Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's about those word forms

I am thinking about prefixes and suffixes. What do they tell us about a 'word' in the Hebrew text. I am no expert on this. I have studiously avoided for 2 years trying to memorize rules. But maybe the time is beginning when I will recognize more of them.

My previous post on the root algorithm was a search for helping to recognize a word and its form. I vaguely recall Lambdin's warning that there really aren't such things as roots in Hebrew - but I didn't really believe him. There are roots just like there are in English - nation is a root, international is a root with enclitics - an adjectival suffix 'al' and a prepositional prefix 'inter'.

Hebrew has them too - in spades - sort of like Latin with its conjugations and declensions but different. Did I find them all? I don't think so. Joel Hoffman once summarized some of them very nicely on the b-Hebrew list, but I can't find the post. Maybe I will come up with a similar summary... [update - I just looked up the meaning of enclitic and discovered it wasn't what I thought!]

Common single prefixes
א - may be a first person singular imperfect
ה - may be the definitive article
ב - may be the prefix for the preposition 'in'
ל - may be the prefix for the preposition 'of'
ת - may be the imperfect second and third person singular and plural - some exceptions
מ - may be the preposition 'from'
י - may be the third person singular imperfect
ו - very likely is a conjunction - since almost no words begin with vav
כ - may be the preposition 'for'

All these prefixes have several possible translations - see e.g. here for a short note on vav.

Common single suffixes
ה - may indicate a feminine ending
ך - may be the possessive 'your'
י - may be the possessive 'my' or the construct form plural
ו - may be the second or third person plural (imperfect) or first person plural (perfect) or a singular male possessive 'his' unless preceded by a nun
ת - may be the second person singular (perfect)
I have omitted the mem and nun third person plural possessives.

Common double prefixes are simply vav + the common single prefix.
Common double plural suffixes 'ים:ות' - that's it.
Common double possessive suffixes 'כם:נו' - that's all too.
Common triple suffixes 'ינו:יכם' - these are possessive too.

What I am missing is the swallowing of some consonants - some day I will find that rule and others again.

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