Shoresh Pairs in Hebrew

I’ve noticed plausible "and then" relationships in the meanings of pairs of three-letter roots, or "shoreshim," in Hebrew. Start with one root, say לקח, and move the last letter to the front, to get another root, חלק. The first root, לקח, means "to take," and the second root, חלק, means "to divide, split, apportion." It’s plausible to say "take, and then divide," as with spoils of war. Could there be other pairs of roots connected by the same kind of "consequence" relationship? Another case might be שכח then חשך, "forget" and then "darkness" (the middle letter, כ, changes only its written shape to ך, when it becomes the last letter). For another, consider קשב and בקש, "pay attention" then "request."

Could this be a general kind of relationship? Just coincidence? Or real? If so, by design? Ancient? Or newer? If so, by mere drift of meanings? Or reassignment by language authorities? Is there a similar kind of relationship in other Semitic languages, all of which share the three-letter-root system? These are the obvious hypotheses. Many Arabic roots are very close in meaning to Hebrew roots, and it would be interesting to investigate them. Aramaic, Amharic, and Ancient Egyptian all have three-letter-root systems that might be interesting to explore.

Background:

In all these languages, the great majority of all kinds of words relate directly to a three-letter root, easy to identify knowing just a little grammar, and obviously related in meaning to all the words. For instance, using English letters for a moment, the root KTB generates KATAV, "he wrote," or "a journalist;" MIKHTAV, "a correspondence or letter;" MIKHTAVAH, "a writing desk;" KATVAH, "a magazine or newspaper article;" KTAV, "handwriting;" KITUV, "caption;" KTUBAH, "marriage contract;" KTOVET, "mailing address;" and several others. The root in Arabic is identical, and many of the derived words are very similar. It is clear that this is a very ancient root. As with all the other languages in its family, the entire Hebrew language flows out from applying patterns of vowels and helper consonants to three-letter roots.

In the rest of this post, I show a few of these "and then" pairs I found by hand, then the results of a computer search, which turned up a few hundred, some of them very interesting, others very far-fetched.

First, quick fundamentals. Write Hebrew from right-to-left. The last letter is the leftmost. Moving a letter to the front means moving it all the way to the right. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and 5 of them have "flourishes" at the ends of words. These 5 letters look different when moved to the front, and the new last letter, which is the old middle letter, looks different in the new root if it’s one of these 5. Here are the 5 "funny" ones:

Name of Letter

Final Form

Normal Form

khaf

ך

כ

mim

ם

מ

nun

ן

נ

peh

ף

פ

tsadeh

ץ

צ

Referring to this table, see that לחץ becomes צלח: "push, or press" and then "succeed." Here is the entire alphabet, just the normal forms. To appreciate the rest of this post, you don’t need to know them by heart, you just need to see that I move a letter from the back (the left) to the front (the right), sometimes changing its shape.

Approximate Sound

English Name

Letter

glottal stop

alef

א

B, V

bet

ב

G, Gh

gimel

ג

D, Dh

dalet

ד

H

heh

ה

W, V

vav

ו

Z

zayin

ז

Deep H

chet

ח

T

tet

ט

Y

yod

י

K, Kh

khaf

כ

L

lamed

ל

M

mim

מ

N

nun

נ

S

samekh

ס

guttural voiced

ayin

ע

P, F

peh

פ

Ts, Tz

tsadeh

צ

K, Q

quf

ק

R

resh

ר

Sh, S

shin

ש

T, Th

tav

ת

Here are the pairs I found by hand, just reading various Hebrew texts:

 

First root

Meaning

Second Root

 

Meaning

שכח

forget

חשך

and then

darkness

פרך

curtain

כפר

and then

deny, refuse

כלא

be in prison

אכל

and then

eat

קשב

pay attention

בקש

and then

request, ask

קרב

get near

בקר

and then

visit

חצר

enter courtyard

רחץ

and then

wash

זרע

sow seed

עזר

and then

get help

לחם

bread, war

מלח

and then

salt

לקח

take

חלק

and then

divide, split

רכב

ride

ברך

and then

blessing; knee

משח

dedicate; annoint

חמש

and then

arm; equip; five

לחץ

press; push

צלח

and then

succeed

ברח

flee

חבר

and then

make friends

צבע

vote; color

עצב

and then

grieve

פרע

abandon, refuse

עפר

and then

dust

שקע

sunset

עשק

and then

robbery

שפך

spill; pour

כפש

and then

trample

פחד

fear

דפח

and then

push and shove

לבש

dress

שלב

and then

go up a level

פרח

bloom; flower

חפר

and then

dig

In the uploaded file are almost four hundred more that I found by computer search. I haven’t looked at all of these or evaluated them for plausibility, but this does seem like an interesting thing to "mine."

(In the public uploaded files section, called "ShoreshPairs.xls".

Technorati Tags: ,,,
Advertisements

~ by rebcabin on December 9, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: