[b-hebrew] -HM vs -MW suffix

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Feb 16 03:49:31 EST 2012


On Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 4:11 PM, Joel C. Salomon <joelcsalomon at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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.)?

These were referenced individually, hence singular.

> (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”?)

As far as I remember, the מו-  -MW suffix is never used in the possessive
sense, as you speculate here. While the most common use is as a suffix
following a -ל  L- prefix, it is found in other contexts as well, as you
note below.

> 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!

I had a list once of all the times I found the מו-  -MW suffix used, but
that’s on that older computer as well.

Apparently the most controversial occurrence is found in Isaiah 53:8—if the
מו-  -MW suffix can be used for the singular, then “God’s slave” can be a
single individual, not necessarily a group. That the מו-  -MW suffix is
used sometimes for a single individual leaves the single individual option
for this verse open.

> > 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.
> —Joel

Karl W. Randolph.

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