb’s binyanim as independent from another verb’s 
> > binyanim, what rhyme or reason can I point back to? How can I be 
> > assured of the integrity of my research? How can I confidently 
> > understand the text? And how can I with confidence make an 
> > accurate translation of the text?
> >
> >
> I agree that you should not assume that the binyamin are 
> independent. But you shouldn't assume either that they are related 
> by fixed rules. After all, many people have tried to find such 
> fixed rules, and have found the following:
> >
> >
> >> Some people
> >> therefore conclude that there are "rules and lots of exceptions," but
> >> I don't find that approach helpful or accurate, both because the rules
> >> tend to be complicated, and because the exceptions outnumber the
> >> non-exceptions.
> >>
> >>
> >
> > See above, sloppiness.
> >
> >
> Karl, if you can come up with a set of rules which are not 
> complicated and have no exceptions, then that will be a wonderful 
> step forward for scholarship. But until you can come up with such a 
> set of rules, or at least prove that one exists, you have no right 
> to assume that it is possible to do better than many scholars 
> before you, and no basis and no right to accuse anyone of 
> "sloppiness".
> -- Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

We’ve gone around on this issue before: I accuse someone of sloppiness, you bristle up in defense of his work, we go back and forth a few times, then it cools down. Then I forget and it starts up again. Sorry.

To put it in perspective, a more accurate way of saying it is that I think analysing lexeme meanings only according to semantic domains leads to a sloppy methodology that will cause even a careful worker to deliver sloppy results. I think that part of the reason that researchers have not been able to come up with a set of rules concerning the relationship between the different binyanim in Biblical Hebrew is because of this sloppy methodology. I have come across verses that are commonly given one translation because of how the translator understood the semantic domain, while I have a completely different understanding based on a tight integration and application of definition and grammar, leading to a different understanding of the semantic domain, and usually I think it fits the context better as well.

Another factor, which again I have mentioned before, every time I look at a definition, I ask “what is the action behind this definition?” That is true even of nouns, adjectives, adverbs and so forth. That often ties together binyanim that otherwise seem far apart.

I have to knock the Masoretes here. While they did wonders in preserving the consonental text, showed great creativity in devising a vowel system to record the pronunciation tradition they were handed, that tradition and those points are wrong often enough so as to mess up anyone who depends on them for definitional and grammatical analysis. That is why I never post the points when discussing questions on this list. But you have to admit, those Masoretes tried, and for the most part, did a great job.

But the biggest difference between my work and others is that I expect to find uncomplicated patterns with few, if any, exceptions, and have found them. In the case of the Qal and the Hiphil, I have found a simple rule for which I have found no exceptions. I see I have to go back over my notes, but it looks as if I had already noticed the Piel, as “made to be...” while the Hiphil “cause to act...” In fact, the pattern is so consistant, that I use Hiphils to help me understand Qal, and Qal to help me understand Hithpael, and so forth. The fly in the ointment was that I found Piels, but didn’t recognize them because I was taught that a Piel is an intensive Qal, which I didn’t find. An example is the verb RWH, Qal to moisten, Piel to make moist, Hiphil to cause to moisten (“moisten” here refers to giving a drink, rain upon, work oil into skin or leather to make soft, water the ground which makes it soft and receptive to plowing and seeding, hence figuratively to moisten a person is to make a person soft as in renewing his youth, or just as moist soil is (relatively) soft and receptive to plowing and seeding, so to moisten a person is to soften him, making him receptive to one’s entreaties). I previously mentioned )BD to become lost, with the Piel to make lost and Hiphil to cause to become lost. I had those concepts in my notes, but just didn’t recognize them as Piels. I wonder if I noticed them all?

Or maybe the reason I find so few exceptions is because I used the patterns to help me define the terms and understand their semantic domains in the first place.

Does what I say make sense?

Karl W. Randolph.

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