[b-hebrew] Nun-Tav-Vet root

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Tue Nov 21 17:36:14 EST 2006

On one count the amazon.com “reviewer” of my book: “the Analytic and
Synthetic Etymology of the Hebrew Language” is profoundly wrong (of course I
am not going to argue with him about what is “probable” and what is
“improbable”), and I want to point this out here for the sake of our
readers. It never occurred to me to suggest that “...every Hebrew word can
be analyzed...” It is of course not ‘word’ but ‘root’. This commentator, an
apparent expert on the “principles of historical linguistics”, is confusing
here word and root. 

The Hebrew word (noun as well as verb) is composed of a root interlaced with
pronouns. The inserted pronouns (the “infixes”) are the sounds U and I,
pronounced in Hebrew oo and ee, and their latter variants O and E. Thus, the
word נתיב=נת+היא+ב, has an inserted pronoun I, for which I wrote the Hebrew
היא, referring to the object itself. The sound A in nAtIv is a mere vocal
gap between the consonants. However, in the verbal form ניתבתי=נ+היא+תב+אתי
both היא and אתי mark the actor performing the act expressed by the root

In their separate form the Hebrew pronouns are composed of the original
universal pronouns U, O, I, E, augmented by existence markers. For instance:
אני=אן+היא, or ani=an+I, and אנוכי=אן+הוא+אך+היא, or anoxi=an+O+x+I. In the
same way אנו=אן+הוא, or anu=an+U, and אנחנו=אן+אך+אן+הוא, or
anaxnu=an+ax+n+U. I think that also the imploring אנא (אנה?) is a personal
pronoun---a beseeching form of אתה.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Yitzhak Sapir
Sent: Tuesday, November 21, 2006 8:27 AM
To: K Randolph
Cc: B-Hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Nun-Tav-Vet root

On 11/21/06, K Randolph wrote:

> On what basis do you make the claim that נתיבה stems from נצב? Do you
> have written records showing the development of נתיבה from נצב within
> the Hebrew language, and where are they? Which chapter and verse is
> such evidence found in Tamakh? Or is your claim based on that
> mythological entity known as "proto-Semitic" for which there is no
> surviving record to be found, along with looking at cognate languages
> while discounting the actual uses in Biblical Hebrew found in Tanakh?

I am certain you will be happy to learn that Isaac Fried does not believe
looking at cognate languages will be as fruitful as looking at the
evidence.  To quote from the introduction to his book:

"Hebrew is a primal language issuing from the depth of the human soul
and has no 'origin, מקור in any other language. The etymology of the
Hebrew language is an internal affair. The understanding of the true
original meaning of the Hebrew root is achieved by descending into
its primary components more than by relying on the peculiar nature
of its relatives." (p. 14 available online at
http://www.hebrewetymology.com/Introduction%20(English).pdf )

To quote a review at Amazon:
"Prof. Fried is to be respected for the amount of time spent on this
work and for his creative approach to Hebrew studies. However, he
is unfamiliar with any of the principles of historical linguistics. He
wants to suggest that every Hebrew word can be analyzed based
on individual meanings of each letter. Unfortunately, the idea that
each individual letter has a discrete meaning is wildly improbable.
Prof. Fried also compares Hebrew words with Indo-European
counterparts, when no good scholar belives that Hebrew is
genetically related to the IE languages. This book is worth looking
at for the original views presented, and Prof. Fried is certainly
offering the book at a reasonable price. However, the uninitiated
scholar should be warned not to buy into the etymologies or
methodology presented. Much better is Ernest Klein's
Etymological Dictionary of Hebrew, or the etymologies presented
in Even Shoshan's Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary."

Yitzhak Sapir
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