[b-hebrew] HITPAEL as middle voice

Richard Benton rcbenton at wisc.edu
Thu Apr 2 17:22:52 EDT 2009

This statement demonstrates how difficult it is to classify the 
Hitpael.  If the Hitpael is a middle, and a middle is "a case where the 
actor is not a "real" actor," then we would not expect the Hitpael to 
have "real" actors.  However, you are claiming that in 2 Sam 13:6, Ammon 
is unquestionably an actor.

On a related point, we only know that Ammon acted ill.  He may or may 
not have actually become ill.  This is common for the Hitpael.  GDL in 
the Hitpael can mean making oneself appear to be mighty (even if one 
isn't) in Isa 10:15, or it can mean acting mighty when one really is 
mighty in Ezek 38:23.  In both cases, though, the subject is acting 
mighty.  We can say that the axe in Isa 10:15 is making himself great 
(although he doesn't actually become great), but is God making himself 
great in Ezek 38:23?  The impression I get is that in both cases the 
subject is demonstrating that he/it is great.

We find this use of the middle in other languages.  (I don't have the 
examples at hand, but they are in Kemmer's book that I mentioned 
earlier.)  In these cases, therefore, I think the Hitpael is functioning 
as a middle.

Richard Benton

Isaac Fried wrote:
> What is possibly meant by "middle voice" is a case where the actor is 
> not a "real" actor, for instance, HA-BASAR HIT-BA$EL BA-SIR, literally 
> meaning 'the meat cooked itself in the pot'.
> There is no question that WA-YIT-XAL of 2 Samuel 13:6, is 'and he made 
> himself ill'. If )AMNON entirely faked and pretended (HIT-XAZAH), or 
> if he aided the show with a draught of castor oil is not revealed to 
> us, and is beyond mere grammar. 
> Isaac Fried, Boston University
> On Apr 1, 2009, at 2:38 PM, Richard Benton wrote:
>> Not all can be interpreted as reflexive.  One clear passive is Qoh 8:10 
>> $kx.  A common use of the Hitpael is "act like" something, such as xlh 
>> in 2 Sam 13:5-6.  I wouldn't say that this would be a reflexive, but 
>> maybe more of a middle sense.
>> I believe Russian has some -sya verbs that could not be translated as 
>> reflexive.
>> For a definition of "middle" I refer to Suzanne Kemmer's (1993), "The 
>> middle voice."
>> Richard Benton
>> Vadim Cherny wrote:
>>> IMO, all instances of hitpael in Hebrew are reflexive: doing something 
>>> to someone or, more specifically, to cause someone to cause something. 
>>> That is the only plausible interpretation of the suffix ht = hh, two 
>>> casuatives (double hiphil, so to say).
>>> That sense of reflective action is obfuscated in translation because 
>>> equivalent English words lack the sense of reflexion, but I venture 
>>> that 
>>> careful examination shows such sense for every hitpael.
>>> Vadim Cherny
>>> Isaac Fried wrote:
>>>> In present day Hebrew the BINYAN of HITPAEL is often used for mutual 
>>>> action, for example, HIT-XABQ-U, 'they embraced, XBQ,  each other'. Is 
>>>> there an instance of similar usage in the Hebrew bible?
>>>> Isaac Fried, Boston University
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