[b-hebrew] HYH vs. HWH

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Jun 29 19:23:21 EDT 2006

On 6/29/06, Uri Hurwitz wrote:
> Yitzhak Sapir wrote,
> "The root HWH/HYH can be seen as a basic root *HWH that developed
> features similar to "?YH" verbs (such as XYH "live") as a result of the
> nearby initial H.  Generally, "?WH" verbs seem rather stable in the
> Hebrew of the Bible, for example $WH ("equal"), LWH ("lend").  Both
> of these have Hiphil forms with the use of a waw, and it is definitely
> possible that the waw was retained in this form (assuming the verb
> ever had an Hiphil).  This shows just how oddball the HYH/HWH verb
> can be that it is hard to make any conclusions from it.  Similarly, the
> name YHWH may not necessarily be derived from HWH.  It could just
> as easily be derived from an otherwise unknown root *YHW.  Together,
> all these special cases make it impossible to categorize YHWH as
> a name of Aramaic origin."
>    Sorry, every single sentence, except the last, in the above paragraph
>   states a groundless speculation. Just a few examples  --   you create
>   an imaginary root *HWH, when a such real root is thoroughly attested
>   in Aramaic;

I am referring here to an assumed predecessor of both Hebrew and
Aramaic verbs.  Because it is reconstructed in NWS, it receives a *.

>  you create an imaginary "stable'"root of "?YH" to which one
>   can only respond with "WHAT?"; and so forth.

By "?" I was referring to a wildcard (a notation used mostly in
computer notation, but also in Mechon Mamre's freefind search,
for example).  I say they are stable because the waw never changes
in these verbs.  One has to explain how HWH became HYH or the
other way around, and why other similar verbs (with WH in the end)
did not shift to YH.  HWH/HYH is an odd verb in that it has a special
letter in each of its three root letters.

Also, the most common explanation of YHWH as derivative of HYH
has been in the Hiphil, and I noted that we do not know how the Hiphil
would have acted, if there was an Hiphil, and whether the Hiphil would
have still preserved the waw.

In any case, the point was to show that we do not know sufficiently
enough about HWH and YHWH to be able to say that it is definitely
Aramaic.  I tried to look up some similar verbs in the inscriptional
evidence and the most interesting thing I found was the name
YXW(LY in the Israelite Samaritan ostraca.  If this is meant to mean
"Long live (eli" then we may have an example of a conjugation of
XYH in Israelite which may point to this kind of usage (maintenance
of the waw in such verbs) in Israelite inscriptions.  On the other hand,
we have WYHY in Kuntillet Ajrud, so I don't know.   Locating the
name YHWH in the linguistic range of Israelite borders would make
a lot of sense, however.

Yitzhak Sapir

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