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Semitic Noun Patterns
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Semitic Noun Patterns

by Joshua Fox

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Table of Contents


This is the first complete study of Semitic internal noun patterns since that of Jacob Barth, over a century ago. Drawing on the earlier work of Semitists and linguists, this work presents a comprehensive new synthesis. This diachronic-comparative study presents the internal patterns individually and organizes them systematically. This study investigates the special role of noun patterns in isolated nouns and gives a complete list of reconstructible isolated nouns.

This diachronic-comparative study presents the internal patterns individually and organizes them systematically. The roles of the patterns in the derivation of nouns from roots, and in nominal inflection, are shown as part of a reconstructed system. This study investigates the special role of noun patterns in isolated nouns, and gives a complete list of reconstructible isolated nouns.

The heart of the book is devoted to studies of all individual reconstructible internal patterns with their Semitic reflexes, including mono- and bisyllabics and patterns with ungeminated or geminated second or third consonants.

The book reaches conclusions on the structure of the Proto-Semitic pattern system, including categories of reconstructible and non-reconstructible patterns, semantic groups of patterns, and relationships between different patterns. Further, patterns merge and split diachronically, appearing in different roles in the attested languages, where new pattern systems are formed.

Product Details

Publisher: Harvard Semitic Museum / Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2003
Bibliographic info: xix + 361 pages
Language(s): English


Cover: Cloth



There is no comparable modern work on such a scale.--W. G. E. Watson, JSOT 28.5 (2004)

"The complex system of patterns by which abstract roots materialize into concrete words with specific meanings, be it nouns or verbs, is generally thought to be a distinctive feature of the Semitic language type. It received much attention at the end of the 19th century, culiminating in Jacob Barth's Die Nominalbildung in den semitischen Sprachen (Leipzig 1894) and its reviews, but was soon overshadowed by other issues, most notably the discussion of the verbal system. Since Barth (B.), however, much progress has been made, both in the description of languages previously unknown, or largely ignored, and in the development of linguistic method. In the course of time, it has become clear that the extent to which words are formed on the basis of patterns varies considerably between, say Arabic on the one hand and formerly less prominent members of the Semitic family on the other, such as Neo-Aramaic or moder Ethio-Semitic languages, Hence, a new comprehensive treatment was long overdue. Joshua Fox (F.) in his fine Harvard dissertation from 1996, vetted by John Huehnergard, has now faced part of the task by analyzing afresh from a historical-comparative perspective the "internal" patterns of triradical roots (also called "derivatory ablaut"), i.e., those without further inseparable morphological elements pre- or affixed to them. He thus discusses patterns like *qvt(t)(v)l, but not e.g., augmented forms like *maqtal, *taqtul(t), *qat(a)lan or reduplicated ones such as *qulqul, *qatlal etc. In Barth, this material merely corresponds to an "Erster Haupttheil" (B. 1-208: "Nomina ohne aüssere Vermehrung"), and F. never defends his decision to limit himself to one particular sub-group (he has rightly chosen the most obvious one: F. 40f), although this is understandable; vita brevis, ars longa." --Holger Gzella, Leiden University, in Bibliotheca Orientalis, No. 3-4, May-August 2006.

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