Barth-Ginsberg law

Aleppan

Member
Arabic
I read this:

The Barth-Ginsberg law is a phonological rule stating that the prefix vowel of the prefix or imperfect(ive) conjugation in the base (i.e., G) stem is dependent on the theme vowel of the respective verbal base. When the theme vowel is /i/ or /u/, the prefix vowel is /a/, while when the theme vowel is /a/, the prefix vowel is /i/, resulting in the following paradigm:

ya-ktub

yi-ktab

ya-ktib

The evidence for this distinction in Hebrew and Aramaic was first compiled by Jakob Barth (1894:5–6), who noted that Hebrew has different prefix vowels depending on theme vowel in initial guttural... (that's all you can see without having access)

So in יֶחֱזַק and יֶהְדַּר why did the Barth-Ginsberg law not apply?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    What do you mean? יֶחֱזַק and יֶהְדַּר are typical examples of the Barth-Ginsburg law applying.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Because the regular reflex of short i before a guttural is a segol. I'm not sure why that should be surprising.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Thanks.

    Aleppan: Another example of this law in action is

    יֵבוֹשׁ vb. 3m.s. PC Qal בושׁ 'to be ashamed'/'he will be ashamed'

    Drink: Do you think the Barth-Ginsberg law is the reason why we have מִשְׁפָּט instead of מַשְׁפָּט too?

    We all know that in proto-Hebrew it was of the form maqtal, and that the vowel in the second syllable was lengthened because that's what usually happens to a short a in proto-Hebrew when it is in an accented syllable, be it open or closed. However, how do we account for a > i in the first syllable?

    And of course a > i did not occur in מָקוֹם, even though it was originally of the form maqtal too. The reason is the Barth-Ginsberg law only applies when two consecutive syllables contain a short a vowel.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    It's not due to the Barth-Ginsburg law itself but it may be a similar process that operated at a much later time.

    As I mentioned in another thread, the Barth-Ginsburg law likely operated on Proto-Semitic itself, very, very long before Hebrew was its own language.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I don't remember. But you can look at John Huehnergard's chapter on Proto Semitic in the Routledge Handbook of Semitic Languages.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    So, in יֵבוֹשׁ was the theme vowel originally a? If so, how did it change to o?
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Since this thread seems to have come to the end of its natural life, I thought I might make a few clarifying comments for the sake of future readers.

    Do you think the Barth-Ginsberg law is the reason why we have מִשְׁפָּט instead of מַשְׁפָּט too?

    Note the statement of the Barth-Ginsberg law, as given, for instance, by the OP: it is not a general phonological law, but it applies specifically to the prefix vowel in the prefix conjugation of the G stem. From this perspective, it does rather leave something to be desired as a phonological law, because, for the most part, sound shifts ought not to have a morphological criterion.

    Note moreover that the law is not stated as a sound shift /a/ → /i/, but merely as a distribution, viz. that the prefix vowel was originally /i/ for stative stems and /a/ elsewhere. What ‘originally’ means here is still open to discussion, but we know that the Barth-Ginsberg law goes back to at least proto-West Semitic (including the so-called Central Semitic languages), if not proto-Semitic itself.

    As for מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט, Drink noted that this sound shift took place much later, very much later, in fact, affecting Hebrew only in certain traditions. (The Samaritan tradition still has מַשְׁפָּט, for example.) This change is usually thought to be some sort of dissimilatory process unique to the Tiberian tradition.

    And of course a > i did not occur in מָקוֹם, even though it was originally of the form maqtal too. The reason is the Barth-Ginsberg law only applies when two consecutive syllables contain a short a vowel.

    This is incorrect on two fronts. First, if we’re talking about the Barth-Ginsberg law, then, as you point out, מָקוֹם was of the form maqtal- and would in fact have had the sequence a-a, with two short vowels. However, the law pertains only to the prefix vowel in verbs, so mawqam- would have been unaffected.

    Second, if we’re talking about the Tiberian מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט shift, then it is not necessary that the second vowel be short (or, equivalently, the syllable closed). The sound change operated also when the second syllable is open, e.g., תִּקְוָה → תַּקְוָה, but was blocked by, inter alia, gutturals and geminates, cf. מַעֲלָה and מַדָּע.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I'll make a few notes in reply:

    As for מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט, Drink noted that this sound shift took place much later, very much later, in fact, affecting Hebrew only in certain traditions. (The Samaritan tradition still has מַשְׁפָּט, for example.) This change is usually thought to be some sort of dissimilatory process unique to the Tiberian tradition.

    A word of caution regarding Samaritan Hebrew: The Samaritan Hebrew pronunciation tradition was heavily influenced by Samaritan Aramaic (and vice versa). So it could theoretically have been the case that Samaritan did have this change, but that it was subsequently undone by influence from Aramaic.

    This is incorrect on two fronts. First, if we’re talking about the Barth-Ginsberg law, then, as you point out, מָקוֹם was of the form maqtal- and would in fact have had the sequence a-a, with two short vowels. However, the law pertains only to the prefix vowel in verbs, so mawqam- would have been unaffected.
    Other than the simple fact that this isn't a prefix-conjugation verb, which you've already addressed above, I'm not sure why you take issue here. The rest of the logic fits: aw > ō preceded the -aCCa- > -iCCa-, so the change was blocked.

    As an aside, do we know what the outcome was of the Barth-Ginsberg law in verbs with a non-elided initial w?

    Second, if we’re talking about the Tiberian מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט shift, then it is not necessary that the second vowel be short (or, equivalently, the syllable closed). The sound change operated also when the second syllable is open, e.g., תִּקְוָה → תַּקְוָה, but was blocked by, inter alia, gutturals and geminates, cf. מַעֲלָה and מַדָּע.
    The second vowel in תקוה is not longer or shorter than the one in משפט. Both were originally short and later lengthened (not to mention some theories of Tiberian pronunciation that claim, namely Geoffrey Khan's theory which I don't personally buy into, that stressed closed syllables were actually longer than stressed open syllables).

    A better example of long vowels is the מקטול pattern (e.g. מזמור, מכשול, מספוא, etc.).

    Also, do we know that תקוה was ever taqwa? It's not the same paradigm.

    Lastly, I'm not sure whether gemination is the factor or not. After all, there are words like מקח with -i-.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    An entirely different expansion of Barth’s law has been proposed by Beyer, namely that it represents a general dissimilation of a/a to i/a, for example in Aramaic *’amara > Syriac 'emar “he said”. In this case it would be phonological event, not a morphological one.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    A word of caution regarding Samaritan Hebrew: The Samaritan Hebrew pronunciation tradition was heavily influenced by Samaritan Aramaic (and vice versa). So it could theoretically have been the case that Samaritan did have this change, but that it was subsequently undone by influence from Aramaic.
    Yes, what you say of Samaritan Hebrew is true, of course, but there is other evidence, in the form of Latin and Greek transcriptions, as well as the Babylonian tradition, to suggest that this shift (מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט) was specific to Tiberian Hebrew. Of course, each of these sources date from different periods and have various issues of their own, but, together, IMHO, they paint a sufficiently clear picture of the situation.

    Other than the simple fact that this isn't a prefix-conjugation verb, which you've already addressed above, I'm not sure why you take issue here. The rest of the logic fits: aw > ō preceded the -aCCa- > -iCCa-, so the change was blocked.
    [Sorry, I inadvertently transposed the consonants in citing the form mawqam-, read maqwam-, which would have undergone deletion of the middle radical and consequent compensatory lengthening already in Proto-Semitic, so maqām- is likely the relevant form when considering Barth-Ginsberg.]

    At any rate, the reason I took issue with Ali Smith’s contention that מָקוֹם remained unaffected because “the Barth-Ginsberg law only applies when two consecutive syllables contain a short a vowel”. This condition is neither necessary nor sufficient, and therefore wholly irrelevant, and in fact contradicts his own suggestion that יֵבוֹשׁ was an ‘example of the law in action’, since, in the latter, it did operate despite there not being two consecutive short a’s: yabātuyibātu (assuming the dissimilatory form of the law as a sound change), whilst maqāmum remained unchanged. And even if we suppose that Barth-Ginsberg operated before the deletion of the middle radical, then the criterion of two consecutive short a’s is not the reason it failed to affect *maqwamum.

    Also, do we know that תקוה was ever taqwa? It's not the same paradigm.
    After /m-/, /t-/ is probably the most frequent nominal preformative, and the original vowel seems to have been /a/. As for תקוה in particular, I think it can probably be ascribed to the form taqtal, but the evidence of other reading traditions (the Babylonian seems to show teqwa, for instance) suggests that the attenuation of the first vowel occurred earlier (if in fact it was ever taqwa) than the Tiberian מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט.

    Lastly, I'm not sure whether gemination is the factor or not. After all, there are words like מקח with -i-.
    Perhaps מִקָּח is not a good example, because it is an Aramaic miqtal infinitive, and probably always had /i/. Do any other examples come to mind? The majority of maqtal nouns I can think of, e.g., מַפָּץ מַצָּב מַגָּל מַפָּח, seem to have retained /a/.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    You make some good points, but I still have to nitpick a little more (anything I don't comment on, you can take as agreement ;)):

    Yes, what you say of Samaritan Hebrew is true, of course, but there is other evidence, in the form of Latin and Greek transcriptions, as well as the Babylonian tradition, to suggest that this shift (מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט) was specific to Tiberian Hebrew.
    After /m-/, /t-/ is probably the most frequent nominal preformative, and the original vowel seems to have been /a/. As for תקוה in particular, I think it can probably be ascribed to the form taqtal, but the evidence of other reading traditions (the Babylonian seems to show teqwa, for instance) suggests that the attenuation of the first vowel occurred earlier (if in fact it was ever taqwa) than the Tiberian מִשְׁפָּט → מַשְׁפָּט.

    Where are you getting this information about the Babylonian tradition? I just looked up the words מספר, מדבר, משפט, and תקוה in the Codex of the Prophets and they all have /i/ there, not /a/ or /e/.

    Besides, the Babylonian tradition was very closely related to the Tiberian tradition. They do differ of course, but the differences between them are very late.

    Furthermore, you speak of these performatives as we are certain that they can only take one form. But we know that Arabic also has mi-, and the participles across Semitic derive from mu-. I'm not arguing against it having been taqwa, I'm just looking to see what kind of evidence there is.

    Perhaps מִקָּח is not a good example, because it is an Aramaic miqtal infinitive, and probably always had /i/. Do any other examples come to mind? The majority of maqtal nouns I can think of, e.g., מַפָּץ מַצָּב מַגָּל מַפָּח, seem to have retained /a/.

    Why do you call it Aramaic? This verb does not occur in Aramaic. Furthermore, we know that the miqtal in Hebrew is also often an infinitive.

    Furthermore, and this part is a question rather than a criticism, why is the Aramaic infinitive with mi- rather than ma-? I had always assumed it comes from the ordinary maqtal form, but am only now realizing that the mi- realization of the infinitive is in contrast with maqtal nouns, which preserve ma-. Where did this mi- come from?
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Where are you getting this information about the Babylonian tradition? I just looked up the words מספר, מדבר, משפט, and תקוה in the Codex of the Prophets and they all have /i/ there, not /a/ or /e/.
    I have been a little lazy in this respect, I must admit, largely relying on Murtonen’s comparative lexicon, because to access the Institute’s library, a booking must be made with at least 18 hours’ notice on account of Covid regulations, so checking primary sources is a little inconvenient.

    As for the Codex of the Prophets, this is not the best source from which to ascertain Babylonian readings, because, even though it uses the Babylonian signs, the vocalisation therein largely represents the Tiberian tradition. We can quibble about the evidence for and status of individual words, but the consensus seems to be that nouns like מספר, מדבר, משפט and תקוה were generally unattenuated in the Babylonian tradition.

    You speak of these performatives as we are certain that they can only take one form. But we know that Arabic also has mi-, and the participles across Semitic derive from mu-. I'm not arguing against it having been taqwa, I'm just looking to see what kind of evidence there is.
    Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that the nominal preformatives all shared a common vowel, and, with the /m-/ preformatives, that was clearly not the case. I was speaking specifically of the /t-/ prefix, which seem to originally have had the vowel /a/. At any rate, for תקוה in particular, Kahle’s Masoreten des Ostens does show /taqwā/ as the vocalisation.

    Why do you call it Aramaic? This verb does not occur in Aramaic. Furthermore, we know that the miqtal in Hebrew is also often an infinitive.
    I didn't mean that the word itself was borrowed from Aramaic, but rather that the infinitive was formed in Hebrew by analogy with the Aramaic paradigm. You speak as if the miqtal infinitive were commonplace in Hebrew, but it is in fact rather rare and often late, at least in the Old Testament. For instance, מִקָּח occurs only once, in 2 Chronicles.

    Furthermore, and this part is a question rather than a criticism, why is the Aramaic infinitive with mi- rather than ma-? I had always assumed it comes from the ordinary maqtal form, but am only now realizing that the mi- realization of the infinitive is in contrast with maqtal nouns, which preserve ma-. Where did this mi- come from?
    I'm not sure that we know, to be honest. Historically, Aramaic had two forms of the G infinitive, qatāl (cognate with the infinitive absolute in Hebrew) and miqtal, and, as far as I can tell, the latter have always had /i/ in the first syllable, at least as far back as vocalised sources go. However, most historical linguists also seem to assume that it stemmed from an original maqtal, attributing the shift to some form of attenuation, without explaining why maqtal nouns otherwise preserved the /a/. Perhaps the shift occurred only for the infinitives (along the lines of Barth-Ginsberg), but, as we know, morphologically-conditioned sound changes are disfavoured.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    As for the Codex of the Prophets, this is not the best source from which to ascertain Babylonian readings, because, even though it uses the Babylonian signs, the vocalisation therein largely represents the Tiberian tradition. We can quibble about the evidence for and status of individual words, but the consensus seems to be that nouns like מספר, מדבר, משפט and תקוה were generally unattenuated in the Babylonian tradition.
    Could you recommend some reading on this or some better primary sources that are available online? I tried looking through Cairo geniza fragments online, but every time I would come across a word like מספר/מדבר/משפט, there would either be a whole in the manuscript, or the vowel sign on the מ would simply be omitted.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that the nominal preformatives all shared a common vowel, and, with the /m-/ preformatives, that was clearly not the case. I was speaking specifically of the /t-/ prefix, which seem to originally have had the vowel /a/. At any rate, for תקוה in particular, Kahle’s Masoreten des Ostens does show /taqwā/ as the vocalisation.
    I didn't mean to suggest you were suggesting that. I was merely asking, how do we know there is only one performative with t-? Perhaps there is more than one and they had different vowels?

    Would you recommend Masoreten des Ostens? If so, is there an English version or am I gonna have to struggle through it in German? Or is there a more up-to-date source?

    I didn't mean that the word itself was borrowed from Aramaic, but rather that the infinitive was formed in Hebrew by analogy with the Aramaic paradigm. You speak as if the miqtal infinitive were commonplace in Hebrew, but it is in fact rather rare and often late, at least in the Old Testament. For instance, מִקָּח occurs only once, in 2 Chronicles.
    I'm not sure what you mean. It seems relatively common to me, even in earlier books. It's hard for me to find examples quickly, as I have not found a website yet that has a morphological search of the Hebrew Bible, but here are a few examples:

    - מושב, as in Exodus 12:40
    - משכב, as in Leviticus 20:13
    - מקלט, as in Numbers 35:14

    I'm not sure that we know, to be honest. Historically, Aramaic had two forms of the G infinitive, qatāl (cognate with the infinitive absolute in Hebrew) and miqtal, and, as far as I can tell, the latter have always had /i/ in the first syllable, at least as far back as vocalised sources go. However, most historical linguists also seem to assume that it stemmed from an original maqtal, attributing the shift to some form of attenuation, without explaining why maqtal nouns otherwise preserved the /a/. Perhaps the shift occurred only for the infinitives (along the lines of Barth-Ginsberg), but, as we know, morphologically-conditioned sound changes are disfavoured.
    Thanks. Sounds like lazy linguistics, which I guess is par for the course in the field ;)
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    PS: Some more examples of this phenomenon with geminates:

    - גנה appears alternatively as ganna and ginna
    - אמתי amittay seems to have been originally amatti
    - מגלה megilla seems to have been originally magalla(t)
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Could you recommend some reading on this or some better primary sources that are available online? I tried looking through Cairo geniza fragments online, but every time I would come across a word like מספר/מדבר/משפט, there would either be a whole in the manuscript, or the vowel sign on the מ would simply be omitted.
    Kahle's Masoreten des Ostens is the seminal work on the Babylonian tradition, and became the standard reference for the topic. Some of his conclusions are now known to be incorrect, but it nevertheless remains a very useful work. Unfortunately, I'm not aware that it has been translated into any other language. Yeivin's two-volume The Tradition of Hebrew as Reflected by Babylonian Vocalization (1985), born of a doctoral dissertation, probably constitutes the most comprehensive and authoritative description of the material to date. As a reference for various Hebrew reading traditions, the comparative lexicon of Murtonen's Hebrew in its West Semitic Setting (1985–1989) is also useful, although it would not qualify as ‘recommended reading’, necessarily.

    As for the primary sources themselves, as far as I am aware, there is not a great deal that is easily accessible online. Much of the Cairo Geniza material, as you will have noted, is fragmentary, and often only occasionally vocalised. It is, moreover, important to recall that not all manuscripts vocalised using the Babylonian signs present the Babylonian reading tradition, the Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus being a case in point. Yeivin classifies the manuscripts according to the degree to which it reflects the reading tradition, and is the work of reference, if you wish to have recourse to (or in lieu of) the primary sources.

    How do we know there is only one performative with t-? Perhaps there is more than one and they had different vowels?
    This seems to be a not-uncommonly-held position, although I can't cite any references off hand. I remember coming across the theory that the ta- prefix for verbal nouns was a reflex of the feminine marker /ta/ with its vowel, which, whilst by no means conclusive, was by the same token not implausible. Perhaps there were other common Semitic noun patterns with a prefixed /t-/ that had another vowel, but it does seem like the predominant one was /a/.

    I'm not sure what you mean. It seems relatively common to me, even in earlier books. It's hard for me to find examples quickly, as I have not found a website yet that has a morphological search of the Hebrew Bible, but here are a few examples:
    When I said rare, I meant rare relative to the usual form of the infinitive. I suppose we have differing notions of rare, though, and the question, really, can only be settled definitively by counting instances. As for a morphological search, the miqtal infinitives are simply tagged as nouns in most databases, and many are also (and, indeed, often more commonly) substantival, e.g., מִשְׁכָּב, which usually means ‘bed’ or ‘lodgings’, so they would have to be individually examined to compile any sort of statistics.

    As for the lateness of these infinitives, the three particular examples you cite (from Ex 12, Lev 35 and Num 20) all occur in the putative Priestly material. So as not to open the can of worms that is the Documentary Hypothesis, I shall confine myself to noting that they likely fall among the later elements of the Pentateuch to be composed, without specifying what precisely late means here.

    PS: Some more examples of this phenomenon with geminates:
    - גנה appears alternatively as ganna and ginna
    - אמתי amittay seems to have been originally amatti
    - מגלה megilla seems to have been originally magalla(t)
    I generally agree with these statements, but I wonder about their relevance. In particular, אמתי (stem אֱמֶת) seems to have developed from a segholate of the form אמנת—segholates of course have their own particular rules of vocalisation—and ought to be excluded. As for גנה and מגלה, they belong to a larger class of nouns with geminate roots, whose vowel vary between /a/ and /i/ (historically /a/), whereof we have other examples like צַמָּה and אַמָּה alongside כִּפָּה and מִדָּה, all of which exhibit some vacillation in the vowel, with /a/ seemingly tending towards /i/ over the course of time. In all likelihood, this represents some form of attenuation too, but because Aramaic and the non-Tiberian Hebrew reading traditions often have /i/ in such words whilst retaining /a/ in מספר/מדבר/משפט/תקוה, they probably represent an earlier development distinct from the Tiberian attenuation of the latter.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Did Barth-Ginsberg apply to מֵצַר 'distress' too? Its root is צרר, but is its base maqtal or miqtal? By "base" I mean the reconstructed Proto-Hebrew form of a word expressed in terms of the root QTL.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Did Barth-Ginsberg apply to מֵצַר 'distress' too? Its root is צרר, but is its base maqtal or miqtal?

    It has been stated a number of times above that the Barth-Ginsberg law applies only to the prefix vowel in the prefix conjugation of the G stem, including in the OP. Does מֵצַר fit this criterion?

    Be that as it may, I would say that מֵצַר represents a miqtal, with /i/ as the prefix vowel, since attenuation of the sort we have been discussing seems to have applied predominantly in closed syllables.
     
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