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Hebrew verb paradigms originated by adding affixes to catav


Affixes are meaningful, though etymological meaning often blurred with time. Speakers of other languages, used to different etymological relations, might not recognize semantics of paradigms.


Paal is actually catEv, not catav. Strong syntactical accent of verbs, juxtaposed on the morphological accent, elongated catAv catA:v catEv. In 1-2s past tense, the stop (dagesh kal) reduced tzere to patah, catEv.ti* - catAv.ti.

Replacing [ae] with [a] in 3ms past tense could emulate 1-2s PT or 3ms of other paradigms. The reduction in 3ms PT could occur because of the phonetically attached pronoun which reduced the air allocated to tzere, catEv hu-catav. Purposeful differentiation from the verbs of condition, gadel, is another for tzere patah shift.

The reductions ctavtem and catvu show that both vowels in paal are long, since only long vowels are reduced to schwa.


Niphal appeared by prefixing the paal, catev* ncatev nactav (metathesis in the first syllable; cf. drachma darcemonim) (tzere reduced to patah in the heavy accented syllable, na-ctav) nectav nictav (the Masoretes recorded short unaccented [e] as hirek).

Alternatively to metathesis, catev* ncatev necetev (epenthesis; two seghols) nctev nictav.

Choice of nun for the niphal prefix is deliberate. Nun relates feminine (2fp PT, 2-3fp FT, 2-3fp nouns), thus passive.[1]

The form ncatev rather than nictav is seen in the future tense, tncatev tincatev ticatev.


Hiphil appeared similarly to niphal by prefixing consonantal hey to paal. When hey eroded in long [a], the resulting diphthong caused accent shift, catEv* hcatEv hctEv aIctiv (unaccented tzere turned hirek) ictIv (unaccented naked word-initial vowel is lost, and the accent shifts).

Alternatively, hcatEv hctev. Hey became [a], actEv. Naked word-initial vowel was accented to avoid reduction, Actev. Unaccented tzere turned hirek, Activ. The Masoretes recorded the formal pronunciation with consonantal hey similar to niphal, but preserved the established hirek, hictiv.

Unusual penultimate accent of the 3fs past tense recalls the stress shift.

Choice of hey for hiphil prefix stems from the directional connotation of hey. Likewise, hiphil means, to direct someone to do something.


The prefix of hitpael is hh ht. Semantics of hitpael is closely related to hiphil. Causative hiphil redirects the action with hey prefix. Two redirects (hh prefix) formulate bi-directional or reflexive action, characteristic of hitpael.

Hitpael shows that paal is actually pael, labesh hitlabesh.

Correlation of hitpael and piel in gemination is coincidental. Gemination in hitpael is post-tonic, hitlAbbesh. Accent shift hitlabEsh hitlAbbesh recalls the accent shit in hiphil.


Piel is an emphatic stem. Many piel verbs appear non-emphatic, but etymologically they express commands. Syntactically, commands are distinguished by forceful pronunciation of the accented syllables. To add force, speakers pause before the accented syllable; that is clear in Milspeak, catAv caa.tAv! The first consonant of heavily stressed syllable after a stop is pronounced explosively, thus dagesh hazak in the second root letter.

Super-stressed second vowel elongated, ca.tA:v! ca.tEv!

In normal speech, as opposed to purposely commanding pronunciation, speakers allocate less air, and the unaccented vowel blurs, ca.tEv! c.tEv! (compare Russian command ! with simply emphatic !) When piel verbs lost their command pronunciation, the second vowel became less accented, and more air was left for the first vowel. The vocal schwa became very distinct, and the Masoretes recorded it as hirek (diber), though the sound was closer to [ae] which produced patah in the future tense, tdabEr.

Many roots exist only in piel or only in paal because semantically some roots lend themselves for emphatic use, while other do not. Talk! command is natural, while Write! command is unusual. Similar semantic difference accounts for the fact that some roots produce verbs, others adjectives, but relatively few roots have both actively used verbs and adjectives; no one consequently claims that verbs and adjectives are essentially the same thing and the roots form verbs or adjectives randomly. The existence of some roots in both piel and paal forms shows that the forms are not randomly interchangeable.


Imperatives first appeared in what are now conjugative forms, catav* - catOv! ctov! bctov bictov. Emphatic command pronunciation elongated the second vowel. To differentiate from piel, the second vowel was elongated to holam. Weaker emphasis than in piel did not require a stop before the second (accented) syllable, and produces no gemination (dagesh hazak).

Imperatives later lost the emphatic stress on the second syllable, ctOv! catov.

Jussive shows the elongation similar to imperative in aynwawiod verbs: u/i of future tense into o/e of jussive.

Cohortative adds participle na to command to soften it. Cohortative was used to command females. Specifically feminine commands survived as 2-3fp future tense, tictovna.


[1] Using consonant for prefix is odd. The Hebrew concept reserved consonants for roots, and used vowels for inflexions. Consonant affixes appeared later. One possibility is that niphal was originally formed with prefix hey, not nun. Hey appears in infinitives. Hebrew roots relatively rarely have both niphal and hiphil forms. Possibly, the original hphil form diversified into reflexive niphal and causative hiphil.