Languages from the World
of the Bible
edited by
Holger Gzella
De Gruyter
4197-017-0FM.indd iii
11/9/2011 9:55:56 PMISBN 978-1-934078-61-7
e-ISBN 978-1-934078-63-1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Languages from the world of the Bible / edited by Holger Gzella.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-934078-61-7 (alk. paper)

  1. Middle Eastern philology. 2. Semitic philology. 3. Middle East—Languages—
    Grammar, Comparative. 4. Middle Eastern literature—Relation to the Old
    Testament. 5. Middle Eastern literature—Relation to the New Testament. 6. Bible.
    O.T.—Criticism, interpretation, etc. 7. Bible. N.T. — Criticism, interpretation, etc.
    I. Gzella, Holger, 1974 –
    PJ25L36 2011
    Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
    The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche
    Nationalbibliografi e; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at h p://
    © 2012 Walter de Gruyter, Inc., Boston/Berlin
    © Original edition „Sprachen aus der Welt des Alten Testaments“ 2009 by WBG
    (Wissenscha liche Buchgesellscha ), Darmstadt
    Typese ing: Apex CoVantage, LLC, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
    Printing: Hubert & Co. GmbH & Co. KG, Gö ingen
    Printed on acid-free paper
    Printed in Germany
    4197-017-0FM.indd iv
    11/9/2011 9:55:57 PMAncient Hebrew
    Holger Gzella
  2. Introduction and language history
    Until the gradual emergence of Semitic epigraphy from the middle of the
    eighteenth century on, Hebrew was only known from manuscripts con-
    taining biblical and rabbinic texts. However, the language, too, refl ects
    the long and complicated history of the Hebrew Bible with its organic
    growth and its many redactional layers. Even the received text, which
    has been transmi ed since the canon was completed and which under-
    lies the Codex Leningradensis from 1008 ce, the most authoritative manu-
    script, went through the hands of countless scribes, echoing their voices
    as well. For the purpose of synagogal recitation, scholars (“ Masoretes”)
    indicated the traditional pronunciation of the erstwhile almost purely
    consonantal text by means of a very precise system of vowel signs, ac-
    cents, and other diacritical marks. They accompany the consonantal
    skeleton but also exhibit, besides ancient features, several instances
    of later linguistic development. In Western grammatical tradition, the
    pointing of the Masoretes from Tiberias in Galilee has become normative
    and dominates the teaching of Biblical Hebrew since the fi rst Christian
    textbook, De rudimentis Hebraicis (published in 1506) by Johannes Reuch-
    lin (1455–1522). The exact pronunciation, by contrast, toward which this
    system is geared, has been lost and must be reconstructed on the basis
    of Medieval sources like the works of Jewish grammarians. None of the
    present reading traditions with their many ramifi cations exactly corre-
    sponds to the Tiberian one. Hence its origin is very diffi cult to trace.
    Already in the nineteenth century, grammarians endeavored to
    “sweep away the dust of the ages” by reconstructing, with the help of
    Classical Arabic (which is typologically more conservative), the pre-Exilic
    stage of Hebrew lurking behind the vocalization. Meanwhile, however,
    a fair number of inscriptions in Hebrew as well as in closely related idi-
    oms have become known, and other pronunciation traditions (Babylo-
    nian, Yemenite, Samaritan, etc.) have been investigated more thoroughly.
    Although the traditional, cumulative, identifi cation of Ancient Hebrew
    with the biblical text in its received form continues to linger on, it is
    4197-017-005.indd 76
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    somewhat easier now to situate this language within a broader matrix of
    Canaanite and Aramaic varieties used throughout ancient Syria-Palestine
    and to understand the considerable amount of linguistic variation in the
    biblical corpus in historical, geographical, and stylistic respects: First, ar-
    chaic poetry (Gen 49; Ex 15; the Balaam oracles in Num 22–24; Deut 32,
    33; Jdg 5; 1 Sam 2; 2 Sam 1, 22 = Ps 18; 2 Sam 23; Ps 68; Hab 3) draws heav-
    ily on the conventions of a traditional poetic language which has also le
    its mark in Ugaritic epic. Classical Hebrew, the subsequent developmen-
    tal stage, is the linguistic register in which the literary prose corpus and
    some epigraphic witnesses have been composed. In post-Exilic writings
    (1–2 Chr, Ezr, Neh, Esth, Dan, and others), a growing degree of Aramaic
    infl uence can be observed due to the impact of Achaemenid administra-
    tion. Although Classical prose remained in use as a prestigious literary
    style, Aramaic gradually replaced Hebrew as the pragmatically domi-
    nant language in daily life during the la er half of the fi rst millennium
    ce. Moreover, some literary genres (e.g., philosophical discourse) use
    particular registers that partly seem to continue archaic dialects. In light
    of epigraphic sources, too, a basic distinction can be established between
    a Northern dialect (“ Israelite”), a ested by ostraca from Samaria before
    the fall of the Northern kingdom in 722 ce and some refl exes in the bib-
    lical text, and a Southern variant (“ Judean”) which underlies Classical
    Hebrew. Yet already in early biblical texts, it is o en hard to distinguish
    dialectal “ Northernisms” from the infl uence of Transjordanian idioms
    or Aramaic. Some passages even seem to consciously switch between
    diff erent styles (e.g., “foreigner talk”). As a literary language, South-
    ern Hebrew appears to have already spread to the northern part of the
    speech area early in the fi rst millennium. The discoveries from the Dead
    Sea further enrich this abundance and also appear to contain, besides
    “classicizing” texts, predecessors of Rabbinic Hebrew.
    Unlike many other grammatical surveys, the present chapter focuses
    in particular on the pre-Exilic inscriptions through the lens of historical
    reconstruction. The most complete and detailed edition of the epigraphic
    corpus has been published by Renz and Röllig (1995–2003), whose sigla
    (consisting of the place of provenance and the century of composition)
    are used here; a serviceable English collection especially geared toward
    students of the Bible has been prepared by Dobbs-Allsopp, Robert,
    Seow, and Whitaker (2004). Finally, KAI contains a selection of Hebrew
    documents as well. The dictionary by Ho ij zer and Jongeling (1995) also
    includes the lexicon of the Hebrew inscriptions with full bibliography;
    the comprehensive 18th edition of Gesenius’s dictionary (1987–2010) in-
    corporates the epigraphic material in the respective articles on Biblical
    Hebrew words. Due to the emphasis on pre-Exilic Judean prose in this
    4197-017-005.indd 77
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    Holger Gzella
    chapter, the most important, reasonably homogeneous, variety of An-
    cient Hebrew clearly comes to the fore. Linguistic developments that
    gradually led to the evolution of Tiberian Hebrew, however, are also
    considered; especially with divergent forms, a transcription of the Tibe-
    rian pointing is given in parentheses. For an exhaustive and up-to-date
    grammar of Biblical Hebrew, readers may refer to Joüon and Muraoka
    (2006); Blau (2010) discusses at least phonology and morphology in great
    detail and assembles much comparative material. The works by Bauer
    and Leander (1922) and Bergsträsser (1919–1929) are, unfortunately, in-
    complete and partly outdated but have not yet been replaced due to their
    historical-comparative scope and depth.
  3. Writing
    When Hebrew was elevated to the status of offi cial idiom of a newly-
    emerging administration, scribes in Israel and its vicinity also took over
    the prestigious Phoenician alphabetic writing with its twenty-two le er
    signs. In the course of time, a “national” variant of this script evolved.
    The so-called “ Square Script,” with which since Achaemenid times
    (ca. 550–330 bce) Hebrew has been wri en, and later other Jewish lan-
    guages like Yiddish as well, originates from an Aramaic variety of the
    alphabetic script fi ne-tuned for use in chanceries. It had marginalized
    and eventually replaced the local alphabet when Persian administration
    took over. Here is a comparison of the le ers in square script, pre-Exilic
    Ancient Hebrew writing, and the usual signs in Latin transliteration:
    ʾ ;
    D; ‫ה‬ H; ‫ו‬ W; ‫ז‬
    H ̣ ;
    T ̣ ; ‫י‬ Y; (at the
    end of a word: ‫)ך‬ K; ‫ל‬ L; ‫מ‬ (at the end of a word: ‫)ם‬ M; ‫נ‬ (at the end
    of a word: ‫)ן‬ N; ‫ס‬ S; ʿ; (at the end of a word: ) P; (at the end of
    a word: ‫)ץ‬
    S ̣ ;
    Q; ‫ר‬ R; ‫ש‬
    Š; ‫ת‬ T. The Hebrew script seems
    to have acquired considerable local prestige, such that its use extended
    to the Philistine costal cities in the West (to the eff ect that it is debated
    whether the inscriptions from these cities were composed in a local vari-
    ant or in Hebrew) and to the Transjordanian area in the East.
    Contrary to Phoenician, but like Aramaic, certain consonant le ers
    could also indicate long vowels in Hebrew writing (“plene spelling”).
    These vowel le ers, traditionally labeled matres lectionis, o en evolved
    from historical spellings or graphic analogies and were at fi rst confi ned
    to word-fi nal position: H for /-ā/ (ʾMH /ʾammā/ ‘cubit’), /-ε̄ / (DWH
    /dawε̄ / ‘ill’), and /-ō/ (KTBH /katabō/ ‘he wrote it’); W for /-ū/ (WYLKW
    /wa-yalikū/ ‘and then they went’), but only since post-Exilic times instead
    of H for /-ō/; Y for /-ī/ (ʾNY /ʾanī/ ‘I’). By contrast, Lʾ /lō/ ‘not’ and Nʾ /nā/
    4197-017-005.indd 78
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    ‘please’ do not employ genuine vowel le ers but result from historical
    orthography which could also have been preserved for disambiguation
    and prevented confusion with LH /lō/ ‘to him’ and the suffi xed energic in
    -NH. At a later stage, W sometimes rendered word-medial /-ō-/ and /-ū-/,
    similarly Y for word-medial /-ē-/ and /-ī-/. In such positions, however,
    their use remained optional; hence plene spellings and writings without
    vowel le ers (“defective spelling”) occur side by side even during the
    same period (as with ʾŠ and ʾYŠ for /ʾīš/ ‘man’). The Dead Sea Scrolls, in-
    cluding the biblical manuscripts from the Judean Desert, clearly indicate
    that the use of matres lectionis greatly increased a er the Babylonian Exile
    in some scribal schools. The frequent variation between plene and defec-
    tive spelling in the more conservative Masoretic text is a result of its long
    history of transmission and by and large does not follow specifi c rules.
  4. Phonology
    3.1. Consonants
    The inventory of consonants in Hebrew refl ects some sound changes in
    common with other Canaanite languages like Phoenician. It comprises
    at least 23 phonemes: that is the voiced and unvoiced laryngeals /ʾ/ (glot-
    tal stop) and /h/; the pharyngeal fricatives /ʿ/ (glo alic pressure sound)
    and /ḥ/ (whose pronunciation is in between ch in German ach, or Sco ish
    loch, and plain h); the velars /g/ and /k/; the sibilants /z/ and /s/; the den-
    tals /d/ and /t/; the bilabials /b/ and /p/; and the unvoiced palatovelear /š/
    (as in ship). Additionally, /k/, /s/, and /t/ have “ emphatic” counterparts
    commonly transliterated /q/, /s ̣ /, and /ṭ /. Their pronunciation in Ancient
    Hebrew is not entirely clear; perhaps they were at fi rst glo alized, that
    is, doubly articulated with a subsequent glo al stop, with /s ̣ / also being
    aff ricated ([ t sʾ]), but they may have been pharyngealized or velarized
    (with a following /ʿ/) at a later stage, as in Arabic vernaculars. In mod-
    ern traditions, like Israeli Hebrew and Western academic pronunciation,
    they have been simplifi ed to [k], [ts] and [t]; this is o en a ributed to
    European infl uence since the Middle Ages. The liquids /l/ and /r/ (whose
    articulation may have been rolled as in Spanish r or uvular as in French)
    also have phonemic status, as do the nasals /m/ and /n/ as well as the
    semivowels (glides) /y/ (palatal) and /w/ (bilabial, fi rst pronounced as in
    water, but in later Tiberian mostly as in very). The lateral /ś/ (containing an


-sound, hence Hebrew bóśεm ‘balsam’ corresponds to Gk. 7UAH6BDC)
was also preserved in the earliest stage. However, it had to be wri en
with Š, since the Phoenician alphabet did not include a separate le er
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Holger Gzella
sign for it; only later did the Masoretes graphically distinguish between
‫שׂ‬ and ‫שׁ‬ by means of a diacritical dot. Nonstandard phonetic spellings
(e.g., in the Dead Sea Scrolls) indicate that /ś/ later merged with /s/, as it
did in contemporaneous Aramaic.
Many Greek transcriptions of names in the Pentateuch according
to the Septuagint version show that the original distinctions between
*/ḫ/ (as in German ach) and */ḥ/, both spelled with H ̣ , and between */ġ/
(spirantized g, as in Modern Greek) and */ʿ/, graphically rendered with
ʿ, were known at least until the third century bce. The reason is that */ḫ/
and */ġ/ are transcribed with 8 and <, whereas vowels are used for */ḥ/ and */ʿ/: hence YS ̣ H ̣ Q and #H66@ ‘Isaac’ for /ḥ/, but H ̣ RN and 6GG6C ‘Harran’ for */ḫ/; likewise, ʿZH and !6N6 ‘Gaza’ for */ġ/, yet ʾLYʿZR and A>:N:G ‘Eliezer’ for */ʿ/. However, it is diffi cult to determine whether the
distinct pronunciation of these sounds also points to distinct phonemic
status, or whether the transcription practice of the Septuagint merely re-
fl ects a learned archaism which may have been confi ned to liturgical rec-
itation (similar perhaps to the Late Medieval pronunciation [ˈmɔːdlɪn]
preserved in the name of the institution Magdalen College in Oxford
instead of [ˈmægdəlɪn] according to the modern pronunciation of the
corresponding personal name).
All phonemic consonants, including, at least until shortly a er the
Babylonian Exile, the gu urals, could be lengthened, although they were
articulated only once even then (like geminates in Italian: ecco, spesso,
etc.) and hence appear as simple consonants in writing. Some peculiari-
ties between them and /r/ (whose similarity to the gu urals may point
to a uvular pronunciation at some stage) which are characteristic of the
Tiberian pointing thus presumably result from later developments. The
same applies to the double pronunciation of the “Begadkefat,” on which
see below. Medieval grammars mention a number of other idiosyncrasies
of the Tiberian pronunciation tradition (e.g., a “hard,” i.e. unaspirated,


in ʾappad nō ‘his palace’ Dan 11:45), but these are all extremely diffi cult
to date.
3.2. Vowels
One can a empt to reconstruct a stage of the Ancient Hebrew vowel sys-
tem predating the Tiberian vocalization with the help of various bits and
pieces of information: matres lectionis in consonantal texts; transcriptions
mostly in Greek or Latin le ers (chiefl y names in the ancient versions of
the Bible and the fragments of the Secunda, the second column of a poly-
glot edition with a contemporary rendering of the Hebrew text in Greek
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script prepared by Origen, who died in 254 ce); later pointing traditions;
and historical-comparative philology. However, because of the limited
corpus, considerable diversity in the sources, the long period of a esta-
tion, and the coexistence of several Hebrew varieties and pronunciation
traditions, this method does not lead to uncontested results. At best, one
can suggest a tentative relative chronology of some important sound
It is fairly safe to assume that the Proto-Semitic long vowels */ī/ and
*/ū/ generally remained stable through the ages. Original */ā/ regularly
shi ed to /ɔ̄ /, an open /o/ sound distinct from the likewise secondary
closed /ō/, as it did, albeit over a longer period of time, in other Canaan-
ite languages. According to the Tiberian pronunciation, secondary /ā/
(which resulted from tonic or pretonic lengthening) was also backed to
/ɔ/, perhaps around 500 ce but in any case a er the Secunda. Yet many
later traditions restored the pronunciation as [ā], so this is how it o en ap-
pears in transcriptions. Since H never serves as a mater lectionis for /ī/, the
lowering of stressed stem-fi nal /-ī/ to /-ε̄ /, an open /e/ sound as in English
bed (German long ä as in spät) distinct from closed /e/, took place, according
to spellings like DWH /dawε̄ / (< */dawī/) ‘ill’, already in pre-Exilic times. The refl exes of the etymological short vowels /a/, /i/, and /u/, by con- trast, were subject to far-reaching changes, especially (if certain basic historical assumptions prove correct) in the post-Exilic period. In pro- nunciation, /i/ except before /y/ was usually realized as a closed short [e] and /u/ except before /w/ as a closed short [o], for the respective length- ening grades in tonic or pretonic syllables regularly appear as /ē/ and /ō/ in later pointings. Both are weaker than /a/. Short ε as in English bet, which has its own sign in the Tiberian vocalization, also seems to have emerged only in the post-Exilic period but its phonemic status is not entirely clear. As a consequence, the Tiberian system, the most precise Semitic vocalization tradition, distinguishes seven vowel qualities: i (ִ), e (ֵ), ε (ֶ), a (ַ), ɔ (ָ), o (ֹ, ‫)וֹ‬, u (ֻ, ‫)וּ‬. There seems to be growing agree- ment that the Tiberian vowel signs do not mark vowel length, but such information can be supplied, to varying degrees of certainty, on histori- cal grounds. (The inherited distinction between long and short vowels collapsed in later stages of Hebrew and plays no role in the modern language, although it is hard to say when exactly that happened.) Etymological diphthongs, on the other hand, exhibit variation al- ready in the earliest directly a ested stages of Hebrew. In the Northern dialect, as in Ugaritic and Phoenician, */aw/ and */ay/ had already been consistently monophthongized to /ō/ and /ē/ respectively when the or- thography was standardized (cf. YN /yēn/ < */yayn/ ‘wine’ in ostraca from Samaria). At a somewhat later period, but presumably before the sixth 4197-017-005.indd 81 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM82 Holger Gzella century bce, they seem to have undergone gradual monophthongization in Southern Hebrew too but were o en preserved in spelling (as in YYN for ‘wine’ in epigraphic documents from Judea). Hence W and Y almost automatically developed into vowel le ers for /ō/ and /ē/ as time went by. According to the Tiberian pointing, however, diphthongs were o en expanded into triphthongs when stressed: báyit < */bayt/ ‘house’, mɔ́ w εt ̄ < */yawm/ ‘day’. An- ̄ < */mawt/ ‘death’, but, for unknown reasons, yōm cient triphthongs, by contrast, had been monophthongized already in the earliest texts. 3.3. Stress and syllable structure Comparative evidence, especially from Phoenician, suggests that short unstressed word-fi nal vowels disappeared in Canaanite, and presum- ably in Northwest Semitic in general, shortly a er 1000 bce. As a con- sequence, stress fell on the last syllable in most Hebrew words, but the Masoretes indicate regular penultimate stress in some grammatical forms (in general, certain endings and suffi xes). According to the Tibe- rian pointing, stress was phonemic, as is evidenced by minimal pairs like the “perfect” / bā́ ʾā/ ‘she came’ vs. the participle / bāʾā́ / ‘coming’. No phonemic stress can be unambiguously demonstrated for older phases of Northwest Semitic. The inherited syllable structures are /CV/, /CVC/, and presumably also /CCVC/. The la er, if accepted, is etymological in a few individual words like the numeral ‘two’ and the original form of the G-stem imper- ative according to the least problematic reconstruction. Loss of the case endings in the singular then produced the secondary pa ern /CVCC/, with a word-fi nal consonant cluster, which was, however, resolved by means of an anaptyctic vowel (its symbol named sεḡōl) at a later stage, hence */kalb-u/ > /kalb/ > Tiberian kέlεḇ ‘dog’. For the same reason, the
so-called “ segolates” in Tiberian Hebrew (i.e., nouns conforming to the
original pa erns qat ̣ l, qit ̣ l, and qut ̣ l) kept their stress on the fi rst sylla-
ble in the singular. Closed syllables with a long vowel were avoided. At
the end of an intonation unit, short vowels in an open penultimate or
fi nal syllable could be (slightly) lengthened (“pause”).
3.4. Sound changes in Ancient Hebrew
The common Northwest Semitic shi of word-initial */w-/ to /y-/ (ex-
cept in /wa-/ ‘and’ and a few other words) and assimilation of /n/ to the
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immediately following consonant are also operative in Hebrew. At least
in the received consonantal text, however, root-fi nal /n/, excluding the
frequent verb ntn ‘to give’, has been restored due to paradigm pressure
(e.g., zāqantā ‘you have become old’). Also, /n/ in contact with another
consonant as well, tends to be preserved before laryngeals as well, as in
the G-stem “imperfect,” e.g., yinḥal ‘he inherits’ (comparable examples
exist in other Northwest Semitic languages, too).
Early loss of syllable-fi nal glo al stops with compensatory lengthen-
ing of the preceding vowel is also a ested in other Semitic languages
and seems to have occurred in Canaanite already in the Late Bronze Age.
Despite the age of this sound change in early Canaanite material, how-
ever, the glo al stop is o en preserved in spelling in Hebrew. The cor-
responding lengthening grades are /ā/ for */a/, /ē/ for */i/ (presumably
due to its pronunciation as [e]), and /ō/ for */u/ (presumably because it
sounded like [o] in pronunciation), hence */raʾš-/ > */rāš/ > /rōš/ ‘head’,
spelled RʾŠ. Some exceptions in the Tiberian pointing seem to result from
hypercorrect vocalizations, e.g., zʾēḇ ‘wolf’ for expected *zēḇ (< */ðiʾb/). As in Aramaic, metathesis o en occurs with a root-initial sibilant and the /t/ of a prefi x that would immediately precede the sibilant. Voiced sibilants and “emphatics” also trigger partial voicing assimila- tion (i.e., */ts/ > /st/, but */tz/ > /zd/ and */ts ̣ / > /s ̣ ṭ /). A peculiar feature
of Hebrew, by contrast, is the assimilation of /h/ to /t/, especially with
suffi xes on “perfects” (e.g., */gamalat-hū/ > /gamala ū/ ‘she
weaned him’, a phenomenon not yet clearly a ested in pre-Exilic times);
the assimilation of */dt/ > / /, on the other hand, appears but rarely in
writing (e.g., with the feminine numeral ‘one’), although it may have
been more common in pronunciation (unless one assumes that a helping
vowel appeared in such cases and that a form like /ʾaḥadtī/ ‘I took’ was
pronounced [ʾaḥadətī]).
3.5. The path to Tiberian Hebrew
Other sound changes that give Tiberian Hebrew its distinctive shape
among the “classical” Semitic languages and also form the basis of Mod-
ern Hebrew seem to have become operative only, sometimes considerably,
a er the Babylonian Exile. They can be a ributed to language-internal
developments, imperfect learning a er the gradual erosion of the Judean
standard language, and Aramaic substrate pronunciation:

4197-017-005.indd 83
Especially with nominal forms (including the participle), an etymo-
logical short vowel in the tonic syllable was replaced by its corre-
sponding lengthening grade, i.e., */a/ > /ā/, */i/ > /ē/, */u/ > /ō/. Many
11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM84
Holger Gzella
scholars a ribute this phenomenon to an erroneous use of pausal
forms in context, owing to increasing infl uence of Aramaic (which
does not have special forms for pausal intonation), although length-
ening under stress occurs fairly automatically in many languages.
Medieval grammarians, too, remark that all stressed vowels, even
etymologically short ones, were pronounced longer than unstressed
vowels. Nonetheless, others date tonic lengthening to a much earlier
period. Since the pointing does not express length, this phenomenon
is sometimes also referred to as “backing” or “lowering.”
4197-017-005.indd 84
– Word-fi nal long consonants were simplifi ed and plosive stops spi-
rantized, compare the etymological form */libb/ ‘heart’ with Tiberi-
an lēḇ. Only rarely does analogy prevent spirantization, as with ʾat < /ʾa / < /ʾa ī/ ‘you (’ under the infl uence of the corresponding plural form. – Word-fi nal consonant clusters, by contrast, were regularly resolved by an auxiliary vowel which appears as an unstressed ε in the Ti- berian pointing (a with gu urals) and which seems to have caused assimilation of */a/ in the preceding syllable. This phenomenon is usually called “ segolization”, as in */malk/ > */málək/ > mέlεḵ.
Original */i/ and */u/ in the fi rst syllable appear as [e] and [o] in
the vocalization. Inconsistencies in the rendering of these auxiliary
vowels in Septuagint transcriptions and in Origenʾs Secunda point
to their nonsystemic nature.
– At least in some parts of the speech area, especially in Samaria and
Northern Galilee, the gu urals /ʾ/ and /ʿ/, as well as /r/ (which would
have been similar to these in pronunciation if one assumes a uvu-
lar or voiceless articulation like French r), were weakly articulated,
presumably from ca. 200 bce on at the latest. Hence lengthening
them became impossible and yielded to compensatory lengthening
of the preceding vowel. This change is refl ected in the diff erence be-
tween the etymologically correct transcription of the personal name
-6GG6 (< */śarrat-/ ‘princess’) in the Septuagint Pentateuch (ca. mid 3rd c. bce) and the Tiberian vocalization Śārā. Weak articulation somewhat later also targeted /h/ and /ḥ/ but did not cause compen- satory lengthening there. The Masoretes indicated the presence of fl eeting auxiliary vowels like the pataḥ furtivum with etymological gu urals in syllable-fi nal position (hence rū a ḥ for */rūḥ/ ‘wind’). A root-fi nal gu ural triggers the shi */i/ > /a/.
– The non-emphatic plosive stops developed fricative allophones, in
all likelihood via an aspirated pronunciation when in weak articu-
lation (i.e., usually following a vowel) and not lengthened: /b/:: /ḇ/
11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew
(labiodental v as in very), /g/ :: /ḡ/, /d/ :: /d / (like th in this), /k/: /ḵ/, /p/
:: /p̄ / (= f), and /t/ :: /t / (like th in thin). Since ḡ was pronounced like
older */ġ/ and /ḵ/ like */ḫ/, this change normally presupposes that
the mergers of */ġ/ and /ʿ/ and of */ḫ/ and /ḥ/ had been completed. As
the Septuagint Pentateuch still preserves refl exes of a distinct pro-
nunciation of */ġ/ and */ḫ/ (see Section 3.1), the appearance of these
spirantized allophones is unlikely to have taken place before the
third century bce. It may be a ributed to the infl uence of Aramaic
pronunciation, for only Hebrew and Aramaic consistently spiran-
tize all six stops /b g d k p t/ (comparable phenomena in other Se-
mitic languages target only some of them). The Tiberian Masoretes
indicate the plosive variants of these so-called “Begadkefat” sounds
by means of a dot (dagesh) in the le er. Especially European pronun-
ciation traditions ignore the allophones /ḡ/ and / d /, o en also /t /,
whereas the Yemenite reading tradition preserves ̄ all six of them.
4197-017-005.indd 85
– Once short unstressed vowels in open syllables could no longer be
articulated (arguably a constraint borrowed from Aramaic), they
were either lengthened or reduced. The Tiberian pointing marks
the absence of a vowel, including an original short vowel, by shwa
(ְ). In pronunciation, however, a nonsyllabic short auxiliary vowel
appeared, which, being an allophone of zero (so to speak), is not
transcribed here. The appearance of such an auxiliary vowel may
also have been governed by the phonetic environment, especially
the sonority of the consonants involved, since a word-initial cluster
like /tr/ with sounds of an increasing degree of sonority is much
easier to pronounce than a cluster like /mq/ with a decrease in so-
nority. Byforms with a prothetic glo al stop (zrō a ʿ and ʾεzrō a ʿ ‘arm’)
would at any rate point to word-initial consonant clusters. Fleet-
ing, likewise nonsystemic and thus nonfunctional, vowels with
gu urals are indicated by the ḥat ̣ ef signs in the vocalization (i.e., a
combination of the symbol for a short vowel and shwa), transcribed
with superscript le ers here. It is also quite reasonable to assume
that word-initial /y/ and /w/ were pronounced [i] and [u] a er a
following short vowel had disappeared. Vowel reduction, which
eventually resulted in vowel deletion, may have taken place gradu-
ally during a longer period of time; evidence like the disappearance
of matres lectionis for certain short vowels in some epigraphic docu-
ments suggests that it was completed by the middle of the third
century ce in Aramaic, but its onset in Hebrew is diffi cult to date.
– Tiberian Hebrew has many instances of an interchange between */i/
and */a/, but the exact circumstances cannot always be determined
11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM86
Holger Gzella
precisely. The frequent, though not entirely consistent, shi */i/ >
/a/ in closed stressed syllables (e.g., zāqántā ‘you have become old’,
from */zaqínta/), commonly referred to as “ Philippi’s Law,” was
apparently not yet operative in the transcriptions given by Origen
around 250 ce. Its counterpart, the likewise unsystematic change
*/a/ > /i/ (pronounced [e]) in unstressed closed syllables, does not
appear in ancient transcriptions either. Admi edly, many examples
occur in names and may thus not be representative for living use
(e.g., the Tiberian pointing consistently has */magdál/ > miḡdā́ l
‘tower’, but the original form still features in New Testament
transcriptions of the name ‘6<96A=Cή ‘Magdalene’). – Some alleged exceptions to the “ Canaanite Shi ” */ā/ > /ō/, in par-
ticular in names of professions according to the qat ̣ t ̣ āl pa ern (such
as dayyān ‘judge’), but also in the “perfect” of “hollow roots” (e.g.,
qām ‘he stood’) and verbs ending in a vowel (like the second ā in
bānā ‘he built’) are diffi cult to explain and thus hard to date. It seems
impossible to decide with certainty whether these must count as
archaisms, as interdialectal borrowings, as analogical formations
(at least in verbal forms), or as more recent developments caused
by the infl uence of Aramaic (where etymological */ā/ apparently
remained stable during the period in question). Morphology and morphosyntax
4.1. Personal pronouns
Personal pronouns occur as independent words and as suffi xes, which
are grammatical morphemes a ached to nouns, prepositions, and verbs.
They distinguish three persons, masculine and feminine gender (except
in the fi rst person), and singular and plural number. Independent per-
sonal pronouns generally express the subject in nominal clauses with
equational (‘A is B’) or prepositional (‘A is in/by/at/with etc. B’) expres-
sions. Finite verbs, on the other hand, already encode the subject; here
the use of an independent personal pronoun reinforces the subject or
highlights a contrast. Only a few forms are a ested in pre-Exilic inscrip-
tions; for comparative purposes, the reconstructed persons, together
with their immediate ancestors and the corresponding Tiberian spellings
in parentheses, are also added (Table 1 and below).
The problem of the quantity of the fi nal vowels in these forms,
which apparently combine properties of short and long vowels, is briefl y
4197-017-005.indd 86
11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM87
Ancient Hebrew
Table 1. Hebrew independent personal pronouns


/ʾa ā/
/ʾa ī/
( ʾ nī, ʾānōḵī )
(< */ʾantā/ ʾat(tā) ) (< */ʾantī/ ʾat ) (< */hūʾa/ hū ) (< */hīʾa/ hī ) a Plural NH ̣ NW — — — — /naḥnū/ /ʾa im/ /ʾa innā/ /him(ā)/ /hinnā/ ( (ʾ a )náḥnū ) (< /ʾantumū/ ʾa εm ) (</ʾantinnā/ ʾa en(ā) ) (< */humū/ hem(mā) ) ( hennā ) discussed in the chapter on Phoenician. Several shorter and longer by- forms coexist in the Masoretic text (including, e.g., a refl ex of the old form /ʾa ī/, spelled ʾTY but vocalized ʾat) and other traditions like the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., a /ʾa immā/, pa erned a er the, in Qumran manuscripts and in the Samaritan tradition of Hebrew). They seem to result from both ancient dialectal distinctions and more recent workings of analogy. Many developments, such as the leveling of the /i/ vowel in the second and third persons plural, are therefore diffi cult to date. Pronominal suffi xes, by contrast, indicate a pronominal possessor or relation when a ached to nouns in the construct state and to preposi- tions; with transitive verbs, they express a pronominal direct object. The so-called “singular suffi xes” appear with a base ending in a consonant and take a linking vowel, mostly /a/ (o en identifi ed with the ancient accusative case in the singular and then extended by analogy); forms of the “imperfect” and the imperative without aff ormatives, on the other hand, take the linking vowel /i/ or an “energic” ending /-an/: -Y /-ī/ ‘my (masc./fem.)’ (with verbs: -NY /-nī/ ‘me’), -K(H) /-ak(ā)/ (-ḵā, in pause - ḵā) ‘your (masc.)’, -K(Y) /-ak(ī)/ (-ēḵ) ‘your (fem.)’, -H (later -W) /-ō/ (usually explained as from */-á-hū/ with loss of intervocalic /h/) ‘his’, -H(H/ʾ) /-ahā/ (-āh) ‘her’, -NW /-anū/ (-ēnū) ‘our (masc./fem.)’, -KM(H) /-akim(ā)/ (-ḵεm) ‘your (’, -KN(H) /-akin(nā)/ (-ḵεn) ‘your (fem. pl.)’, -(H)M(H) (rarely -MW /-amū/) /-a(hi)mā/ (-ām) ‘their (masc.)’, -(H) N(H) /-a(hi)nnā/ (-ān) ‘their (fem.)’. Tiberian ē in the and 1pl., and ε in the pausal, could refl ect an old genitive */-i/ or a borrowing from vowel-fi nal bases. Vocalic bases of the construct state in the masculine plural and dual as well as singular forms and prepositions ending in a vowel, by con- trast, do not require a linking vowel. This produced a diff erent set of forms which also occur with feminine plurals in Hebrew (o en except- ing the third person): -Y /-ayy/ (-ay) ‘my (masc./fem.)’, -(Y)K(H) /-ēkā/ (- ḵā) ‘your (’, -YK(Y) /-ēkī/ (-áyiḵ) ‘your (’, -(Y)H(W) 4197-017-005.indd 87 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM88 Holger Gzella or /-ēhū/ or (with loss of intervocalic /h/) -(Y)W /-ēw/ (-āw) ‘his’, -(Y)H /-ēhā/ (- hā) ‘her’, -(Y)NW /-ēnū/ ‘our (masc./fem.)’, -(Y)KM(H) /-ēkimā/ (-ēḵεm) ‘your (’, -(Y)KN(H) /-ēkinnā/ (-ēḵεn) ‘your (’, -(Y)HM(H) /-ēhimā/ (-ēhεm) ‘their (masc.)’ ( nouns mostly take the corresponding singular suffi x, e.g. ʾars ̣ ōt ām ‘their lands’), -(Y)HN(H) /-ēhinnā/ (-ēhεn) ‘their (fem.)’ (but usually ̄ with the corresponding sin- gular suffi x in the At a somewhat later stage, graphic analogy restored the etymological writing -Y- (for /-ē-/ < */-ay-/) for the 3masc. sg. plural suffi x, since -W was by then used for the singular suffi x /-ō/ (compare ʾNŠW ‘his men’ in KAI 193:18 with ʾNŠYW, pointed ʾ a nāšāw, in 1 Sam 23:8 and elsewhere). Tiberian Hebrew replaced the closed /ē/ of the plural construct ending before /-ā/, then pronounced as an open ɔ̄ , by a likewise open ε̄ . 4.2. Demonstrative pronouns Early inscriptions a est only the masculine singular ZH /zε̄ / (< */d ī/, a ̄ its fossilized genitive of an earlier determinative-relative pronoun) and feminine counterpart ZʾT /zōt/ (< */d aʾt/; the variant /zō/, rare in the He- brew Bible but common in Rabbinic ̄ Hebrew, is as yet una ested in the epigraphic corpus) of the near-deictic demonstrative pronoun (‘this’). It is, however, very likely that the common masculine and feminine plural form was /ʾi(l)lε̄ / (< */ʾi(l)lī/?), which underlies Tiberian ʾellε̄ (:AA: and :A= in ancient transcriptions). The Rabbinic Hebrew variant ʾellū already occurs in Sir 51:24, although it does not necessarily refl ect an ancient by- form. As in Phoenician and early Aramaic, the independent third-person singular and plural pronouns will also have acted as far-deictics (‘that’), but epigraphic a estations from pre-Exilic times are still lacking. This is also true for hallāzε̄ (, hallēzū (, and hallāz (common sg.), which occur rarely in Biblical Hebrew but became more frequent in later periods. These are mostly viewed as dialectal variants of zε̄ and zōt ; some ̄ iste scholars, by contrast, associate them with middle deixis like Latin (‘that one there’, i.e., distant from the speaker but close to the addressee). Hebrew can distinguish adjectival from pronominal usage by re- peating the defi nite article with the demonstrative, contrast ZʾT [QBRT] ‘this is [the tomb]’ (KAI 191 B 1) or ʾRWR HʾDM ʾŠR YPTH ̣ ʾT ZʾT ‘cursed be the person who opens this’ (ibid. lines 2–3) with HʿT HZH ‘this time’ (KAI 196:2). Demonstratives used as adjectives without the defi nite ar- ticle, as is normal in Phoenician and Moabite, are fairly rare (e.g. Josh 2:20). Their existence indicates that the expansion of the article to the pronoun is a secondary phenomenon in Hebrew. 4197-017-005.indd 88 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew 89 4.3. Defi nite article The prepositive article in Canaanite is commonly explained as from a presentative particle /han/ and appears to have only gradually turned into a marker of defi niteness, i.e. of contextual identifi ability, by way of grammaticalization. Phoenician evidence points to an onset of this development between ca. 1000 and 900 bce. It is no doubt connected with the rise of the postpositive article /-āʾ/ in Aramaic (the “emphatic state”) and, perhaps, also with the appearance of various morphemes highlighting defi niteness in Ancient North Arabian languages. This may have been triggered by a far-reaching restructuring of the verbal system, since the emergence of morphological defi niteness markers seems to go together with a loss of formal means of expressing the perfective aspect (which is semantically related to nominal defi niteness, compare atelic “I ate apples” with telic “I ate the apples”), as other languages like Ger- manic show. First-millennium Canaanite, Aramaic, and North Arabian also all share a certain reduction in the pa ern of use or the functional range of the nonjussive (i.e., perfective-preterital) “ short imperfect” (see below). If such an explanation proves true, the restructuring of the ver- bal system and the rise of the defi nite article in West Semitic may count as an instance of areal convergence. The growing use of a nota obiecti, in particular with defi nite direct objects (see below), may also have reinforced the need for morphological defi niteness marking. With the Canaanite article, whose occurrence in Hebrew, Phoenician, and Moabite may result from language contact, the assumed original form */han/ is prefi xed to the noun to which it refers and thus establishes a stress-unit. As a consequence, the /n/ assimilates to the following con- sonant, thereby causing lengthening, and disappears from writing. The constraint against lengthening gu urals and /r/ in Tiberian Hebrew trig- gers compensatory lengthening of the /a/ (usually before /ʾ/, /ʿ/, and /r/) or a shi to ε, o en depending on the stress pa ern. A ributive adjec- tives following a grammatically defi nite head noun also take the arti- cle in Hebrew; a er a proclitic preposition, the /h/ of the article mostly drops out: BŠT HTŠʿT /baš-šat(t) hat-tišʿīt/ ‘in the ninth year’ (frequent in the Samaria ostraca). Predicative adjectives in nominal clauses, by con- trast, remain grammatically indefi nite: ʾRWR HʾDM /ʾarūr haʾ-ʾadam/ ‘cursed be the person’. The defi nite article does not appear with names, which already rank highest on the defi niteness scale, or with nouns in the construct state (exceptions are rare, e.g. 2 Kgs 23:17, 25:11); hence it does not occur with suffi xed (and thus defi nite) nouns either. A grammatically defi nite fi nal element of a construct chain renders the entire expression defi nite: BGD 4197-017-005.indd 89 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM90 Holger Gzella ʿBDK /bigd ʿabdak/ ‘the dress of your servant’ (KAI 200:8, 9). Conse- quently, an indefi nite expression like ‘a dress of your servant’s’ would have to be paraphrased with ‘a dress belonging to your servant’ (*/bigd la-ʿabdak/). A subsequent adjective can refer to the last noun of such a chain or to the entire expression. Since there is no indefi nite article in Hebrew, the notion of indefi – niteness usually remains unmarked. In exceptional cases, however, the numeral ‘one’ can be employed for this purpose (e.g. 1 Sam 1:1). 4.4. Interrogative and indefi nite pronouns Interrogatives diff erentiate between persons and things, refl ecting a distinction between animate and inanimate that is otherwise less con- sistently realized in the grammatical system of Semitic languages. As yet only the pronoun for persons MY /mī/ ‘who?’ (< */mīya/) is clearly a ested in pre-Exilic inscriptions: MY ʿBDK ‘who is your servant?’ (KAI 192:3 and elsewhere). Its expected counterpart for things is MH /mā/ ‘what?’ (< */mah-/; in Tiberian Hebrew, it o en forms a stress unit with the following word, which causes lengthening of its fi rst conso- nant or, with gu urals, a shi of the vowel: cf. ma(h)-llḵā ‘what is with you?’; mε̄ ʿāśīt ā ‘what have you done?’). Many commentators supply ̄ 196:9: [LM]H TʿŠW KZʾT ‘why (lit. for what) do you the la er in KAI act like this?’. There are currently no epigraphic a estations of the in- terrogative adjective ʾay/ʾē ‘which one?’ (< */ayy-/) known from Biblical Hebrew. Like other languages, Biblical Hebrew o en uses the interrogatives as indefi nites ‘whoever/whatever’. The pre-Exilic inscriptions contain only the genuine indefi nite pronoun for things MʾWMH /maʾūmā/ ‘any- thing’ (Tiberian mʾūmā), whose etymology remains debated. In addi- tion, ʾ(Y)Š /ʾīš/ ‘man, human being’ can be used in a generic (and thus gender-neutral) sense, as can nέ p̄ ε š ‘person’ or dāḇār ‘thing’ in Biblical Hebrew. 4.5. Relative particle The usual, indeclinable, relative particle in Classical Hebrew is ʾŠR /ʾašar/ (Tiberian ʾ a šεr). Most scholars derive it from the noun */ʾat ar-/ ‘place’ (in ̄ a similar fashion, German wo ‘where’ can introduce relative clauses in some dialects). Beyond Hebrew, it occurs only in Moabite as a relative particle, presumably due to language contact or parallel development. 4197-017-005.indd 90 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew 91 ʾŠR connects a clause with the preceding expression independent of the syntactic function of that expression, compare KL SPR ʾŠR YBʾ ʾLY /kull sipr ʾašar yabū ʾilayy/ ‘every le er which comes to me’ (KAI 193:11–12) with KKL ʾŠR ŠLH ̣ ʾDNY KN ʿŠH ʿBDK /ka-kull ʾašar šalaḥ ʾadōnī kin ʿaśō

[or: ʿásā]

ʿabdak(ā)/ ‘according to everything (about) which my lord sent, so your servant has done’ (KAI 194:2–3). The clause introduced by ʾŠR can also be substantivized, as happens several times in the formula ʾR(W)R ʾŠR /ʾarūr ʾašar/ ‘cursed be the one who (opens this tomb)’, or lexicalized, as in the frequent title ʾŠR ʿL HBYT /ʾašar ʿal hab-bēt/ ‘royal steward (lit. the one who is above the house)’. Additionally, post-Exilic Hebrew in particular increasingly uses the proclitic relative particle šε- (< */ša-/?), which seems to go back to an old byform of a Northern dialect (cf. (ʾ)Š in Phoenician) and has practically replaced ʾŠR in Rabbinic and Modern Hebrew. Some archaic passages in the Bible (e.g. Ex 15:13, 16) use zū in the same function. This word is a re- fl ex of the inherited Northwest Semitic relative pronoun */ðū/ ( Ugaritic /dū/, Old Byblian /zū/), but it has likewise become indeclinable. 4.6. Nouns Semitic nouns with their semantically distinct pa erns (albeit in a very general sense) are formed by internal or external modifi cations of a root consisting mostly of three, less frequently of two or four consonants. The majority of Semitic etymological pa erns appear in Hebrew, but owing to secondary sound changes like vowel reduction or the shortening of word- fi nal long consonants, it is not always easy, or even possible, to associate a particular noun in its Tiberian garb with one of the etymological pat- terns. Moreover, the vocalization exhibits several peculiarities which are diffi cult to explain. Just a few examples: The noun ‘king’, for instance, has the basic form */malk/, as in Aramaic, as becomes clear from suffi xed malkī ‘my king’, instead of the expected Canaanite counterpart */milk/ o en found in transcriptions of Phoenician names. The abstract noun ‘begin- ning’ related to */raʾš-/ > /rōš/ ‘head’ is rēšīt , which presupposes either an
̄ as in Aramaic (cf. Syriac rēš).
underlying byform */riʾš-/ or a shi */aʾ/ > /ē/
Nomina professionis seem to preserve the basic pa ern qat ̣ t ̣ āl without the
expected shi */ā/ > /ō/. The regular bisyllabic plural base of the noun pat-
terns qat ̣ l, qit ̣ l, and qut ̣ l, whose expansion by /a/ is commonly viewed as a
characteristic feature of Northwest Semitic, has le traces in later vocaliza-
tions as pretonic lengthening in the absolute state (mlāḵīm < */malak-īma/) and spirantization of a stop a er a preceding short vowel (before that vowel had disappeared) in the construct state (malḵē < */malak-ay/) shows. 4197-017-005.indd 91 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM92 Holger Gzella Dual forms, by contrast, take the same (monosyllabic) base as the singular. In post-Exilic Hebrew, perhaps owing to Aramaic infl uence, the bisyllabic plural was extended to nouns according to the pa erns qall, qill, and qull. Nouns and adjectives infl ect for number (singular, dual, and plural), gender (masculine and feminine), and state (absolute and construct). The unmarked form is the absolute state; the construct state, or “bound form,” expresses a genitive relationship with the word immediately fol- lowing: possessor and possessed form a stress unit. Endings mark all these dimensions (Table 2); adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun to which they refer. As in the other Canaanite idioms and in Aramaic, the masculine plu- ral in /-īm/ for the absolute state is a fossilized refl ex of the old genitive- accusative ending /-īma/ (preserved in Ugaritic) which, supposedly being the more frequent form, was generalized a er the collapse of the infl ectional case system (see the chapter on Phoenician for a brief out- line). Some instances of /-īn/ (e.g. middīn ‘carpets’ Jdg 5:10), as in Aramaic and Moabite, may refl ect dialectal forms; this la er ending became more widespread in Rabbinic Hebrew. In a similar fashion, the ending /-ē/ of the dual construct (genitive-accusative) has been extended to the mas- culine plural and replaced older */-ū/ (nominative) and */-ī/ (genitive- accusative), again leveling the case diff erence. Perhaps this is at least partly due to the fact that */-ī/ could no longer have been distinguished from the 1sg. possessive suffi x /-ī/ (which had by then merged with the oblique form */-iya/ > /-ī/). The diff erence between the old feminine end-
ings */-t/ and */-at/ (> /-ā/ in the absolute) was originally lexical and could
vary even in closely related dialects (compare Northern Hebrew ŠT /ša /
< */šant-/ ‘year’, as in the Samaria ostraca, with Southern Hebrew šānā < /šanat-/, as in the Masoretic text). Besides a few individual words, /-t/ remained the normal ending of certain noun pa erns like the femi- nine singular active participle but underwent segolization in Tiberian Hebrew (/kōtibt/ > kōt έḇεt ‘writing’ in the basic stem).
Table 2. Hebrew nominal infl ection
4197-017-005.indd 92
(no ending)
like sg.abs.
like du.cst.
like pl.abs.
/-ā/ (</-at/) or -T /-t/ /-taym/>/-tēm/ /-ōt/ (</-āt/) /-(a)t/ /-(a)tay/>/-(a)tē/
11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew
The plene spelling of the masculine plural absolute ending /-īm/
with Y as a vowel le er, corresponding to the usual orthography of the
Masoretic text, is still uncommon in the pre-Exilic inscriptions, where
the writing -YM seems confi ned to the masculine plural of nisbe ad-
jectives with the affi x /-ī/ < */-iy/ ( /-iyā/ or /-īt/; /-īm/ < /-iyīm/; the expected, to be reconstructed from the correspond- ing Tiberian form, is /-iyōt/). However, it remains doubtful whether the le er Y in, for instance, KTYM /ki (iy)īm/ ‘Ki eans’ serves as a vowel le er or indicates the glide /y/. Examples for the spelling of the feminine plural are uncertain. According to the Tiberian pointing and some comparative evidence from Phoenician, feminine abstracts in /-īt/ also have a plural in /-iyōt/. This form has been extended to nouns in /-ūt/, owing to dissimilation (or analogy?), instead of expected */-uwōt/. Feminine nouns in /-ōt/ in the singular originally had an identical plural ending, which, however, later gave way to /-iyōt/. Nouns with stressed word-fi nal */-ī/, which was low- ered to /ε̄ / in Canaanite and Aramaic but disappeared before affi xes and endings (cf. Tiberian qānε̄ < /qanε̄ / ‘reed’ from */qanī/, pl. qānīm < /qanīm/), must be distinguished both from nisbe adjectives in /-ī/ < */-iy/ and from triconsonantal (“sound”) forms ending in the glide /-y/. Yet the pronun- ciation of the la er group’s */-y/ in the absolute singular and construct as /-ī/ (e.g. */gady/ ‘kid’, Tiberian gd ī) facilitated migration between dis- ̄ occasionally to behave like those in tinct pa erns and caused such nouns */-ī/ (contrast Tiberian kēlīm < /kilīm/ ‘vessels’, from */kily/ or */kaly/, with the usual sound pa ern gd āyīm < /gadayīm/ ‘kids’ from */gady/). Most of these forms, it is true, are ̄ not unambiguously a ested in the epigraphic corpus. The singular marks an individual thing or a collective; the dual (con- strued as plural with verbs) ceases to be productive and is increasingly confi ned to paired body parts, certain expressions of time or length, and the numeral ‘two’; the plural can indicate a plurality of individuals or an amplifi cation of the singular if relevant. Plural forms without a corre- sponding singular are traditionally called pluralia tantum, such as PNM /panīm/ ‘face’ or RH ̣ MM /raḥamīm/ ‘mercy’. Dualia tantum like MYM /maym/ ‘water’ occur less frequently. Some words pointed as duals in the Tiberian text actually result from the reanalysis of nondual forms according to false analogies (e.g. yrūšāláyim ‘Jerusalem’). Not all sub- stantives which behave like feminines in concord with adjectives and verbs are marked: “natural” feminines include the names of cities and countries, nouns like ʾRS ̣ /ʾars ̣ / ‘land, earth’, and so on. With a masculine collective, the feminine ending can single out an individual or a special member of the group (like Biblical Hebrew ʾ o nī ‘fl eet’ and ʾ o nīyā ‘ship’). 4197-017-005.indd 93 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM94 Holger Gzella Some substantives occur with both genders (e.g. Biblical Hebrew dέrεḵ ‘way’), but even then one gender is usually more common than the other. Masculine nouns can take feminine plural endings (e.g. Biblical Hebrew mqōmōt from māqōm < */maqōm/ ‘place’), less o en the other way round ̄ (e.g. S ̣ MQM ŠH ̣ RT ‘black raisins’ in Lak(7):25). Those rare words which are a ested with both plural endings (such as Biblical Hebrew šānīm, less frequently šānōt ‘years’) may partly refl ect dialectal forms, partly subtle ̄ diff erences in meaning (such as perhaps collective vs. individual plu- ral?). A few nouns expand their plural base by /-ah-/ (e.g. /ʾamā/ ‘maid- servant’, Biblical Hebrew pl. ʾ a māhōt < */ʾamahōt/) or apophony (e.g., /ʿīr/ ̄ ‘son’, pl. /banīm/). The masculine ‘city’, Biblical Hebrew pl. ʿārīm; /bin/ plural o en includes the feminine as well, so, e.g., /banīm/ can be used for ‘children’ regardless of sex. In a construct chain between a nomen regens (or several of them), which indicates a thing possessed and loses its primary stress, and the following nomen rectum, marking the possessor, only the la er can have a suffi x or the defi nite article. A construct o en expresses an a ribu- tive relationship, as in ‘city of holiness’ = ‘holy city’. Very occasionally, a preposition can intervene between nomen regens and nomen rectum (as in Isa 9:2: śimḥat baq-qās ̣ īr ‘the joy during harvest’); even less frequently, an ̄ adverb interrupts a construct chain: especially in Archaic Hebrew, this also happens with a linking vowel /ī/ (Gen 49:11) or /ō/ (Gen 1:24) – the li erae compaginis of traditional grammar – or with the “ enclitic mem” which is known from Ugaritic but does not serve any recognizable func- tion. At times, a subordinate clause can follow a nomen regens in the con- struct. In such cases, the noun usually has an adverbial function and thus basically acts like a preposition. The long vowel in the construct (hence also before suffi xes) of ʾB /ʾab/ ‘father’ (pl. /ʾabōt/), ʾH ̣ /ʾaḥ/ ‘brother’, and /ḥam/ ‘father-in-law’ (una ested in the inscriptions) is common Semitic. The terminative affi x /-ah/ (> /ā/ in Biblical Hebrew, but spelled with
H and thus labeled he locale), indicating motion toward, can be added not
only to place names and geographical terms but also to certain adverbs
(e.g., ŠMH /šammah/ ‘thither’).
4.7. Numerals
Thanks to economic texts from Samaria and Arad, even the rather small
corpus of epigraphic Hebrew contains a fair number of numerals. Biblical
Hebrew, whose vocalization provides important clues for the older forms,
can largely fi ll in the remaining gaps. (Those una ested in the inscriptions
are given in reconstruction only.) The cardinal ‘one’ is an adjective, the
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others are substantives: 1 ʾH ̣ D /ʾaḥad/ (fem. /ʾaḥa / < */ʾaḥadt/), 2 ŠNYM /šnēm/ (dual; fem. /štēm/; according to others, masc. /šinēm/ and fem. /ši ēm/ < */šintaym-/, depending on whether one believes in the existence of original word-initial consonant clusters), 3 ŠLŠ /šalōš/, 4 ʾRBʿ /ʾarbaʿ/, 5 H ̣ MŠ /ḥamiš/, 6 ŠŠ /šišš/, 7 /šabʿ/, 8 /šamōnε̄ /, 9 TŠʿ /tišʿ/, 10 ʿŠR /ʿaśr/ (fem. /ʿaśarā/), 100 MʾH /miʾā/, 1000 ʾLP /ʾalp/, 3000 /šalōšat ʾalapīm/ etc., 10,000 /ribabā/ and /ribbō/. The feminine forms of the cardinals ‘three’ to ‘nine’ take the ending /-ā/ (spelled H; Tiberian ḥ a miššā ‘fi ve’ with sec- ondary gemination is formally assimilated to subsequent šiššā ‘six’). All tens are masculine plural forms of the corresponding units in the absolute state, ‘two hundred’ is a dual /miʾatēm/, likewise ‘two thousand’ /ʾalpēm/. Numerals from 3 to 10 have the opposite gender to the thing counted, pre- sumably because the “feminine ending” here marks an individual entity (/šalōšā parīm/ ‘three bulls’, lit. ‘a triad of bulls’). With the numerals for 11 to 19, the unit precedes the ten (e.g. /šalōšā ʿaśr parīm/ ‘thirteen bulls’). Ordinals, which only exist for the fi rst decade, are adjectives derived from the corresponding cardinals with the vowel sequence /a–ī/ and the nisbe ending /-ī/ (but /rīšōn/ ‘fi rst’, fem. /rīšōnā/; /šinī/ ‘second’), hence ŠLŠY /šalīšī/ ‘third’ etc. Contrary to the cardinals, however, they ex- hibit straightforward concord. Their feminine counterparts (in /-īt/) also mostly indicate fractions (with some rare byforms on the qut ̣ l pa ern, i.e. /rubʿ/ ‘quarter’, /ḥumš/ ‘fi h’). The usual word for ‘half’ is */ḥis ̣ y/ >
Tiberian ḥ a s ̣ ī. Distributives can be expressed by asyndetically repeating
numerical expressions. Multiplicatives are rendered in many diff erent
ways, including the feminine singular or dual of a cardinal and various
periphrastic expressions (e.g. with /paʿm/ ‘step’).
4.8. Verbs
The fi nite verbal conjugations are infl ectional categories which express
person, number, and gender by means of specifi c morphemes. They
mark tense (past or present-future), aspect (i.e., the inner contour of an
event: completed or in progress), and modality (various nuances of pos-
sibility, reality, or desirability). All conjugations and verbal nouns are
based on derivational categories (“verbal stems”) of a verbal root con-
sisting of two, three, or, rarely, four consonants. These derivational pat-
terns specify the lexical meaning in terms of situation type (causative,
factitive) or diff erentiate between active, passive, and several medial nu-
ances. The most frequent word order in Ancient Hebrew is Verb-Subject-
Object, but it is less easy to say whether this also acts as the unmarked
order of constituents. Subject and predicate generally agree in gender
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Holger Gzella
Table 3. Hebrew “perfect“infl ection


/katáb-tī/ (kāt áḇtī)
/katáb-tā/ (kāt áḇtā)
/katáb-t(ī)/ (kāt aḇt)
/katab/ (kāt aḇ)
/katab-ā/ (kāt ḇā)
(< */katab-at/) Plural KTB-NW KTB-TM — KTB-W — /katáb-nū/ (kāt áḇnū) ̄ /katab-tim/ (kt aḇtεm) ̄ /katab-tín(nā)/ (kt aḇtεn) ̄ /katab-ū/ (kāt ḇū) ̄ (presumably identical to 3, as in Biblical Hebrew) and number; however, a third-person predicate preceding compound subjects o en occurs in the singular. With the “perfect,” o en also labeled “suffi x-conjugation,” personal endings (termed “aff ormatives” here in order to distinguish them from possessive suffi xes and derivational endings) are added to the “perfect” base (Table 3). The labels “perfect” and “imperfect” are preferred here to “suffi x-conjugation” and “prefi x-conjugation” by reason of brevity, even though the use of a semantically based label might not be perfectly appropriate for a morphological category; and also because the prefi x- conjugation involves some endings as well. The vowel in the second syllable of the “perfect” in the unmarked stem is basically lexical and diff ers from root to root. In principle, it cor- responds to the distinction between fi entive verbs (verbs denoting an ac- tion), which usually have /a/, and stative verbs (verbs rendering a state), many of which have /i/ (e.g. /kabid/ ‘he was heavy’) or, less frequently, /u/ (as in /qaṭ un/ ‘he was small’, which is restriced to permanent states; cf. the diff erent use of ser and estar for ‘to be’ in Spanish). Gu urals and /r/ o en trigger a change of this vowel to /a/. Like the pronouns and possessive suffi xes, the fi nal vowels of the “perfect” aff ormatives also seem to oscillate between short and long, hence /ā/ did not shi to /ō/. This may also be related to the stress pat- tern. Later pointings and extensive use of plene writing in the Qumran material partly compensate for the limitations of the epigraphic corpus and the consonantal spelling. Due to the time gap and the nonlinear development of Hebrew, a number of uncertainties remain: – 4197-017-005.indd 96 It is controversial whether the plene writing KTBTH for the 2masc. sg., which regularly occurs in Qumran as opposed to the equally reg- ular defective spelling in the Masoretic text, was already in use in pre- Exilic times. All possible a estations in the early inscriptions could, in principle, also be analyzed as forms with a third-person suffi x. 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew 97 – Due to the lack of direct evidence, one cannot say with certainty whether and to what extent the aff ormative of the had preserved the etymological form /-tī/ (/-ti/) in pre-Exilic times (as an archaism, this older variant occurs twice in the Masoretic text of Jdg 5:7: qamtī ‘you have risen’) or, like Tiberian Hebrew, had re- placed it with secondary /-t/. The loss of the functionally superfl u- ous vowel resulted in the restoration of the formal diff erence from the 1sg., since old Northwest Semitic /-tū, -tu/ (< original Semitic */-ku/) had already shi ed to /-tī, -ti/ in early Canaanite. The only relevant witness from Qumran, the Isaiah scroll 1QIs a , has both -TY and -T. Presumably, this form exhibits the same development as the independent pronoun. – In the old inscriptions, the aff ormative occurs only with the weak root hyī ‘to be’ but, as in Tiberian Hebrew, this form ends in /-t/. According to the Masoretic text and the Dead Sea Scrolls, one would expect the ending /-ā/ (wri en with H as a vowel le er) for sound roots. Older /katab-at/ has been preserved before pro- nominal object suffi xes. – The byform in -TMH /-timmā/ for the in Qumran Hebrew seems to be a late variant which results from analogy with the in- dependent personal pronoun. No evidence for such a late variant exists for the, whose standard form is una ested in the epigraphic corpus as well. – As a rule, the inherited form for the, */-ā/ (identical to the corresponding singular Hebrew), was replaced by the The exact function of the “perfect” depends on the lexical meaning of the verbal root in the respective stem and on the broader context. Sta- tive verbs express states independent of any particular location in time and thus behave like conjugated adjectives. Hence such forms appear to be semantically identical to nominal clauses. With fi entive verbs, by con- trast, to which an ancestor of the “perfect” conjugation was extended in a much earlier period of Semitic (as with the “have”-perfect in Romance, where a construction like “I have bought a house” derives from *“I have a bought house”), the “perfect” mostly occurs with individual events in the past, in subordinate clauses with a location in time relatively anterior to that of the verb in the corresponding main clause (cf. KAI 194:2f., cited in Section 4.5). This event can be punctual and completed (as in WSM- KYHW LQH ̣ H ŠMʿYHW /wa-Samakyahū laqaḥō Šamaʿyahū/ ‘and as for Samakyahū, Šamaʿyahū seized him [and then brought him to town]’ KAI 194:6); it can endure in the past (bihyōt hay-yεlεd ḥay dibbarnū ʾēlāw ‘when ̄ ̄ 4197-017-005.indd 97 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM98 Holger Gzella the child was still alive, we talked to it’ 2 Sam 12:18); or it can have a present signifi cance (NSH ʾYŠ LQRʾ LY SPR LNS ̣ H ̣ /nissō ʾ īš la-qrō lī sipr la-nis ̣ ḥ/ ‘nobody has ever tried to read out a le er to me’ KAI 193:9–10). It is controversial whether the functional range of the “perfect” in- discriminately covers all these distinctions or whether it gives an event a perfective nuance independent of its true duration. A resultative nuance o en close in meaning to a state regularly occurs with some verbs of feel- ing and thinking (e.g., Lʾ YDʿTH /lō yadaʿtō/ ‘you have not recognized it = you don’t know it’ KAI 193:8; cf. h a lō yd aʿtεm ‘don’t you know?’ 2 Sam ̄ in the case of performatives, 11:20). Past-perfective and resultative meet where the u erance is identical to the act it describes (as in BRKT ʾTKM /birriktī ʾatkim(ā)/ ‘I hereby bless you’ KAgr(9):8:1; ŠLH ̣ T ʾT ŠLM /šalaḥtī ʾat-šalōm/ ‘I hereby send peace’ Mur(7):1:1). Nevertheless, not all uses of the perfect can be subsumed under the categories of tense and/or aspect. Instances of the “gnomic perfect,” for instance, which highlight the uni- versal truth of knowledge gained by experience, verge on the domain of epistemic modality (ʿārūm rāʾā rāʿā nistār ‘a smart person sees danger and takes refuge’ Prov 27:12; in English, by contrast, gnomic statements are usually in the present, but compare “Faint heart never won fair lady”). The same may apply to certain prophetic passages, where the “perfect” is used for a future event and above all reinforces the speakerʾs certainty (ʾāmar šōmēr ‘the watchman will say’ Isa 21:12). Some instances, again o en in poetry, can also be understood in a deontic-modal way (“perfect of wish,” e.g. Ps 4:2, 22:22). However, the precise interaction of the seman- tic categories tense, aspect, and modality in such cases and the distinction between primary and metaphorical meanings remain a ma er of debate. A fi rm combination of the “perfect” and the conjunction /wa-/ ‘and’ eventually produced a new conjugation in Classical prose, the “ perfect consecutive,” which is chiefl y employed for rendering deontic-modal nuances. Its origin may lie in the use of /wa-/ in the apodosis of con- ditional clauses, where the subsequent “perfect” indicates nonpast events (cf. 2 Sam 11:19–21: ‘if the king asks you . . . , you shall say to him


’). This conjugation o en serves to elaborate on a preceding imperative to express, e.g., a purpose or a further, subordinate, com- mand (e.g. hāḇū [imperative, main command] . . . w-šaḇtεm [secondary command] mē-ʾ aḥ a rāw w-nikkā wā-mēt [double purpose] ‘put [Uriah out ̄ and then withdraw from him, so in front where the fi ghting is fi ercest] that he will be hit and die’ 2 Sam 11:15). It also occurs with ongoing or repeated past events (w-ʿālā hā-ʾīš ‘and the man would go up’ 1 Sam 1:3). Such an overlap between modality and habitual past is known from other languages as well (cf. ‘would’ in ‘he would do so every day’). Ul- timately the Masoretes tended to single out this conjugation by marking 4197-017-005.indd 98 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM99 Ancient Hebrew fi nal stress in the fi rst and second persons of the singular, thereby sec- ondarily distinguishing it from the plain “perfect.” It gradually disap- peared in post-Exilic times (cf. w-hεʿ ε ḇīr ʾōt ām ‘he would set them to labor’ in 2 Sam 12:31, which is omi ed in the ̄ parallel verse in 1 Chr 20:3). Its loss may have been infl uenced or at least reinforced by an increasing use of Aramaic and possibly also by other, dialectal, Hebrew varieties which did not share this innovation of literary Judean prose but gener- ally used /wa-/ for sequences of plain “perfects” referring to past events only. The la er, termed the “ copulative perfect,” became more and more common in later Hebrew, but its existence in Classical prose and in the pre-Exilic inscriptions, where the “imperfect consecutive” was the usual means of expressing progress in narrative, is debated. The second pillar of the Hebrew verbal system is the “imperfect” or “prefi x-conjugation.” Person, number, and gender are marked by mor- phemes prefi xed (“preformatives”) to the “imperfect” base of a given stem (e.g. /-ktub-/); some forms also take aff ormatives (Table 4). As with the “perfect,” the base vowel in the stem syllable of the un- marked stem is lexical. Transitive- fi entive verbs with /a/ in the “perfect” base usually have /u/ in the “imperfect” but /a/ with a root-fi nal gu ural. Others, including stative verbs which mostly have /i/ in the “perfect,” also have /a/, whereas /i/ rarely occurs as a base vowel of the “imper- fect.” With the “imperfect” base vowel /a/, however, the preformative vowel /a/ had dissimilated to /i/ already in some early Northwest Semitic languages, as shown by Ugaritic: hence /yizqan/ with the “perfect” /zaqin/ ‘he is old’, /yišlaḥ/ with /šalaḥ/ ‘he sent’. This principle is called the “ Barth-Ginsberg Law.” By the time of the earliest vocalized manu- scripts, the dissimilated preformatives /yi-/, /ti-/, etc. had been extended to all sound roots in Hebrew and Aramaic (hence Tiberian yiḵtoḇ), whereas remnants of original /ya-/ have only been preserved in certain classes of weak roots. Since it is unknown when exactly the dissimilated form was generalized in Hebrew, the present historical reconstruction uses the original form for pre-Exilic material. Table 4. Hebrew “imperfect” infl ection Singular 1 2masc. 2fem. 3masc. 3fem. 4197-017-005.indd 99 ʾ-KTB T-KTB — Y-KTB T-KTB /ʾa-ktub/ ( ʾεḵtoḇ ) /ta-ktub/ ( tiḵtoḇ ) /ta-ktub-ī/ ( tiḵtḇī ) /ya-ktub/ ( yiḵtoḇ ) /ta-ktub/ ( tiḵtoḇ ) Plural N-KTB T-KTB-W — Y-KTB-W — /na-ktub/ ( niḵtoḇ ) /ta-ktub-ū/ ( tiḵtḇū ) /ta-ktúb-nā/ ( tiḵtóḇnā ) /ya-ktub-ū/ ( yiḵtḇū ) /ta-ktúb-nā/ ( tiḵtóḇnā ) 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PM100 Holger Gzella In order to adequately understand the functional range of the He- brew “imperfect,” it is important to realize that this form refl ects a partial merger of two diff erent conjugations which can still be distin- guished in Ugaritic and Classical Arabic: fi rst, a “long” form with a short fi nal vowel /u/ in forms without aff ormatives (/ya-ktub-u/ etc.) and an additional expansion with /-na/ in the 2–3pl. and the (/ya-ktub-ūna/, /ta-ktub-īna/, etc.); second, a historically older “short” form without these characteristics. According to some scholars, the lat- ter was also distinguished by consistently being stressed on the preced- ing syllable (e.g., /yáktub/), of which traces have been preserved in the Masoretic accentuation. The two conjugations had rather diff erent func- tional ranges. When short unstressed fi nal vowels disappeared in Ca- naanite and Aramaic, many forms, including some of the most frequent, could no longer clearly be distinguished on morphological grounds. Contrary to Phoenician and Aramaic, however, the paradigm of the “ short imperfect” has been widely generalized in Hebrew, so that the forms expanded with /-n(a)/ have largely disappeared. This is o en ex- plained on phonetic grounds, such as sandhi with the following word. The older diff erentiation into a long and a short form of the “imperfect,” however, still has far-reaching implications for clear diff erences in mean- ing, word order, and, chiefl y with the classes of IIī/ū and IIIy/ī verbs, also in morphology. “Imperfects” that do not occur clause-initially by and large refl ect old long forms. Their functional range covers relative present-future, which interacts with modality (since the future is basically uncertain and the notion of certainty is fundamental to many modal nuances), and the imperfective aspect inherent also in past events portrayed as continu- ous or repeated (this being an obvious point of contact with the present tense, which is by defi nition ongoing). A er ʾZ /ʾiz/ ʾāz ‘then’, an “im- perfect” can also refer to past events that are not necessarily durative or habitual. The exact nuance is o en diffi cult to determine. Discursive pas- sages frequently exhibit various shades of epistemic modality, while the location in time must be determined on the basis of the context (e.g., Lʾ NRʾH ʾT ʿZQH /lō narʾε̄ ʾat-ʿAzīqā/ ‘we can’t [or: don’t] see ʿAziqa’ KAI 194:11; ʾH ̣ Y YʿNW LY /ʾaḥḥayy yaʿnū lī/ ‘my brothers can [or: will] wit- ness for me’ KAI 200:10; wa-ʾ a nī ʾāḇō ʾεl-bēt ī ‘and I, how can I return to my house?’ 2 Sam 11:11). Owing to a formal ̄ overlap between epistemic and deontic modality (just as must and may can express diff erent degrees of both certainty and obligation), some deontic-modal uses are also a ested (cf. the use of the long form for a wish in 1 Sam 17:37 but the usual short form in 1 Kgs 8:57). Narrative passages, by contrast, generally employ the “(long) imperfect” for durative-habitual events (ū-mikkōsō t ištε̄ ‘and ̄ 4197-017-005.indd 100 11/9/2011 9:57:44 PMAncient Hebrew 101 it used to drink from his cup’ 2 Sam 12:3; w-ḵen yaʿ a śε̄ ‘and so he would do [to all the cities of the Ammonites]’ 2 Sam 12:31). Temporal, purpose (o en a er /wa-/), and generalizing relative clauses also take the “long imperfect.” Some forms of the 2–3pl. have preserved a remnant /-ūn/ (< */-ūna/), the original “long imperfect” endings ( nun paragogicum), o en in pausal intonation and before gu urals. “Imperfects” that occur in initial position in main clauses, by con- trast, generally correspond to old short forms, so word-order constraints to some extent restore the functional diff erentiation. Most free-standing occurrences are “ jussives.” They express diff erent types of deontic mo- dality such as wishes and commands (YŠMʿ ʾDNY /yišmaʿ ʾadōnī/ ‘let my lord hear!’ KAI 200:1) and take the negation ʾL /ʾal/ (ʾL TŠMʿ /ʾal tišmaʿ/ ‘don’t listen!’ Mur(7):1:2). An indissoluble connection of the con- junction /wa-/ with a “short imperfect” (the “ imperfect consecutive”), on the other hand, constitutes one of the most distinctive hallmarks of Classical Hebrew prose style. By the time of the Masoretic punctuation, the bonding of the two elements was reinforced by gemination in the prefi x (/wa-yaktub/ > wayyiḵtoḇ), unlike /wa-/ (> w) with the long form.
Since this resulted in a closed initial syllable, the vowel /a/ of the con-
junction has been preserved. Except for some free-standing forms in
Early Hebrew poetry, the sharply defi ned past perfective function of
the “short imperfect” has only been preserved in this new conjugation
(consequently yarʿem ‘he thundered’ in the archaic passage 2 Sam 22:14
has been replaced by wayyarʿem in the later reworking in Ps 18:14). It
mostly occurs with sequences of completed main events in the past and
thus acts as the default narrative form. Not all instances are strictly se-
quential, though, but many alleged exceptions refer to the same event
expressed by two main verbs, e.g., ‘they ate and drank’.
Events rendered with this form appear concentrated in a single
point; circumstances expressed by the durative “ long imperfect,” by
a “perfect” in subordinate clauses, or by a participle or other nominal
construction constitute the background against which the main line of
the story evolves. With stative verbs, this conjugation usually renders
an ingressive situation (wa iḵbad hammilḥāmā ‘the ba le became fi erce’
1 Sam 31:3, from kbd ‘to be heavy’).
Such sequences o en start with an
initial situation described by the “perfect” (HKW . . . WYLKW HMYM
/ hikkū . . . wa-yalikū ham-maym/ ‘[the stonecu ers] struck [toward each
other], then the water fl owed’ KAI 189:4). Syntactic and semantic con-
straints do not allow this narrative form to be used together with a ne-
gation, in which case /lō/ and the perfect come into play. Likewise, a
switch to the “perfect” occurs when the narrative fl ow is interrupted
by another element, such as an adverb, that occurs clause-initially. One
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Holger Gzella
could imagine that the “ imperfect consecutive” served as a literary pres-
tige device that was soon imitated by other chanceries (as in Moab) and
in less formal texts, such as the petition of a harvester (KAI 200). Like the
“perfect consecutive,” it disappeared in later periods but continued to be
used in classicizing texts (e.g. from Qumran).
Before object suffi xes with the “imperfect,” remnants of the old “ en-
ergic” ending /-an(na)/ (with /á/ > ε in Tiberian Hebrew) have been pre-
served. The “cohortative” in /-ā/ (a vestige of the subjunctive in */-a/?) in
the 1sg./pl. is confi ned to self-exhortation in Classical Hebrew.
The imperative basically corresponds to the second person of the
“short imperfect” without a preformative: /ktub/ (kt ob ), occa-
̄ ̄ (kit b ū);
sionally expanded by /-ā/; /ktub-ī/ (kit b ī); /ktub-ū/
̄ /ktúb-nā/ (kt ób nā). Only the masculine forms are a ested in ̄ ̄ the
̄ is quite likely that the unstable word-initial con-
epigraphic material. ̄ It
sonant cluster, whose existence follows from the direct etymological
connection of the imperative with the base of the “short imperfect,” was
o en resolved with anaptyctic vowels in pronunciation, which then
caused spirantization of a plosive stop as second root le er. Suffi xes can
be a ached to an /-n-/ apparently taken over from the energic (ŠLH ̣ NW
‘send it!’ Arad(6):4:2).
Both forms of the participle, active /kōtib/ ‘writing’ and passive /katūb/
‘wri en’, infl ect like a noun for gender, number, and state. They are o en
substantivized, especially with professions and groups of persons. The
active feminine singular frequently undergoes segolization in Tiberian
Hebrew (kōt έb εt beside kōt b ā). When used predicatively, the active form
̄ ̄
̄ ̄ contemporaneous with the tense value of
renders an ̄ ongoing
the context. Instances with a verbal function occur, albeit infrequently,
already in pre-Exilic Hebrew for the present tense (MŠʾT LKŠ NH ̣ NW
ŠMRM /maśśaʾōt Lakiš naḥnū šōmirīm/ ‘we are watching the smoke sig-
nals from Lachish’ KAI 194:10f.) or for the immediate future (mēqīm ʿālε̄ḵ ā
rāʿā ‘I am on the point of bringing disaster on you!’ 2 Sam 12:11). The lat-
ter is particularly common a er the presentative /hinnε̄ /. Together with a
fi nite form of the root hyī ‘to be’, the participle marks durative or habitual
situations in the past (with the “perfect” of hyī) or in the future (with the
“imperfect”). However, only in post-Exilic Hebrew was it gradually in-
tegrated into the verbal system as a normal present-tense form. Aramaic
infl uence seems to have reinforced this process by way of contact-induced
replication of a use pa ern that was signifi cantly more advanced in Ara-
maic at that time.
The “infi nitive absolute” in Hebrew corresponds to the common Se-
mitic infi nitive */katāb-/ > /katōb/ (kāt ōb ). In Classical Hebrew, it o en fea-
̄ ̄ together with a fi nite verb of the
tures in “paronomastic” constructions
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same root and, usually, in the same stem to mark an assertion (ŠLH ̣ ŠLH ̣ T
/šalōḥ šalaḥtī/ ‘I hereby send’ Mur(7):1:1). Also, several adverbs, o en
from derived stems, are lexicalized infi nitive absolutes (e.g., haškēm ‘tire-
lessly’, /halōk/ ‘continuously’). It can also appear instead of an imperative
(among the epigraphic witnesses, this is especially common in the Arad
le ers, e.g. NTN /natōn/ ‘give!’ Arad(6):1:2 and elsewhere) and, rather in-
frequently, replace a fi nite verbal form without overtly marking tense, as-
pect, or modality. This last function, which is much more widespread in
the Phoenician royal inscriptions, occurs quite rarely in Classical Hebrew
(occasionally, WʾSM in KAI 200:5, 6f. is understood as an infi nitive absolute
rendering a circumstantial event ‘while he was measuring’, but it can also
be parsed as a “perfect”) and completely disappeared a er a short-lived
renaissance in the Second Temple period.
Another form, the “infi nitive construct,” appears a er proclitic prep-
ositions for temporal and purpose clauses and as a complement (usu-
ally introduced by /la-/) a er auxiliary verbs. It has the pa ern /ktub/
(kt ob ), with suffi xes /kutb-/ (kot b-); the relationship with the infi nitive
̄ ̄
̄ dual nature of the infi nitive, nominal
is debated. Owing to the
uses (‘my writing’) take possessive suffi xes, verbal uses (‘to write me’)
object suffi xes. The quotative marker LʾMR /lēmōr/ ‘saying’ is a fossilized
adverbial infi nitive.
4.9. “Weak” verbs
Verbal roots that do not consist of three stable consonantal root le ers
(“radicals,” o en indicated by Roman numbers) exhibit certain peculiar-
ities with respect to “sound” (or “strong”) roots. Such “weak” (in an op-
posite sense as in Indo-European linguistics!) roots can be divided into
diff erent classes that exhibit predictable behavior; the alternative term
“irregular” is thus misleading. Certain overlaps, however, show that the
boundaries between these classes were not always clear. Since the con-
sonantal writing is so ambiguous, the Tiberian pointing and historical-
comparative material have to serve as the point of departure here.

4197-017-005.indd 103
Many Iy verbs Iy originally had root-initial /w/ (e.g. yšb < *wθb ‘to sit’), which has o en been preserved in the causative stem. The “imperfect” is largely based on the second and third radicals, espe- cially with roots which have /i/ as their lexical base vowel. This is o en viewed as a remnant of bi-radical roots, although sound forms are also a ested: /šib/ (šeḇ) ‘sit down!’, /daʿ/ ‘know!’ (from ydʿ), etc., “imperfect” /yašib/ (yēšeḇ), /yidaʿ/ (yēd aʿ). The place ̄ of the infi nitive construct is taken by a feminine verbal noun in 11/9/2011 9:57:45 PM104 Holger Gzella /-t/ (/šibt/, /daʿt/) that undergoes segolization in Tiberian Hebrew (šέb εt , dáʿat ). Many In roots behave similarly, since the fi rst radical ̄ ̄ ̄ disappears due to assimilation of /n/: /yiggaš/ < */yingaš/ (from ngš ‘to approach’), imperative /gaš/, infi nitive construct /gašt/ (gέšεt ), ̄ and other verbs with the “imperfect” basel vowel /a/, but /yas ̣ s ̣ ur/ < */yans ̣ ur/ (yis ̣ s ̣ or, from ns ̣ r ‘to protect’), imperative /ns ̣ ur/ (ns ̣ or), infi nitive construct /ns ̣ ur/ (ns ̣ or). The verb ntn ‘to give’ (/ya in/ yit- ten, /tin/ ten, /ti / tet ) is a special case since it has the form ytn in ̄ Ugaritic and Phoenician. Likewise, lqḥ ‘to take’ resembles a In verb (/yiqqaḥ/, /qaḥ/, /qaḥt/ qáḥat ), as o en (though not always) also hlk ̄ ‘to go’ does as well . 4197-017-005.indd 104 – “Hollow roots,” or IIī and IIū roots, with a long vowel between the fi rst and last radicals, preserve that vowel in the “imperfect” base and in the infi nitive construct (/(ya-)śīm/, /śīm/ ‘to place’; /(ya-)qūm/, /qūm/ ‘to stand’). In the “short imperfect,” it was short- ened, hence the Tiberian distinction between yā́ qom (< */yaqum/) for the jussive as well as the “ imperfect consecutive” (with penulti- mate stress) and the long form yāqūm (< */yaqūm/). The “perfect,” by contrast, has /a/, less frequently /i/, as with sound roots, which, unexpectedly, is long in the Masoretic text (qām), as in Aramaic, and did not shi to / /; likewise in the participle. Before consonantal af- formatives, either the base vowel was shortened (qamtā ‘you stood up’) or another, long, vowel was added to avoid a doubly closed syllable (regularly in the causative stem: h a qīmōt ī ‘I have erected’). ̄ While both strategies serve the same purpose in the end of obeying a phonological constraint, they do not seem to be interchangeable, and shortening of the long base vowel occurs more commonly, es- pecially in the G-stem. Verbs which also have root-fi nal /-ī/ (IIIy/ī) treat their middle radical like a consonantal glide. – Verbs IIIy/ī as well as former verbs *IIIw/ū have monophthongized the intervocalic glide in most forms ( */banaya/ > */banā/,
which should lead to /banō/ but appears as bānā ‘he built’ in the Ti-
berian text; */banayū/ > /banū/). Base-fi nal /ī/ is preserved
before consonantal aff ormatives (e.g., /banītā/). In the, by contrast, the /-t/ of the old aff ormative was reanalyzed
as a third radical (hence /hayāt/ > /hayatā/ hayt ā ‘she was’) and only
preserved in rare byforms (as shown by HYT instead of expected
HYTH in KAI 189:3, these were used even in Jerusalem). The “ long imperfect” ends in stressed /-ε̄ / (/yabniyu/ > /yabnī/ > /yabnε̄ / yiḇnε̄ ); the short form has lost the vocalic refl ex of the fi nal radical (/yabniy/ > /yabni/ > /yabn/, Tiberian yíḇεn, with anaptyxis). The
11/9/2011 9:57:45 PMAncient Hebrew
infi nitive construct usually ends in /-ōt/, the absolute one in /-ō/,
the participles in /-ε̄ / (active) and /-ūy/ (passive).
– “Geminate” roots with a long second radical (II = III) exhibit both
sound (e.g., /sabab/ sāḇaḇ ‘he surrounded’, from sbb, and
always in the participle and the infi nitive absolute) and weak forms
(e.g., /qall/ qal ‘he is light’, from qll, and generally be-
fore consonantal aff ormative, hence /sabbōtī/ ‘I surrounded’ with
additional /-ō-/ in order to prevent an overlong syllable consisting
of a long consonant followed by yet another consonant). With the
“imperfect,” Tiberian Hebrew has, besides refl exes of the inherited
forms like yāsōḇ (< */yasubb/), “Aramaizing” variants with a long fi rst radical and a simple second radical (yissoḇ). Occasionally, these have somewhat distinct meanings. – Weak articulation of gu urals and /r/ in Tiberian Hebrew has given rise to various other peculiarities, such as compensatory lengthen- ing of the preceding vowel in many cases when a consonant could not be lengthened. 4.10. Verbal stems In order to express factitive and causative situation types (Aktionsarten) on the one hand and active, middle, and passive voice on the other, Se- mitic languages use various derivational categories, called verbal stems (binyanim in traditional grammar), which underlie fi nite verbal conjuga- tions and verbal nouns. They are derived from the unmarked basic stem (G-stem, a er German “Grundstamm,” Hebrew Qal) via apophony, con- sonantal length, or additional morphemes. The exact nuance of every verb in a particular stem depends on the meaning of the root and can diff er substantially from case to case. Only a few roots are productive in more than a small portion of all the possible stem modifi cations. Here, too, many peculiarities can best be assessed in light of the vocalization: – 4197-017-005.indd 105 The N-stem (Nif ʿal) has the prefi x /na-/ (Tiberian ni-): “perfect” and participle /naktab/ (Tiberian niḵtab and niḵtāḇ), the la er o en with ̄ gerundival nuances, just as Latin invictus ‘unconquered’ = ‘invinci- ble’; “imperfect” /yakkatib/ (< */yankatib/; yikkāt eb ); imperative and ̄ ̄ infi nitive construct /hikkatib/ (hikkāt eb ); infi nitive absolute /naktōb/ ̄ ̄ or /hikkatōb/ (niḵtōb , hikkāt ōb ). This stem expresses various nuances ̄ ̄ ̄ of the middle voice, including reciprocity (as in lḥm N ‘to fi ght’) but rarely genuine refl exivity. It acts as a detransitivizing counterpart to active G-stem verbs (rāʾā G ‘he saw’, nirʾā N ‘he appeared’) and 11/9/2011 9:57:45 PM106 Holger Gzella renders the ingressive manifestation of a particular quality with stative roots. Some verbs also have middle meanings in the G-stem (e.g., s ̣ pn both ‘to hide something’ and, like N, ‘to hide [oneself]’). – The D(oubling)-stem (Piʿel), by contrast, increases the transitivity of the verb or indicates verbal plurality (e.g., when a considerably larger number of direct objects is involved). It is formed by length- ening the middle radical: “perfect” /ki ib/ (ki eḇ, qiddaš); “imper- fect,” imperative, and infi nitive construct /(ya-)ka ib/ ((y-)ka eḇ); infi nitive absolute /ka ōb/; participle /muka ab/ (mka eḇ). Low- transitivity G-stem verbs regularly have a factitive meaning in the D-stem (qād aš G ‘he was holy’, qiddaš D ‘he made holy’). This stem ̄ is also used with many denominal verbal roots. – The C(ausative)-stem (Hif ʿil) cannot always be clearly distinguished from the factitive D-stem on semantic grounds, but it generally fo- cuses on the action itself instead of on the result (hiqdīš C ‘he sancti- fi ed’). Intransitive verbs become singly transitive, transitive ones in part doubly transitive (e.g., ‘to show someone something’). Again, some denominal verbs appear in the C-stem even though no caus- ative nuance is involved. The characteristic prefi x /hi-/ (< */ha-/) disappears between vowels: “perfect” /hiktib/ (hiḵtīḇ, presumably with secondary lengthening of the /i/ in the second syllable, which is always wri en defectively in pre-Exilic inscriptions; before con- sonantal aff ormatives, /i/ becomes /a/: hiḵtaḇtā); “imper- fect” /yaktib/ < */yahaktib/ (“long imperfect” yaḵtīḇ in Tiberian He- brew; before consonantal aff ormatives with /i/, pronounced [e], as also appears in the “short imperfect”: yaḵteḇ); imperative /haktib/ (haḵteḇ); infi nitive construct /haktib/ (haḵtīḇ), absolute haḵtēḇ (pre- Tiberian form unknown; by analogy, one would expect */haktōb/?); participle /maktib/ < */muhaktib/ (maḵtīḇ). As in Ugaritic and Aramaic, the G, D, and C stems in Northwest Semitic all once had a refl exive counterpart with a /t/ prefi x or infi x. He- brew, by contrast, has preserved only the tD stem (Hit paʿel) as a produc- ̄ notions (such as tive category mostly expressing refl exivity and related iterativity with the root hlk ‘to walk’): “perfect,” imperative, and infi ni- tive construct /hitka ib/ (hit ka eḇ); “imperfect” /yatka ib/ (yit ka eḇ); in- ̄ ̄ fi nitive absolute hit ka ēḇ. Fossilized remainders of the Gt-stem, whose ̄ functions were partly absorbed by the Nif ʿal (the closest equivalent in terms of meaning), survive in archaic place names and some instances of the root pqd ‘to muster’ in Jdg 20:17; occasionally, perhaps, (lexical- ized) remnants of the Ct-stem can also be identifi ed, whose functional range was then in part incorporated into the tD stem. The most likely 4197-017-005.indd 106 11/9/2011 9:57:45 PMAncient Hebrew 107 example is the root ḥwy Ct ‘to bow down’. (Interestingly, the same root also provides most of the certain examples of the Ct in Ugaritic, which suggests that the Ct-stem was slowly becoming unproductive already in that earlier stage of Northwest Semitic.) In addition to that, G, D, and C each formed an “internal” passive by means of apophony using the vowel sequence /u/–/a/. These mostly act as genuine passives by exchanging the grammatical roles of subject and object of an underlying active expression. The Dp (Hebrew Puʿal) and Cp (Hof ʿal) variants remained fully productive in Hebrew, whereas the Gp (Qal passive), presumably due to its large functional overlap with the N-stem, soon became confi ned to the participle /katūb/. Only a few very frequent roots are also a ested in the fi nite conjugations. The Gp “per- fect,” which is formally identical to the Puʿal in the Tiberian pointing because the vowel in the fi rst syllable has been preserved by the length- ening of the second radical, while the Gp “imperfect” resembles that of the Hof ʿal. Gp instances can, however, be identifi ed when their active counterpart is a G- and not a D- or a C-stem form. Since most IIī/ū roots and some geminate verbs do not lengthen the middle radical, the corresponding D-stem functions were taken over by morphological byforms according to the pa ern /qōmim/ (active), /qōmam/ (passive), and /hitqōmim/ (refl exive; with /i/ > e in the Tiberian
vocalization) in the “perfect.” Very rarely, this so-called L-stem (Pōlel) is
also a ested with sound roots (“Pōʿel”) and sometimes credited with a
distinct meaning (i.e., expressing relations, like the “third stem” in Clas-
sical Arabic), but no consistent functional range can be identifi ed on the
basis of the surviving examples. D-stem forms according to the sound
pa ern are in part already a ested in later biblical books (e.g. qiyyam ‘he
confi rmed’ Esth 9:32), but their use increased only in post-biblical times.
A few other (lexicalized?) stems (e.g., Pilpel, Paʿlal) seem to be confi ned to
particular roots.
4.11. Prepositions and particles
The most frequent Hebrew prepositions are the three proclitics B /bi-/ ‘in,
at’, L /la-/ (< /li-/) ‘for, to, by’, and K /ka-/ ‘as’ (b-, l-, k-). They specify rela-
tions whose exact nuance depends on the particular verb and construc-
tion. When a ached to a noun with a defi nite article, the /h/ of the article
disappears. Their longer nonclitic byforms have an expansion /-mō/ (al-
ways used with /ka-/ before monosyllabic suffi xes). Also common are:
ʾH ̣ R(Y) /ʾaḥar(ē)/ ‘a er’, ʾL(Y) /ʾil(ē)/ (ʾεl) ‘toward’, ʾT /ʾi / (ʾēt ) ‘together
with’, BYN /bēn/ ‘among’, MN /min/ ‘from’ (the /n/ assimilates
to the
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Holger Gzella
following consonant; monosyllabic singular suffi xes are generally at-
tached to the longer base /mimmin-/ < */minmin-/), ʿD(Y) /ʿad(ē)/ ‘until,
to’, ʿL(Y) /ʿal(ē)/ ‘on, above, against’, ʿM /ʿimm/ (ʿīm) ‘with’. Further, some
nouns used adverbially act like prepositions: ʾS ̣ L /ʾis ̣ l/ (ʾēs ̣ εl) ‘besides’, BʿD
/baʿd/ (báʿad ) ‘behind’, TH ̣ T /taḥt/ (táḥat ) ‘below’. Combinations of prep-
ositions and ̄ nouns can produce compound
prepositional expressions like
BD /bōd/ (< */bi-yad/) ‘by means of’, LPNY /la-panē/ (lip̄ n ē) ‘before’, etc.
Prepositions (originally) ending in /-ē/ (< /-ay/) take plural suffi xes; simi-
larly /taḥt/, in all likelihood due to the infl uence of /ʿal(ē)/. The most fre-
quent adverbial ending is /-am/ (Tiberian -ām), which is o en understood
as a fossilized accusative case in /-a/ together with mimation.
Lʾ /lō/ serves as a general negation for nouns and adverbs; the
“short imperfect” denoting wishes, by contrast, takes the negation ʾL
/ʾal/ (mostly used for a punctual and specifi c prohibition, as opposed
to /lō/ with the “long imperfect” for general prohibitions, especially in
legal texts). Except for the compound /balī/ (blī) ‘without’, /bal/ (which
is quite normal in Phoenician) appears much less frequently in Hebrew.
The negative particle ʾYN /ʾēn/ ‘there is not’ acts as a counterpart to the
existential marker YŠ /yēš/ ‘there is’ and can take singular suffi xes a er
/-an-/ (-εn-).
An object marker ʾT /ʾat/(?) (ʾεt ), before suffi xes /ʾōt/ (< */ʾāt/?), in
part compensates for the loss of a morphological
object case (the accu-
sative) and can optionally indicate the direct object of a transitive verb,
especially when the object is defi nite. It thus restores the distinction be-
tween the object and a (prototypical) subject. Personal names, which are
maximally defi nite, practically always take the object marker. In passive
constructions, it can, by analogy with the active counterpart, also high-
light the subject. Partial aff ectedness of an object is usually expressed with
the preposition /bi-/.
The most widespread conjunction, proclitic W /wa-/ (w) ‘and’, usually
connects clauses on the same level, but it can also introduce subordinate
clauses. Occasionally, it appears with disjunctive (‘or’) or, rarely, causal
relationships. ʾW /ʾō/ ‘or’, ʾP /ʾap/ ‘also’, and GM /gam(m)/ ‘also’ are like-
wise coordinating; subordinating conjunctions include ʾM /ʾim/ ‘if’ (with
“perfect” or “imperfect”; the apodosis is o en introduced by /wa-/); KY
/kī/ ‘because’; ‘that’ (regularly also with an asseverative nuance ‘yes!’ but
rarely used like /ʾim/); LW /lū/ (later ʾLW /ʾillū/), negated LWLY /lūlē/,
‘may’ (with “perfect,” “imperfect,” or imperative) or ‘if’ for unfulfi lled or
unfulfi llable conditions (mostly with the “perfect”); PN /pan/ ( pεn) ‘lest’;
and others. It is, however, mostly variation between verbal conjugations
which creates a certain structure in the discourse, not so much the oscil-
lation between main and subordinate clauses as in European languages.
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Presentative markers like HN /hinn/ (hēn) and, especially, HNH
/hinnε̄ / (with object suffi xes usually a ached to /-an-/ -εn-) ‘look!’ direct
the a ention of the hearer or reader to the emergence of a referent into
the speech situation or to the unfolding of a proposition in the discourse.
A participial clause is o en employed for dramatic vividness; /wa-hinnε̄ /
can act as a marker of surprise ( mirativity) or, with a following participle,
indicate that the speaker is an eyewitness (direct evidentiality), which
mostly occurs in prophetic passages. Other lexemes can also perform
presentative functions, just like existential and locative constructions.
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