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Semitic Language, Hebrew as a

(2,363 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
To say that Hebrew is a Semitic language is to claim that it is related to other languages that exhibit similar structures and vocabulary, and that this relationship is genetic, that is, that the relationship exists because Hebrew and those other languages descend from a common ancestor, which is usually called Proto-Semitic. The Semitic family of languages is also part of a larger macro-family called Afroasiatic (Afroasiatic and Hebrew: Linguistic Features). The features that Hebrew shares with…

Relative Particles

(766 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
1. זוּ zū and Related Forms The original Semitic relative particle was a declinable bound form of the shape *ðv̄ (in West Semitic: Byblian Phoenician z, Aramaic dī/d(ə), Ugaritic d, Arabic ðū and allaðī, Ethiopic za-) or *θv̄ (in East Semitic: Akkadian ša, earlier *θū, etc.) (Pennacchietti 1968). This ancient relative particle occurs fifteen times in Biblical Hebrew, in the form of the old nominative singular זוּ ; nearly all of the examples are in poetry, as in עַם־ז֣וּ גָּא֑לְָתָּ ʿam-zū gå̄ʾå̄ltå̄ ‘the people whom you redeemed’ (Exod. 15.13). The related demonstrative pronouns זֶה and ז…

English, Hebrew Loanwords in

(752 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
A recent large dictionary of English lists over 120 loanwords from Hebrew (see Huehnergard 2010). Many of these are quite specialized, such as the names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, or words related to Jewish religious practice, such as seder, tzitzit, and yad. But others, such as behemoth, cherub, messiah, schmooze, and tush, have become part of everyday English vocabulary. Hebrew loans into English can be grouped into a few broad chronological and cultural categories. The earliest loans came into English with the introduction of Christianity to…

Philippi’s Law

(788 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
Philippi’s Law is a sound rule, articulated by the Semitist, F. W. M. Philippi, in a lengthy article on the form of the numeral ‘two’ (Philippi 1878), according to which Proto-Semitic short *i became *a in originally closed, stressed syllables. Philippi cited possible instances in Aramaic and Ethiopic, as well as Hebrew, and so proposed that the rule was Proto-Semitic (PS). The Ethiopic, and perhaps the Aramaic, examples may be explained in other ways, but ‘Philippi’s Law’ was accepted as valid for Hebrew by several noted schola…

Canaanite Shift

(465 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
The ‘Canaanite Shift’ is the change of Proto-Semitic to ō, as in Proto-Semitic *salām- > Biblical Hebrew שָׁלוֹם šå̄lōm ‘peace’; * ṯalāṯ- > שָׁלֹשׁ šå̄lōš ‘three’; * kātib- > כֹּתֵב kōṯēb ‘writer (masculine singular participle)’, etc. The feature is also found in other dialects of Canaanite, such as Phoenician, and is thus one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Canaanite group of languages. The shift is attested already in Egyptian transcriptions from the early 15th century B.C.E., for example, ṯu-pi-r for /tsōpir/ ‘scribe’ (Hebrew סֹפֵר sōp̄ēr) from earlier *tsāpir-, and in…

Segholates: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(1,818 words)

Author(s): Huehnergard, John
The ‘segholates’ are a class of nouns originally of the shape C 1 VC 2 C 3, e.g., *qaṭl, *qiṭl, and *quṭl, which in Masoretic Hebrew have undergone anaptyxis (epenthesis), usually with the vowel seghol, to resolve the final consonant cluster that arose as a result of the loss of final vowels marking case endings, e.g., nominative *ʾarṣ́́u > *ʾarṣ > אֶרֶץ ʾεrεṣ ‘earth’. The anaptyctic vowel remains unstressed, with the result that stress falls on the penultimate syllable, in contrast to the normal placement of stress on the ultima in other nominal forms; cf. אֶ֫רֶץ ʾέrεṣ ‘earth’ versus דָּבָ֫ר d…