[b-hebrew] -HM vs -MW suffix

Joel C. Salomon joelcsalomon at gmail.com
Wed Feb 15 19:11:08 EST 2012

On Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM, Karl W. Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 2:16 PM, Joel C. Salomon <joelcsalomon at gmail.com>
> wrote, forwarding from <http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/14259>:
>> Usually the suffix “הם” HM is used to indicate “them” or “their”, as in “אליהם” )LYHM
>> or “כליהם” KLYHM. Sometimes, though, the suffix used is “מו” MW, e.g., Deut 33:2
>> “וזרח משעיר למו”.
>> Is there any known grammatical difference between the two forms, or is
>> the -MW form usually taken to be simply a poetic style?
> The suffix הם-  -HM always refers to the plural third person, however the
> מו-  -MW suffix, while usually used as a plural, sometimes refers to the
> singular subject, e.g. Genesis 9:26–27, Isaiah 44:15.

I’m not sure which is the possibly-singular subject & which the
object; do you mean it can mean “his” as well as “their”, or that it
can apply to “their” object (s.) as well as “their” objects (pl.)?

(E.g., does ידיו = ידימו, both meaning “his hands” or do you mean ארצם
= *ארצמו, both meaning “their land” rather than ארצותיהם = *ארצותימו
“their lands”?)

In Genesis 9:26–27, Noah blesses Shem & Japheth individually, each
time adding “ויהי כנען עבד למו”; “let Canaan be a servant to them” —
would you translate these as “to him”?

> The use of the מו-  -MW suffix sometimes seems the same as an emphatic with
> a different meaning than הם-  -HM suffix, e.g. Exodus 15:5, Isaiah 44:16,
> 19.

“למו” as in Deut 33:2 or Isaiah 44:15 is the most familiar occurrence
of the -MW suffix. And although I say it every day, I never noticed
that form in Exodus 15:5 “יכסימו”; thanks for pointing it out!

> What makes it difficult for us English speakers is that there is no
> equivalent to the מו-  -MW suffix in English, therefore we struggle to
> understand it, the הם-  -HM suffix is almost always understood the same as
> “their” when used as a possessive, or as “them” when used as an object.

Hence the question.

I look forward to reading your notes on the subject, if & when they turn up.


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