Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/39. Ground-form and Derived Stems

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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar  (1909) 
Wilhelm Gesenius
edited and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch
, translated by Arthur Ernest Cowley
Ground-form and Derived Stems

§39. Ground-form and Derived Stems.
Brockelmann, Sem. Sprachwiss., p. 119 ff.; Grundriss, p. 504 ff.

39a 1. The 3rd sing. masc. of the Perfect in the form of the pure stem (i.e. in Qal, see e) is generally regarded, lexicographically and grammatically, as the ground-form of the verb (§30a), e.g. קָטַל he has killed, כָּבֵד he was heavy, קָטֹן he was little.[1] From this form the other persons of the Perfect are derived, and the Participle also is connected with it. קְטֹל or קְטַל, like the Imperative and Infinitive construct in sound, may also be regarded as an alternative ground-form, with which the Imperfect (see § 47) is connected.

39b In verbs ע״וּ (i.e. with ו for their second radical) the stem-form, given both in Lexicon and Grammar, is not the 3rd sing. masc. Perfect (consisting of two consonants), but the form with medial ו, which appears in the Imperative and Infinitive; e.g. שׁוּב to return (3rd pers. perf. שָׁב): the same is the case in most stems with medial י, e.g. דִּין to judge.

39c 2. From the pure stem, or Qal, the derivative stems are formed according to an unvarying analogy, in which the idea of the stem assumes the most varied shades of meaning, according to the changes in its form (intensive, frequentative, privative, causative, reflexive, reciprocal; some of them with corresponding passive forms), e.g. לָמַד to learn, לִמַּד to teach; שָׁכַב to lie, הִשְׁכִּיב to lay; שָׁפַט to judge, נִשְׁפַּט to contend. In other languages such formations are regarded as new or derivative verbs, e.g. Germ. fallen (to fall), fällen (to fell); trinken (to drink), tränken (to drench); Lat. lactere (to suck, Germ. saugen), lactare (to suckle, Germ. säugen); iacĕre (to throw), iacēre (to lie down); γίνομαι, γεννάω. In Hebrew, however, these formations are incomparably more regular and systematic than (e.g.) in Greek, Latin, or English; and, since the time of Reuchlin, they have usually been called conjugations of the primitive form (among the Jewish grammarians בִּנְיָנִים, i.e. formations, or more correctly species), and are always treated together in the grammar and lexicon.[2]

39d 3. The changes in the primitive form consist either in internal modification by means of vowel-change and strengthening of the middle consonant (קִטֵּל, קֻטַּל; קוֹטֵל, קוֹטַל; cf. to lie, to lay; to fall, to fell), or in the repetition of one or two of the stem-consonants (קִטְלַל, קְטַלְטַל), or finally in the introduction of formative additions (נִקְטַל), which may also be accompanied by internal change (הִקְטִיל, הִתְקַטֵּל). Cf. §31b.

In Aramaic the formation of the conjugations is effected more by formative additions than by vowel-change. The vocalic distinctions have mostly become obsolete, so that, e.g. the reflexives with the prefix הִתְ, אִתְ, אֶתְ have entirely usurped the place of the passives. On the other hand, Arabic has preserved great wealth in both methods of formation, while Hebrew in this, as in other respects, holds the middle place (§1m).

39e 4. Grammarians differ as to the number and arrangement of these conjugations. The common practice, however, of calling them by the old grammatical terms, prevents any misunderstanding. The simple form is called Qal (קַל light, because it has no formative additions); the others (כְּבֵדִים heavy, being weighted, as it were, with the strengthening of consonants or with formative additions) take their names from the paradigm of פָּעַל he has done,[3] which was used in the earliest Jewish grammatical works. Several of these have passives which are distinguished from their actives by more obscure vowels. The common conjugations (including Qal and the passives) are the seven following, but very few verbs exhibit them all:


Active. Passive.
1. Qal קָטַל to kill. (Cf. §52e.)
2. Niphʿal נִקְטַל to kill oneself (rarely passive).
3. Piʿēl קִטֵּל to kill many, to massacre. 4. Puʿal קֻטַּל.
5. Hiphʿîl הִקְטִיל to cause to kill. 6. Hophʿal הָקְּטַל.
7. Hithpaʿēl הִתְקַטֵּל to kill oneself. [Very rare, Hothpaʿal הָתְקַטַּל.]

39g There are besides several less frequent conjugations, some of which, however, are more common in the kindred languages, and even in Hebrew (in the weak verb) regularly take the place of the usual conjugations (§ 55).

In Arabic there is a greater variety of conjugations, and their arrangement is more appropriate. According to the Arabic method, the Hebrew conjugations would stand thus: 1. Qal; 2. Piʿēl and Puʿal; 3. Pôʿēl and Pôʿal (see §55b); 4. Hiphʿîl and Hophʿal; 5. Hithpaʿēl and Hothpaʿal; 6. Hithpô‛ēl (see §55b); 7. Niphʿal; 8. Hithpaʿēl (see §54l); 9. Piʿlēl (see §55d). A more satisfactory division would be into three classes: (1) The intensive Piʿēl with the derived and analogous forms Puʿal and Hithpaʿēl. (2) The causative Hiphʿîl with its passive Hophʿal, and the analogous forms (Šaphʿēl and Tiphʿēl). (3) The reflexive or passive Niphʿal.

  1. For the sake of brevity, however, the meaning in Hebrew-English Lexicons is usually given in the Infinitive, e.g. לָמַד to learn, properly he has learnt.
  2. The term Conjugation thus has an entirely different meaning in Hebrew and Greek or Latin grammar.
  3. This paradigm was borrowed from the Arabic grammarians, and, according to Bacher, probably first adopted throughout by Abulwalîd. It was, however, unsuitable on account of the guttural, and was, therefore, usually exchanged in later times for פָּקַד, after the example of Moses Qimḥi. This verb has the advantage, that all its conjugations are actually found in the Old Testament. On the other hand, it has the disadvantage of indistinctness in the pronunciation of some of its forms, e.g. פָּקַדְתָּ, פְּקַדְתֶּם. The paradigm of קָטַל, commonly used since the time of Danz, avoids this defect, and is especially adapted for the comparative treatment of the Semitic dialects, inasmuch as it is found with slight change (Arab. and Ethiop. קתל) in all of them. It is true that in Hebrew it occurs only three times in Qal, and even then only in poetic style (ψ 13919, Jb 1315, 2414); yet it is worth retaining as a model which has been sanctioned by usage. More serious is the defect, that a number of forms of the paradigm of קטל leave the beginner in doubt as to whether or not there should be a Dageš in the Begadkephath letters, and consequently as to the correct division of the syllables.