Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/80. The Indication of Gender in Nouns
Brockelmann; Grundriss, p. 404 ff.; ‘Ueber die Femininendung at, ah, ā’ in Semit. Sprachwiss., p. 106 f.; Grundriss, pp. 105, 405 ff.; ‘Die Femininendung T im Semit.’ (Sitzung d. orient.-sprachwiss. Sektion d. schlesischen Gesellschaft, Feb. 26, 1903); against him J. Barth, ZDMG. 1903, p. 628 ff.; Brockelmann’s reply, ibid., p. 795 ff.; and Barth again, ibid., p. 798 ff.
a 1. The Hebrew, like all Semitic languages, recognizes only two genders in the noun, a masculine and a feminine. Inanimate objects and abstract ideas, which other languages sometimes indicate by the neuter, are regarded in Hebrew either as masculine or feminine, more often the latter (see the Syntax, §122q).
b 2. The masculine, as being the more common and important gender, has no special indication.
Feminine nouns are also without an indication of gender when the meaning of the word naturally denotes a feminine, as אֵם mother, אָתוֹן a she-ass, עֵז a she-goat, רָחֵל an ewe (cf. §122b). As a rule, however, the feminine had originally the ending ־ַת, as in the 3rd sing. perfect of verbs (§44a). This ־ַת, however, is regularly retained in Hebrew only in close connexion with a following genitive or suffix (cf. §89e and §91o), except where the form has arisen through the addition of a simple ת (see below, d). Otherwise, the feminine ending of the independent form (the absolute state, §89a) is—
c (a) Most commonly a tone-bearing ־ָה, e.g. סוּס , סוּסָה . Of nouns ending in ־ִ, like עִבְרִי, the feminine (by §24b) is עִבְרִיָּה, cf. §86h. As in the 3rd sing. fem. perfect (קָֽטְלָה, &c.), this ־ָה seems to have arisen by the rejection of the final ת, and the lengthening of the ă in the open syllable, whereupon the ה was added as an orthographic indication of the final long vowel: cf. the exactly similar origin of such forms as גָּלָה for גָּלַי, §75c. It must, however, be noticed that in Arabic (see m and note) the pausal form of at is ah, of which a trace may be preserved in the Hebrew ־ָה.
d (b) Simple ת with nouns ending in a vowel, e.g. יְהוּדִי Jew, יְהוּדִית Jewess. The same ending ת is very frequently added to stems ending in a consonant, but only (except before suffixes) by means of a helping vowel, which, as a rule, is Seghôl, but after gutturals Pathaḥ, e.g. קֹטֵל, fem. קֹטֶ֫לֶת killing; before suffixes, e.g. קֹֽטַלְתִּי, according to the rule given in §69c, cf. also §84as; מוֹדַע an acquaintance, fem. מוֹדַ֫עַת. The forms which arise in this way follow in every respect the analogy of the segholate forms (§94f). The forms which have been developed by means of a helping vowel are retained even in the connective form (construct state); except וְיֹלַדְתְּ (for יֹלֶ֫דֶת, which is used elsewhere) Gn 1611, Ju 135.7; cf. Jer 2223 and 5113 Qerê, also מְשָׁרַת 1 K 115, participle fem. Piʿēl, properly mešāratt = מְשָׁרֶ֫תֶת; also מְבַעִתֶּ֫ךְ (participle fem. Piʿēl with suffix) arises from the form מְבַעַ֫תְּ which was developed into מְבַעֶ֫תֶת.
e Rem. 1. The fem. form in ־ֶ֫־ֶת is in general less frequent, and occurs almost exclusively when the form in ־ָה is also in use. It is only in the participles and infinitives that it is the commoner, e.g. קֹטֶ֫לֶת more common than קֹֽטְלָה, לֶ֫דֶת than לֵדָ֫ה.
f 2. Rarer feminine endings are—(a) ־ַת with the tone, e.g. בָּֽרְקַ֫ת emerald, Ez 2813 (also בָּרֶ֫קֶת Ex 2817); שִׁפְעַ֫ת a company 2 K 917, unless the reading is wrong; more frequently in proper names, especially of places among the Canaanites or Phoenicians (in whose language ־ַת was the usual fem. ending, §2d) and other neighbouring tribes, e.g. צָֽרְפַ֫ת Zarephath, גִּבְעַ֫ת Gibeath, קִרְיַ֫ת Kiriath, אֵילַ֫ת Greek Ailana in Idumea; אֲחֻזַּת Gn 2626: on the reading גָּלְיַת cf. g. Cf., moreover, נְגִּינַת ψ 611 (prob. originally נְגִינֹת); חַיַּת (LXX חַיּוֹת) 7419a; פּוּגַת La 218; [רַבַּת much, in ψ 6510, 1206, 1234, 1291.2, is a form borrowed from the Aramaic (Syriac rabbath) in which the original t of the fem. is often retained to form adverbs, see Wright, Comparative Grammar, p. 135.]
g (b) ־ָת, which likewise occurs in some names of places, e.g. בַּֽעֲלָת, חֶלְקָת, as well as in the masc. proper name גָּלְיָת 1 S 174, &c. (in 1723, and 2110, ed. Mant. has גָּלְיַת), and in the fem. proper name שִׁמְעָת; otherwise, almost only in poetry, viz. זִמְרָת Ex 152, Is 122, ψ 11814 (really for זִמְרָתִי my song; the absorption of the î, however, can scarcely have ‘taken place in the Aramaic manner’, as suggested by Duhm on Is 122, nor is it due merely to the following Yôdh, but is intended ‘to facilitate the absorption of יָהּ’; so Geiger, Urschrift, p. 277 f.); נַֽחֲלָת heritage, ψ 166 (either again for נַֽחֲלָתִי heritage, or for נַֽחֲלָ֫תָה, cf. §90g, as probably also עֶזְרָת help, ψ 6013, 10813 for עֶזְרָ֫תָה). These forms are possibly survivals from a period when even final vowels were not supported by a vowel-letter. Cf. also פֹּרָת fecunda (a fruitful tree) Gn 4922; יִתְרָת abundance, Jer 4836 (before ע; but in Is 157 יִתְרָה); שְׁנָת sleep (for שֵׁנָה) ψ 1324; and (unless the ת is radical) in prose קָאָת pelican (which reading is also preferable, in Is 3411, to the form קָאַת), also מָֽחֳרָת the morrow, but in construct state always ממחרַת.—תְּהִלָּת Jer 4525 Qerê is no doubt intended to indicate the reading תְּהִלָּתִי, parallel to מְשׂוֹשִׂי; cf. above, on זִמְרָת, &c.
h (c) ־ָא, the Aramaic orthography for ־ָה, chiefly in the later writers; זָרָא loathing, Nu 1120; חָגָּא a terror, Is 1917; שֵׁנָא sleep, ψ 1272; לְבִיָּא a lioness, Ez 192 (unless לָבִיא is intended); מַטָּרָא a mark, La 312; cf. also דָּשָׁא threshing (participle Qal from דּוּשׁ) Jer 5011; מָרָא bitter, Ru 120. On the other hand, according to the western Masora, קָרְחָה baldness is to be read in Ez 2731; see Baer on the passage.
i (d) ־ֶה, an obtuse form of ־ָה (§27u), only in הַזּוּרֶ֫ה for הַזּוּרָה Is 595 (unless it is again a forma mixta combining the active ptcp. masc. הַזּוֹרֶה and the passive ptcp. fem. הַזּוּרָה); cf. לָ֫נֶה for לָנָה Zc 54; אָ֫נֶה 1 K 236.42 (§90i, and §48d).
k (e) ־֫ ־ָה without the tone, e.g. רָחָ֫מָה Dt 1417 [Lv 1118 רָחָם]; תַּנּוּר בֹּעֵ֫רָה an oven heated, Ho 74; cf. Ez. 4019, 2 K 1529, 1618. In all those examples the usual tone-bearing ־ָה is perhaps intended, but the Punctuators, who considered the feminine ending inappropriate, produced a kind of locative form (see §90c) by the retraction of the tone. [In 2 K 1618, Is 2419, Ez 2131 (note in each case the following ה), and in Jb 4213, Ho 74, the text is probably in error.]
l (f) ־ַי, as an old feminine termination, preserved also in Syriac (ai; see examples in Nöldeke’s Syrische Gram, § 83), in Arabic and (contracted to ê) in Ethiopic, very probably occurs in the proper name שָׂרַי Sarai, cf. Nöldeke, ZDMG. xl. 183, and xlii. 484; also עֶשְׂרֵה ten (fem.) undoubtedly arises from an original ʿesray; so Wright, Comparative Grammar, p. 138; König, Lehrgebäude, ii. 427.
m 3. It is wholly incorrect to regard the vowel-ending ־ָה as the original termination of the feminine, and the consonantal ending ־ַת as derived from it. The Ethiopic still has the ת throughout, so too the Assyrian (at, it); in Phoenician also the feminines end for the most part in ת, which is pronounced at in the words found in Greek and Latin authors; less frequently in א (see Gesenius, Monumm. Phoen., pp. 439, 440; Schröder, Phön. Sprache, p. 169 ff.). The ancient Arabic has the obtuse ending (ah) almost exclusively in pause; in modern Arabic the relation between the two endings is very much as in Hebrew.
- In Mal 114 מָשְׁחַת (so e.g. ed. Mant.) would stand for מָשְׁחֶ֫תֶת, the ptcp. fem. Hophʿal; but מָשְׁחָת (so Baer and Ginsb.) is also supported by good authority.
- In the list of Palestinian towns taken by Pharaoh Shoshenq, the feminine town-names all end in t. Cf. also the Mêšaʿ inscription, line 3, הבמת זאת this high place; line 26, המסלת the highway [see also Driver, Tenses, § 181, note].
- In 1 S 2027 also, where the Masora (see Baer on Jos 511) for some unknown reason requires ממחרָת, read with ed. Mant., Jablonski, Opitius, and Ginsburg, ממחרַת.
- In this ending the ה h can only be considered consonantal in the sense that the ת was originally aspirated, and afterwards ‘the mute ת was dropped before h, just as the old Persian mithra became in modern Persian mihrʾ; so Socin, who also points to the Arabic pausal form in ah, and observes that among some of the modern Beduin an h is still heard as a fem. ending, cf. Socin, Diwan aus Centralarabien, iii. 98, ed. by H. Stumme, Lpz. 1901. In Hebrew this consonantal termination was entirely abandoned, at any rate in later times.