[b-hebrew] What exactly is the semantic overlap between רוח as (1) 'breathe, blow' and (2) 'to be wide, spacious'?

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Thu Jul 18 17:09:19 EDT 2013

In Hebrew 'to blow' is נשב NA$AB, which is a variant of נצב  
NACAB, 'rise, come out, stand up', as in Gen. 37:7, and also of נתב  
NATAB, 'sally forth', as in Ps. 78:50.

Also, נשף NA$AP as in ex. 15:10, which is a variant of נטף  
NATAP, 'flow, pour', as in Judges 5:4.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Jul 18, 2013, at 3:24 PM, Jonathan Mohler wrote:

> Give me some space, I can't breathe.
> Everyone needs some breathing room.
> George, I do agree with you that one needs to guard against the  
> etymological fallacy.  However, in this case the connection between  
> breathing and space/room/wide is both natural and persistent.  Even  
> from a physical standpoint, a modern balloon is expanded by  
> breath.  It might even be a universal connection as well: BReath  
> and BReadth in English are both Bilabial-Liquid words (B-R or B-L  
> in words like blow or flute); in Swahili Pua, nose and uPaNa,  
> breadth/width, PuMua, breathe/take a rest.
> Anyway, since there's no more room for comment, I won't breathe  
> another word.
> Jonathan Mohler
> Baptist Bible Graduate School
> Springfield, MO
> On Jul 18, 2013, at 11:00 AM, b-hebrew-request at lists.ibiblio.org  
> wrote:
>> Re: [b-hebrew] What exactly is the semantic overlap between רוח  
>> as (1) 'breathe, blow' and (2) 'to be wide, spacious'?
>> With etymological and semantic questions, Stewart, I recommend you  
>> consult a good lexicon like Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT  
>> (HALOT).
>> Here's a summary of what it says:
>> Some early scholars proposed two different homonymous roots, one  
>> meaning to breathe, the other meaning to expand or be wide.  
>> However, this seems unlikely. Hebrew and cognate languages (eg.  
>> Phoenician) seem to associate these two meanings so that we  
>> probably only have one single root. The meaning of 'expand' only  
>> comes in causative stems. Also, Akkadian has a conceptually  
>> similar root, napašu (cf. Hebrew נפשׁ), which also means both  
>> to breathe and to expand.
>> The thing to bear in mind with semantics is that while etymology  
>> can tell us how words develop their meaning over time, their  
>> actual function in particular contexts is the final determiner of  
>> meaning.
>> Also, beware of the etymological fallacy: that a word now must  
>> convey what its etymology back then was. So I don't think we need  
>> to find any sense of expansion or width in the sense of breathing.
>> Dean of Research,
>> Moore Theological College (moore.edu.au)
> Sydney, Australia
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