[b-hebrew] The 'Golden Rule of Hebrew Etymology'?

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Thu Feb 1 08:32:03 EST 2007

I do not know why ancient man chose the sound AR-RA to mark plurality. Yet
if hard pressed, or if allowed the liberty to muse off record, I would
speculate that the choppy RRRRR sound suggests chopping, the same way that
the humming sound MMMM suggests inclusion.
The question how man “started” to speak or how language was “created” is a
big taboo among linguists, yet it stands to reason that ancient man (the
proto-proto-proto-semite) did not start his language with a three
consonantal root system, and not even a two consonantal root system, but
rather with a one consonantal root system. The root RA or AR (consonant+aaa)
denoted ‘many’ and the root BA or AB denoted ‘to be’. Then he combined the
two and got רב ‘enormous’ as in the words of ESAB יש לי רב ‘I have
In my opinion every multi consonantal Hebrew root is a combination of some
primeval single consonantal roots. The root גמל is the combination of

The position of R in the root is immaterial---it needs only be there. Thus,
there is but a slight essential difference between the roots עקר and קרע. We
use קרע for ‘to tear up paper’ but עקר for ‘to tear up weeds’ as in: עת לטעת
ועת לעקור נטוע. 

The root קרה ‘occur’ is related.

The root רע RA is still extant in Hebrew and is translated as ‘bad’, but דבר
רע actually means a flimsy, rotten, corrupt, wretched, unstable thing. On
the other hand רע REA is ‘a friend, a person engaged in a free
relationship’, a בן חורין. For ‘good’ Hebrew uses the word טוב ‘stable’, 
יציב .

אור ‘light’ is also as flimsy as air.
What I mean by ‘aggregation and separation’ is a fragmented material state.
Obvious examples to this are: 

אגר ‘accumulate’,  אסר ‘arrest’, אצר ‘store’, ארז ‘pack’, הרג ‘murder’, הרס
‘destroy’, גרע ‘subtract’, זרם ‘flow’, חרב ‘destroy’, חרך ‘slit’, חרש
‘plough’, טרף ‘devour’, כרכר ‘dance’, כרת ‘amputate’, מרח ‘smear’, נקר
‘gouging out’ סגר ‘close’, סתר ‘cover’, ערך ‘arrange’, פזר ‘disperse’, פרך
‘brittle’, פרק ‘take apart’, פרר ‘crumble’, צבר ‘accumulate’, צרב ‘burn’,
צרע ‘grate’, צרר ‘bundle’, קרע ‘tear’, קשר ‘bind’, רכב ‘ride, combine’, רכך
‘soft’, רקב ‘rotten’, רכס ‘crest’, רכש ‘acquire’, רמס ‘trample’, רסס
‘fragment’, רעה ‘graze’, רסק ‘crush’, רצח ‘murder’, רצע ‘slit’, רתח ‘cook’,
רתם ‘harness’, שזר ‘interwove’, שמר ‘guarded’, שרף ‘burn’, תפר ‘sew’.

I would start with the obvious roots, mark them off, and then go on to
carefully consider the less obvious ones.

Specifically, the root כרע is but a variant (to trick the eye as in זיב-זיו)
of קרע ‘to tear’ for a breaking and folding member of our undercarriage
system, freely turning on a מפרק ‘joint’. Other such parts are:

קרסול, ברך, ירך, רגל, מרפק, זרוע, זרת, צוואר

With ברך 'knee' being but a variant of פרך ‘brittle’.

There is no doubt in my mind that ערם means ‘to heap loose particles’, but
ערמה ‘cunning’ is a metaphor.
A part that appears foreign may be considered separate, for example ציפורן
‘claw’, which is but a variant of ציבורן, from the root צבר ‘to accumulate’.

I believe that the converse is true: a Hebrew root devoid of the letter R
(the plurality marker AR-RA) refers to a state of cohesion, but I want to be
careful with this as it may become easily controversial.

The R rule is so basic that it should apply to all Semitic languages, and it
may even be true for the Indo-European languages.  
Isaac Fried, Boston University

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of George Athas
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 7:39 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] The 'Golden Rule of Hebrew Etymology'?

Hi Isaac!
Thanks for the stats and the list. However, I still have some outstanding
(1) If a root does not contain 'R' (resh) does that mean it is precluded
from indicating a 'state of aggregation'?
(2) What exactly do you mean by 'state of aggregation'? I have looked at
some of the roots you listed and am completely puzzled as to what this means
in connection with the standard semantics given by the most prominent Hebrew
lexicons. For example, how does כרע ('to bend the knee') indicate a state of
aggregation? Or ערם ('to be naked')?
(2) While all the roots you listed contain 'R' (resh), what is the reason
for the specific *linguistic* or *grammatical* connection between this
consonant and the 'state of aggregation' relating to a verb? Logically, if
something is in a state of aggregation, then the consonant 'R' must in some
sense be an addition to the verbal lexeme that gives it this quality of
aggregation. That is, the 'R' must in some way be an aggregation
'injection'. Or, to put it another way, while most (or all) verbs indicating
a state of aggregation apparently have the consonant 'R' in them, what
exactly is it about the 'R' that does this? There must be some deeper
linguistic explanation (Hebrew is, after all, a language with its own system
of logic), rather than a superficial statistical one. Otherwise, the
evidence is purely circumstantial. What's the missing link?
(3) Perusing the list, I can see that the consonant 'R' occurs in any of the
three root positions. Therefore, what is the linguistic or grammatical
control for your claim? Why is the position alterable?
(4) Have you conducted any analysis of cognate languages (eg, Phoenician,
Moabite, Aramaic, Akkadian, Arabic)? If so, what does this reveal about your
claim regarding the consonant 'R' (resh)?
(5) Some of the roots you list are considered loan words from other
languages. How does this affect your hypothesis?
(6) How does your hypothesis relate to substantives? Does 'R' (resh) affect
them at all in a similar way? If it is a purely verbal phenomenon, I ask
question 2 (above) again, and question 7 (next).
(7) How does your hypothesis relate to denominative verbs -- that is, verbs
derived from a specific noun?

Best Regards, 

Moore Theological College (Sydney) 
1 King St, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia 
Ph: (+61 2) 9577 9774 


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