Alioth wrote:Something's been bothering me.
Say you have a derived word (gonvah "pirated software" is what comes to mind). Its meaning is shaped from both the root and the vowel pattern. Then how do you inflect it, if inflecting means changing the vowel pattern? How would you say, eg, "one piece of pirated software", "several pieces of pirated software", "a collection of pirated software", "my pirated software"?
There are two possible approaches here.
First of all, a bit of history. Hebrew and Arabic (I don't know enough about other Semitic languages to comment) took two different approaches in regards to their nominal systems. The Arabic nominal system is much more complex (in terms of irregularity) than Proto-Semitic, because Arabic developed very complex broken plurals. This means that regular plurals were largely replaced by collective nouns, which were then reanalyzed as plurals. For example, kitaab
"book" lost its original plural, which would have been a regular affixial formation like *kitaabiima, in favor of kutub
, which was the collective form of "book". This system, probably starting with nouns commonly found in collectives (things like "sheep" > "flock"), soon spread by analogy throughout Arabic. Proto-Semitic had a huge collection of collectives, so in a perfect world, every noun vowel pattern in Arabic would have its own plural vowel pattern. This does happen to be true in many cases, but since Arabic is a natural language, you've all all sorts of exceptions.
Now, Hebrew. Hebrew did inherit collectives too, but they never became nearly as productive as in Arabic. Many latter fell out of use, although some are still around: sa`arah
"a hair", se`arot
"hair (collective)". Instead, Hebrew generalized two plural endings, -im for masculine nouns and -ot for feminine (although this isn't 100% the case). However, after this Hebrew went through what is perhaps the most complex vowel shift in any Semitic language (where every vowel could basically become every other vowel in certain situations, literally), and this included a lot of vowel weakening and dropping. However, nouns with the same vowel pattern generally underwent the same changes (since Hebrew, like other Semitic languages, underwent very few consonant changes). The result is actually something similar to Arabic's irregularities, though not nearly as dramatic (but still a pain to learn). So in modern Hebrew, when you're given a noun, you can generally predict exactly what changes are going to occur when you add a plural ending. Let's look over the changes involved in a pair like Hebrew melech
"king" and mlachim
malk (Loss of case ending)
málek (Epenthetic vowel to break up cluster)
melek (a > e vowel change)
melech (lenition of /k/ to [X])
malkím (Loss of case ending)
málekím (Analogical change mirroring singular)
m@lákím (Weakening of initial vowel to schwa due to its antepenultimate position, /a/ lengthens in compensation)
m@láchím (Lenition of /k/)
mlachim (Loss of schwa)
(I'm not sure I got all of those changes right, but you get the idea)
The result is any noun coming from PS *CaCCum will have a modern Hebrew singular reflex in CeCeC, and from *CaCCíma in CCaCim. Analogy then helps spread this to other nouns that may not have undergone the expected changes for whatever reason.
So, in answering your question about plurals, the answer is that basically every singular noun pattern will have its own plural pattern. In Arabic, these will be very different. In Hebrew, the plural stem (without the endings) tends to be quite similar if not identical to the singular, and whatever changes do occur are generally predictable). So the plurals are all tied to the vowels of the singular.
The same goes for collectives, but just be aware the collectives are not all that productive in modern Semitic languages.
Now, possession. In Arabic and Hebrew this is actually a lot simpler than you'd probably expect. But first, we need some history again.
Semitic languages, in addition to case, have a quality known as "state". Different Semitic languages have different states. Every Hebrew noun has three, known as the absolute, definite, and construct. Other languages can have more or less, but the construct you'll see in many of them (if not all). If you want me to go into detail about what states are, just ask, but I'm not going to do it now.
Now, the construct state is used to form possessive relationships. Hebrew examples are actually a lot simpler here, because Hebrew has completely lost cases in favor of states, while Arabic maintains both.
Basically, every possessed noun has its own construct singular and construct plural forms. Again, like the plurals, these depend heavily on the vowel pattern of the absolute singular (the citation form, like "melech" earlier). Let's take a noun like ben
"son". Here are its absolute and construct forms:
Here the construct singular and absolute singular are identical, but they don't have to be. Now, the construct noun represents a possessed noun. The possessor will be a following noun in either the absolute or definite states: ben ha'ish
"the man's son", bney ha'ish
"the man's sons".
Now, personal possession (my, your, etc) is also logically formed from the construct. For masculine nouns, you can get the construct stem by removing the -ey from the plural. For feminine nouns, the construct stem is the same as the construct singular (see example below). So, to say "my son", you have a theoretical construction like *bn(ey)- + 'ani. Of course, you can't actually leave the full pronoun like that. The pronoun reduces to its enclitic form, -i, leaving you with bni "my son". And so that continues - to form all of the other possessive forms, you just add their endings to the construct stem: bno "his son", bnah "her son", etc (there are a few irregularities at times, but you don't need to worry about those). The plurals are formed with a different ending, which historically comes from that -ey plural construct ending plus the pronominal endings: bnay "my sons", bnav "his sons", bneha "her sons", etc.
Now, using your gonvah
example. This is a feminine noun, so it forms the construct a little differently, but the principle's the same:
Now, as I said, for feminine nouns the construct stem is the same as the construct singular, so you can just add the endings, and voilà! gonvati "my pirated software", gonvato "his pirated software", and so on. (Just a little warning, though - this word is a recent creation and still rather slangy (think "warez"), so you're never going to see possessive suffixes used on it. In Hebrew, possessive suffixes tend to only be used in formal registers, or on a small set of common nouns such as family members, so you'll never see possessive suffixes on a slang term).
Whew, I really did not expect to write that much, but I sort of had to detail exactly how Hebrew does it, since that's what you're asking. Of course, this certainly isn't the only way to do it. You clearly don't need
to have something analogous to the Semitic construct to be able to form triconsonantal possessives, but that's just how the Semitic languages do it.
If anythings still unclear, please ask.
Alioth wrote:Granted, that example is of a derived noun. I can't think of any examples of derived verbs (and I'm not sure if they exist?), but the problem would be more severe in this case, because the binyanim are so big and complicated and baroque.
Again, each binyan has its own individual paradigm. You're not going to confuse which verb is in which binyan because all of their forms are different. Here, I'll give you the root *K-T-B "write" in the present masculine singular of each binyan. You can see they're all different:
Pa`al (active): kotev "write"
Nif`al (passive): nichtav "be written"
Pi`el (intensive): mechatev "engrave, write a lot"
Pu`al (passive intensive): *mechutav (I don't think this form of KTB is actually attested, but I'm not sure)
Hif`il (causative): machtiv "dictate"
Huf`al (passive causative): muchtav "be dictated"
Hitpa`el (reciprocal): mitkatev "correspond"
So you've got the same root, but each binyan has its own pattern.
Now, roots with problematic consonants, such as Y or V (historical *W), can mess with the paradigms and cause them to look a whole lot more similar, but they still do not merge. Like the nouns, each binyan has a specific pattern for specific irregularities, so, for example, each binyan has its own (separate) pattern, known as a gizrah paradigm, for roots beginning with *Y. Just for an example, here's Y-D-` "know":
Pa`al: yodea` "know"
Nif`al: noda` "become known"
Pi`el: meyadea` "inform"
Pu`al: meyuda` "be informed"
Hif`il: modia` "make known"
Huf`al: muda` "be publicized"
Hitpa`el: mitvadea` "reveal oneself"
Now, I'm not entirely sure what Arabic does, but it's probably not too far off from this, and likely a lot less baroque. Arabic's known for making its nouns a lot more complex while simplifying its verbs, and Hebrew for making its verbs a lot more complex while simplifying its nouns.
Sorry for the long post!