Fine -Tuning the Blueprint of the Verbal Structure of Biblical Hebrew

In Gerda Hassler (ed.), Proceedings of The 11th International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, ICHoLS XI will take place at the University of Potsdam, from 28 August to 2 September 2008. Leipzig (2008)
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Biblical Hebrew, BH, could be seen as primarily a verbal language [1], with an average verse of the Hebrew Bible containing no less than three verbs and with the biggest part of its vocabulary representing morphological derivations from verbal roots, almost entirely triliteral, or triconsonantal, – the feature BH shares with all Semitic and a few other Afro- Asiatic languages. The unique peculiarity of this triconsonantal morphological pervasiveness did not completely escape the attention of previous generations of Western linguists, as shows the following “methodological” warning opening a popular Hebrew grammar edited more than a century ago: «The roots, whatever may have been their original form, are in the Old Testament almost entirely triliteral, ... thus imposing upon the memory a very heavy strain. ... Every verb has to be learned separately; the verbs to go out, to go up, to go down are quite different, having nothing in common with one another and being quite unrelated to the verb to go.» This amusing résumé has the merit to recognize, even if under the guise of an earnestly banal pedagogical clueing in, two extraordinary fundamental linguistic phenomena common to all Semitic languages, the very objects of the present study.

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Edward G. Belaga
Strasbourg University


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