Edition 1.3

5 February 2012

 

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History of the Ancient and Modern Hebrew Language

By David Steinberg

David.Steinberg@houseofdavid.ca

Home page http://www.houseofdavid.ca/

 

Excursus 2

Evolution of Pronunciation and Stress Patterns

(N.b. syllables carrying the primary word stress are in bold)

(Part 2)

See Tenses or Aspects in Biblical Hebrew

 

A. The Proto-Hebrew SC and its Carry-Over into BH

We have three major avenues into PH: a) working backwards from BH; b) comparative semitics; and, c) the "Canaanite glosses" in the Amarna(h) Letters[1]. These sources are largely complementary, however, the most detailed evidence is provided by the Amarnah Letters to which the outstanding scholar, Anson Rainey, has dedicated a lifetime of research. The following is quoted from Rainey 1986 (pp. 4-7) -

The following table represents my proposal for the prefix conjugation system refllected in the Armanah letters, that is, those composed by Canaanite scribes (Rainey 1985). Two modes are recognized, an indicative for the expression of fact and an injunctive for expressions of volition.

Indicative

Injunctive

Preterite

yaqtul, -

Jussive

yaqtul, -

Imperfect

yaqtulu, -na

Volitive

yaqtula, -

Energic

yaqtulun(n)a

Energic

yaqtulan(n)a

 

... It was W. L. Moran ... who first defined syntactically the jussive, imperfect, and volitive.... (I)t was found that the zero-form, yaqtul, was often juxtapose to yaqtulu to express the contrast between a single action in the past and present-future continuous.... The question before us now is to what extent these basic forms can be discerned in biblical Hebrew....

The method adopted here for defining the syntactic functions of the BH prefix conjugation is... the use use of variants in the weak verbs as a key for establishing semantic categories. The known morphological distinctions, especially those between the long and short forms of second and third weak roots, have their respective syntagmas. Once these are defined, in terms of semantic function, they become the criteria for defining strong verb forms which, in BH, have lost their outward differences that had distinguished the syntactic functions in the older Canaanite dialects (as also in Classical Arabic)....

It is generally acknowledged that the "long" and the "short" forms of prefix verbs are the reflexes of original yaqtulu and yaqtul respectively, viz. causitive yaqtl (<*yaqtlu ) vs. yaqtēl (<*yaqtil ); yāqm (<*yaqmu ) vs. yāqōm (<*yaqum ); yāqm (<*yaqmu ) vs. yāqēm (<*yaqim ); yibn(h) (<*yibnayu ) ... vs. yiben (<*yibnay ), etc.... What is important for our present purposes is that the same zero forms do have both the jussive and the preterite functions. The latter usage, however, became increasingly restricted in BH as the suffix conjugation took over the past tense function, just as it did in Ugaritic prose (Gordon 1965:68 9.3), in Phonecian ... and to a large extent in the Amarnah letters from Byblos..... There are still som instances of the yaqtul preterite in BH poetic texts.... In prose the yaqtul (preterite) has been restricted to the role of a narrative past tense expressing a sequence of actions. In narrative sequences of this nature, it is at the head of its clause, always introduced by the augmented, wa:(waw plus gemination/lengthening; Revell 1984:443)....

The West Semitic languages developed a form, yaqtulu, to express the present-future and past continuous.... For most verbs, the loss of the final short vbowels neutralized the formal distinction in BH between the zero forms and yaqtulu but certain weak verbs do distinguish between the two original patterns. In addition, there are some three hundred examples of the long masculine plural suffixes in
-
n, and a few cases of the second feminine singular in -n (GK:128-129 47m-o.). These derive respectively from and as demonstrated not only by comparison with Classical Arabic, but also with the Canaanite inflections in the Amarnah letters.... Except for some poetic passages, the long forms with nun are probably archaisms, especially in the deuteronomistic materials.[2] But even without the long plural and second feminine forms, the biblical authors still had severalmeans for indicating morphologically the difference between the imperfect and the preterite/jussive....

While there is a wide variety of usages of the Wrest Semitic imperfect, especially in BH, the verbal system as a whole does indicate tense. The communicational context would generally leave no doubt as to the temporal nuance intended by the imperfect. After all, the modal forms such as the jussive also have a broad spectrum of nuances without causing ambiguity, so why should not the imperfect enjoy a similar range. Many other languages with clear-cut tense systems use certain forms or syntagmas in more than one nuance....

 

Table 31 - Reconstructed PC Forms in PH and EBHP[3]

*PH

(c. 1200 BCE)

EBHP[4]

*/EBHP/+

(c. 850-550 BCE)

Indicative

Injunctive

Indicative

Modal

Imperfect

(PCimp)

Jussive

(PCjus)

Imperfect

(present/future (PCimp_prfut) and past continuous
(
PCimp_pdur ) and occasionally injunctive (PCimp_inj ))

(negated with לֺא)

Jussive

(PCjus)

(negated with אַל)

/ʾaqˈulu/ (1c.)

/ˈʾaqul/ (1c.)

/ʾiqˈṭul/ (1c.)

 

/taqˈulu/ (2ms.)

/ˈtaqul/ (2ms.)

/tiqˈul/ (2ms.)

/ˈtiqul/ (2ms.)

/taqˈuliːn/ (2fs.)

/taqˈulĩ/ (2fs.)

/tiqˈuli(ː)/ (2fs.)

/tiqˈulĩ/ (2fs.)

/taquˈliːna/ (2fs.)

 

/tiquˈliːn/ (2fs.)

 

/yaqˈulu/ (3ms.)

/ˈyaqul/ (3ms.)

/yiqˈul/ (3ms.)

/ˈyiqul/ (3ms.)

/taqˈulu/ (3fs.)

/ˈtaqul/ (3fs.)

/tiqˈul/ (3fs.)

/ˈtiqul/ (3fs.)

/naqˈulu/ (1cp.)

/ˈnaqul/ (1cp.)

/niqˈul/ (1cp.)

 

/taqˈulūn/ (2mp.)

/taqˈulū/ (2mp.)

/tiqˈulū/ (2mp.)

/tiqˈulū/ (2mp.)

/taquˈlūna/ (2mp.)

 

/tiquˈlūn/ (2mp.)

 

/taqˈuln/ (2fp.)

/taqˈuln/ (2fp.)

/tiqˈulna(ː)/ (2fp.)

/tiqˈuln/ (2fp.)

/yaqˈulūn/ (3mp.)

/yaqˈulū/ (3mp.)

/yiqˈulū/ (3mp.)

/yiqˈulū/ (3mp.)

/yaquˈlūna/ (3mp.)

 

/yiquˈlūn/ (3mp.)

 

Preterite

(PCpret)

Volitive

(only the forms relevant to BH)

Preterite

Cohortative (PCcoh) (negated with אַל)

/ˈʾaqul/ (1c.)

/ʾaqˈula/ (1c.)

/waʾˈʾiqul/ (1c. prose[5])

/ˈʾiqul/ (1c. poetry)

/ʾiqˈula(ː)/ (1c.)

/ˈtaqul/ (2ms.)

 

/watˈtiqul/ (2ms. prose)

/ˈtiqul/ (2ms. poetry)

 

/taqˈulĩ/ (2fs.)

 

/wattiqˈuli(ː)/ (2fs. prose)

/tiqˈuli(ː)/ (2fs. poetry)

 

/ˈyaqul/ (3ms.)

 

/wayˈyiqul/ (3ms. prose)

/ˈyiqul/ (3ms. poetry)

 

/ˈtaqul/ (3fs.)

 

/watˈtiqul/ (3fs. prose)

/ˈtiqul/ (3fs. poetry)

 

/ˈnaqul/ (1cp.)

/naqˈula/ (1cp.)

/wanˈniqul/ (1cp. prose)

/ˈniqul/ (1cp. poetry)

/niqˈula(ː)/ (1cp.)

/taqˈulū/ (2mp.)

 

/wattiqˈulū/ (2mp. prose)

/tiqˈulū/ (2mp. poetry)

 

/taqˈuln/ (2fp.)

 

/wattiqˈuln/ (2fp. prose)

/tiqˈuln/ (2fp. poetry)

 

/yaqˈulū/ (3mp.)

 

/wayyiqˈulū/ (3mp. prose)

/yiqˈulū/ (3mp. poetry)

 

 

In the words of Huehnergard[6] -

In discussing the forman Hebrew reflexes of the forms yaqtul and yaqtulu, Rainey[7] reminds us that the original distinction between them was still preserved in certain weak verbs.... He also notes that the imperfect plural forms like yiktbun, with a final n, derive from the old plural of yaqtulu, namely yaqtulūna, whereas the more common yiktbu, without n, reflects the plural of early yaqtul, namely yaqtulū. In a recent monograph by J. Hoftijzer ... one of the most interesting observations is that yiktbun, with final n, almost never occurs as a jussive or waw-consecutive.... Thus, it contrasts with the more common yiktbu in what Hoftijzer correctly calls an opposition of marked versus unmarked forms. From the historical point of view, therefore we cans say, that when the forms yaqtul, yaqtula[8], and yaqtulu fell together morphologically in the singular of sound verbs (verbs without weak radicals) because of the loss of final short vowels, the semantic distinctions between the corresponding plurals yaqtulū and yaqtulūn(a) likewise became blurred, analogically, and a new distinction arose, at least in those dialects of Hebrew in which both plural forms were retained. The form yaqtulū became gereralized as the paradigmantic plural of the singular yaqtul in all of its functions, which in the sound verb appeared synchronically to encompass not only the the functions of earlier yaqtul and yaqtula but also those of the imperfect yaqtulu. The original imperfect plural yaqtulūn(a) was therefore redundant, at least on some level. Its function accordingly shifted, from being the only imperfect plural form to being a specifically imperfect form.


 

Table 32 - Disappearance of Formal Distinctions between PCimp, PCjus[9] and
PCpret
(
not preceded by waC-) in Strong Verb Except for Parts of Hiphil

 


 

*PH

(c. 1200 BCE)

PMT

(c. 400-300 BCE)

EBHP[10]

*/EBHP/+ *[EBHP]

(c. 850-550 BCE)

PTH

*/PTH/+ *[PTH]

(c. 400 CE)

TH

/TH/+ *[TH]

(c. 850 CE)

 

Strong Verb - Qal

 

2ms.

Imperfect (PCimp)

"You write, will write, were writing"

/ˈtaktubu/ > /takˈtubu/

תכתב

/takˈtub/ > /tikˈtub/

[tɪkˈtʊb]? [tɪkˈto̞b]?

/tikˈtob/[11]

[tixˈtov]

תִּכְתֹּב

/tikˈtob/

[tixˈtoːv]

 

2ms.

Jussive (PCjus)

"Write!"

Preterite (PCpret)

"You wrote"

/ˈtaktub/

/ˈtaktub/ > /ˈtiktub/[12]

[ˈtɪktʊb]? [ˈtɪkto̞b]?

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect and stress

None

Stress

None

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2fs.
PCimp

"You write, will write, were writing"

/taktubiːn(a)/ /takˈtubiːn/

תכתבי

/takˈtbi(ː)/
> /tik
ˈtbiː/

[tɪkˈtʊbiˑ]

/tiktәˈbiː/

תִּכְתְּבִי

/tiktәˈbi/

[tixtәˈviː]

 

2fs.
PCimp

paragogic nun form

"You write/will write"

/taktubiːn(a)/ /taktuˈbiːna/

תכתבין

תכתבן*

/taktuˈbiːn/ > /tiktˈbiːn/

[tiktʊˈbiːn]?

[tiktˈbiːn]?

/tiktәˈbiːn/

תִּכְתְּבִין

/tiktәˈbin/

[tixtәˈviːn]

 

2fs.
PCjus

"Write!"

PCpret

"You wrote"

/ˈtaktubĩ/ > /takˈtubĩ/

תכתבי

/takˈtbi(ː)/
> /tik
ˈtbiː/

[tɪkˈtʊbiˑ]

/tiktәˈbiː/

תִּכְתְּבִי

/tiktәˈbi/

[tixtәˈviː]

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect and stress

Only form with paragogic nun distinctive due to ending.

Only paragogic nun form of imperfect due to ending and stress

Only ending of paragogic nun form of imperfect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2mp. PCimp

"You write, will write, were writing"

/taktubūn(a)/ /takˈtubūn/

תכתבו

/takˈtbū/ > /tikˈtbū/[13]

[tɪkˈtʊbuˑ]

/tiktәˈbū/

תִּכְתְּבוּ

/tiktәˈbu/

[tixtәˈvuː]

 

2mp. PCimp paragogic nun form

"You write/will write"

/taktubūn(a)/ /taktuˈbūna/

תכתבון

תכתבן*

/taktˈbūn/ >

/tiktˈbūn/

[tiktʊˈbuːn]?

[tiktˈbuːn]?

/tiktәˈbūn/

תִּכְתְּבוּן

/tiktәˈbun/

[tixtәˈvuːn]

 

2mp. PCjus

"write!"

PCpret

"You wrote"

/ˈtaktubū/ > /takˈtubū/

תכתבו

/takˈtbū/ > /tikˈtbū/

[tɪkˈtʊbuˑ]

/tiktәˈbū/

תִּכְתְּבוּ

/tiktәˈbu/

[tixtәˈvuː]

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect and stress

Only form with paragogic nun distinctive due to ending.

Only paragogic nun form of imperfect due to ending and stress

Only form with paragogic nun distinctive due to ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3ms. PCimp

"He writes, will write, was writing"

/ˈyaktubu/ > /yakˈtubu/

יכתב

/yakˈtub/ > /yikˈtub/

[yɪkˈtʊb]? [yɪkˈto̞b]?

/yikˈtob/

[yixˈtov]

יִכְתֹּב

/yikˈtob/

[yixˈtoːv]

 

3ms. PCjus

"Let him write"

PCpret

"he wrote"

/ˈyaktub/

/ˈyaktub/ > /ˈyiktub/

[ˈyɪktʊb]? [ˈyɪkto̞b]?

 

Distinction

Ending of imperfect and stress

None

Stress

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3fs. PCimp

"She writes, will write was writing "

/ˈtaktubu/ > /takˈtubu/

תכתב

/takˈtub/ > /tikˈtub/

[tɪkˈtʊb]? [tɪkˈto̞b]?

/tikˈtob/

[tixˈtov]

תַּכְתֹּב

/tikˈtob/

[tixˈtoːv]

 

3fs. PCjus

"Let her write"

PCpret

"she wrote"

/ˈtaktub/

/ˈtaktub/ > /ˈtiktub/

[ˈtɪktʊb]? [ˈtɪkto̞b]?

 

Distinction

Ending of imperfect and stress

None

Stress

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3mp.

PCimp

"They write, will write, were writing "

/yaktubūn(a)/

/takˈtubūn/

יכתבו

/yakˈtbū/ > /yikˈtbū/

[yɪkˈbuː]

/yiktәˈbū/

יִכְתְּבוּ

/yiktәˈbu/

[yixtәˈvuː]

 

3mp.

PCimp paragogic nun form

"They write/will write"

/yaktubūn(a)/ /yaktuˈbūna/

 

יכתבון

יכתבן*

/yaktˈbūn/ >
/yik
tˈbūn/

[yɪktʊˈbūn]

/yiktәˈbūn/

יִכְתְּבוּן

/yiktәˈbun/

[yixtәˈvuːn]

 

3mp.

PCjus

"Let them write"

PCpret

"they wrote"

/ˈyaktubū/ > /yakˈtubū/

יכתבו

/yakˈtbū/ > /yikˈtbū/

[yɪkˈbuˑ]

/yiktәˈbū/

יִכְתְּבוּ

/yiktәˈbu/

[yixtәˈvuː]

 

Distinction

Ending of imperfect and stress

Only form with paragogic nun distinctive due to ending.

Only paragogic nun form of imperfect due to ending and stress

Only form with paragogic nun distinctive due to ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Verb - Hiphil[14]

 

2ms. PCimp

"You divide, will divide were dividing"

/tuˈhabdalu/ > /tahabˈdalu/ >> /tahabˈdiːlu/

תבדיל

תבדל*

/tabˈdiːl/

[tɐbˈdiːl]

/tabˈdiːl/

תַּבְדִּיל

/tavˈdil/

[tavˈdiːl]

 

2ms. PCjus

"Divide!"

PCpret

"You divided"

/taˈhabdal/ > /ˈtabdil/[15]

תבדל

/ˈtabdil/

[ˈtɐbdɪl]?

[ˈtɐbdɛl]?

/tabˈdel/

[tavˈdel]

תַּבְדֵּל

/tavˈdl/

[tavˈdːl]

 

Distinction

Ending of imperfect and stress

Spelling

Vowel length and stress

Vowel quality and length

Vowel quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2fs. PCimp

"You divide, will divide, were dividing"

/tuhabdaliːn(a)/

/tahabˈdiːliːn/

תבדילי

תבדלי*

/tabˈdiːliː/

[tɐbˈdiːliˑ]

/tabˈdiːliː/[16]

תַּבְדִּילִי

/tabˈdili/

[tavˈdiːliː]

 

2fs. PCjus

"Divide!"

PCpret

"You divided"

/tahabˈdiːliː/

 

Distinction

Ending of imperfect

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2mp. PCimp

"You divide, will divide, were dividing"

/tuhabdalūn(a)/ /tahabˈdiːlūn/

תבדילו

תבדלו*

/tabˈdiːlū/

[tɐbˈdiːluˑ]

/tabˈdiːlū/

תַּבְדִּילוּ

/tabˈdilu/

[tavˈdiːluː]

 

2mp. PCjus

"Divide!"

PCpret

"You divided"

/tuˈhabdalū/ /tahabˈdiːlū/

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3ms. PCimp

"He divides, will divide, was dividing"

/yuˈhabdalu/ /yahabˈdiːlu/

יבדיל

יבדל*

/yabˈdiːl/

[yɐbˈdiːl]

/yabˈdiːl/

יַבְדִּיל

/yabˈdil/

[yavˈdiːl]

 

3ms. PCjus

"Let him divide"

PCpret

"he divided"

/yaˈhabdal/ > /ˈyabdil/

יבדל

/ˈyabdil/

[ˈyɐbdɪl]?
[
ˈyɐbdɛl]?

/yabˈdel/

[yavˈdel]

יַבְדֵּל

/yavˈdẹl/

[yavˈdẹːl]

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect and stress

Spelling

Vowel length and stress

Vowel quality and length

Vowel quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3mp. PCimp

"They divide, will divide, were dividing"

/yuˈhabdalūn(a)/ /yahabˈdiːlūn/

יבדילו

יבדלו*

/yabˈdiːlū/

[yɐbˈdiːluˑ]

/yabˈdiːlū/

יַבְדִּילוּ

/yabˈdilu/

[yavˈdiːluː]

 

3mp. PCjus

"Let them divide"

PCpret

"they divided"

/yaˈhabdalū/ > /yahabˈdiːlū/

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piel

 

 

 

 

 

 

3ms. PCimp

"he speaks, will speak, was speaking"

/yaˈdabbiru/ > /yadabˈbiru/

ידבר

/ydabˈbir/

[ydɐbˈbɪɾ]? [yɐdɐbˈbɛɾ]?

/yәdabˈber/[17]

[yәabˈbeɾ]

יְדַבֵּר

/dabˈbẹr/

[yәabˈbẹːɾ]

 

3ms. PCjus

"Let him speak"

PCpret

"he spoke"

/yaˈdabbir/ > /yaˈdabbir/

/yˈdabbir/

[yɐˈdɐbɾ]? [yɐˈdɐbbɛɾ]?

 

Distinction(s)

Ending of imperfect and stress

None

Stress

None

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niphal

 

 

 

 

 

 

3ms. PCimp

"It will be writen"