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Re: Proto-Semitic (was Re: markjjones@HOTMAIL.COM)

From:Rob Haden <magwich78@...>
Date:Friday, March 11, 2005, 17:35
On Fri, 11 Mar 2005 17:21:05 +0200, Steg Belsky <draqonfayir@...>

>According to the theory i learned, |-m| and |-n| were both definiteness >markers, which in some languages lost their definite strength and >became indefinite markers. This is also supposed to be the origin of >the few Hebrew adverbs in |-am|, like _hhinam_ "for free", _reiqam_ >"empty". The original plural marker they say was just the long vowel, >so Hebrew |-im| developed from |-i-m|.
Given that we see -m in Hebrew and Akkadian, and -n in Arabic, I think it's reasonable to reconstruct one marker, *-m, and an early sound-change *-m > -n in Arabic. Also, since it marks only the singular in Arabic and Akkadian, and only the plural in Hebrew, it follows that the marker originally had no specific number connotation and could be used for both singular and plural. Furthermore, the fact that it follows case-markings means that it was likely an enclitic demonstrative. Hebrew seems to have generalized the oblique plural: *-i:-m > -im. I wonder if the 'long vowel' ending is really no ending at all, just a prosodic process. If so, then we can reconstruct a stage for Proto- Semitic where there were no number distinctions. Then the enclitic demonstrative *-m acquired secondary force as either a singulative (Arabic and Akkadian) or plural (Hebrew) marker. Another piece of evidence in favor of this is the fact that, in both Hebrew and Arabic, the definite article does not decline for case, number, or gender (cf. Classical Arabic ar-rajulu 'the man (nom.)' vs. ar-rija:lu: 'the men (nom)'). - Rob


Steg Belsky <draqonfayir@...>