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:Aharon from Jerusalem is asking


"So, Hebrew is a language of roots and patterns.  The verbal patterns (binyanim, right?) are regular and have a specific meaning. Do the patterns of nouns or adjectives also have similar meanings, like the CaCaCah (Ahava, adama) meaning an abstract noun of the root, or CeCeC (kelev, lechem, delet) being a concrete, tangible object?


"Aaron, Jerusalem!"


Osnat Rance writes:

Dear Aharon,

Thank you for your question.

The answer to your question is not a categorical one I am afraid as with almost any other field in linguistics. (I wish it were, it would have make our lives much easier as teachers. J ) Since language is a living and dynamic mechanism, things do not always seem to make sense and may at times seem without logic.

The answer to your question in a broad sense is that there is no hard and fast rule for the grouping of nouns and they are not always constructed according to identical templates. Let me explain…

The Hebrew is a language of roots (Shorashim) and templates (Mishkalim) these are found for the greater majority within the verb system.

There are little clues however where nouns are concerned although care should be taken not to overgeneralize the rules.

CaCaC - would usually indicate an occupation (Nagar (carpenter), Tabach (cook), Tsaba (painter), etc.)

Nonetheless, not all occupations would fit in to this pattern, especially more modern occupations which are derived from an English word (Fizikay (physicist), Matematikay (mathematician), etc.)
Templates in Hebrew may also have affixes added to them. An affix is a morpheme (letters with a specific meaning, like the plural "s" in English) added to the word either at the beginning of a word,(prefix), or at the end of a word (suffix). Hebrew has a very rich morphological system and this is the reason why sentences and phrase appear to be shorter than comparative sentences and phrases in English (which has a poorer morphology). For example:

Consier the suffix: '___eet' in Hebrew which "minimizes" the size of feminine objects:


KAF (spoon_ VS KAPIT (tea spoon)

MAPA (table cloth) VS MAPIT (napkin)


Regarding your question about nouns in Hebrew working by a template; there are certain catagories of nouns, (see below).

  1. Tangible (table, chair)
  2. Abstract (love, anger)
  3. Proper nouns(Jerusalem, Thames)
  4. Collective nouns (a singular noun representing plural: class, parlament)

BUT as I said at the beginning, although some nouns can be formed according to templates or sound patterns, there are a lot of exceptions and often it is the position of the word in a phrase that gives a better indication if it is a noun or an adjective, rather than its sound pattern.


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