Proto-Semitic Verb Patterns

Shakeek

Banned
Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
Shalaam,

Has anyone reconstructed these? I always thought that the first pattern in Proto-Semitic would be Pa"al, but I was surprised to find out that in Akkadian it was Pa"il.

Anyone knows about this?

Shalaam (my reconstructed Proto version, I'm not sure though),
 
  • Macnas

    Member
    English and Russian, United States
    (GAH, sorry, I just typed out a very long and detailed post, but the forum logged me out and I lost the entire post. I'll try to retype a lot of this...)

    This question is complicated by two factors. First, "Proto-Semitic" existed over a period of over a thousand years, and in that period changed significantly. And secondly, Proto-Semitic verbs didn't function in quite the same way as modern Semitic languages, and you can't exactly describe verbs as having different forms in the way modern Semitic languages do.

    Note that Akkadian (and other East Semitic languages) branched off of the family earlier than Hebrew and Arabic (and other West Semitic languages) did, and so has a number of features not seen in West Semitic.

    Now, basically, Proto-Semitic verbs had two stems. One was of the form CCVC, inherited from the Proto-Afro-Asiatic verb, which has a single inherent, nonchanging vowel (eg, *ktūb "write") and conjugated with prefixes. This eventually developed into the West Semitic imperative and imperfective.

    The other stem was of the form CaCC, and in origin was a noun or adjective. It took possessive suffixes, like other nouns, which developed into conjugational endings as it acquired more verbal qualities. The "CaCC" structure was then broken up by the insertion of a vowel, yielding CaCaC, CaCuC, and CaCiC. Which vowel was inserted is unpredictable, but there seem to be some general tendencies, for example, -i- for stative verbs, -a- for active. These developed into the Akkadian preterite, or the West Semitic perfective. Note that verbs could not switch between different classes - they each had a single vowel which could not change.

    Akkadian preserved all three forms (not just CaCiC, as you said). In West Semitic, CaCaC became dominant, the other two being relagated to their original function as nouns or adjectives. This is where the modern basic conjugation comes from, Hebrew pa`al, Arabic fa`ala.

    The other verb forms developed over time.

    The intensive form (Hebrew pi``el, Arabic fa``ala) acquired a doubled consonant. Sorry, I don't remember how exactly this happened, though.

    The causative acquired a prefixed sh-, which in Hebrew later weakened to h- (hif`il) and in Arabic to '- ('af`al)

    The prefix n- (Hebrew nif`al, Arabic 'infa`ala) was originally a reflexive, though its meaning shifted over time.

    The prefix t- (Hebrew hitpa``el, Arabic 'ifta`ala) was a frequentative/reflexive/detransitizing prefix.

    In early Semitic these forms were quite fluid, which is how different Semitic languages ended up developing many different forms. Many could be combined together with one another.


    This is from memory, but I think it's a fairly accurate (if greatly oversimplified) outline of what happened. It's probably a bit more than you wanted to know, though!

    In short, Proto-Semitic verbs didn't quite work the same way as modern Semitic verbs.

    The reconstructed word for "peace" is *shalāmu, by the way, so you weren't far off!
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    Macnas, that was one amazing answer. I am lucky to have found you here.

    You mentioned *ktūb. This is different from the Arabic *ktub. Maybe you meant the second one?

    I will try to apply what I understood from you, and fill the blanks from my own imagination. Tell me what you think.

    Proto-Semitic Verb Binyaans

    1) CaCVC

    Imperfective

    iktūbu
    tiktūbu
    tiktūbeema
    yiktūbu
    tiktūbu
    tiktūbaami
    yiktūbaami
    niktūbu
    tiktūbooma
    yiktūbooma
    tiktūbna
    yiktūbna

    The reds are the indicative mood signs. This is a touch from Arabic, I'm not sure about it. But I think people believe that there was inflection in Proto-Semitic?

    Imperative

    ktūb
    ktūbee
    ktūbaa
    ktūboo
    ktūbna

    I'll leave the rest for later. I take from your shalāmu that you believe in the following:

    shalāmu = the peace
    shalāmum = a peace

    Or the other way around? Although I like this better because it is like what I'm used to with Arabic :)

    I am still going to imagine the rest of the verbs later.
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    Or, after a second thought:

    (this is a long shot but I'm trying to associate between the prefixes and the subject pronouns)

    aktūb = I ktūb
    taktūb = you ktūb (1m)
    tiktūb OR taktūbi = you ktūb (1f)
    wuktūb = he ktūb (m)
    yiktūb = she ktūb (f)
    taktūbaa = you two ktūb
    wuktūbaa = they two ktūb (m)
    yiktūbaa = they two ktūb (f)
    naktūb = we ktūb
    taktūboo = you ktūb (m)
    taktūbna = you ktūb (f)
    wuktūboo = they ktūb (m)
    yiktūboo = they ktūb (f)

    This makes sense IMO. Because in this way the prefixes actually mean something.
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    What if these prefixes never existed in the first place? and they were only contractions that happened over time?

    Like: he writes ... becomes: yiwrites

    In Semtic: hee ktūb (= she writes) became: yiktūb.

    This also makes sense to me.
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    A more general approach (the muse just won't leave me alone):

    Semitic Subject Pronouns:

    a - I
    ta - you (1m)
    ti - you (1f)
    w - he
    y - she
    nu - we

    na = here
    ha = there

    an-a = here I
    an-ta = here you (1m)
    an-ti = here you (1f)
    ha-w = there he
    (this maybe why in Arabic it is "huwa," they moved the -a to the end of the word)
    ha-y = there she (Arabic "hiya")
    an-nu = we here (this one needs more thinking)

    an-ta-um = here you+plural m declension (nominative)
    an-ta-im = here you+plural m declension (accusative) hence the Hebrew "attem"
    an-ta-umaa = here you+dual declension
    an-ta-un = here you+plural f declension

    ha-w-um = there he+plural m declension
    ha-y-un = there she+plural f declension
    ha-w-umaa = there he+dual declension

    a-ktūb = I write
    ta-ktūb = you (1m) write
    ti-ktūb = you (1f) write
    w-ktūb = he writes
    y-ktūb = she writes

    ta-ktūb-ūm = you write plural

    etc...

    I think it needs more revision ... I am not a linguist in the end...
     

    Macnas

    Member
    English and Russian, United States
    Whoops, sorry, I did mean *ktub, with a short vowel.

    If you're interested in the actual reconstructed conjugation...


    Imperfective:
    'aktub - I write
    taktub - you (m) write
    taktubī - you (f) write
    yaktub - he writes
    taktub - she writes

    taktubā - you two write
    yaktubā - they two (m) write
    taktubā - they two (f) write

    niktub - we write
    tiktubū - you all (m) write
    tiktubā - you all (f) write
    yiktubū - they (m) write
    yiktubā - they (f) write

    (Regarding prefix vowels - most verbs used /a/ in the singular and dual and /i/ in the plural. However, the intensive and causative used /u/. These are remnants of earlier Afro-Asiatic case endings that were attached to the once-independent pronouns that later attached to the verbs)

    Perfective:
    katabku - I wrote
    katabka/katabta - you (m) wrote
    katabki/katabti - you (f) wrote
    katab - he wrote
    katabat - she wrote

    katabkāya/katabnāya - we two wrote
    katabkā/katabtanā - you two wrote
    katabā - they two (m) wrote
    katabatā - they two (f) wrote

    katabna - we wrote
    katabkanu/katabtanu - you (m) wrote
    katabkina/katabtina - you (f) wrote
    katabū - they (m) wrote
    katabā - they (f) wrote

    Imperative:
    ktub - write! (m sg)
    ktubi - write! (f sg)

    ktubā - write! (dl)

    ktubū - write! (m pl)
    ktubā - write! (f pl)

    (All of these forms I'm getting from Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar by E. Lipiński, by the way)

    Regarding the y- prefixes you see in the third person of the imperfect. I do not believe these are considered to be related to the modern Semitic pronouns beginning in h-. The h- pronouns in Proto-Semitic began with sh-, and are likely related to the causative verb prefix. The y- prefix likely comes from an earlier, Afro-Asiatic pronoun.

    Pronouns:
    'ana - I
    'anta - you (m) (earlier 'anka?)
    'anti - you (f) (earlier 'anki?)
    shuwa - he
    shiya - she

    'ankā - we two
    'antanā - you two ('ankanā?)
    shunā - they two

    niħnu - we
    'antanu - you all (m)
    'antina - you all (f)
    shunu - they (m)
    shina - they (f)

    So you can see the connection to the endings in the perfective, and why the 3rd person imperfective verbal prefixes are not related.
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    Very neat. So basically Proto-Semitic is just Akkadian. Do the slashes mean that he wasn't sure of which?

    I guess I forgot that Proto-Semitic itself is just a branch of another group. This is somewhat frustrating. It looks that there will always be etymology involved even in Proto-Semitic.

    I find the following one to be a bit odd:

    katabkā/katabtanā - you two wrote

    Why not katabtā ? it matches more.

    Anyway, I don't know why people trust Akkadians so much. They lived between Sumerians for 500 years or more, and they took from them everything from gods to names. Why don't we assume that they also took from them some stuff like this "sh-" in pronouns?

    Were there inflective endings for verbs? I don't think Arabs invented those because that would be really illogical. How can some recent people add inflection to their language? it doesn't make sense.

    Now let me guess the causative:

    Perfective

    shuktubku - I made write
    shuktubka/shuktubta- you (m) made write
    shuktubki/shuktubti - you (f) made write
    shuktub - he made write
    shuktubat - she made write

    shuktubkāya/shuktubnāya - we two made write
    shuktubkā/shuktubtanā - you two made write
    shuktubā - they two (m) made write
    shuktubatā - they two (f) made write

    shuktubna - we made write
    shuktubkanu/shuktubtanu - you (m) made write
    shuktubkina/shuktubtina - you (f) made write
    shuktubū - they (m) made write
    shuktubā - they (f) made write


    Imperfective

    'uktub - I make write
    tuktub - you (m) make write
    tuktubī - you (f) make write
    yuktub - he makes write
    tuktub - she makes write

    tuktubā - you two make write
    yuktubā - they two (m) make write
    tuktubā - they two (f) make write

    nuktub - we make write
    tuktubū - you all (m) make write
    tiktubā ? - you all (f) make write
    yuktubū - they (m) make write
    yiktubā ? - they (f) make write


    Or maybe i instead of u.

    'uktib - I make write
    tuktib - you (m) make write
    tuktibī - you (f) make write



    Imperative

    ?

    shuktib - make write! (m sg)
    shuktibi - make write! (f sg)

    shuktibā - make write! (dl)

    shuktibū - make write! (m pl)
    shuktibā - make write! (f pl)
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    The reflexive:

    Perfective: naktub
    Imperfective: yanakt(u,i,a)b
    Imperative: nakt(i,a)b

    The doubled:

    Perfective: kuttub
    Imperfective: yukuttub or yukuttib
    Imperative: kuttib ? or kuttab

    Arabic 'ifta"ala:

    Perfective: kitbub

    Arabic tafa""ala and Hebrew hitpa""el:

    Perfective: kutabbub
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    It surprises me that "sh-" became "h-" ... I mean all the other transitions sound logical (p-f both labials, b-v labials, h - kh both pharyngeals, etc.) but from sh to h sounds really a long leap.

    I am not an expert, but I can notice that Semites usually move the letters forward in their mouths not backward (p-f ,b-v, h-kh, g-j, sh-s, s-s, q-k, etc.). So the more logical to me would be to imagine that h was pushed all the long way forward to sh, but not the other way around. Anyhow, I don't think Akkadians are really that great when it comes to pronunciation because even though they were thousands of years older than Arabs, they had already lost the n in pronouns and their pronunciation was already messed up.

    Who knows ... I just don't like this shuwa at all....
     

    Macnas

    Member
    English and Russian, United States
    Very neat. So basically Proto-Semitic is just Akkadian. Do the slashes mean that he wasn't sure of which?

    Or that there is evidence for both having been used.

    katabkā/katabtanā - you two wrote

    Why not katabtā ? it matches more.
    I'm not sure about that, actually. I don't think a great deal of the history of the Semitic dual is known, since it has died out in so many of the attested Semitic languages. Even the book marks these forms with question marks.

    Anyway, I don't know why people trust Akkadians so much. They lived between Sumerians for 500 years or more, and they took from them everything from gods to names. Why don't we assume that they also took from them some stuff like this "sh-" in pronouns?
    Well, there are a number of reasons.

    1) Akkadian is one of the oldest attested Semitic languages. This alone isn't support, but if you add in that:
    2) s-/sh- causatives are widely attested in Semitic when combined with another affix. Look at Arabic 'istaf`ala, for example, or the very rare Hebrew counterpart hishtaf`el.
    3) Pronouns and pronominal affixes with sh- are also attested in Babylonian as well as (I believe) Ugaritic.
    4) Some of the modern South Arabian languages seem to have the feminine third person pronoun se (cf. Hebrew hi', Arabic hiya).
    5) The causative affix with sh- is also seen in other non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages, including the Egyptian and Berber families.

    Were there inflective endings for verbs? I don't think Arabs invented those because that would be really illogical. How can some recent people add inflection to their language? it doesn't make sense.
    A number did exist, yes. However I don't know much about their use.

    However, the original was the jussive, with no vowel ending (eg, yaktub). The ending -u seems to have originally been a subjunctive, which was generalized verbs outside of subjunctive clauses.

    Also, be aware that the forms you're listed are more or less Proto-Western-Semitic. Proto-Semitic relied on two other verb forms that did not survive in Western Semitic, the original perfective (yaktatab) and imperfective (yakattab).

    So the more logical to me would be to imagine that h was pushed all the long way forward to sh, but not the other way around.

    Sound change doesn't work that way, though :)

    /h/ and the glottal stop /?/ are some of the weakest sounds in any language. They're both basically one step away from disappearing entirely. It is extremely rare to see these two sounds become anything else other than disappearing entirely.
     

    Shakeek

    Banned
    Gibberish/Gibberland+Arabic (Bilingual)
    Nice. The causitive sh- looks pretty convencing to me now, especially that you mentioned 'istaf`ala.

    However, the PS pronouns imply that Hebrews invented a glottal stop out of nothing and attached it to nahnu (we). I always thought anahnu was pretty original.

    You have provided very useful information so far, thank you.

    Let me summarize what you said:

    Proto-Semitic Verb Binyaans

    1) G-stem Perf. CaCVC Imperf. yaCCVC Imper. CCVC

    2) D-stem Perf. CuCC?C Imperf. yuCC?C Imper. ?

    3) N-stem Perf. n?C?C?C Imperf. ya-? Imper. ?

    4)The caustive Perf. sh?C?C?C Imperf. yu-? Imper. ?

    5) The t- prefix ?

    6) The L-stem (Ara. faa"ala) ?

    7) the other stems ?

    Could you please fill the reds if you know them? thank you again.
     
    Some points:

    1. An imperfect with geminated second radical should be reconstructed for Proto-Semitic, similar to Akkadian form iparras, but not solely based on Akkadian. Supporting evidence come from Ethiopic as well.

    2. The perfect for PS thus takes the iprus form, as in Arabic yaktubu. In reconstructing PS, the final short vowel should not be in the verb conjugation. Cf. the Akkadian subordination marker -u.

    3. The suffix conjugation form as in Arabic, katabtu, should be reconstructed as a form like the predicative form for verbal adjectives, thus, not yet developed into a finite verb from.

    4. The 3rd person pronoun element, as well as the causative element, is best reconstructed as *s, which became sh, h, alef, respectively in descendent languages.
     
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