Sunday, September 21, 2008

Qal or Niph'al?

In response to a student's question, I was led to look up the parsing of the form ‏יֵחַת in HALOT — the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, now the standard lexicon for Biblical Hebrew (a revision of the older Koehler-Baumgartner lexicon). I was surprised to see that all of the forms of that type (the imperfect of the root ‏חתת) were taken to be from the Niph'al stem.

If you look at the same forms in BDB (Brown-Driver-Briggs), they are parsed, correctly in my opinion, as from the Qal stem. Now purely from the standpoint of morphology, either parsing is possible. Due to the accidents of accidence (so to speak) the same vocalization would be used in either case.

Nevertheless, if HALOT is correct, we would have the strange arrangement whereby the perfects of the root are in the Qal and the imperfects are in Niph'al (there are a few in Piel and Hiphil but they don't concern us). It is more sensible (and more economical) to assume that both perfect and imperfect forms are parsed as the Qal.

This assumption is strengthened when one notes that חתת is a stative verb, not an active verb (look at Jer. 50:2, for example), and the underlying Qal vocalization *
yiqtal is standard for stative verbs. With geminate verbs, the vocalization יֵחַת is exactly what would be predicted. I have no idea why HALOT opted for the Niph'al in this case.

I don't suppose that anyone really thinks that HALOT is infallible, do they? If you do, then stop.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Among many grammatical treatments, see Waltke & O'Connor,
An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, §22.3j (p. 369).

1 comment:

Charles Halton said...

Good reminder that we must *know* the languages and not overly rely upon the helps.