[b-hebrew] Fact of language?

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Jun 6 02:09:28 EDT 2010

On Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Randall Buth wrote:
> Yitzhaq katav
>> The statement that one would say yiltaHem (perhaps the hypothesized form
>> should have been yitlaHem?) and another would say yillaHem is doubtful.
> Actually, Moabite yiltaHem is correct, two times if I remember.
> Just like in Phoenician, too. The consonantal 't'is after the first root
> consonant. It's meaning is middle. The binyan occurs in Arabic, too,
> where the 'n' binyan also occurs.

Hi Randall,

I understood the "one person would say ... another person would say" as
referring to Hebrew only, suggesting an hypothetical yet unattested dialect
of Biblical Hebrew.  It is in this context that I made that suggestion.

>> For the word nlHm - attacked -- this suggests that in this case the etymology
>> might be useful.  The original meaning might have been nuanced as the more
>> passive viewpoint of the battle -- defended against.
> middle is the nuance. If you want to capture this in english, then
> 'joined themselves in fighting against'

The argument I was making is that Moabite is a language with morphological
affinities to Aramaic (but lexically and phonologically with
Canaanite).  This is
especially important considering the hltHm verb of Moabite.  Here Moabite uses
a Binyan that is used by Aramaic for the passive.  The corresponding verb in
"mainstream" dialects of Canaanite -- nlHm -- is in the passive Binyan
for Canaanite.
Since Moabite is aligned with Aramaic morphologically, this may suggest that
the Niphal (N) in Canaanite and Hiptael (Gt) in Moabite, accordingly,
for the lHm
root are indeed intended as passive.  This provides an easy explanation for
why Moabite uses Gt and "mainstream" Canaanite N.

Or, to rephrase...

We might hypothesize a Qal passive of lHm in NWS.  In Canaanite, N took over
as the primary passive form, and this innovated lHm to nlHm.  In Aramaic,
the innovation was with Gt as the primary passive form.  Now, if Moabite shared
in the innovation with Aramaic as opposed to Canaanite, it would have taken
a passive Qal lHm and made it hltHm.  Because the innovation in both cases
involves passive forms -- not middle forms -- and because the Qal passive is
primarily passive -- I think this all suggests that the verb lHm was viewed as
passive rather than middle.

I think this is a simple explanation for the two forms in Hebrew and Moabite.

The nuance you offer above in English is based on the view of Gt in Moabite
as middle (rather than passive, shared with Aramaic).  But then I don't know
how to explain the use of N in Hebrew and Gt in Moabite.

Perhaps there isn't an explanation.  What I suggested above is highly
hypothetical.  All I'm saying is that given the possibility of the simple
explanation, I think we should be wary of suggesting that a Hebrew dialect
really had hiltaHem (the "one person would say nilHam another would
hiltaHem" comment).

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list