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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 80

§80. The Indication of Gender in Nouns.

Brockelmann; Grundriss, p. 404 ff.; ‘Ueber die Femininendung at, ah, ā’ in Semit. Sprachwiss., p. 106 f.; Grundriss, pp. 105, 405 ff.; ‘Die Femininendung T im Semit.’ (Sitzung d. orient.-sprachwiss. Sektion d. schlesischen Gesellschaft, Feb. 26, 1903); against him J. Barth, ZDMG. 1903, p. 628 ff.; Brockelmann’s reply, ibid., p. 795 ff.; and Barth again, ibid., p. 798 ff.

1. The Hebrew, like all Semitic languages, recognizes only two genders in the noun, a masculine and a feminine. Inanimate objects and abstract ideas, which other languages sometimes indicate by the neuter, are regarded in Hebrew either as masculine or feminine, more often the latter (see the Syntax, §122q).

2. The masculine, as being the more common and important gender, has no special indication.

Feminine nouns are also without an indication of gender when the meaning of the word naturally denotes a feminine, as אֵם‎ mother, אָתוֹן‎ a she-ass, עֵז‎ a she-goat, רָחֵל‎ an ewe (cf. §122b). As a rule, however, the feminine had originally the ending ־ַת‎, as in the 3rd sing. perfect of verbs (§44a). This ־ַת‎, however, is regularly retained in Hebrew only in close connexion with a following genitive or suffix (cf. §89e and §91o), except where the form has arisen through the addition of a simple ת‎[1] (see below, d). Otherwise, the feminine ending of the independent form (the absolute state, §89a) is—

(a) Most commonly a tone-bearing ־ָה‎, e.g. סוּס‎ equus, סוּסָה‎ equa. Of nouns ending in ־ִ‎, like עִבְרִי‎, the feminine (by §24b) is עִבְרִיָּה‎, cf. §86h. As in the 3rd sing. fem. perfect (קָֽטְלָה‎, &c.), this ־ָה‎ seems to have arisen by the rejection of the final ת‎, and the lengthening of the ă in the open syllable, whereupon the ה‎ was added as an orthographic indication of the final long vowel: cf. the exactly similar origin of such forms as גָּלָה‎ for גָּלַי‎, §75c. It must, however, be noticed that in Arabic (see m and note) the pausal form of at is ah, of which a trace may be preserved in the Hebrew ־ָה‎.

(b) Simple ת‎ with nouns ending in a vowel, e.g. יְהוּדִי‎ Jew, יְהוּדִית‎ Jewess. The same ending ת‎ is very frequently added to stems ending in a consonant, but only (except before suffixes) by means of a helping vowel, which, as a rule, is Seghôl, but after gutturals Pathaḥ, e.g. קֹטֵל‎, fem. קֹטֶ֫לֶת‎ killing; before suffixes, e.g. קֹֽטַלְתִּי‎, according to the rule given in §69c, cf. also §84as; מוֹדַע‎ an acquaintance, fem. מוֹדַ֫עַת‎. The forms which arise in this way follow in every respect the analogy of the segholate forms (§94f). The forms which have been developed by means of a helping vowel are retained even in the connective form (construct state); except וְיֹלַדְתְּ‎ (for יֹלֶ֫דֶת‎, which is used elsewhere) Genesis 16:11, Judges 13:5-7; cf. Jeremiah 22:23 and Jeremiah 51:13 Qe, also מְשָׁרַת‎ 1 Kings 1:15, participle fem. Piʿēl, properly mešāratt = מְשָׁרֶ֫תֶת‎; also מְבַעִתֶּ֫ךְ‎ (participle fem. Piʿēl with suffix) arises from the form מְבַעַ֫תְּ‎ which was developed into מְבַעֶ֫תֶת‎.

Rem. 1. The fem. form in ־ֶ֫־ֶת‎ is in general less frequent, and occurs almost exclusively when the form in ־ָה‎ is also in use. It is only in the participles and infinitives that it is the commoner, e.g. קֹטֶ֫לֶת‎ more common than קֹֽטְלָה‎, לֶ֫דֶת‎ than לֵדָ֫ה‎.

2. Rarer feminine endings are—(a) ־ַת‎ with the tone, e.g. בָּֽרְקַ֫ת‎ emerald, Ezekiel 28:13 (also בָּרֶ֫קֶת‎ Exodus 28:17); שִׁפְעַ֫ת‎ a company 2 Kings 9:17, unless the reading is wrong; more frequently in proper names, especially of places among the Canaanites or Phoenicians (in whose language ־ַת‎ was the usual fem. ending, §2d) and other neighbouring tribes,[2] e.g. צָֽרְפַ֫ת‎ Zarephath, גִּבְעַ֫ת‎ Gibeath, קִרְיַ֫ת‎ Kiriath, אֵילַ֫ת‎ Greek Ailana in Idumea; אֲחֻזַּת‎ Genesis 26:26: on the reading גָּלְיַת‎ cf. g. Cf., moreover, נְגִּינַת‎ Psalms 61:1 (prob. originally נְגִינֹת‎); חַיַּת‎ (LXX חַיּוֹת‎) Psalms 74:19; פּוּגַת‎ Lamentations 2:18; [רַבַּת‎ much, in Psalms 65:10, Psalms 120:6, Psalms 123:4, Psalms 129:1-2, is a form borrowed from the Aramaic (Syriac rabbath) in which the original t of the fem. is often retained to form adverbs, see Wright, Comparative Grammar, p. 135.]

(b) ־ָת‎, which likewise occurs in some names of places, e.g. בַּֽעֲלָת‎, חֶלְקָת‎, as well as in the masc. proper name גָּלְיָת‎ 1 Samuel 17:4, &c. (in 1 Samuel 17:23, and 1 Samuel 21:10, ed. Mant. has גָּלְיַת‎), and in the fem. proper name שִׁמְעָת‎; otherwise, almost only in poetry, viz. זִמְרָת‎ Exodus 15:2, Isaiah 12:2, Psalms 118:14 (really for זִמְרָתִי‎ my song; the absorption of the î, however, can scarcely have ‘taken place in the Aramaic manner’, as suggested by Duhm on Isaiah 12:2, nor is it due merely to the following Yôdh, but is intended ‘to facilitate the absorption of יָהּ‎’; so Geiger, Urschrift, p. 277 f.); נַֽחֲלָת‎ heritage, Psalms 16:6 (either again for נַֽחֲלָתִי‎ heritage, or for נַֽחֲלָ֫תָה‎, cf. §90g, as probably also עֶזְרָת‎ help, Psalms 60:13, Psalms 108:13 for עֶזְרָ֫תָה‎). These forms are possibly survivals from a period when even final vowels were not supported by a vowel-letter. Cf. also פֹּרָת‎ fecunda (a fruitful tree) Genesis 49:22; יִתְרָת‎ abundance, Jeremiah 48:36 (before ע‎; but in Isaiah 15:7 יִתְרָה‎); שְׁנָת‎ sleep (for שֵׁנָה‎) Psalms 132:4; and (unless the ת‎ is radical) in prose קָאָת‎ pelican (which reading is also preferable, in Isaiah 34:11, to the form קָאַת‎), also מָֽחֳרָת‎ the morrow, but in construct state always ממחרַת‎.[3]תְּהִלָּת‎ Jeremiah 45:25 Qe is no doubt intended to indicate the reading תְּהִלָּתִי‎, parallel to מְשׂוֹשִׂי‎; cf. above, on זִמְרָת‎, &c.

(c) ־ָא‎, the Aramaic orthography for ־ָה‎, chiefly in the later writers; זָרָא‎ loathing, Numbers 11:20; חָגָּא‎ a terror, Isaiah 19:17; שֵׁנָא‎ sleep, Psalms 127:2; לְבִיָּא‎ a lioness, Ezekiel 19:2 (unless לָבִיא‎ is intended); מַטָּרָא‎ a mark, Lamentations 3:12; cf. also דָּשָׁא‎ threshing (participle Qal from דּוּשׁ‎) Jeremiah 50:11; מָרָא‎ bitter, Ruth 1:20. On the other hand, according to the western Masora, קָרְחָה‎ baldness is to be read in Ezekiel 27:31; see Baer on the passage.

(d) ־ֶה‎, an obtuse form of ־ָה‎ (§27u), only in הַזּוּרֶ֫ה‎ for הַזּוּרָה‎ Isaiah 59:5 (unless it is again a forma mixta combining the active ptcp. masc. הַזּוֹרֶה‎ and the passive ptcp. fem. הַזּוּרָה‎); cf. לָ֫נֶה‎ for לָנָה‎ Zechariah 5:4; אָ֫נֶה‎ 1 Kings 2:3642 (§90i, and §48d).

(e) ־֫ ־ָה‎ without the tone, e.g. רָחָ֫מָה‎ Deuteronomy 14:17 [Leviticus 11:18 רָחָם‎]; תַּנּוּר בֹּעֵ֫רָה‎ an oven heated, Hosea 7:4; cf. Ezekiel 40:19, 2 Kings 15:29, 2 Kings 16:18. In all those examples the usual tone-bearing ־ָה‎ is perhaps intended, but the Punctuators, who considered the feminine ending inappropriate, produced a kind of locative form (see §90c) by the retraction of the tone. [In 2 Kings 16:18, Isaiah 24:19, Ezekiel 21:31 (note in each case the following ה‎), and in Job 42:13, Hosea 7:4, the text is probably in error.]

(f) ־ַי‎, as an old feminine termination, preserved also in Syriac (ai; see examples in Nöldeke’s Syrische Gram, § 83), in Arabic and (contracted to ê) in Ethiopic, very probably occurs in the proper name שָׂרַי‎ Sarai, cf. Nöldeke, ZDMG. xl. 183, and xlii. 484; also עֶשְׂרֵה‎ ten (fem.) undoubtedly arises from an original ʿesray; so Wright, Comparative Grammar, p. 138; König, Lehrgebäude, ii. 427.

3. It is wholly incorrect to regard the vowel-ending ־ָה‎[4] as the original termination of the feminine, and the consonantal ending ־ַת‎ as derived from it. The Ethiopic still has the ת‎ throughout, so too the Assyrian (at, it); in Phoenician also the feminines end for the most part in ת‎, which is pronounced at in the words found in Greek and Latin authors; less frequently in א‎ (see Gesenius, Monumm. Phoen., pp. 439, 440; Schröder, Phön. Sprache, p. 169 ff.). The ancient Arabic has the obtuse ending (ah) almost exclusively in pause; in modern Arabic the relation between the two endings is very much as in Hebrew.

  1. In Malachi 1:14 מָשְׁחַת‎ (so e.g. ed. Mant.) would stand for מָשְׁחֶ֫תֶת‎, the ptcp. fem. Hophʿal; but מָשְׁחָת‎ (so Baer and Ginsb.) is also supported by good authority.
  2. In the list of Palestinian towns taken by Pharaoh Shoshenq, the feminine town-names all end in t. Cf. also the Mêšaʿ inscription, line 3, הבמת זאת‎ this high place; line 26, המסלת‎ the highway [see also Driver, Tenses, § 181, note].
  3. In 1 Samuel 20:27 also, where the Masora (see Baer on Joshua 5:11) for some unknown reason requires ממחרָת‎, read with ed. Mant., Jablonski, Opitius, and Ginsburg, ממחרַת‎.
  4. In this ending the ה‎ h can only be considered consonantal in the sense that the ת‎ was originally aspirated, and afterwards ‘the mute ת‎ was dropped before h, just as the old Persian mithra became in modern Persian mihrʾ; so Socin, who also points to the Arabic pausal form in ah, and observes that among some of the modern Beduin an h is still heard as a fem. ending, cf. Socin, Diwan aus Centralarabien, iii. 98, ed. by H. Stumme, Lpz. 1901. In Hebrew this consonantal termination was entirely abandoned, at any rate in later times.
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