Semitic root

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The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "" (hence the term consonantal root). Semitic root_sentence_0

Such abstract consonantal roots are used in the formation of actual words by adding the vowels and non-root consonants (or "transfixes") which go with a particular morphological category around the root consonants, in an appropriate way, generally following specific patterns. Semitic root_sentence_1

It is a peculiarity of Semitic linguistics that a large majority of these consonantal roots are triliterals (although there are a number of quadriliterals, and in some languages also biliterals). Semitic root_sentence_2

Triconsonantal roots Semitic root_section_0

A triliteral or triconsonantal root (Hebrew: שרש תלת-עצורי‎, šoreš təlat-ʻiṣuri; Arabic: جذر ثلاثي‎, jiḏr ṯulāṯī; Syriac: ܫܪܫܐ‎, šeršā) is a root containing a sequence of three consonants. Semitic root_sentence_3

The following are some of the forms which can be derived from the triconsonantal root k-t-b כ-ת-ב ك-ت-ب (general overall meaning "to write") in Hebrew and Arabic: Semitic root_sentence_4

Note: The Hebrew fricatives transcribed as "ḵ" and "ḇ" can also be transcribed in a number of other ways, such as "ch" and "v" , which are pronounced χ and v, respectively. Semitic root_sentence_5

They are transliterated "ḵ" and "ḇ" on this page to retain the connection with the pure consonantal root כ-ת-ב k-t-b. Semitic root_sentence_6

Also notice that in Modern Hebrew, there is no gemination. Semitic root_sentence_7

Semitic root_table_general_0

Semitological abbreviationSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_0 Hebrew nameSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_1 Arabic nameSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_2 Morphological categorySemitic root_header_cell_0_0_3 Hebrew FormSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_4 Arabic formSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_5 Approximate translationSemitic root_header_cell_0_0_6
G verb stemSemitic root_cell_0_1_0 פָּעַל‎
pa‘al (or qal)Semitic root_cell_0_1_1
(Stem I)Semitic root_cell_0_1_2
3rd. masc. sing perfectSemitic root_cell_0_1_3 kataḇ כתב‎Semitic root_cell_0_1_4 kataba كتبSemitic root_cell_0_1_5 "he wrote"Semitic root_cell_0_1_6
1st. plur. perfectSemitic root_cell_0_2_0 kataḇnu כתבנו‎Semitic root_cell_0_2_1 katabnā كتبناSemitic root_cell_0_2_2 "we wrote"Semitic root_cell_0_2_3
3rd. masc. sing. imperfectSemitic root_cell_0_3_0 yiḵtoḇ יכתוב‎Semitic root_cell_0_3_1 yaktubu يكتبSemitic root_cell_0_3_2 "he writes, will write"Semitic root_cell_0_3_3
1st. plur. imperfectSemitic root_cell_0_4_0 niḵtoḇ נכתוב‎Semitic root_cell_0_4_1 naktubu نكتبSemitic root_cell_0_4_2 "we write, will write"Semitic root_cell_0_4_3
masc. sing. active participleSemitic root_cell_0_5_0 koteḇ כותב‎Semitic root_cell_0_5_1 kātib كاتبSemitic root_cell_0_5_2 "writer"Semitic root_cell_0_5_3
Š verb stemSemitic root_cell_0_6_0 הִפְעִיל‎
hip̄‘ilSemitic root_cell_0_6_1
(Stem IV)Semitic root_cell_0_6_2
3rd. masc. sing perfectSemitic root_cell_0_6_3 hiḵtiḇ הכתיב‎Semitic root_cell_0_6_4 aktaba أكتبSemitic root_cell_0_6_5 "he dictated"Semitic root_cell_0_6_6
3rd. masc. sing. imperfectSemitic root_cell_0_7_0 yaḵtiḇ יכתיב‎Semitic root_cell_0_7_1 yuktibu يكتبSemitic root_cell_0_7_2 "he dictates, will dictate"Semitic root_cell_0_7_3
Št(D) verb stemSemitic root_cell_0_8_0 הִתְפָּעֵל‎
hitpa‘elSemitic root_cell_0_8_1


(Stem X)Semitic root_cell_0_8_2
3rd. masc. sing perfectSemitic root_cell_0_8_3 hitkatteḇ התכתב‎Semitic root_cell_0_8_4 istaktaba استكتبSemitic root_cell_0_8_5 "he corresponded" (Hebrew), "he asked (someone) to write (something), had a copy made" (Arabic)Semitic root_cell_0_8_6
3rd. masc. sing. imperfectSemitic root_cell_0_9_0 yitkatteḇ יתכתב‎Semitic root_cell_0_9_1 yastaktibu يستكتبSemitic root_cell_0_9_2 (imperfect of above)Semitic root_cell_0_9_3
Noun with m- prefix and original short vowelsSemitic root_cell_0_10_0 mip̄‘al
מִפְעָל‎Semitic root_cell_0_10_1
مَفْعَلSemitic root_cell_0_10_2
singularSemitic root_cell_0_10_3 miḵtaḇ מכתב‎Semitic root_cell_0_10_4 maktab مكتبSemitic root_cell_0_10_5 "letter" (Hebrew), "office" (Arabic)Semitic root_cell_0_10_6

In Hebrew grammatical terminology, the word binyan (Hebrew: בנין‎, plural בנינים‎ binyanim) is used to refer to a verb derived stem or overall verb derivation pattern, while the word mishqal (or mishkal) is used to refer to a noun derivation pattern, and these words have gained some use in English-language linguistic terminology. Semitic root_sentence_8

The Arabic terms, called وزن wazn (plural أوزان, awzān) for the pattern and جذر jaḏr (plural جذور, juḏūr) for the root have not gained the same currency in cross-linguistic Semitic scholarship as the Hebrew equivalents, and Western grammarians continue to use "stem"/"form"/"pattern" for the former and "root" for the latter—though "form" and "pattern" are accurate translations of the Arabic grammatical term wazn (originally meaning 'weight, measure'), and "root" is a literal translation of jaḏr. Semitic root_sentence_9

See also: :Category:Triconsonantal roots Semitic root_sentence_10

Biliteral origin of some triliteral roots Semitic root_section_1

Although most roots in Hebrew seem to be triliteral, many of them were originally biliteral, cf. Semitic root_sentence_11

the relation between: Semitic root_sentence_12

as well as between: Semitic root_sentence_13

The Hebrew root ש־ק־ף‎ - √sh-q-p "look out/through" deriving from ק־ף‎ - √q-p "bend, arch, lean towards" and similar verbs fit into the shaCCéC verb-pattern. Semitic root_sentence_14

This verb-pattern sh-C-C is usually causative, cf. Semitic root_sentence_15

History Semitic root_section_2

According to a study of the Proto-Semitic lexicon, biconsonantal roots are more abundant for words denoting Stone Age materials, whereas materials discovered during the Neolithic are uniquely triconsonantal. Semitic root_sentence_16

This implies a change in Proto-Semitic language structure concomitant with the transition to agriculture. Semitic root_sentence_17

In particular monosyllabic biconsonantal names are associated with a pre-Natufian cultural background, more than 16,500 years ago. Semitic root_sentence_18

As we have no texts from any Semitic language older than 5,500 years ago, reconstructions of Proto-Semitic are inferred from these more recent Semitic texts. Semitic root_sentence_19

Quadriliteral roots Semitic root_section_3

A quadriliteral is a consonantal root containing a sequence of four consonants (instead of three consonants, as is more often the case). Semitic root_sentence_20

A quadriliteral form is a word derived from such a four-consonant root. Semitic root_sentence_21

For example, the abstract quadriliteral root t-r-g-m / t-r-j-m gives rise to the verb forms תרגם‎ tirgem in Hebrew, ترجم tarjama in Arabic, ተረጐመ "täräggwämä" in Amharic, all meaning "he translated". Semitic root_sentence_22

In some cases, a quadriliteral root is actually a reduplication of a two-consonant sequence. Semitic root_sentence_23

So in Hebrew דגדג‎ digdeg means "he tickled", and in Arabic زلزال zilzāl means "earthquake". Semitic root_sentence_24

Generally, only a subset of the verb derivations formed from triliteral roots are allowed with quadriliteral roots. Semitic root_sentence_25

For example, in Hebrew, the Piʿel, Puʿal, and Hiṯpaʿel, and in Arabic, forms similar to the stem II and stem V forms of triliteral roots. Semitic root_sentence_26

Another set of quadriliteral roots in modern Hebrew is the set of secondary roots. Semitic root_sentence_27

A secondary root is a root derived from word that was derived from another root. Semitic root_sentence_28

For example, the root מ-ס-פ-ר‎ m-s-p-r is secondary to the root ס-פ-ר‎ s-p-r. סָפַר‎ saphar, from the root s-p-r, means "counted"; מִסְפָּר‎ mispar, from the same root, means "number"; and מִסְפֶּר‎ misper, from the secondary root מ-ס-פ-ר‎, means "numbered". Semitic root_sentence_29

An irregular quadriliteral verb made from a loanword is: Semitic root_sentence_30

Semitic root_unordered_list_0

  • נַשְׁפְּרִיץ‎ (/naʃˈprit͡s/) – "we will sprinkle", from English and Yiddish spritzSemitic root_item_0_0

Quinqueliteral roots Semitic root_section_4

Traditionally, in the Semitic languages, forms with more than four basic consonants (i.e. consonants not introduced by morphological inflection or derivation) were occasionally found in nouns, mainly in loanwords from other languages, but never in verbs. Semitic root_sentence_31

However, in modern Israeli Hebrew, syllables are allowed to begin with a sequence of two consonants (a relaxation of the situation in early Semitic, where only one consonant was allowed), which has opened the door for a very small set of loan words to manifest apparent five root-consonant forms, such as טלגרף‎ tilgref "he telegraphed". Semitic root_sentence_32

However, -lgr- always appears as an indivisible cluster in the derivation of this verb and so the five root-consonant forms do not display any fundamentally different morphological patterns from four root-consonant forms (and the term "quinqueliteral" or "quinquiliteral" would be misleading if it implied otherwise). Semitic root_sentence_33

Other examples are: Semitic root_sentence_34

Semitic root_unordered_list_1

  • סִנְכְּרֵן‎ (/sinˈkren/ – "he synchronized"), via the English word from GreekSemitic root_item_1_1
  • חִנְטְרֵשׁ‎ (/χinˈtreʃ/ – "he did stupid things")Semitic root_item_1_2
  • הִתְפְלַרְטֵט‎ (/hitflarˈtet/ – "he had a flirt"), from the English or Yiddish past tense of the English wordSemitic root_item_1_3

In Amharic, there is a very small set of verbs which are conjugated as quinquiliteral roots. Semitic root_sentence_35

One example is wäšänäffärä 'rain fell with a strong wind' The conjugation of this small class of verb roots is explained by Wolf Leslau. Semitic root_sentence_36

Unlike the Hebrew examples, these roots conjugate in a manner more like regular verbs, producing no indivisible clusters. Semitic root_sentence_37

See also Semitic root_section_5

Semitic root_unordered_list_2

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: root.