Skip to main content

Full text of "Analogy in the Semitic Languages. I"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 



The received opinion on the nature of analogy as a linguistic 
phenomenon, and on tne relation of analogy and phonetic law 
may be stated as follows :' 

i. The phonetic laws are absolutely without exception. There 
are not two classes of sound-changes, regular and irregular, syste- 
matic and sporadic. 2 

In speaking of phonetic law, however, it must be remembered 
that the idea of law is conditioned by the sphere in which it works 
and the material to which it is applied. We cannot speak of 
phonetic law in the same sense in which we speak of a natural 
law in physics or in chemistry. The student of linguistic phe- 
nomena should always take into account the individuality of the 

2. Whatever cannot be explained by regular processes of 
phonetic law must, in the main, be due to the influence of analogy. 
Most, if not all, apparently irregular and exceptional forms which 
cannot be brought under any known phonetic law, or which seem 
to violate such laws, have been formed directly after the model of 
other forms without etymological consciousness, simply by the 
power of association. 

These two forces, viz. phonetic variation and formation by 
analogy, are regarded as the most potent in bringing about indi- 
vidual instances of linguistic changes. Thus Sievers, in his article 
on Philology in the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
speaking of these two forces, says : " They generally work in 
turns and often in opposition to each other, the former frequently 
tending to the differentiation of earlier unities, and the latter to 
the abolition of earlier differences, especially to the restoration of 
conformity disturbed by phonetic change. Phonetic change 
affects exclusively the pronunciation of a language by substitut- 

1 See Misteli, Lautgesetz und Analogie, in Lazarus' und Steinthal's Zeit- 
schrift ftir Volkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, XI 365-475. 

2 Cf., however, BAL 98 2, A. J. P., V 171. 


ing one sound or sound-group for another. Analogical change 
is confined to the formation and inflection of single words or groups 
of words, and often has the appearance of being arbitrary and 
irregular. It is beyond our power to ascertain whence analogical 
changes may start, and to what extent they may be carried through 
when once begun. All we can do is carefully to classify the single 
cases that come under our observation, and in this way to investi- 
gate where such changes are especially apt to take place, and 
what is their general direction." 

Starting with these general premises, it is the purpose of this 
article to study the operation of analogy in the Semitic languages, 
and to present, in a systematic way, the results of this study. In 
a study of this kind we are confronted by three questions : 

i. What is the relation of analogy to the characteristics and 
structure of the languages in which it occurs ? Are its nature, its 
manifestations, and the scope of its application at all modified or 
conditioned by the well-known peculiarities of these languages ? 

2. What individual instances of analogical formations are found 
in these languages ? 

3. How are they to be classified ? 

In conducting our investigations we may start from the well- 
known fact that the whole structure of language, in its grammati- 
cal forms and categories, is, in a sense, analogical. It exhibits 
the operation of what we may call constructive analogy. 

The working of analogy as a constructive force in building up 
groups of similar words and forms may be stated as follows : It 
is obvious that different stems, forming different words and present- 
ing different sounds and combinations of sounds, are used to express 
different ideas ; and further, that different modifications of the same 
stem, whether by internal vowel changes, or by the addition of pre- 
fixes, infixes and suffixes, express the same idea under different mod i- 
fications and relations. But that different words should undergo 
the same changes and receive the same additions in the form of 
prefixes or suffixes in order to express the same relation or modi- 
fication of the original idea, is clearly the result of analogy whereby 
words are grouped together in classes, and within these groups 
the change which is applied to one is applied to all. This forma- 
tion of groups or classes of words and inflectional forms, and the 
application of the same inflectional change (using this term in its 
widest sense) to every word belonging to the same group, are 
the result of analogy. Each group is governed by a prevailing 


analogy, and each individual of the group is treated in its develop- 
ments and its modifications to express different relations, in accord- 
ance with this prevailing analogy. The Semitic languages are 
peculiar in exhibiting with great clearness and fullness the effects 
of this constructive analogy by the regularity and uniformity of 
their structure. So, for example, in the inflection of the verb we 
find that the general analogy which is normally exhibited in the 
stems with strong and firm consonants holds good for all verbs, 
and the deviations from this model of the strong or regular verb 
are only modifications owing to the peculiar nature and feebleness 
of certain consonants. From the simple form of the primitives, 
called the Qal or first form, are formed according to an unvary- 
ing analogy in all verbs the verbal derivatives, sometimes called 
forms, or stems, or conjugations, each distinguished by a specific 
change or added element, with a corresponding definite change 
in its signification, such as intensive, causative, etc. In other lan- 
guages where such formations exist they are usually regarded as 
new derivative verbs. But in the Semitic languages they are 
incomparably more regular than in the Indo-European lan- 
guages. 1 

In these cases we have no reason to suppose that the present 
uniformity had to contend with original diversity. It may have 
been so, but the presumption is that it was not so. But the case 
is different when we consider another marked uniformity in the 
structure of these languages, viz. the fact that all inflectional 
stems have, or are asssumed to have, three stem-consonants. As 
the languages have comedown to us, we find a striking uniformity 
of appearance, but we have reason to suspect that it is at the 
expense of original divergency. In this case we have an instance 
of analogy partly as a disturbing and partly as a constructive 
influence. There are indications that the number of tri-conso- 
nantal stems was originally much smaller than at present, but in 
the course of linguistic development bi-consonantal stems were 
made tri-consonantal by the addition of another consonant until 
finally the latter formed the majority. 2 And although we have 
reason to suppose that the inflection of bi-consonantal stems was 
originally to some extent peculiar and different from the inflection 

1 See Kautzsch-Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, 25th ed., Leipzig, 1889, §§39, 
2 and 41. 

2 Cf. Lagarde, Symmicta, I 122 (Gottingen, 1877) ; Deutsche Schriften (1886), 
285; Bildung der Nomina (1889), 215. 


of tri-consonantal stems, yet the preponderance of tri-consonantal 
stems was so strong that even those bi-consonantal stems which 
remained for the most part gave up their individuality, in various 
ways assuming the appearance of tri-consonantal stems and con- 
forming to their method of inflection. 1 

It may be assumed, then, as an established fact that the present 
uniformity in the appearance of the languages, namely, the pre- 
dominance of tri-consonantal stems, is at the expense of original 
diversity. Still, even here, after the uniformity had once been 
established, analogy works as a constructive force in the further 
inflection of these stems. 

But leaving for the present the consideration of analogy and the 
analogical structure of the Semitic languages in this sense of the 
term, let us examine the subject of analogy in its narrower, more 
specific sense, in the sense in which the word is generally used by 
recent writers, such as Misteli and Sievers ; let us see what instances 
of such analogical formations we have in these languages, how 
they may be most conveniently classified, and how they are 
related to the fundamental structure and characteristics of these 

Whatever theory we may adopt as to the original form and 
constitution of the (so-called) weak verbs, this much at the least is 
certain, that in their present form they present the appearance of 
verbs regularly inflected after the model of the strong or perfect 
verb, modified, however, by the peculiarities of the weak conso- 
nants found in the stem. Add to this the fact that in some of the 
Semitic languages certain consonants (e. g. in Hebrew the gut- 
turals) have certain peculiarities which give rise to corresponding 
peculiarities of inflection of the stems containing such consonants, 
and all the apparent irregularities of Semitic verb-inflection are 
accounted for. These different peculiarities give rise to different 
classes of verb -inflection, according to the ordinary denomination, 
verbs '"a, x'%, n"h, etc. 

But knowing something of the nature of these weak conso- 
nants, something of the nature of the differences which distin- 
guish these different classes of stems in their various formations 
and inflections on the one hand, and something of the nature of 
analogy as it is commonly understood, and as it is exhibited in 

1 Compare Whitney, Language and the Study of Language, p. 302 sq. ; Stade, 
Lehrbuch der Hebraischen Grammatik, §l2a, I and §142-144; Kautzsch, 
Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramaischen, §§45 and 46 ; Noldeke, Syrische Gram- 
matik, §§41 and 57. 


other families of languages on the other hand, we are led to 
expect the occurrence of analogy just here. We are led to expect 
that the peculiarities which distinguish one class of weak verbs 
from another, the barriers, as we may call them, which separate 
the different classes from each other, should be entirely or par- 
tially disregarded and the different forms confused. And such 
we find to be the case. We have not only the general fact that 
all the inflection of those weak verbs which were originally bi-con- 
sonantal in their stems is analogical, i. e. based on the analogy of 
the stems with three stem-consonants, but we have also a great 
many specific cases of analogy. We find many individual instances 
of verbs of one class treated as if belonging to another class, and 
hence inflected after the analogy of that class, or even disregard- 
ing the weakness or peculiarity entirely and inflected directly after 
the analogy of the strong verb. We find also a few instances 
where the strong verb is inflected after the analogy of the weak. 
All such cases of analogical formation, therefore, which affect the 
real or assumed stem of any word comprise one class with three 

Class I. 

Analogical formations in the inflection of the verb or in the forma- 
tion of verbal derivatives with reference to the different classes of 

Under this head we have three subdivisions : 

A. Confusion of the different classes of weak stems. 

B. Weak stems after the analogy of the strong. 

C. Strong stems after the analogy of the weak. 

This law of tri-consonantality, if we may so call it, in the stems 
of words, is one of the most prominent characteristics of the 
Semitic languages, and this class of analogical formations which 
has just been considered is closely connected with this same char- 
acteristic, in that stems which in their original form did not have 
three stem-consonants are conformed to the analogy of regular, 
original, tri-consonantal stems. 

Another peculiarity of the Semitic languages is the function of 
the vowel and the use made of differences and changes in vocali- 
zation to differentiate various classes of words and to construct 
different inflectional forms. Thus, in Arabic, qatala is the type of 
the active transitive verb, qatila of the intransitive, and qutila of 
the passive. 1 

■Cf. Lagarde, Bildung der Nomina, p. 7 (ZDMG XLIV 536). 


We have also many phonetic processes whereby vowels are 
changed, lengthened, shortened, etc., in the various processes of 
inflection. These changes and variations are so light and delicate 
that we may expect some confusion at times, and such we find to 
be the case. Sometimes these phonetic processes are firmly 
maintained, enabling us to ascertain the law which governs them. 
But in a great many cases forms are transferred from one class to 
another, and changes take place which are not warranted by any 
phonetic law. All these analogical formations connected with the 
vocalization of the different words and forms can be comprised in 
one class. This gives us 

Class II. 

Analogical formations involving changes and confusion in vocali- 

Still another peculiarity of the Semitic languages is their method 
of inflection and of the formation of derivative words by pre- 
formatives, informatives, and afformatives, and the resulting dis- 
tinction between servile and stem-consonant. These formations 
and distinctions are peculiarly subject to confusion, and hence 
give rise to many analogical formations which may be comprised 
in one class with four divisions. 

Class III. 

Analogical changes in the formative elements of words. 

A. Mistaking servile or formative element for part of the stem. 

B. Mistaking a stem-consonant for a servile. 

C. Analogical changes in the formative elements themselves ; 

influence of one formative element upon another. 

D. Addition of serviles and formative elements where they 

do not belong. 
I have thus shown, in a preliminary and provisional way, the 
possibility of the existence of three different classes of analogical 
formations affecting respectively the stem-consonants, the vowels, 
and the formative elements of the different words and forms. But 
when we consider that every Semitic word can be analyzed into 
these three elements, viz. its consonantal stem, its vowels, and its 
formatives, and that these three elements are in the main so 
strongly marked and so clearly separated, we see at once that 
this analysis has furnished us a basis for the classification of ana- 
logical formations which, though perhaps not so profoundly philo- 
sophical as some other modes of classification which might be 


adopted, still has the merit that it is simple, practically convenient, 
and exhaustive, and most of all, that it presents these analogical 
phenomena in closest connection with the structure and the char- 
acteristics of these languages. 

The results of our study up to this point may be summed up 
in the following propositions : 

i. The whole structure of the Semitic languages and all the 
formations and inflections of words are analogical, using the term 
analogy in its widest sense. 

2. Using the term analogy in its restricted and more usual 
sense when speaking of it as a linguistic phenomenon, those cases 
of analogical formation which do occur are connected most closely 
with the structure and various characteristics of these languages, 
and thus they are easily accounted for, in fact they occur just 
where this structure and these characteristics lead us to expect 

We find, then, these two factors in the structure of the Semitic 
languages: on the one hand a notable degree of regularity in the 
recurrence of certain fixed types of forms and in the application 
of inflectional modifications; on the other hand, certain deviations 
from these types and normal processes under the influence of a 
disturbing analogy. But when we look more closely into the 
nature and relations of these two factors it becomes evident at 
once that they sustain a most intimate relation to each other. 
They are not the result of separate and distinct linguistic forces, 
or to go back of the language to the mind of the language-user, 
of separate and distinct faculties of the mind. They are the result 
of the same law working under different conditions. As a lin- 
guistic law we call it the law of the group. As the product of the 
human mind we ascribe it to the power of association. By the 
constitution of the human mind each word is felt to be a member 
of a distinct class or group, and not simply an isolated individual; 
and the whole philosophy of analogy as a linguistic phenomenon 
may be thus briefly expressed : 

Whenever the law or type of any group has been able to main- 
tain itself, the individual conforms to the law of the group to which 
it belongs and the formations are normal. 

But when the law breaks down and the distinction between the 
groups is disregarded, the individual, instead of conforming to 
the group to which it belongs, is transferred to another group, 
with which somehow it has become associated, and the result is a 
disturbing analogy. 


It is true that the unwarranted application or extension of 
analogy beyond its legitimate bounds is a marked feature of lan- 
guage. It is this that has given rise to the expression mistaken 
or false analogy. It might better be called disturbing analogy. 
One of its most frequent effects, as is pointed out in the words of 
Sievers, quoted above, is the obliteration of existing differences. 
But it is wrong to regard analogy simply as a disturbing influence. 
In fact, we might almost say that this is only an incidental effect. 
It is better to regard analogy as that which binds together the 
different individual members of each group of words or linguistic 
elements. Or to speak more accurately, it is natural for the mind 
to associate words which although different still are felt to be 
members of one and the same group, and to apply to all the 
inflectional changes which it has been taught to apply to one. 
This extension of the same inflectional changes to all the different 
members of the same group, this formation of different words 
from different stems after the same type or model, is not the work 
of memory, as is also pointed out by Brugmann in his book " Zum 
heutigen Stand der Sprachwissenschaft," p. 79. It is the work of 
the power of association or combination, or, as it might also be 
called, the analogical faculty. We are not concerned primarily 
with the name of this faculty, however. But that with which we 
are concerned is the fact that so-called analogical formations are 
not to be regarded as something isolated and entirely distinct from 
those formations which are called normal, but rather they are the 
results of the same mental process, and show the operation of the 
same law working under different conditions. 

Starting from the principle that analogy is the modification of 
an existing form, or the origination of a new form after the model 
of another form with which it is associated, different schemes for 
the classification of such analogical phenomena have been pro- 
posed. These different schemes are presented and reviewed by 
Delbriick, " Einleitung in das Sprachstudium," p. 108 fg. Accord- 
ing to him these classifications are made from three different points 
of view. 

1. According to the nature of the psychological activities which 
are concerned in the different formations. 

2. According to the nature of the words affected by analogy. 

3. According to the results of the operation of this force of 

The first of these principles is the one adopted by Misteli in 


the article already referred to (Zeitschrift fur Volkerpsychologie 
und Sprachwissenschaft, XI 365-475, XII 1-26), and after him by 
Wheeler, in his treatise on "Analogy and the scope of its appli- 
cation in language." ' As this is by far the most satisfactory of 
existing methods of classification, I shall present it in some detail, 
using mainly the phraseology of Wheeler in the statement of the 
different classes, and illustrating them by examples taken from 
the domain of Semitic. 

According to Sievers, the influence of analogy tends largely to 
the abolition of earlier differences. Similarly Wheeler (op. cit. 
P- 35) : " The operation of analogy in language is in every case 
ultimately conditioned and determined by the natural quest of 
the mind for unity to replace multiplicity, system to replace anoma- 
lous diversity, and groups to replace monads. The office of 
the psychical factor in the development of language is therefore 
the maintenance and re-establishment of the groups which the 
phonetic laws tend to disrupt, and the creation of new groups. 
It aims to eliminate purposeless variety." 

To this must be added the important statement on page 37 of 
the same work : " The formation of new groups very commonly 
appears as a readjustment of old groups. Changes in the char- 
acter and use of the phonetic material of a language often cause 
a form or number of forms to be severed from one group and 
attached to another." 

Wheeler thus classifies the phenomena of analogy: 

I. Likeness of Signification a7id Diversity of Form. Two words 
entirely diverse in form, but which are capable of application to 
one and the same object or idea, may, through the influence of 
this limited likeness of signification, be confused into one word 
by the process known as "contamination of form." 

No instance of this kind in Semitic has occurred to me. 

II. Affinity of Signification and Diversity of Form. Words 
totally dissimilar in form, butexpressing ideas of like category, are 
made to approximate slightly in form through the extended appli- 
cation of some sign of category or through the extended use of 
some element or combination of elements of sound which has 
come to be recognized as characteristic of a group. 

As an illustration of this kind of analogy the following has 
occurred to me : The common people often say masoner for mason. 
The ending er came to be regarded as expressing trade or calling, 

1 Ithaca, N. Y., 1887. Cf. also A. J. P. V 165-85, X 202. 


from such words as painter, joiner, carpenter, farmer, etc. 
Hence they sought to bring mason into the same category of form 
by adding er and making masoner. 

Instances in Semitic are the following among others : The prefix 
m, to form the passive participle of the Arabic first form, of which 
the ground-form is qattil. See Barth, Nominalbildung, p. 178, 

§I23«. 1 

In Arabic this principle often works in the extension of existing 
groups. See Barth, Nominalbildung, p. 135, §85^. The form 
qatil, formed nominally from the i- imperfect, is used to denote 
masses, collectives. Then in that sense it is formed from stems 
which have no i- imperfect, especially to denote masses or collec- 
tions of animals, kalib ' dogs,' tfa'ln ' sheep,' etc. 

Cf. also the Mandean pronouns achnun, achtun, achtdchun and 
achndchun (Nold., Mand. Gramm., p. 86). 

III. Likeness of Function and Diversity of Form. Words 
differing inform are reduced to groups upon the basis of likeness 
of function, i. e. of likeness of use in the economy of the sentence 
and for the expression of like modifications of thought. 

An illustration of this kind of analogy is found in the forma- 
tion of the Hebrew infinitive absolute of the Niphal. See Barth, 
op. cit. p. 72, §493. The regular infinitive absolute of the Niphal 
is seen in "pDl. But as in the Piel and Hiphil a certain assonance 
was perceived between the imperfect and the infinitive absolute 
used to strengthen it, e. g. "»3E>n "i^tp. Ex. 23, 24, a similar form 
was originated in order to produce a similar assonance in the case 
of the Niphal rnsri rosn, d$m vbm. I Sam. 27, 1, etc. This ana- 
logical formation almost entirely displaced the organic. 

Other illustrations of this are seen in the formation of prepo- 
sitions with suffixes in Hebrew and in Ethiopic. Compare *pj?$. 

The i is organic in the first two cases, because they are 
to be referred to the stems "ha and HI?. Starting from such stems 
it is extended analogically to stems of other prepositions where it 
has no place at all. 

IV. Contrast of Signification and Partial Likeness of Form. 
Words of contrasted signification and of partly similar form are 
grouped in couplets, and a further approximation in the outward 
form is the result. 

1 Cf., however, Beitr. z. Assyriologie I 160 (ZA, IV 375). 

8 Cf. ZDMG, XLII part 3 (A. J. P. X 234) and Lagarde, Mittheil. II 231. 


An instance of this kind of analogy is given by Praetorius, 
Ethiopic Grammar, p. 86, §99. Eth. wad' a, he has gone out, has 
in the subjunctive idd', and imperative 4&'- These forms ought 
to be inflected thus: tede't, ide'4 or del, dVH. They follow, 
however, the analogy of their opposite ib&\ from bo" a, he has 
gone in, and hence we have the forms tedd'i, id&&, ida"&, etc. 1 

Another illustration of the analogy of the opposites is the 
Hebrew |ix»f5, /a.rf(stem pxp) after the analogy of \&\g\ first. 

V. Likeness of Signification and Partial Likeness of Form. 
Words whose stems have a like signification and are similar but 
not like in form are grouped together upon the basis both of 
meaning and form, and a levelling of the form of the stems is the 

Under this head Wheeler brings the following classes of ana- 
logical formations: 

A. Levelling between different cases of like stems. 

As an instance, somewhat similar at least to the instances men- 
tioned by Wheeler under this head, may be mentioned such cases 
as I have given under CI. Ill, Div. B., the Assyrian plural ii&ii for 
iddti, from ittu, which stands for idtu,' the feminine of idu, hand. 

B. Levelling between the different forms for person and number 
in the same tense of the verb. 

Analogical influence of this kind is very conspicuous in the 
inflection of the perfect of the Semitic verb. 

The original paradigm probably was as follows, in the singular : s 

qatal a. ' he has killed.' 

qatal at. ' she has killed.' 

qatal ta\ ' thou hast killed.' 

qatal ti. ' thou (fern.) hast killed.' 

qatal ku. ' I have killed.' 
In Ethiopic, the first person qatal-M has influenced the second 
person masculine and feminine, so that they now have qatalkd, 
qatalki. In the other languages the reverse of this process took 
place ; k& of the first person was changed to tti under the influ- 
ence of the analogy of the second person, while in Hebrew, by a 
further analogical change, t& was changed to ii under the influence 
of the possessive suffix z'. 4 

1 Cf. Hebraica II 6, i. 

8 See Hebraica I 178, 5 ; cf., however, Delitzsch, Prolegomena 46 and 115. 

3 See Noldeke, Die Endungen des Perfects, ZDMG, XXXVIII 407 sq. 

4 Cf. SFG 53 below ; ZDMG, XXXVIII 419; XLIV 539, 1 ; Wright, Comp. 
Gramm. 175. 


C. Levelling between the different parts (tenses), etc., of the 
same verb. 

An instance of this kind of analogical formation is seen in the 
vocalization of the Hebrew perfect and imperfect Piel as com- 
pared with the corresponding forms in Arabic. In Arabic, which 
probably comes nearest to the primitive, we have qattala, ytiqat- 
tilu, while in Hebrew we have h®p, blSj?;. The ^-vowel of the 
second syllable of the perfect is probably due to the influence ol 
the corresponding vowel of the imperfect. The /-vowel of the 
first syllable is then perhaps due to vowel-harmony. 

D. Levelling between derivative and primitive. 

No instances of this kind in Semitic have occurred to me, per- 
haps because there generally exists such a close connection between 
derivative and primitive. 

For this classification Wheeler claims practical exhaustiveness. 
He says : "Under the five main categories which have been thus 
far established and discussed may be classified nearly if not quite 
all the phenomena usually associated with the action of analogy." 

I have preferred, however, in my treatment of analogy to look 
at the phenomena from a different point of view, and adopt a 
different method of classification. The predominant characteristic 
of all Semitic analogical formations, as I have already shown, is 
the formation of groups, and the disturbance of these groups by 
transferring individual words, forms, portions, or characteristic 
elements of forms from one group to another, taking them from 
a group where they exist organically and applying them to or 
placing them in a group where they do not belong. These dis- 
turbances or transferments will naturally affect either the conso- 
nantal ground-stem of a word, or the vocalization of the stem, or 
those formative elements, prefixes, infixes, suffixes, by which 
different inflectional forms or derivative words are formed. 
Hence the classification which I have given will logically follow, 
and I trust that a study of the material as I have arranged it, in 
the second part, under these different heads, will bear out its 
suitability. This material will appear in a subsequent number of 
this Journal. 

Abel H. Huizinga.