[b-hebrew] Genesis 31: 47: What Foreign Language Is That?

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 26 14:49:47 EST 2007

Hi Isaac,

I agree that the BH prefix verb inflections may be diachronically 
related to independent personal pronouns. Actually, this is more easily 
demonstrated with the suffix verb, which some do relate (see, eg, Prince 
1975). I have seen one attempt to unite the prefix verb inflections and 
independent personal pronouns in Arabic (Lumsden and Halefon 2003), but 
none as yet for BH.

I said "impossible" in my previous post as the semantics of the -ut 
suffix seems to be incompatible with the semantics of personal pronouns: 
the one an abstraction, the other definite and specific. Further, the 
combining of 3p with 2p is semantically incompatible when these are 
separate forms. I realise that there are languages where the one form is 
used to express these two meanings, but that is a different issue. We 
are talking here of two forms combining. There needs to be some 
functional motivation for such combining: how is it possible for a 
speaker to combing a 3p pronoun with a 2p pronoun to produce a marker of 
abstaction? What is the reason(s) for this? How can the combining of 
separate marked speech participants be accomplished and their semantics 
entirely bleached to allow this?

Lumsden, John S. and Girma Halefom. 2003. “Verb Conjugations and the 
Strong Pronoun Declension in Standard Arabic.” Pages 305-337 in Research 
in Afroasiatic Grammar II: Selected Papers from the Fifth Conference on 
Afroasiatic Languages, Paris, 2000. Edited by Jacqueline Lecarme. 
Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science 241. 
Amsterdam/Philedelphia: John Benjamins.

Prince, Alan S. 1975. “The Phonology and Morphology of Tiberian Hebrew.” 
PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David Kummerow.

> David,
> It appears to me that you got what I am saying, to wit your judgement 
> that "this proposal is most unlikely (actually, I would go as far as to 
> say impossible)." I wish you would have given us a reasoned explanation 
> why this is impossible. 
> Hebrew may easily pack six personal pronouns in one word. This is how 
> spoken Hebrew keeps producing more and more words out of the same root. 
> Superficiality, in my opinion, is a tremendous virtue in linguistics. 
> Being overly sophisticated may readily lead one to overshoot the target. 
> Language is a very very simple device.  
> Let's be concrete and see if we can find some common ground. Do you 
> agree that the inflected verb $AMART, 'you [female singular] guarded' is 
> the coming together of the act $AMAR and the following personal pronoun 
> AT for the actor, or is this last T just an abstract morpheme, a mere 
> adjunct grammatical marker?
> Isaac Fried, Boston University

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