The origin of Past Tense suffixes in semitic languages.


Senior Member
Hello, it is evident that Past tense suffixes in Hebrew and Arabic in some persons take the endings of personal pronouns. Is that a coincidence or do the suffixes come from personal pronouns? Thanks.


ani lakachti
ata lakachta
at lakacht

anachnu lakachnu
atem lakachtem
aten lakachten

  • OzzyM

    New Member
    This article (p. 94) portrays evolution of the suffix from PS to Heb, but, as I understand, doesn't conclude direct relation of the verb suffix and pronoun.


    Senior Member
    It is not coincidence. Semitic nominative personal pronouns and stative tense (which developed into the past tense in Hebrew and Arabic and others) had the same origin.
    PS first and second personal pronouns begin with 'an+personal pronouns suffix (third person pronouns developed from a demonstrative pronoun)

    PS an-ta > Arabic an-ta, Hebrew at-ta, PS katab-ta > Arabic katab-ta
    PS an-aaku > Arabic an-aa, Hebrew anookhi, PS katab-ku > Arabic (shift ku>tu) katab-tu.


    Senior Member
    French (France)
    This is a debated question and there is no real consensus. Take the second person singular masculine in (for example) Arabic. You have the independent pronoun ʼan-ta, the perfect tense katab-ta, the imperfect ta-ktubu, but the possessive suffix is -ka (with k, not t). By contrast, South Semitic languages (Ethiopic, Ancient South Arabian, Modern South Arabian) have suffixes with k also in the perfect tense. Is this the original situation, or has k spread to the verbs by analogy to the possessive pronouns? Some isolated Arabic dialects in Yemen also have k in the imperfect, and some other forms, and this is presumably due to analogy, and to a South-Arabian substratum. As a rule of thumb I would suggest that the more dissimilar forms are likely to be original and the more similar ones to result from analogy and paradigmatic leveling.
    < Previous | Next >