remnants of the accusative case

Ali Smith

Senior Member
Urdu - Pakistan
שלום

It seems that לַיְלָה and יוֹמָם both display the accusative case ending. Is there a reason why one of them has an extra מ while the other doesn't? Also, one of them is accented on the ending while the other is not. Is there a reason for this?

אני מודה לכם מאוד
 
  • radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    The origin, distribution and function of mimation/nunation is still something of a vexed problem in the study of the Semitic languages, so I suspect that we may not know the answer to your question.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Thanks. Do you think the ending of the word הַאֻמְנָם in the following verse is an example of this phenomenon?

    וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל בִּלְעָם הֲלֹא שָׁלֹחַ שָׁלַחְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ לִקְרֹא לָךְ לָמָּה לֹא הָלַכְתָּ אֵלָי הַאֻמְנָם לֹא אוּכַל כַּבְּדֶךָ.
     

    Abaye

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Thanks. Do you think the ending of the word הַאֻמְנָם in the following verse is an example of this phenomenon?

    וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל בִּלְעָם הֲלֹא שָׁלֹחַ שָׁלַחְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ לִקְרֹא לָךְ לָמָּה לֹא הָלַכְתָּ אֵלָי הַאֻמְנָם לֹא אוּכַל כַּבְּדֶךָ.
    The ם suffix of אמנם appears in several adverbs, seems to me a speculation to regard them as a sign of ancient accusative.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    The ם suffix of אמנם appears in several adverbs, seems to me a speculation to regard them as a sign of ancient accusative.

    I mean many things in historical linguistics are speculation. But it's informed speculation. There are very good reasons to regard this suffix as originating from the accusative ending. After all, it forms adverbs from nouns, which is exactly one of the functions of the accusative. I don't think there is any better answer to the question of "where does this suffix come from?"
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    No one said definitely that it is that. Just that that is the best answer we have, and it happens to fit with all the fine details. To be honest, that's basically how we "know" almost everything we "know" about historical linguistics.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    There are very good reasons to regard this suffix as originating from the accusative ending. After all, it forms adverbs from nouns, which is exactly one of the functions of the accusative.

    I'm afraid I have to agree with Abaye here. Whilst it is true that much to do with the reconstruction of the earlier stages of any language, be it proto-Semitic or proto-Indoeuropean, is necessarily speculative—even Old Chinese, which is very well attested in writing—and indeed one may well posit that the -m of אמנם represents an old accusative ending, it is simply too speculative to be considered an answer to the OP's question, on two grounds:

    1) The accusative case was historically marked by the vowel /a/ (as opposed to nominative /u/ and genitive /i/).

    2) The addition of a nasal suffix /-m, -n/ (mimation/nunation), whilst occurring in many Semitic languages, is of unknown origin. We don't know much about the distribution and function of this phenomenon, since it seems to serve different purposes in different languages.

    And finally, just to illustrate the dangers of speculation:

    It was accepted for a long time that the directional suffix ה-, as in אַרְצָה or מִצְרַיְמָה, was a remnant of the old accusative ending /-a/. It seemed most reasonable that a direction should be indicated with the accusative, so the was little reason to doubt this supposition. With the discovery of Ugaritic in the inter-war years, however, this was shown to be incorrect, and it was demonstrated that the directional ה- was in fact properly consonantal suffix, and would more properly be written in Hebrew as אַרְצָהּ. This just shows how even a very cogent and plausible piece of speculation can be erroneous, and I would say that the supposition about the origin of -m of אמנם does not rise to the same level to cogency.

    Be that as it may, it does seem reasonably clear that the accusative case was used to form adverbs in the Semitic languages, and, the above notwithstanding, I would still suggest that we see a remnant of the same in a form like עַתָּה ‘now’. It’s just that I don’t quite see how the -m suffix clearly reflects the accusative case.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I think you missed the argument entirely. No one said that the "m" marks the accusative case. Rather, the "m" would be just the mimation, while the "a" vowel is what marks the accusative case.

    And this is not some theory I'm making up. It's proposed by actual semitologists.

    And just because the -a in מצרימה et al. is considered to be a remnant of the accusative doesn't mean that they both can't be. It's not uncommon in other languages for lost features to have simultaneously different remnants. In one form, the mimation survived, in another form the mimation was dropped. That shouldn't even be so puzzling, since we know mimation is sometimes present and sometimes not, depending on various factors that differ across languages and dialects, including such things as the position of a word in a sentence (in fact, in Classical Arabic, يوما وليلا would at the end of a phrase be pronounced yawman walaylā, almost exactly parallel to יומם ולילה, which is a very common phrase in Hebrew; it could be a coincidence, or it could not be).
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    I think you missed the argument entirely. No one said that the "m" marks the accusative case. Rather, the "m" would be just the mimation, while the "a" vowel is what marks the accusative case.

    Sorry ... I think I misread your post, because the original question was why יוֹמָם had mimation whilst לַיְלָה lacked it, even though both were in the accusative case. And yes, I would tend to agree that the origin of the vowel /a/ was in fact the old Semitic case endings.

    And just because the -a in מצרימה et al. is considered to be a remnant of the accusative doesn't mean that they both can't be.

    Lol ... here, you missed the argument entirely! My point was that, for a very long time, the settled consensus was that the directional ending -â in מִצְרַיְמָה also represented a remnant of the accusative case, written with the mater lectionis ה-, but this consensus was overturned with the discovery of Ugaritic, which showed that it was in fact a proper consonantal suffix הּ-, and not a mater indicating the accusative case.

    Of course there can be more than one use of the accusative case! I was merely giving an example where something that scholars agreed was a remnant of the ancient accusative case turned out not to be, even though they were remarkably certain about this at the time.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Ah I see, sorry. And sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Do you have any reading material on this Ugaritic -h ending?
     
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