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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 37

§37. The Interrogative and Indefinite Pronouns.

1. The interrogative pronoun is מִי‎ who? (of persons, even before plurals, Genesis 33:5, Isaiah 60:8, 2 Kings 18:35, and sometimes also of things Genesis 33:8, Judges 13:17, Micah 1:5; cf. also בַּת־מִי‎ whose daughter? Genesis 24:23; לְמִי‎ to whom? אֶת־מִי‎ whom?)—מָה‎, מַה‎ (see b) what? (of things).—אֵי־זֶה‎ which? what?

The form מַה‌ּ‎, מַ‍‌ּ‎, &c. (followed by Dageš forte conjunct.: even in יְ‎, Habakkuk 2:1, &c., against §20m) may be explained (like the art. הַ‌ּ‎ §35l, and וַ‌ּ‎ in the imperf. consec.) from the rapid utterance of the interrogative in connexion with the following word. Most probably, however, the Dageš forte is rather due to the assimilation of an originally audible ה‎ (מַהּ‎, as Olshausen), which goes back through the intermediate forms math, mat to an original mant: so W. Wright, Comparative Grammar, Cambridge, 1890, p. 124, partly following Böttcher, Hebräische Grammatik, § 261. A ground-form mant would most easily explain מָן‎ (what?), used in Exodus 16:15 in explanation of מָן‎ manna, while מַן‎ is the regular Aramaic for who. Socin calls attention to the Arabic mah (in pause with an audible h: Mufaṣṣal, 193, 8). Observe further that—

(a) In the closest connexion, by means of Maqqeph, מַה־‎ takes a following Dageš (§20d), e.g. מַה־לָּךְ‎ what is it to thee? and even in one word, as מַלָּכֶם‎ what is it to you? Isaiah 3:15; cf. Exodus 4:2, Malachi 1:13, and even before a guttural, מהם‎ Ezekiel 8:6 Kethîbh.

(b) Before gutturals in close connexion, by means of Maqqeph or (e.g. Judges 14:18, 1 Samuel 20:1) a conjunctive accent, either מַה‎ is used with a virtual strengthening of the guttural (§22c), so especially before ה‎, and, in Genesis 31:36, Job 21:21, before זן‎—or the doubling is wholly emitted. In the latter case either (cf. §35e–k) ă is fully lengthened to Qames (so always before the ה‎ of the article, except in Ecclesiastes 2:12; also before הֵ֫מָּה‎, הֵ֫נָּה‎, and so ה‎ (Habakkuk 2:18), א‎ (2 Samuel 18:22, 2 Kings 8:14), ע‎ (Genesis 31:22, 2 Kings 8:13), or modified to Seghôl, especially before עָ‎, חָ‎, and generally before הָ‎. The omission of the strengthening also takes place as a rule with ה‎, ח‎, ע‎, when they have not Qameṣ, and then the form is either מָה‎ or מֶה‎, the latter especially before ח‎ or ע‎, if Maqqeph follows.

The longer forms מָה‎ and מֶה‎ are also used (מֶה‎ even before letters which are not gutturals) when not connected by Maqqeph but only by a conjunctive accent. As a rule מָה‎ is then used, but sometimes מֶה‎ when at a greater distance from the principal tone of the sentence, Isaiah 1:5, Psalms 4:3. (On מֶה‎ in the combinations כַּמֶּה‎, בַּמֶּה‎, and even לָ֫מֶה‎, 1 Samuel 1:8, cf. §102k and l.)

(c) In the principal pause מָה‎ is used without exception; also as a rule with the smaller disjunctives, and almost always before gutturals (מֶה‎ only in very few cases). On the other hand, מֶה‎ more often stands before letters which are not gutturals, when at a greater distance from the principal tone of the sentence, e.g. 1 Samuel 4:6, 1 Samuel 15:14, 2 Kings 1:7, Haggai 1:9 (see Köhler on the passage), Psalms 10:13, Job 7:21; cf., however, Proverbs 31:2, and Delitzsch on the passage.

2. On מִי‎ and מָה‎ as indefinite pronouns in the sense of quicunque, quodcunque, and as relatives, is qui, id quod, &c., see §137c.

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