meanings of the binyanim

Ali Smith

Senior Member
Urdu - Pakistan
We now know that there used to be a qal passive binyan. It follows that, at the time, nif'al must have been used for something else. We can see by the way it's used in the Bible that it, like hitpa'el, has a reflexive meaning.

For instance, nif'al לחם 'to fight', which sounds like an active verb but is not. It probably meant something like 'to be in a fighting state' in Biblical Hebrew, and you don't use it transitively; you use it with the preposition ב and say literally 'to be in a fighting state with (someone)'. So, in reality, the verb signifies something happening to the subject, not something he's doing. The nif'al and hitpa'el have this feature in common.
 

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  • JAN SHAR

    Senior Member
    pashto
    So, the first approach is wrong and the second one is right?

    And is niphal the reflexive of qal only?
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Yes and yes.

    Let me use the root פקד, whose meaning has something to do with "paying attention to someone/something", to illustrate the features of each binyan:

    qal - to take care of something on your agenda

    וַֽיהֹוָ֛ה פָּקַ֥ד אֶת־שָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמָ֑ר וַיַּ֧עַשׂ יְהֹוָ֛ה לְשָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽר׃
    (בראשית כא א)

    nif'al - to be accounted for

    וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה עֲבָדֶ֣יךָ נָֽשְׂא֗וּ אֶת־רֹ֛אשׁ אַנְשֵׁ֥י הַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיָדֵ֑נוּ וְלֹא־נִפְקַ֥ד מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אִֽישׁ׃
    (במדבר לא מט)

    Note that the idiomatic translation of וְלֹא־נִפְקַ֥ד מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אִֽישׁ is "and not a man among us is unaccounted for" rather than "accounted for".

    pi'el - to muster

    ק֥וֹל הָמ֛וֹן בֶּהָרִ֖ים דְּמ֣וּת עַם־רָ֑ב ק֠וֹל שְׁא֞וֹן מַמְלְכ֤וֹת גּוֹיִם֙ נֶֽאֱסָפִ֔ים יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֔וֹת מְפַקֵּ֖ד צְבָ֥א מִלְחָמָֽה׃
    (ישעיהו יג ד)

    pu'al - to be assigned

    אֲנִ֣י אָמַ֗רְתִּי בִּדְמִ֥י יָמַ֛י אֵלֵ֖כָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵ֣י שְׁא֑וֹל פֻּקַּ֖דְתִּי יֶ֥תֶר שְׁנוֹתָֽי׃
    (ישעיהו לח י)

    hif'il - to put in charge of assigning (causative of qal)

    וַיְהִ֡י מֵאָז֩ הִפְקִ֨יד אֹת֜וֹ בְּבֵית֗וֹ וְעַל֙ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֶשׁ־ל֔וֹ וַיְבָ֧רֶךְ יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית הַמִּצְרִ֖י בִּגְלַ֣ל יוֹסֵ֑ף וַיְהִ֞י בִּרְכַּ֤ת יְהֹוָה֙ בְּכׇל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֶשׁ־ל֔וֹ בַּבַּ֖יִת וּבַשָּׂדֶֽה׃
    (בראשית לט ה)

    hof'al - to be deposited

    וְהָיָה֮ כִּֽי־יֶחֱטָ֣א וְאָשֵׁם֒ וְהֵשִׁ֨יב אֶת־הַגְּזֵלָ֜ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר גָּזָ֗ל א֤וֹ אֶת־הָעֹ֙שֶׁק֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׁ֔ק א֚וֹ אֶת־הַפִּקָּד֔וֹן אֲשֶׁ֥ר הׇפְקַ֖ד אִתּ֑וֹ א֥וֹ אֶת־הָאֲבֵדָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר מָצָֽא׃
    (ויקרא ה כג)

    hitpa'el - to muster oneself

    וַיִּתְפָּקֵ֖ד הָעָ֑ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה אֵֽין־שָׁם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מִיּוֹשְׁבֵ֖י יָבֵ֥שׁ גִּלְעָֽד׃
    (שופטים כא ט)

    I hope this was helpful to you.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Some have called נפעל a medio-passive or a middle voice. I think such terminology comes from Greek grammar where these were actual morphological categories. I don't think it makes much sense to apply these terms to Semitic languages. It should suffice to simply call it nif'al (or N-stem, cross-Semitically) and investigate its meaning on its own without interference from Greek grammar.

    And I don't see any evidence of it being an actual reflexive, so that's clearly not a correct option.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    And I don't see any evidence of it being an actual reflexive, so that's clearly not a correct option.
    What about nif'al פגשׁ 'to meet (French: se rencontrer)'? It seems to be the reflexive of qal פגשׁ 'to meet (French: rencontrer)'. Witness:

    וַיְצַ֥ו אֶת־הָרִאשׁ֖וֹן לֵאמֹ֑ר כִּ֣י יִֽפְגׇשְׁךָ֞ עֵשָׂ֣ו אָחִ֗י וּשְׁאֵֽלְךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְמִי־אַ֙תָּה֙ וְאָ֣נָה תֵלֵ֔ךְ וּלְמִ֖י אֵ֥לֶּה לְפָנֶֽיךָ׃
    (בראשית לב יח)

    רָ֤שׁ וְאִ֣ישׁ תְּכָכִ֣ים נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ
      מֵ֤אִיר עֵינֵ֖י שְׁנֵיהֶ֣ם יְהֹוָֽה׃
    (משלי כט יג)
     

    𒍝𒊑𒈾 𒂵𒉿𒀉

    Senior Member
    Punjabi - Pakistan
    We now know that there used to be a qal passive binyan. It follows that, at the time, nif'al must have been used for something else.
    Actually, Ali, there is very less evidence that there was a passive qal verb. The so-called passive qal verb actually has either a geminate middle letter (so it is actually the passive of piel) or it is the passive of hifil. Can you show any clear passive qal verb?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Passive qal is a near certainty, though there are only a few examples of it. In the suffix conjugation it has merged with the form of the pu'al, and in the prefix conjugation it has merged with the form of the huf'al. Nevertheless, this merging is only superficial.

    The best example we know of is לקח. The active forms of this verb are ordinary qal forms (though it is notable that the ל assimilates as though it were נ). But in the passive we find forms such as לֻקַּח and יֻקַּח. On their own, these forms may have been taken as pu'al and huf'al, respectively. But when you look at it holistically, you see they are the passive form of a qal verb, as there is no corresponding pi'el verb **לִקֵּחַ or hif'il verb **הִקִּיחַ. So it becomes clear it is a qal passive.

    However, it is clear that the qal passive is a rare form that mostly fell out of use and was generally replaced by the nif'al.
     
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