Yehudah Hayyuj and Biblical Hebrew Verbs
This dissertation discusses the work of Yehudah Hayyuj, a 10th century grammarian who worked in Spain and wrote three works on the grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Hayyuj wrote to address two issues. First, Biblical Hebrew had ceased being a spoken language, and as a consequence some contemporary authors made errors in their use of certain verb forms. Second, the first dictionaries of the language were being written, but according to Hayyuj erred in listing many roots as having only one or two letters, while Hayyuj proposed that roots of substantive Hebrew words must have at least three letters. What difficulties there were primarily involved two different sorts of roots, those with "soft" letters (/w, h, j, A/) and those with "doubled" letters. This dissertation examines the former class. While non-soft roots are fairly consistent in how they form words in the various templates, soft letters complicate things because they can, according to Hayyuj, undergo four different processes. First, they can be associated with certain "motions" (= "vowels"), namely the "long" motions. Second, they can transform into one another. Third, they can be associated with (secondary) accent. Fourth, they can be assimilated into the following letter, causing its doubling. To give an example of how these can work consider /ba:ni:-ti/ "I built", which would appear to have only two consonants, /b-n/, excluding the first person ending /-ti/. Compare, however, a different root in the same pattern, /ga:dal-ti/ "I grew". Hayyuj points to the difference between the "motions" in the second syllables of each word, /a/ versus /i:/, and says that the reason /bani:-ti/ has the /i:/ is that its final root letter, which is /h/, transforms into a /j/ which then "carries" the /i:/. This dissertation argues that in similar explanations, with the four processes plus a motivation that involves the "heaviness" of soft letters in certain positions, Hayyuj accounted in a principled manner for the soft verb forms that had until then gone unaccounted for, and explained why they differ from non-soft roots. His ideas are still used today by linguists unaware of their source.
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Soft roots and the forms derived from them
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