ETYMOLOGY, OR THE PARTS OF SPEECH
[30a] 1. Stems in Hebrew, as in the other Semitic languages, have this peculiarity, that by far the majority of them consist of three consonants. On these the meaning essentially depends, while the various modifications of the idea are expressed rather by changes in the vowels, e.g. עמק (עָמֵק or עָמֹק; the 3rd pers. sing. perf. does not occur) it was deep, עָמֹ֫ק deep, עֹ֫מֶק depth, עֵ֫מֶק, a valley, plain. Such a stem may be either a verb or a noun, and the language commonly exhihits both together, e.g. זָרַע he has sown, זֶ֫רַע seed; חָכַם he was wise, חָכָם a wise man. For practical purposes, however, it has long been the custom to regard as the stem the 3rd pers. sing. Perf. Qal (see § 43), since it is one of the simplest forms of the verb, without any formative additions. Not only are the other forms of the verb referred to this stem, but also the noun-forms, and the large number of particles derived from nouns; e.g. קָדַשׁ he was holy, קֹ֫דֶשׁ holiness, קָדוֹשׁ holy.
[30b] Sometimes the language, as we have it, exhibits only the verbal stem without any corresponding noun-form, e.g. סָקַל to stone, נָהַק to bray; and on the other hand, the noun sometimes exists without the corresponding verb, e.g. אֶ֫בֶן stone, נֶ֫גֶב south. Since, however, the nominal or verbal stems, which are not now found in Hebrew, generally occur in one or more of the other Semitic dialects, it may be assumed, as a rule, that Hebrew, when a living language, also possessed them. Thus, in Arabic, the verbal stem ʾăbınă (to become compact, hard) corresponds to אֶ֫בֶן, and the Aramaic verb negab (to be dry) to נֶ֫גֶב.
[30c] Rem. 1. The Jewish grammarians call the stem (i.e. the 3rd pers. sing. Perf. Qal) שֹׁ֫רֶשׁ root. Hence it became customary among Christian grammarians to call the stem radix, and its three consonants litterae radicales, in contradistinction to the litterae serviles or formative letters. On the correct use of the term root, see g.
- On the questions discussed here compare the bibliography at the head of § 79.