Saturday, January 16, 2010


When I highlight yod in the book of Ruth, I get a mass of colour in every verse. Tet occurs a very few times in comparison.Yod is as frequent as vav but where vav begins only one root, itself, yod is the first letter of many roots.

I wonder how many verses we need to explore to get a representative sample of the functions of yod. I have picked one - Ruth 4:4 - let's see where it takes us. I have retained the transcription - just don't depend on it - cover it if you need it and learn to read the block letters. How many yods? How many functions of yod?

and I myself had said
I will disclose in your ear to say
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי
אֶגְלֶה אָזְנְךָ לֵאמֹר
        và)any )amàrty )egleh )aznka  lé)mor
will you buy before those sitting here
קְנֵה נֶגֶד הַיֹּשְׁבִים
        qnéh neged hàyoshbym
and before these elders of my people
וְנֶגֶד זִקְנֵי עַמִּי
vneged ziqnéy `àmy
if you will redeem, redeem
and if he will not redeem,
אִם-תִּגְאַל גְּאָל
 וְאִם-לֹא יִגְאַל
)im-tig)àl g)al v)im-lo) yig)àl
tell me and I will know
הַגִּידָה לִּי וְאֵדְעָה
hàgydah ly v)éd`ah
for there is none except you to redeem
כִּי אֵין זוּלָתְךָ לִגְאוֹל
ky )éyn zvulatka lig)vol
and I myself after you
וְאָנֹכִי אַחֲרֶיךָ
        v)anoky )àxareyka
and he said I myself will redeem
וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֶגְאָל
vàyo)mer )anoky )eg)al
In line 1 we have a yod that is part of אֲנִי the standalone first person singular pronoun. The long form of this pronoun אָנֹכִי appears twice more (lines 7 and 8). I am wondering if, in this context of the meeting at the gate, this word has legal connotations.

In line 1 still there is a yod as the first person suffix of the qal perfect. In line two, those sitting here - or the inhabitants יֹּשְׁבִים from ישב shows the masculine plural (in which yod takes part) and the use of yod as an opening consonant. (Note its very own dagesh also.) In line 3 the two trailing yods of זִקְנֵי עַמִּי have different functions. The one on עַמִּי is a first person possessive pronoun. The other one (find it) is an abbreviated masculine plural which is often shortened or implied in a construct relationship - when two nouns are 'joined' to each other in succession.

In line 4 we have the function of yod in יִגְאַל as the third person singular masculine of the prefix conjugation, the imperfect.

Then in line 5 we have two new functions of yod - whew. The first is its appearance in the conjugation of נגד. This is in the word הַגִּידָה, the hiphil imperative. What's this - grammatical letters inserting themselves into the middle of a word! Perhaps this is an instance of a mater lectionis, a reader's helper.  I can't find the form in Lambdin - but I do see some yods in some of the paradigms and they look like vowels. The second use of yod in this line is its attachment to the preposition לִּי as if he might have said 'say so to me'.

I had conniptions for a moment that tet was going to steal a place on the grammatical team - but I don't think so. But it is not a typo on page 277 of Putnam's online grammar. [Note that ט tet sometimes does replace ת taf after metathesis in the hithpael of verbs whose first letter is the sibilant צ tsade. This is the only case I have found of a true secondment of a letter from team 2 to team 1.] Again I have not found mention of this in other grammars that I have to hand.

In line 5 also, there is a missing yod, for as the first character of a root, it sometimes disappears in the imperfect (ידע is the root of אֵדְעָה). This is a subordinate clause and could be rendered 'so that I may know'.

In line 6 the two yods are just parts of the word - both acting as vowels really.  In line 7, the yod appears to soften the link between the preposition and the pronoun. Line 8 has one yod as part of the preterite (imperfect with vav in the story line).

It seems that one verse was all we needed for this representative sample of the functions of yod. With 14 yods, 15 if you count the missing one, (check my counting), we have yod as a consonant, as a vowel, as a person pronoun, as the ending of the first person imperfect of the verb, as the masculine plural (with mem but also without) and as a smoothing of the sound between a preposition and its pronoun.

No comments: