biliteral (two-letter/2-letter) root

Apotheke

New Member
Malay
Greetings from Malaysia,

Just came across to this forums after googled info on Arabic Roots.:)

I would appreciate to know whether is it possible to have words that are formed by 2 root letters.

Thanking in advance

Regards
 
  • abusaf

    Senior Member
    Sweden
    Most of the verbs with two root letters actually have three.

    Like شم, حج, تم etc, its because the second and third radical (letter) are identical. So شم is really شمم and حج is really حجج etc. There verbs are called مضعّف .

    However, if words can have a 2-letter root, I don't know. I can't think of any.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    abusaf said:
    However, if words can have a 2-letter root, I don't know. I can't think of any.
    Nor can I, but what about "radda" (ردّ)? This is the first word that came to my mind when I read the title. However, I guess it's just the same like with your examples. The root of the 1st stem (I don't know the exact Arabic grammar term for it) is a 2-letter one, but only in the 2nd and 5th stem (others?), there is a "written" consonant doubling (تمم, ردد, ...).

    I would definitely call them 2-letter root words.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    The general rule in Arabic morphology is that most of the words and verbs have a 3-letters stem.
    All the examples you mention are 3 letters : ردّ is ر-د-د The fact that it's written in two letters doesn't change this, it's because the 2 د are "merged" into one, and this "merging" is sort of attested by the shadda.
     

    Apotheke

    New Member
    Malay
    Greetings all,

    Thanks for responding and sharing the info.

    Can I say:
    1. haq as from 2 letter roots h-q or h-q-q?
    2. abu as from 2 letter roots a-b or a-b-b?
    3. yad as from 2
    letter roots y-d or y-d-d?
    4. qama as from 2
    letter roots q-m or q-m-m?

    Regards
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Hello Apotheke :)
    All those words, except for the third one:
    1. haq as from 2 letter roots h-q or h-q-q?
    حق is from the root ح-ق-ق h-q-q
    2. abu as from 2 letter roots a-b or a-b-b?
    abu is just as your wrote it أ-ب-و (we say أبّ ) but it's not a-b-b, it's a-b-u
    3. yad as from 2 letter
    roots y-d or y-d-d?

    yad يد is apparently a two-letter stem word, y-d, but I'll need confirmation from others.
    4. qama as from 2 letter
    roots q-m or q-m-m?
    قام is the past form of the verb يقوم ; hence you can deduce the root is ق-و-م q-w-m
     

    Thomas F. O'Gara

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Some historical linguists theorize that two consonant roots existed some time in the dim past, but the exegencies of word formation in Arabic forced them to turn into three consonant roots, usually by doubling the last root, as in all the doubled roots cited above, but occasionally by adding a glottal stop at the start, as in 'ism - theoretically from an s-m root.

    Can't be proven conclusively, though.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    No. أيّد ayyada is a four-letter verb; so it can't be the root for a smaller word :) yad يد
    Ayyada is a verb, derivated from the same root as "yad", (although Hans Wehr lists it under the alef not the yaa2 !) it means "support", "endorse"... I think it shares the root with "hand" because it has the same connotation as "giving hand".
     

    mansio

    Senior Member
    France/Alsace
    Yad has a two-letter root. It is the same word in Hebrew, and YD is the Semitic root for hand.

    You also have the two-letter root 'Kh for brother, 'B for father, BN for son, fam the mouth, SM/ShM name.
     

    Apotheke

    New Member
    Malay
    Greetings all,

    Thanks for the enlightening replies.

    It seems like, if we're looking from semitic language history's point of view, there's a great possibility that certain Arabic words can be classified
    as a two-letter stem word. Maybe? :idea: ?

    Abusaf wrote:
    Like شم, حج, تم etc, its because the second and third radical (letter) are identical.
    cherine wrote:
    abu is just as your wrote it أ-ب-و (we say أبّ ) but it's not a-b-b, it's a-b-u
    mansio wrote:

    You also have the two-letter root 'Kh for brother, 'B for father, BN for son, fam the mouth, SM/ShM name.
    I had a discussion recently and a guy quoted that the root of Solaa is S-L and not S-L-W as normally understood. Would appreciate further comments.

    Thanking in advance,

    Regards
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hello everybody

    The word يد is triliteral in origin (يدي) and this is attested to by its plural الأيدي . Notice the Yaa at the end of the plural form. The same applies to to دم the plural of which is دماء , the hamzah being transformed from a Waaw (or Yaa). We also have the verb يدمي (to bleed) derived from it. This goes for فم as wellexcept that its original form is فوه because of the plural أفواه . Also, أب, أخ , etc. are triliteral (أخو and أبو ) because of their dual forms: أبوان and أخوان , and plural forms إخوة or إخوان and آباء . Likewise, أخت (originally: أخوة) because of the plural أخوات . The only words that do not submit to the triliteral root (or quadriliteral or quinqueliteral) are indeclinable words such as personal pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogatives, particles, etc. (e.g. هو , في , من , لـ , etc.). In fact, we don't talk of 'root' or 'stem' in terms of them as they are not derived from anything nor is anything derived from them. You can say, however, that they are uniliteral, biliteral, etc. (أحادية، ثنائية ) and so on.
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hi Guys

    Unless one subscribes to a totally different linguistic tradition, the root form of 'salaa' is 's-l-w'. This is evidenced by the fact that the plural is: صلوات & the verb is صلّى - يصلي . You might say, how is it that the sometimes we find a Yaa in place of the Waaw. The answer is that it is common for weak letters (Waaw, Yaa & Alif) to change to in a number of ways, e.g. changing from one to the other, omission, changing into a Hamzah, etc.

    As for أب its original form is (a-b-w) and not (a-b-b). The latter means 'vegetation, pasture, grass' as in the Quranic verse: وفاكهة وأباًّ (And fruit and grass) Surah 80:31.

    I hope this serves towards solving the problem.
     

    mansio

    Senior Member
    France/Alsace
    I still believe that Arabic has, or had, a number of basic biliteral words (although a few of them may have been expanded to triliteral words).
     

    Apotheke

    New Member
    Malay
    Greetings all,

    Can someone please elaborate the proposition by Abu Bishr that in order to see meaning/origin of the biliteral words, one has to see the plural form of it.


    I thought that the stem should define the derivatives (plural,etc) and not vice versa.

    Abu Bishr wrote:
    As for أب its original form is (a-b-w) and not (a-b-b). The latter means 'vegetation, pasture, grass' as in the Quranic verse: وفاكهة وأباًّ (And fruit and grass) Surah 80:31.

    Earlier, abusaf wrote that 2 stems is indeed 3 stems because the third radical (letters) are identitical. It seems that there's something missing here.

    Thomas F. O'Gara wrote:
    Some historical linguists theorize that two consonant roots existed some time in the dim past<snip>
    mansio wrote:
    I still believe that Arabic has, or had, a number of basic biliteral words <snip>
    Sorry for asking in merged reply.
    Do I understand correctly that you are referring to Classical Arabic when you were saying that in the past...?


    Regards.
     

    Jaddawya tongue

    New Member
    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Hello Guys,
    There are some verbs called "al-amr" verb=an order verb and you can find of them are formed of 2 letters.
    For example: قُمْ , means stand up and also قِفْ has same meaning.

    I know you didn't mean by your question these kinds of verbs :$ lol
    but I hope I could help others:p
    ta7yatiiiii wo 7oby
     

    abusaf

    Senior Member
    Sweden
    Yes. These are made up of two letters because of اِلتقاء الساكنين, however, like you said, the root is still 3 letters
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Can someone please elaborate the proposition by Abu Bishr that in order to see meaning/origin of the biliteral words, one has to see the plural form of it.

    I thought that the stem should define the derivatives (plural,etc) and not vice versa.
    Sometimes the stem undergoes certain changes that it is not always onbvious to determine what the root letters are. Thus, past scholars have formulated rules for determining the root form, one of these being that the dual, plural, diminutive, imperfect & infinitive forms often reveal a word's root letters. For example: خاف - يخاف does not tell us what the original for of the Alif is. But if we know the infinitive (masdar), for example, that becomes possible, and because the infinitive is خوف we know that the Alif was originally a Waaw but is not obvious from the perfect not the imperfect forms. In fact, this rule is important for using Hans Wehr dictionary. According to past scholars, an Alif is either an additional letter or transformed from a root letter but never a root letter itself. This is the same rule observed by Hans Wehr. Thus, to find خاف in Hans Wehr you won't find it under خ - ا - ف but rather under خ - و - ف . This is the case with a number of a words whose root form comprises weak letters, etc.

    Sometimes a verb can consist of only one letter due to the fact that two of its three root letters have been dropped. An example of this verb is قِ the imperative of وقى (to protect). This verb is used in the Quran in the following verse: وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ (And protect us from the Punishment of the Fire).

    An interesting exercise would be for one of us to suggest a couple of words & then see how we would find it in the Hans Wehr dictionary. What do you think?
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    The word يد is triliteral in origin (يدي) and this is attested to by its plural الأيدي . Notice the Yaa at the end of the plural form. The same applies to to دم the plural of which is دماء , the hamzah being transformed from a Waaw (or Yaa). We also have the verb يدمي (to bleed) derived from it. This goes for فم as wellexcept that its original form is فوه because of the plural أفواه . Also, أب, أخ , etc. are triliteral (أخو and أبو ) because of their dual forms: أبوان and أخوان , and plural forms إخوة or إخوان and آباء .
    Occam's razor. Looking at their Ugaritic forms 'b for father, 'x for brother, dm for blood, yd for hand, adding for example my for water, I prefer the interpretation that there really were two-radical words.

    Those two-radical words are all seemingly very old and basic. An interesting fact is that many animal names can be regarded as two-radical words, augmented with a suffix to indicate tame or wild: for Arabic, tame: Himār 'ass', baqar 'kine', thawr 'bull', raxil 'ewe' etc. but wild: `aqrab 'scorpion', `arnab 'hare', dubb 'bear, dhi`b 'wolf'.
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Occam's razor. Looking at their Ugaritic forms 'b for father, 'x for brother, dm for blood, yd for hand, adding for example my for water, I prefer the interpretation that there really were two-radical words.
    The important thing about one's interpretation is that it has to be consistent with the facts, and consistent throughout. The facts are:

    (1) how do we account for the addition of a letter in the plural & often dual forms of the singular in which one of the roots seems to be dropped
    (2) There are numerous precedents in other words where the root appears to be uniliteral or biliteral but it has been categorically established that the root is actually triliteral e.g. "silah" from "wasala" , "sifah" from "wasafa" , & "shajin" from "shajaya" & " 'amin" from " 'amiya", etc.
    (3) The word "ism" (name) has many permutations interalia: "sim" , "simah", "sumaa", "simaah" & "simaa'", etc. Some classical scholars say as many as 18. Now, if we take "sim" it would appear to be biliteral, but how do we account for the other permutations that show show categorically three radicles.
    (4) What do we say about verbs whose imperative form occurs as one letter and the rest of its forms as three. To we reduce the one to the three or the three to the one. Why not invoke 'Occam's Razor' in these instances, why just in the instances that you have mentioned
    (5) Why for the sake of consistency would we want to invent a biliteral category for a few words which seemingly appear to be biliteral but in reality can be explained as being triliteral in consonance with the majority root form in nouns evidencing such an explanation
    (6) Classical scholars were well aware of 'Occam's Razor' and invoked on many an occasion. They almost always avoided producing proof that involved takalluf (making something unnecessarily difficulty). They would always opt for an easier explanation providing it is consistent with the facts, and makes sense within a general system. To the best of my knowledge, I don't any of them stating that these words are biliteral. So while on the face of it, it is easier to explain the words under discussion in terms of being biliteral but if we consider the bigger picture this explanation seems sadly lacking in its explanatory power.
    (7) Finally, early Jewish scholars of the Bible had a problem explaining the roots of Hebrew (especially those involving weak letters). Menahem ben Saruk (a Spanish-Jewish philogist) wrote his Biblical dictionary in which he used the prevalent view of Hebrew roots being uniliteral, biliteral & triliteral. This was heavily contested by a contemporary of his, Dunash ben Labrat who in return was countered by three of Menahem's students. It was was not until one of Menahem's students - Judah ben Hayyuj - studied the Arabic grammatical theories prevalent at the time that he was able to solve the problem. The way they solved it was to maintain that the basic root is triliteral and to then try and explain deviations from the triliteral stem. This became the accepted system for Hebrew as well. In other words, the view of uniliteral & biliteral roots to explain weak forms became defunct. Incidentally, it was Hayyuj & Abul-Walid Merwan ben Janah that inspired David Kimhi to write his famous "Miklol" in Hebrew. The Miklol was later translated and annotated by William Chomsky the father of Naom Chomsky and the latter had read at a very early age in an earlier form.

    Anyhow, the point is that both Hebrew & Arabic are similar in terms of the root system, and often what applies to the one applies to other.Our debate here seems to be similar to the one that took place between Menahem, Dunash & Hayyuj, and it would be worthwhile going into that debate to see its relevance here.
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hi Lugubert

    As for the Ugaritic forms that you mentioned, it only suggests that these only started out as biliteral in one language but developed into triliteral in the subsequent language because of the latter's own unique system of incorporation. If one makes a study of plural forms (especially broken plurals) in Arabic then one realizes that three radicles are needed and not two or one. You cannot make a broken plural out of a uniliteral or a biliteral. In fact, the forms that they give you for the broken plural all contain the three radicles: ف ع ل , e.g. فُعُوْل، فِعَال، أَفْعُل، أَفْعِلَة، أَفْعِلاَء , etc. to mention a few only. The same applies to the diminutive, the patterns of which are: فُعَيْل ، فُعَيْعِل ، فُعَيْعِيْل . You cannot make أب diminutive except by adding a third i.e. أُبَيٌّ , and its plural form is: آبَاء on the pattern of أفعال . This is also evident from words that we borrow from other languages in this day and age.Arabs often make radicle changes to the form of a word before they incorporate it into their language. The opposite is also true. Arabic words get often radically changed when incorporated into another. A case in point is the word "Hezbollah" which was discussed recently in this forum.

    Let's also take the example of the word كَمْ ("kam" = how much / many). When converting it into a noun meaning "amount" we double the Meem and we say كَمّ for example كَمّ هائِل ("Kammun Haa-il" = a huge amount). This shows that Arabs have a tendency to make them into three letters. You might argue that كمْ is originally two. I say "yes" but it is an indeclinable interrogative which resembles a particle like هلْ (question article), but after it was stripped of the meaning of interrogation, it became a more fully fledged noun meaning something like: عَدَد (amount, number, etc.).

    Incidentally, there was a very famous classical philologist by the name of Ibn Jini who claimed that words such as: نفس ، نفخَ ، نفح، نفث , etc. are biliteral (in their very primary state)and the same apllies to بدأ and بدع , and to منع and منح , etc., but at the same time a third letter is needed to convey different variations on the same theme.

    Anyhow, I personally think to regard certain words as triliteral rather than biliteral makes more sense when considering the bigger picture, and it is also in consonance with certain modern linguistic concepts such as deep & surface structure, etc., so that for أب the deep structure is أبو and the surface structure أب .
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    I may have strayed from the intention of the opening post. I don't disagree with the notion that many superficially biconsonantal roots in MSA can be interpreted as triconsonantal. I probably have argued more from what the structure of Proto-Semitic might have been.

    S. Moscati said:
    Thus for example in Hebrew: prd 'to separate', prm 'to tear', prs 'to split
    and four more examples.
    All these verbs have in common the radicals pr and the basic notion 'to divide'.
    (From An introduction to the comparative grammar of the Semitic languages.)

    He then goes on to suggest that a system of biconsonantal roots may have preceded the triconsonantal theme in Semitic.
     
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