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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Hebrew Language Academy on lamed-yud pi``el: גִלִּיתִי and גִלֵּיתִי

Yesterday, 27 Jan 2010, the Hebrew Language Academy confirmed that alternative 1st and 2nd person suffix tense (‘past’) forms of pi``el lamed-yud roots will be officially acceptable in modern Hebrew. גִלֵּיתִי will be acceptable, and apparently even גִלֵּיתָ. The reason for the confirmation and acceptance is that forms with both [i] and [e] occur in the Hebrew Bible, גִלִּיתִי and גִלֵּיתִי. This is also a good illustration for language learners that there are places in a language where ‘close’ is good enough, where sounds that in other contexts might cause problems can be acceptable.

The sounds in question revolve around [i] and [e], written Hiriq and tsere in the Hebrew writing system. This involves the vowel of the second syllable in pi``el ‘suffix tenses’ in the first and second persons, where the ‘third root letter’ was a “yod”. Current Israeli Hebrew as a majority dialect prefers the [i] sound גִלִּיתִי . According to the Hebrew Language Academy, both [i] and [e] forms will be officially acceptable in the pi``el pattern.

This issue is of interest to those studying Biblical Hebrew and for those who would teach Biblical Hebrew. What form should be used in teaching materials?

A majority dialect is typically recommend in language learning. A student needs to start somewhere, even if they will end up responding to more than one form of a word.

Below are two lists of some common verbs of the pattern described by the Hebrew Language Academy. The left Hebrew column would be the ‘newly accepted’ forms, while the right Hebrew column has the current majority. Both columns here are limited to occurrences in the Hebrew Bible, so as to be directly applicable to discussions of biblical Hebrew. Underneath each line are the numbers of occurrences in the Bible of the [e] form and then the [i] form.

Lamed-yud pi``el (1st and 2nd person suffix tenses)

Eng. gloss [e] [i]

‘I discovered’ גִלֵּיתִי and גִלִּיתִי

4 and 2 (occurrences in HB)

‘you discovered’ גִלֵּית and גִלִּית

0 2

‘I compared’ דִמֵּיתִי and דִמִּיתִי

0 2

‘you compared’ דִמֵּיתָ and דִמִּיתָ

0 1

‘we compared’ דִמֵּינוּ and דִמִּינוּ

0 1

‘I winnowed’ זֵרֵיתִי and זֵרִיתִי

0 6

‘you winnowed’ זֵרֵיתָ and זֵרִיתָ

0 1

‘I finished’ כִלֵּיתִי and כִלִּיתִי

4 1

‘you finished’ כִלֵּיתָ and כִלִּיתָ

0 1

‘I covered’ כִסֵּיתִי and כִסִּיתִי

2 4

‘you covered’ כִסֵּיתִי and כִסִּיתָ

0 2

‘we covered’ כִסֵּינוּ and כִסִּינוּ

0 1

‘I cleansed’ נִקֵּיתִי and נִקִּיתִי

3 0

‘you cleansed’ נִקֵּיתָ and נִקִּיתָ

0 1

‘I commanded’ צִוֵּיתִי and צִוִּיתִי

5 30

‘you commanded’ צִוֵּיתָ and צִוִּיתָ

0 13

‘I waited in hope’ קִוֵּיתִי and קִוִּיתִי

2 6

‘you cleansed’ קִוֵּינוּ and קִוִּינוּ

0 3

‘I compared’ שִוֵּיתִי and שִוִּיתִי

0 6

‘I cleansed’ זִכֵּיתִי and זִכִּיתִי

0 2

‘I waited’ חִכֵּיתִי and חִכִּיתִי

0 1

‘we waited’ חִכֵּינוּ and חִכִּינוּ

0 1

‘I satisfied’ רִוֵּיתִי and רִוִּיתִי

1 0

While the above list is not complete for all pi``el lamed-yud verbs, it does include those with 3 or more examples of a form, plus some random examples. [rivveti] 'I satisfied' was included in order to show how accidental statistics can produce a verb with a supposedly 'opposite' pattern.

It is immediately apparent that the forms with [i] are the majority.

In fact, in the second person singular ‘you,s.’ and first person plural ‘we’ the forms are always with [i]. This statement is true for any pi``el pattern lamed-yud root in the Hebrew Bible, not just those listed here.

Also, when these verbs have object suffixes they always have the [i] vowel.

For example:

צִוִּיתִיךָ ‘I commanded you.’ This may relate to preserving an earlier form of the verb.

So what should we do and what do we find?

In books like Living Biblical Hebrew, volumes 1 and 2 the patterns that students use are based on צִוִּיתִי not צִוֵּיתִי.

Then when students encounter an alternative form when reading a text they can be informed that [e] was an alternative vocalization.


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Lindsay said...

Are ל"ה pi'el's at risk of change too?!

Randall Buth said...

The simple answer might be 'Yes', since what most people call a ל"ה verb are really ל"י. For example, the verb bana 'he built' was originally *banay(a) 'he built'. The 'he' was only added later as a spelling convention to mark the 'a' vowel.
On the otherhand, if you are referring to true lamed-he verbs like גבה 'he was tall', those verbs are gutturals and keep the "he" all the way through. They do not lose the 'he' and do not use the i/e vowels of the lamed-yud patterns.