שֹׁרֶשׁ --Hebrew linguistics' idea 'root'

קטן

Member
German High German
Sooner or later, every serious Hebrew student comes across 'root'.

With every visual language that has both, meaning and words consisting in linearly arranged graphemes ('linear words'), not just written Hebrew, you could proceed as follows:
Take a set of semantically related terms ('term set'), determine their longest common prefix and call the latter their 'root' or 'stem'.

Example: In English you could take the term set {run, runs, running} and end up with their common root being 'run'.

However, this approach is somewhat arbitrary. For example, it depends on your choice of term set.
On the other hand, not all term sets may yield useful a root.

Example: 'rans' and 'ran', respectively, is semantically related with {run, runs, running}.
The longest common prefix of {rans, ran, run, runs, running} is r. But a root 'r' is rather useless.

So what precisely is 'root' in Hebrew.
In particular, is it defined purely semantically-morphologically (the approach outlined above) ?
Or has the definition of 'root' a historic, e.g. etymological, component ?
What is the essence of 'root' ?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I don't understand your question really.

    As you say, "ran" and "run" don't have a useful shared prefix, but nevertheless, they are of the same root, the root may manifest itself as either "ran-" or "run-", but it is nevertheless a root.

    In Hebrew, roots are are three or more consonant letters that provide the semantic and morphological basis for words.

    In all languages, roots are artificial abstractions used to make sense of the way a language works. They can't necessarily always be objectively defined.
     

    קטן

    Member
    German High German
    Is every 'root' a full term, i.e. syntactic term ?
    Examples and counterexamples would be nice.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    No. A root is not a term at all. Not in Hebrew, not in any other languages.

    Though sometimes people use a term as a stand-in for the root. This happens in other languages as well.

    For example, there is a root ע-ב-ד. One word belonging to this root is לעבוד, another is עבודה, and a third is מעבדה.

    You might hear people say מעבדה is from the root עבודה, but really what that means is מעבדה is from the same root as עבודה, with the actual root being ע-ב-ד.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I think the concept of a Semitic root is a very special one in Semitic morphology and the semantics attached to morphological forms. Of course, if we compare this to IE morphology with roots, ablauts, suffixes, prefixes and endings this all looks vaguely similar and is probably based on more primitive concepts of common predecessor languages, which are too distant to reconstruct. But I don't think it makes sense to try to equate the concept of a Semitic triliteral root to any broader linguist independent of the peculiarities of Semitic morphology.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I think the reason you say this is because the Semitic root is a much more tangible concept (though still abstract) than in other languages.

    Nevertheless, in a much more abstract way, the concept transfers quite well.

    Here's what I mean:

    Let's take some collections of related words:
    - English:
    - sing, sang, sung, song, singer
    - write, wrote, written, writ, writer
    - ride, rode, ridden, road, rider
    - Hebrew:
    - שָׁר, יָשִׁיר, שִׁירָה, שׂוֹרֵר
    - כּוֹתֵב, כָּתַב, יִכְתֹּב, כָּתוּב, כְּתִיבָה, מִכְתָּב
    - דּוֹרֵךְ, דָּרַךְ, יִדְרֹךְ, דְּרִיכָה, דֶּרֶךְ

    The differences in the root concepts is that in Hebrew (1) you can extract a tangible representation of the root in the form of usually-three consonants, שׁ-י-ר, כ-ת-ב, ד-ר-ך, and (2) take this root and a set of common patterns and create new words by applying the patterns to the root. Meanwhile in English, (1) you can try to extract some sort of root like s-ng, wr-t, r-d, but you quickly realize that the vowels here are not parts of patterns but parts of the root itself, and so how to account for them is difficult if not impossible, and (2) since you cannot really separate the patterns from the roots, it's hard to form new words from them, both in an analytical sense by academics, and in a natural sense by speakers of the language.

    But all is not lost.

    The similarity in the root concepts is that you can say "road is from the same root as to ride" just as well as you can say "דרך is from the same root as לדרוך". And this is a natural and useful concept.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    The Hebrew triliteral root system was "discovered" (and was accepted) by R' Judah ben David Hayyuj,
    But before his time, there were other grammarians that had another root system - which there could be a two-letter root, and even a one-letter root. (while some specific letters are known as "official" root letters, and some specific letters are known as "official" non-root letters.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Both Arabic jadhr and Hebrew shoresh are used primarily for the “root” of (for example) a tree, and then also for the “root” underlying a lexical item. Like much of Hebrew linguistic terminology, the Hebrew term is presumably calqued on Arabic.
     
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