[b-hebrew] 'Tav" Preformative Third person Masc Plural form?

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Nov 15 23:34:00 EST 2006

On 11/15/06, Chris and Nel wrote:
> In Ezekiel 37:7 the subject is third person, the verb is second person, (we
> don't need to worry about the masc and fem interchange at this point), this
> also occurs in Jeremiah 49:11, What I would be interested in though would be
> possible explanations outside of  those who would suggest that the text
> needs amending. I prefer to assume that this is not a mistake.

The feminine third person and second person plural future or imperfect
conjugations are generally not differentiated in Hebrew.  Further, comparative
Semitics suggest that the change you are witnessing does not point to a second
person form.  Thus, Huehnergard's article on Afroasiatic reconstructs the verbal
conjugations tancurna(:) for second person feminine plural vs. yancurna(:) for
third person feminine plural.  Pardee's article on Ugaritic suggests the second
person feminine plural is taktubna for both imperfective and jussive
but that the
third person is taktub(a:)na for imperfective while taktub(a:) for jussive.  The
prefix t- therefore appears to have developed in both forms while the difference
is in the suffix.  Furthermore, the suffix -na appears to be original
to both and
if dropped, it was first dropped in the third person feminine
conjugation.  So the
use of the prefix t- here is indicative of both third and second person, whereas
the loss of the suffix -na could suggest some early development in the third
person form that was later lost .  There is thus no reason to assume that this
is specifically a second person form usage.

However, to properly analyze this, I think what you have to do is to compare all
masculine and feminine plural third person and second person conjugations
matching up the possibilities to different aspects of the situation.
After you have
a sort of table of lists like that, where for each form and each
situation you have
a list of usages, you can start more easily examining the data and trying to
determine the differences in use.  There are thousands of verbs were
this applies
and so this is quite a lot of work, but it is necessary in order to understand
possibly exceptional forms like this one.  This could be limited --
for example,
a study of the verbs in Isaiah only (Isaiah being an example where this change
can be studied using very early DSS copies of the book).  However, a body of
data must be assembled to investigate the differences in the conjugations.  One
can't work off of an exception here or there.

Yitzhak Sapir

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