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HEBRAIC GRAMMAR

 

 

CHAPTER IV.

 

THE SIGN PRODUCING THE ROOT,

 

§I.

 

DIGRESSION ON THE PRINCIPLE AND THE

CONSTITUTIVE ELEMENTS OF THE SIGN.

 I have endeavoured to show in the preceding chapter, the origin of the sign and its power: let us again stop a moment upon this important subject, and though I might be accused of lacking method, let us not fear to retrace our steps, the better to assure our progress. I have designated as elements of speech, the voice, the gesture and the traced characters; as means, the sound, the movement and the light: but these elements and these means would exist in vain, if there were not at the same time a creative power, independent of them, which could take possession of them and put them into action. This power is the Will. I refrain from naming its principle; for besides being difficult to conceive, it would not be the place here to speak of it. But the existence of the will cannot be denied even by the most determined skeptic; since he would be unable to call it in question without willing it and consequently without giving it recognition.

Now the articulate voice and the affirmative or negative gesture are, and can only be, the expression of the will. It is the will which, taking possession of sound and movement, forces them to become its interpreters and to reflect exteriorly its interior affections. Nevertheless, if the will is absolute, all its affections although diverse, must be identical; that is to say, be respectively the same for all individuals who experience them. Thus, a man willing and affirming his will by gesture or vocal inflection, experiences no other affection than any man who wills and affirms the same thing. The gesture and sound of the voice which accompany the affirmation are not those destined to depict negation, and there is not a single man on earth who can not be made to understand by the gesture or by the inflection of the voice, that he is loved or that he is hated; that he wishes or does not wish the thing presented. There would be nothing of agreement here. It is an identical power which is manifested spontaneously and which radiating from one volitive centre reflects itself upon the other.

I would it were as easy to demonstrate that it is equally without agreement and by the sole force of the will, that the gesture or vocal inflection assigned to affirmation or negation, is transformed into different words, and how it happens, for example, that the words  al  no, and  hk   yes, having the same meaning and involving the same inflection and the same gesture, have not, however, the same sound; but if that were so easy, how has the origin of speech remained till now unknown? How is it that so many savants armed with both synthesis and analysis, have not solved a question so important to man? There is nothing conventional in speech, and I hope to prove this to my, readers; but I do not promise to prove to them, a truth of this nature in the manner of the geometricians; its possession is of too high an importance to be contained in an algebraic equation.

Let us return. Sound and movement placed at the disposition of the will is modified by it; that is to say, that by certain appropriate organs, sound is articulated and changed into voice; movement is determined and changed into gesture. But voice and gesture have only an instantaneous, fugitive duration. If it is of importance to the will of man, to make the memory of the affections that it manifests exteriorly survive the affections themselves (for this is nearly always of importance to him); then, finding no resource to fix or to depict the sound, it takes possession of movement and with the aid of the hand, its most expressive organ, finds after many efforts, the secret of drawing on the bark of trees or cutting on stone, the gesture upon which it has at first determined. This is the origin of traced characters which, as image of the gesture and symbol of the vocal inflection, become one of the most fruitful elements of language, which extend its empire rapidly and present to man an inexhaustible means of combination.

There is nothing conventional in their principle; for no is always no, and yes always yes: a man is a man. But as their form depends much upon the designer who first tests the will by depicting his affections, enough of the arbitrary can be insinuated, and it can be varied enough so that there may be need of an agreement to assure their authenticity and authorize their usage. Also, it is always in the midst of a tribe advanced in civilization and subject to the laws of a regular government, that the use of some kind of writing is encountered. One can be sure that wherever traced characters are found, there also are found civilized forms. All men, however savage they may be, speak and impart to each other their ideas; but all do not write, because there is no need of agreement for the establishment of a language, whereas there is always need of one for writing. Nevertheless, although traced characters infer an agreement, as I have already said, it must not be forgotten that they are the symbol of two things which are not inferred, the vocal inflection and the gesture.

These are the result of the spontaneous outburst of the will. The others are the fruit of reflection. In tongues similar to Hebrew, where the vocal inflection and the gesture have long since disappeared, one must devote himself to the characters, as the sole element which remains of the language, and regard them as the complete language itself, not considering the agreement by which they have been established. This is what I have done, in constituting them representative signs of the fundamental ideas of the Hebraic tongue. I shall follow the same method showing successively how this small quantity of signs has sufficed for the formation of the roots of this tongue, and for the composition of all the words which have been derived therefrom. Let us examine first what I mean by a root.

 

 

§II.

 

FORMATION OF THE ROOT AND OF THE RELATION.

 A root is, and can never be anything but, monosyllabic: it results from the union of two signs at the least, and of three at the most. I say two signs at the least, for a single sign cannot constitute a root, because the fundamental idea that it contains, being, as it were, only in germ, awaits the influence of another sign in order to be developed. It is not that the sign before being constituted such, may not have represented a noun, but this noun becomes effaced, as I have said, to constitute the sign. When the sign is presented alone in speech, it becomes, in Hebrew, what I call an article; that is to say, a sort of relation whose expression entirely abstract, determines the diverse relations of nouns and verbs to each other. The root cannot be composed of more than three signs, without being dissyllabic and consequently without ceasing to be of the number of primitive words. Every word composed of more than one syllable is necessarily a derivative. For, two roots are either united or contracted; or else one or several signs have been joined to the radical root for its modification.

Although the etymological root may be very well employed as noun, verb or relation, all that, however, does not matter, so long as one considers it as root; seeing that it offers in this respect no determined idea of object, action or abstraction. A noun designates openly a particular object of whatever nature it may be, a verb expresses some sort of action, a relation determines a rapport: the root presents always a meaning universal as noun, absolute as verb, and indeterminate as relation,

Thus the root  ya  formed of the signs of power and of manifestation, designates, in general, the centre toward which the will tends, the place where it is fixed, its sphere of activity. Employed as noun, it is a desire, a desired object: a place distinct and separate from another place; an isle, a country, a region, a home, a government: as verb, it is the action of desiring a thing eagerly, of tending toward a place, of delighting therein: as relation, it is the abstract connection of the place where one is, of the object to which one tends, of the sphere wherein one acts. Thus the root  Wa  which unites to the sign of power, the universal, convertible sign, image of the mysterious knot which brings nothingness to being, offers even a vaguer meaning than the root  ya  of which I have spoken, and of which it seems to be a modification. Nor is it yet a desire, even in general; it is, so to speak, the germ of a desire, a vague appetence, without aim and without object; a desirous uneasiness, an obtuse sense. Employed as noun, it designates the uncertainty of the will; if it is made a verb, it is the indeterminate action of willing; if it is used as relation, it is the abstract expression of the affinity that the uncertainty or indetermination of the will, establishes between one or the other object which attracts it.

This root, considered rightly as primitive, produces a great number of derivative roots by becoming amalgamated with other primitive roots, or receiving them by the adjunction of the signs which modify it. One finds, for example, the following, which are worthy of closest attention.

 

bWa

All desire acting inwardly and fructifying. It is, as noun, the matrix of the Universe, the vessel of Isis, the Orphic egg, the World, the Pythonic spirit; etc.

dWa

Every desire acting outwardly and being propagated. As noun, it is that which binds cause to effect, the causality; any sort of emanation; as verb, it is the action of emanating, of passing from cause to effect; as relation, it is the abstract affinity according to which one conceives that a thing exists, or takes place because of another.

lWa

Every expansive desire being projected into space. As noun, it is an interval of time or place; a duration, a distance; as verb, it is the action of being extended, of filling, of invading time or space; that of waiting or lasting; as relation, it is the abstract affinity expressed by perhaps.

!Wa

Every desire spreading into infinity, losing itself in vacuity, vanishing: as noun, it is everything and nothing according to the manner in which one considers infinity.

@Wa

Every desire subjugating another and drawing it into its vortex: as noun, it is the sympathetic force, the passion; a final cause: as verb, it is the action of drawing into its will, of enveloping in its vortex: as relation, it is the abstract affinity expressed by same, likewise.

#Wa

Every desire leading to a goal. As noun, it is the very limit of desire, the end to which it tends; as verb, it is the action of pushing, of hastening, of pressing toward the desired object: as relation, it is the abstract affinity expressed by at.

rWa

Every desire given over to its own impulse. As noun, it is ardour, fire, passion: as verb, it is that which embraces, burns, excites, literally as well as figuratively.

tWa

All sympathizing desire; being in accord with another. As noun it is a symbol, a character, any object whatever: as verb, it is the action of sympathizing, of being in accord with, of agreeing, of being en rapport, in harmony; as relation it is the abstract affinity expressed by together.

 I shall give no more examples on this subject since my plan is to give, in the course of this Grammar, a series of all the Hebraic roots. It is there that I invite the reader to study their form. I shall be careful to distinguish the primitive roots from the compound, intensive or onomatopoetic roots. Those of the latter kind are quite rare in Hebrew. One finds them in much greater numbers in Arabic where many local circumstances have called them into existence. This concurrence of imitative sounds, very favourable to poetry and to all the arts of imitation, must have been greatly prejudicial to the development of universal ideas toward which the Egyptians directed their greatest efforts.

It is an unfortunate mistake to imagine that the examination of Hebraic roots is as difficult as it is in the modern idioms. In these idioms, raised, for the most part, upon the debris of many united idioms, the roots deeply buried beneath the primitive materials, can deceive the eye of the observer; but it cannot do thus in Hebrew. This tongue, thanks to the form of the Chaldaic characters which have changed scarcely anything but its punctuation, offers still to an observant reader who does not wish to concern himself with the vowel points, the terms used by Moses in their native integrity. If, notwithstanding the precautions of Esdras, there have crept in certain alterations in the mother vowels and even in the consonants, these alterations are slight and do not prevent the root, nearly level with the ground, if I may thus express it, from striking the eye of the etymologist.

Let us examine now what I mean by the relations. The relations are, as I have said, extracted by thought from the signs, nouns or verbs. They express always a connection of the sign with the noun, of the noun with the noun, or of the noun with the verb. Thence, the simple and natural division which I establish, in three kinds, according to the part of speech with which they preserve the greatest analogy. I call designative relation or article, that which marks the connection of the sign with the noun: nominal relation or pronoun, that which indicates the connection of the noun with the noun, or of the noun with the verb; and finally adverbial relation or adverb, that which characterizes the connection of the verb with the verb, or of the verb with the noun. I use here these denominations known as article, pronoun and adverb to avoid prolixity; but without admitting in Hebrew the distinctions or the definitions that grammarians have admitted in other tongues. The relations, forming together a kind of grammatical bond which circulates among the principal parts of speech, must be considered separately, kind by kind, and according as they are connected with the sign, noun or verb.

I am about to speak of the designative relation or article, since I have already made known the sign: but I shall put off speaking of the nominal relation, because I have already spoken of the noun, and shall deal later with the adverbial relation having already dealt with the verb. The designative relation or article, is represented under three headings in the Hebraic tongue, namely: under that of the relation properly speaking, or article, of the prepositive relation, or preposition, and of the interjective relation, or interjection. The article differs principally from the sign, by what it preserves of its own peculiar force, and by what it communicates to the noun to which it is joined; a sort of movement which changes nothing of the primitive signification of this noun; nevertheless it is strictly united there and is composed of but one single character.

I enumerate six articles in Hebrew, without including the designative preposition  ta  of which I shall speak later. They have neither gender nor number. The following are the articles with the kind of movement that they express.

 

h

DETERMINATIVE ARTICLE.

It determines the noun; that is to say, that it draws the object which it designates from a mass of similiar objects and gives it a local existence. Derived from the sign  h  which contains the idea of universal life, it presents itself under several acceptations as article. By the first, it points out simply the noun that it modifies and is rendered by the corresponding articles the; this, that, these, those: by the second, it expresses a relation of dependence or division, and is translated of the; of this, of that, of these, of those: by the third, it adds to the noun before which it is placed, only an emphatic meaning, a sort of exclamatory accent. In this last acceptation, it is placed indifferently at the beginning or at the end of words and is joined with the greater part of the other articles without being harmful to their movement. Therefore I call it Emphatic article, and when I translate it, which I rarely do lacking means, I render it by o! oh! ah! or simply by the exclamation point (!).

l

DIRECTIVE ARTICLE.

It expresses, with nouns or actions whose movement it modifies, a direct relation of union, of possession, or of coincidence. I translate it by to, at, for, according to, toward, etc.

m

EXTRACTIVE OR PARTITIVE ARTICLE.

The movement which this article expresses, with nouns or actions that it modifies, is that by which a noun or an action is taken for the means, for the instrument, by which they are divided in their essence, or drawn from the midst of several other nouns or similar actions. I render it ordinarily by from, out of, by; with, by means of, among, between, etc.

b

MEDIATIVE OR INTEGRAL ARTICLE.

This article characterizes with nouns or actions, almost the same movement as the extractive article  m  but with more force, and without any extraction or division of the parts. Its analogues are: in, by, with, while, etc.

k

ASSIMILATIVE ARTICLE.

The movement which it ex presses, with nouns or actions is that of similitude, of analogy, and of concomitance. I render it by: as, similar; such as, according to, etc.

w

CONJUNCTIVE OR CONVERTIBLE ARTICLE.

This article, in uniting nouns, causes the movement of nothingness, of which the character  W  becomes the sign, as we have seen: in making actions pass from one time to another, it exercises upon them the convertible faculty of which this same character is the universal emblem. Its conjunctive movement can be rendered by: and, also, thus, then, afterward, that, etc. But its convertible movement is not expressible in our tongue and I do not know of any in which it can be expressed. In order to perceive it one must feel the Hebraic genius.

The chapters wherein I shall treat of the noun and the verb will contain the necessary examples to illustrate the use of these six articles whether relative to the noun or the verb.

 

 

§III.

 

PREPOSITION AND INTERJECTION.

 Articles, which we shall now examine, remain articles, properly speaking, only so far as they are composed of a single literal character and as they are joined intimately to the noun, the verb or the relation which they govern; when they are composed of several characters and when they act apart or are simply united ta words by a hyphen, I call them prepositive articles or prepositions: they become interjections when, in this state of isolation, they offer no longer any relation with the noun or the verb, and express only a movement of the mind too intense to be otherwise characterized. Prepositions, intended to serve as link between things, and to show their respective function, lose their meaning when once separated from the noun which they modify. Interjections, on the contrary, have only as much force as they have independence. Differing but little in sound, they differ infinitely in the expression, more or less accentuated, that they receive from the sentiment which produces them. They belong, as a learned man has said, “to all time, to all places, to all peoples”: they form an universal language [1]. I am about to give here, the prepositions and interjections which are the most important to understand, so as to fix the ideas of the reader upon the use of these kinds of relations. I am beginning with those prepositions which take the place of the articles already cited.







I believe it quite useless to prolong this list and to dwell upon the particular signification of each of these relations; however, there is one of which I must speak, because its usage is very frequent in the tongue of Moses, and also because we shall see it soon figuring in the nominal inflection, and joining its movement to that of the articles. This is the designative preposition  ta  which I have mentioned as having no corresponding article. The movement which expresses this preposition with the nouns which it modifies, is that by which it puts them en rapport as governing or governed, as independent one of the other and participating in the same action. I name it designative, on account of the sign of signs  t  from which it is derived. It characterizes sympathy and reciprocity when it is taken substantively. Joined to a noun by a hyphen  -ta  it designates the substance proper and individual, the identity, the selfsameness, the seity, the thou-ness, if I may be permitted this word; that is to say, that which constitutes thou, that which implies something apart from me, a thing that is not me; in short, the presence of another substance.

This important preposition, of which I cannot give the exact meaning, indicates the coincidence, the spontaneity of actions, the liaison, the ensemble and the dependence of things. The designative relation that I am considering in connection with the article, preposition and interjection, will be easily distinguished from the nominal relation concerning which I shall speak later on; because this relation is not intended either to modify nouns or to set forth the confused and indeterminate movements of the mind; but serves as supplement to nouns, becomes their lieutenant, so to speak, and shows their mutual dependence. This same relation will not be, it is true, so easy to distinguish from the adverbial relation, and I admit that often one will meet with some that are, at the same time, prepositions and adverbs. But this very analogy will furnish the proof of what I have advanced, that the relation extracted by thought, from the sign, the noun and the verb, circulates among these three principal parts of speech and is modified to serve them as common bond.

One can observe, for example, that the designative relation tends to become adverbial and that it becomes thus whenever it is used in an absolute manner with the verb, or when the article is joined, making it a sort of adverbial substantive. Therefore one can judge that upon, in, outside, are designative relations, or prepositions when one says: upon that; in the present; outside this point: but one cannot mistake them for adverbials when one says: I am above; I am within; I am without. It is in this state that they are taken to be inflected with the article. I see the above, the within, the without; I come from above, from within, from without; I go above, within, without; etc. The Hebraic tongue, which has not these means of construction, makes use of the same words   l[   tyb   #Wx   to express equally upon, above, the upper part; in, the inside; out, beyond, the outside

It is to these fine points that great attention must be given in translating Moses. As to the vowel points which accompany the different relations of which I shall speak, they vary in such a way, that it would be vainly wasting precious time to consider them here; so much the more as these variations change nothing as to the meaning, which alone concerns me, and alters only the pronunciation, which does not concern me. I am always surprised, in reading the majority of the Grammars written upon the Hebraic tongue, to see with what scruples, with what tedious care they treat a miserable kamez, or a still more miserable kamez-hatif; whereas they hardly deign to dwell upon the meaning of the most important words. Numberless pages are found jumbled with the uncouth names of zere, segol, patah, holem, and not one where the sign is mentioned, not one where it is even a question of this basis, at once so simple and so fecund, both of the Hebraic language and of all the languages of the world.

 

NOTES

[1] Court de Géb: Gramm. Univ. p. 353.