This post is long, but basically, I just wanted to get some your opinions on the (possible) existence of pre-Semitic, or proto-Semitic, two-letter roots, that ended up becoming three letter roots in the Semitic languages. Do you think it is possible that two-letter roots existed? If not, how could we explain why all these words have related meanings? What are other possible reasons that these roots with related meaning all start with the same two letters? I'm sure this topic has been discussed in depth by linguists, but only recently have I become somewhat interested in the roots, so to speak, of Semitic languages. If you know of any articles, books, etc. on the subject I would be interested in reading them. Anyway, the following is just some evidence that I have found that lends credence to the idea of two-letter roots. -------------- Every so often I will be perusing an Arabic dictionary and note how it seems strange that many roots with related meanings are so close together in the dictionary. I didn't give it much thought until the other day when I was reading an article about Semitic languages that suggested that there is evidence of biconsonantal (two letter, aka biliteral, ثنائي الحروف) roots in pre-Semitic that were later made triconsonantal (three letter, aka triliteral, ثلاثي الحروف ) roots. The example that the author gave was the Hebrew roots p-r-d 'divide', p-r-m 'open, seam' p-r-s 'break up, divide up', suggesting an old root p-r. The p-r here is the Hebrew פ (peh) and ר (resh) which are the cognates of the Arabic ف (faa) and ر (raa). (Even looking at the letters we can see a resemblance between the Hebrew and the Arabic.) This is interesting, because looking at entries in an Arabic dictionary that start with ف and ر is the first time I thought it strange that so many words with related meanings were so close together in the dictionary. I knew there must be some relation between them, but it never occurred to me (until reading that article) to consider the root letters. Here are the roots: ف-ر-ج (f-r-j) -- ideas related to opening, parting, separating. ف-ر-د (f-r-d) -- ideas related to being singular, alone, separated or segregated from. ف-ر-ز (f-r-z) -- ideas related to separation, isolation, detachment, differentiation, distinguishment. ف-ر-ط (faraTa) -- in addition to the meaning of excess this root has meanings related to separating things (into their component parts), stripping off, etc. ف-ر-ع -- (f-r-3) -- ideas relating to branch ing(out) or putting forth branches, in other words related parts that become separated and/or detached from one another. ف-ر-ق (f-r-q) -- ideas related to separation, parting, division, differentiation, discriminating, distinguishment. ف-ر-ك (f-r-k) -- it means to rub, but has the additional (perhaps original) ideas of rubbing (something) until it starts to fall apart (i.e. separates). ف-ر-م (f-r-m) -- ideas related to cutting or mincing (meat) into small pieces (in other words detaching and separating). ف-ر-ي (f-r-y) -- ideas related to cutting and mincing. There are a few more in which there appears to be a connection with this general idea of separation (for lack of a better descriptor), but the connection is loose and debatable: فرس (farasa) -- to kill and tear apart, prey (of a predatory animal). Here we see the idea of tearing apart (in other words detaching and separating out). فرش (farasha) -- to spread out. When you spread something out you separate its parts from each other (unfolding a sheet, for example) فرش -- farrasha -- to brush hair, in other words to separate the individual strands of hair from each other. فرشح -- farshaHa -- to straddle, in other words to separate one's legs. As already noted there are Hebrew roots using these same root letters that have meanings similar to the Arabic meanings: פ-ר-ד (p-r-d) -- ideas related to separation, division, parting. פ-ר-ט (p-r-t) -- ideas related to separation, breaking bills into smaller monetary units. פ-ר-ץ (p-r-ts) -- ideas relating to breaking open or bursting into. All these related roots, in both Arabic and Hebrew use the same first two Semitic root letters. This does suggest the existence of an ancient biliteral root f-r/p-r. So, I wanted to get your opinions on the matter. Why do all these words with the same first two root letters have related meanings? Do you agree with the suggestion of a pre-Semitic two letter root. As an aside, I wanted to briefly discuss the connection between some triliteral roots and quadriliteral roots as it relates to the subject at hand. Many times, a letter is added to a triliteral root and it becomes a quadriliteral one with a related idea. One of the most obvious is the that of طمن Tammana and طمأن Tam'ana which both have the meaning of reassuring someone. The only difference is the addition of ـأ in the quadriliteral verb. Some other examples are: غرد gharida -- to warble (of a bird), i.e. sing with trills. زغرد zaghrada -- to utter the zaghruuTa, a drawn out trilling sound (of women in times of joy). عوّذ l3awwadha -- to pronounce a charm or incantantion over someone. شعوذ sha3wadha -- to practice magic. So the idea of a root letter being added to a(n already established) root is not unheard of. On the subject of quadriliteral roots W. Wright, in his Arabic Grammar, discusses a little about how quadriliteral verbs are formed. He lists four ways, but for brevity I will only include the one that interests me: A fourth letter, generally a liquid or sibilant, is prefixed, or affixed, or inserted in the middle of, a triliteral verbal form. He includes as examples شمخر (shamkhara) to be proud (related to شمخ shamakha to be high), شمعل (sham3ala) to be scattered = شمع (shama3a); جمهر (jamhara) to collect, which he says compare to جم (jamma) and جمع (jama3a). The last example I listed is also an interesting case as, considering the roots with related meaning, it might possibly that a two-letter root (ج-م j-m) gave rise to some different verbs with related meanings: جمّ jamma (to gather). جمع jama3a (to gather or collect). جمل jamala (to sum up). جمهر jamhara (to gather, collect, assemble). There is one more I can think of offhand: خرط kharaTa -- to pull, strip, cut into small pieces. خرق kharaqa -- to tear (apart), pierce, bore (a hole) خرم kharama -- to pierce, make holes in. I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of them right now.