The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background 9781575066240

In this magnum opus, N. J. C. Kouwenberg presents a thoroughgoing, modern analysis of the Akkadian verbal system, taking

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The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background

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LANGUAGES OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST Editorial Board Gonzalo Rubio, Pennsylvania State University Editor-in-Chief James P. Allen Gene B. Gragg John Huehnergard Manfred Krebernik Antonio Loprieno H. Craig Melchert Piotr Michalowski P. Oktor Skjærvø Michael P. Streck

Brown University The Oriental Institute, Univ. of Chicago Harvard University Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena Universität Basel  University of California, Los Angeles University of Michigan Harvard University Universität Leipzig

1.  A Grammar of the Hittite Language, by Harry A. Hoffner Jr. and H. Craig Melchert Part 1: Reference Grammar Part 2: Tutorial 2.  The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background, by N. J. C. Kouwenberg 3.  Most Probably: Epistemic Modality in Old Babylonian, by Nathan Wasserman

The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background


N. J. C. K ouwenberg The University of Leiden

Winona Lake, Indiana Eisenbrauns 2010

© 2010 by Eisenbrauns Inc. All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kouwenberg, N. J. C.   The Akkadian verb and its Semitic background / by N. J. C. Kouwenberg.      p.  cm.    Includes bibliographical references and index.    ISBN 978-1-57506-193-1 (alk. paper)    1.  Akkadian language—Verb.  I.  Title.    PJ3291.K678  2010    492′156—dc22


The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. †Ê   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10

Contents Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    xi List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   xii Part One

Preliminaries Chapter 1.  Objective, Structure, and Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1 1.1.  Objective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.2.  Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1.2.1.  (Diachronic) Typology  2 1.2.2.  Grammaticalization  3 1.2.3.  The structure of paradigms  5 1.3.  The Structure of the Present Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 1.4.1.  Akkadian  9  Third-Millennium Akkadian  11  Babylonian  12  Archaic Babylonian  13  Old Babylonian  13  Middle Babylonian  15  Neo-Babylonian  15  Late Babylonian  16  Standard Babylonian  16  Assyrian  17  Old Assyrian  17  Middle Assyrian  18  Neo-Assyrian  19

1.4.2.  Semitic  19 1.4.3.  Afroasiatic  20 1.5.  Excursus: The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadian . . . . . . 21

Chapter 2.  Structure and Organization in the Akkadian Verbal Paradigm. . . . . . .   28 2.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 2.2.  The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 2.2.1.  The basic structure  29 2.2.2.  Derivational categories related to the verb  33 2.2.3.  Lexicalization and grammaticalization  35 2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 2.3.1.  The root-and-pattern system  37 2.3.2.  The rise of vowel alternation in Semitic  38 v



2.3.3.  The root and the radicals  40 2.3.4.  The pattern and the base  44 2.4.  Vowel Syncope and Vowel Assimilation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 2.5.  The Personal Affixes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Part Two

The Basic Stem Chapter 3.  The Paradigm of the G-Stem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   53 3.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 3.2.  The G‑stem as the Basis of the Verbal Paradigm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs . . . . . . . 54 3.3.1.  Fientive verbs with a stative meaning  55 3.3.2.  Adjectival verbs  58 3.3.3.  List of adjectival verbs  60 3.3.4.  Deviating adjectives in Assyrian  64 3.4.  Transitivity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 3.5.  The Vowel Classes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 3.5.1.  Form and function  68 3.5.2.  The individual vowel classes  71  The vowel class I/i  71  The A/u or Ablaut class  72  The vowel class U/u  73  The vowel class A/a (including E/e)  74  The vowel class A/i  75

3.5.3.  Changes in vowel class  75 3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class . . . . . 81

Chapter 4.  The Impact of Gemination I: The Imperfective iparrVs . . . . . . . . . . . .   88 4.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 4.2.  The Imperfective: Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 4.3.  The Imperfective: Function   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 4.4.1.  The controversy about the Proto-Semitic imperfective  97 4.4.2.  The emergence of   iparrVs  100 4.4.3.  Evidence  103  Historical evidence from Akkadian  103  Comparative evidence from Afroasiatic  104  Typological evidence  107

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 4.5.1.  The development of a variable imperfective vowel  109 4.5.2.  The pluractional of the derived verbal stems and      the quadriradical verbs  112 4.5.3.  The ending(s) of Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑  115 4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 4.6.1.  iparrVs and yəqattəl  117


vii 4.6.2.  The quadriradical and quinqueradical verbs      in South Semitic  123

Chapter 5 The Perfective and the Imperative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 5.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 5.2.  The Perfective: Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 5.3.  The Perfective: Function    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 5.4.  The Historical Background of the Perfective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 5.5.  The Imperative: Form and Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Chapter 6.  The t‑Perfect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 6.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 6.2.  The t‑Perfect: Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 6.3.1.  The t‑perfect in Old Babylonian  141 6.3.2.  The t‑perfect in third-millennium Akkadian  149 6.3.3.  The t‑perfect in Old Assyrian      150 6.3.4.  The t‑perfect in the later dialects  153 6.4.  The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155

Chapter 7.  The Stative. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 7.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 7.2.  The Stative: Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 7.3.  The Stative: Function   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 7.3.1.  Statives derived from adjectives and nouns  165 7.3.2.  Statives derived from verbs  168 7.3.3.  Marginal and secondary uses of the stative  174 7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 7.4.1.  The formal background of the stative  176 7.4.2.  The relationship with the West Semitic perfect  181 7.4.3.  The suffixed stative conjugations of Afroasiatic  189

Chapter 8.  The Nominal Forms of the Verbal Paradigm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 8.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 8.2.  The Infinitive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 8.2.1.  Form and function  194 8.2.2.  Historical background  199 8.3.  The Past Participle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200 8.3.1.  Form and function  200 8.3.2.  Historical background  202 8.4.  The Present Participles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203 8.4.1.  The simple present participle  203 8.4.2.  The present participle with the suffix ‑ān-  207 8.4.3.  Historical considerations  209



Chapter 9.  The Secondary Members of the Verbal Paradigm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 9.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 9.2.  The Irrealis Categories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 9.2.1.  The precative  212  Form and function  212  Historical background  213

9.2.2.  The vetitive: form and function   217 9.2.3.  The prohibitive  219 9.3.  The Subjunctive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220 9.3.1.  The form of the subjunctive  220 9.3.2.  Other subjunctive-like suffixes  224 9.3.3.  The function and the historical background of the subjunctive  227 9.4.  The Ventive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 9.4.1.  The form of the ventive  232 9.4.2.  The function of the ventive  233  The ventive as allative  234  The ventive as dative  235  Other ventives  236  The ventive as a linking morpheme  238

9.4.3.  The ventive in a historical perspective  240

Part Three

The Derived Verbal Stems Chapter 10.  The Derived Verbal Stems: General Features. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 10.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 10.2.  Definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 10.3.  Formal Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246 10.4.  Functional Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 10.5.  The Relationship between the G‑Stem and the Derived Stems . . . . . . . . . 250 10.6.  Oppositions between Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252 10.7.  Diachronic Aspects of the Derived Verbal Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 10.8.  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems . . . 256 10.8.1.  Verbal plurality  256 10.8.2.  Causative and factitive  256 10.8.3.  Voice  257  Passive  259  Mediopassive  260  Direct reflexive  261  Indirect reflexive or autobenefactive  263  Reciprocal  263  The middle voice and “middle verbs” in Akkadian  265

Chapter 11.  The impact of gemination II: the D‑stem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268 11.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268 11.2.  The Form of the D‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268



11.3.  The Function of the D‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 11.3.1.  D‑stems of intransitive process verbs  272 11.3.2.  D‑stems of intransitive action verbs  274 11.3.3.  D‑stems of transitive process verbs  274 11.3.4.  D‑stems of transitive action verbs  274 11.4.  D tantum Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277 11.5.  The Essence of the D‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278 11.6.  The D‑Stem in Historical Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280 11.6.1.  The D‑stem in Semitic and Afroasiatic  280 11.6.2.  The development of the factitive function  282

Chapter 12.  The Prefix n-. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288 12.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288 12.2.  The N‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288 12.2.1.  The form of the N‑stem    288 12.2.2.  The function of the N‑stem  294  The N‑stem of transitive verbs  294  The N‑stem of intransitive verbs  297  The N tantum verbs  298

12.2.3.  The essence of the N‑stem  299 12.3.  The naparraru Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301 12.4.  The Verb mēlulu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305 12.5.  The Quadriradical Verbs of the nabalkutu Group  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 307 12.6.  The Historical Background of the Prefix n‑ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314 12.6.1.  The prefix n‑ as an original “light verb”  314 12.6.2.  The development of the N‑stem  321

Chapter 13.  The Prefix š‑. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324 13.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324 13.2.  The Š‑stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324 13.2.1.  The form of the Š‑stem  324 13.2.2.  The function of the Š‑stem  327  The Š‑stem as causative of transitive verbs  327  The Š‑stem as causative or factitive of intransitive verbs  328  The “elative” use of the Š‑stem  331  The denominal function of the Š‑stem  332  The relation of the Š‑stem to the D‑stem and the N‑stem  333

13.3.  The ŠD‑stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334 13.4.  The Quadriradical Verbs with the Prefix š‑ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337 13.4.1.  The šubalkutu group  338 13.4.2.  The šuparruru group  340 13.4.3.  The šuḫarruru group  341 13.4.4.  Šukennu and šupellu  346 13.5.  The Š‑stem in Other Semitic Languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350 13.6.  The Historical Background of the Sibilant Prefix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 351

Chapter 14.  The t-Infix and Its Ramifications. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355 14.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355



14.2.  Formal Aspects of the t‑Infix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356 14.2.1.  The form of the Gt‑stem in historical Akkadian  356 14.2.2.  Assimilation and metathesis of the t‑infix in general  359 14.3.  The Function of the Gt‑Stem in Historical Akkadian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360 14.3.1.  The Gt‑stem in older non-literary texts  361  Third-millennium Akkadian  361  Assyrian  362  Old Babylonian  363

14.3.2.  The Gt‑stem in later non-literary texts  365 14.3.3.  The Gt‑stem in literary texts: Standard Babylonian  367 14.3.4.  The functional development of the Gt‑stem in Akkadian  369 14.4.  The Evolution of the Gt‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375 14.4.1.  The formal evolution of the Gt‑stem in Semitic:      from prefix to infix (and back)  375 14.4.2.  The functional development of the Gt‑stem in      West Semitic  380 14.5.  The Remaining Secondary Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382 14.5.1.  The Dt‑stem  383 14.5.2.  The Št1‑stem  386 14.5.3.  The Neo-Assyrian stems with a double t‑infix  388 14.5.4.  The Nt‑stem  391 14.5.5.  Comparison with West Semitic  392 14.5.6.  Excursus: The Eblaite verbal nouns with both prefixed      and infixed t  395 14.6.  The Pattern taPRvS(t) and the Št2‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397 14.6.1.  The pattern taPRvS(t)  397 14.6.2.  The Št2‑stem  403  The paradigm of the Št2‑stem  403  The function of the Št2‑stem  404  Comparison with West Semitic  412

14.7.  The tan‑Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415 14.7.1.  The function of the tan‑stems  415 14.7.2.  The Gtn‑stem  417 14.7.3.  The Dtn‑stem  422 14.7.4.  The Štn‑stem  424 14.7.5.  The Ntn‑stem  425 14.7.6.  The historical background of the tan‑stems  431

Chapter 15.  Verb Forms with Reduplication. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438 15.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438 15.2.  The Dtr‑Stem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439 15.3.  Deverbal Nouns with Reduplication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 444 15.4.  Derived Verbal Stems with Reduplication in Other Semitic Languages . . 445



Part Four

The Minor Paradigms Chapter 16.  The Weak Verbs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 447 16.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 447 16.2.  The I/w Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 448 16.2.1.  The corpus  448 16.2.2.  The forms of the G‑stem  450 16.2.3.  The derived stems  454 16.2.4.  The historical background of the I/w verbs  457 16.3.  The I/*y Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 462 16.3.1.  The prefix forms of the adjectival I/w verbs  462 16.3.2.  The original I/*y verbs  464 16.3.3.  The verbs idû ‘to know’ and išû ‘to have’  465 16.4.  The I/n Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 469 16.4.1.  The assimilation or non-assimilation of n to the      following consonant  469 16.4.2.  The elision of word-initial n  470 16.4.3.  The paradigm(s) of n/tadānu ‘to give’  472 16.5.  The II/voc Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 474 16.5.1.  The sources  474 16.5.2.  The paradigm of the G‑stem  476 16.5.3.  The derived stems  480  The Gt‑stem  480  The Gtn‑stem  480  The D‑stem  482  The Š‑stem and the Št2‑stem  485  The N‑stem  488

16.6.  The II/gem Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 491 16.6.1.  Formal aspects of the II/gem verbs  491 16.6.2.  Semantic aspects of the II/gem verbs  494 16.7.  The III/voc Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496 16.7.1.  The sources  496 16.7.2.  The paradigm of the III/voc verbs  499  The original paradigm  499  Further developments in third-millennium Akkadian  501  Further developments in Assyrian  501  Further developments in Babylonian  506

Chapter 17.  The Verbs with Gutturals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510 17.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510 17.2.  The Rendering of Guttural Consonants in Cuneiform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510 17.3.  The Reflexes of the Gutturals in Akkadian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 515 17.4.  The Strong ʾ in Babylonian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520 17.5.  The E-paradigm and Babylonian Vowel Harmony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525 17.5.1.  E‑colouring in the older dialects  525 17.5.2.  E‑colouring in later Babylonian  534



17.6.  The I/voc Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 537 17.6.1.  Introductory remarks  537 17.6.2.  The paradigm of the G‑stem  542 17.6.3.  The derived stems  546  The Gt‑stem and the Gtn‑stem  546  The D‑stem  547  The Š‑stem and its derivatives  548  The N‑stem and the Ntn‑stem  550

17.7.  The II/H Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 554 17.7.1.  Introduction and sources  554 17.7.2.  (Pre‑)Sargonic Akkadian and Mari Old Akkadian  557 17.7.3.  The II/H verbs in Assyrian  560  The strong paradigm  560  The weak paradigm  563

17.7.4.  The II/H verbs in Babylonian  566  The II/ā verbs in Babylonian  566  The II/ē verbs in Babylonian  570

17.8.  The III/H Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 572 17.8.1.  Introduction and sources  572 17.8.2.  The III/H verbs in third-millennium Akkadian  573 17.8.3.  The III/H verbs in Assyrian  576 17.8.4.  The original III/H verbs in Babylonian  582

Part Five

Proto-Semitic from an Akkadian perspective Chapter 18.  The Verbal Paradigm of Proto-Semitic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 584 18.1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 584 18.2.  The Main Developments from Proto-Semitic to Akkadian . . . . . . . . . . . . 584 18.3.  The Proto-Semitic Verbal Paradigm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 586 18.3.1.  The basic stem  587 18.3.2.  The derived stems  591 18.4.  The Sub-grouping of Semitic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 595

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 599 Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 635 Index of Subjects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 635 Index of words from other languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650 Index of Akkadian words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 653

Preface This book is the result of the project “The Akkadian Verb and its Semitic Background,” financed by the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NWO) in the years 2001–2005. It represents the completion of a long preoccupation with the structure and the history of the Akkadian verb, which started with my 1997 doctoral dissertation on the D‑stem. It would not have been written if the NWO had not provided me with a generous grant that allowed me to focus completely on this research project for almost four years without being distracted by other obligations. I am grateful for this grant and for the trust they have had in me. I would also like to thank the Faculty of Arts of Leiden University and the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO) for the facilities they offered me during and after this period. It is a great pleasure to thank the people who have contributed to the completion of this book. In the first place, I thank my supervisor, Klaas Veenhof, who spent much time and energy on this project, dealing with the paperwork for the NWO, and, in the final stages, reading the manuscript, giving valuable comments, and providing me with additional material, especially in Old Assyrian matters. Gonzalo Rubio, editor-in-chief of Eisenbrauns’ series Languages of the Ancient Near East, Wilfred van Soldt, Holger Gzella, Guy Deutscher, and Bram Jagersma also read the manuscript, and Harry Stroomer and Joris Borghouts read parts of it. I would like to thank all of them for their valuable comments. Obviously, none of these colleagues are responsible for any errors, omissions, and incongruities that remain. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my wife Yvonne not only for undertaking the troublesome task of reading through the entire manuscript to eradicate the barbarisms of my English and to improve the style but also for her unfailing moral support and her tolerance during the years that I have been engrossed in the intricacies of the Akkadian verb.


List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology

1.  Abbreviations of Series, Periodicals, Dictionaries, and Manuals AfO AHw AION AJSL AMMK AMMY AnOr. AOAT AoF AOS ArAn. ARES ArOr. AS ASJ Assur AuOr. BagF BBVOT BiOr. BM BSOAS CAD CDA

Archiv für Orientforschung. Vienna. = von Soden 1959/81. Annali dell’Istituto Orientale di Napoli. Naples. American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature. Chicago. Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi. Konferanslari. Ankara. Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi. Yıllığı. Ankara. Analecta Orientalia. Alter Orient und Altes Testament. Altorientalische Forschungen. Berlin. American Oriental Society. Archivum Anatolicum. Ankara. Archivi reali di Ebla—Studi. Archív Orientální. Prague. Assyriological Studies. Acta Sumerologica (Japonica). Tokio. Assur, Monographic Journals of the Near East. Malibu. Aula Orientalis. Barcelona. Baghdader Forschungen (BagF 18 = S. M. Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung). Berliner Beiträge zum vorderen Orient. Texte. Bibliotheca Orientalis. Leiden. Bibliotheca Mesopotamica. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. London. The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, ed. J. Black, A. George, and N. Postgate. Santag 5. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999. = Leslau 1987. CDG CDLJ Cuneiform Digital Library Journal. CILT Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. CM Cuneiform Monographs. CRRAI Comptes rendus de la rencontre assyriologique internationale. DRS = D. Cohen 1994–. DTCFD Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi (Revue de la Faculté de langues, d’histoire et de géographie). Ankara. FAOS Freiburger Altorientalische Studien. FM Florilegium Marianum. Mémoirs de NABU. Paris. GAG = von Soden 1952a. GAG3 = von Soden 1995. GAV = Kouwenberg 1997. GKT = Hecker 1968. GLECS Comptes rendus des séances du Groupe linguistique d’études chamito-sémitiques. Paris. HSAO Heidelberger Studien zum Alten Orient.



Harvard Semitic Studies. Hebrew Union College Annual. Cincinnati. Israel Oriental Studies. Tel Aviv and Winona Lake, IN. Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society. New York. Journal of the American Oriental Society. New Haven, CT. Journal of Cuneiform Studies. New Haven, CT. Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap ‘Ex Oriente Lux’. Leiden. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Chicago. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. London. Journal of Semitic Studies. Manchester. Kleine Untersuchungen zur Sprache des Alten Testaments und seiner Umwelt. Waltrop. Littératures anciennes du Proche-Orient. = Gelb 1957. Mari, Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires. Paris Mesopotamian Civilizations. Mitteilungen des Instituts für Orientforschung. Berlin. Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph. Beyrouth. Materiali Epigraphici di Ebla. Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires. Paris. Old Assyrian Archives, Studies. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis. Oriental Institute Publications (OIP 27 = I. J. Gelb, Inscriptions from Alishar and Vicinity). Orientalia Lovanensia Analecta. Orientalia Lovanensia Periodica. Leuven. Orientalia. Rome. Oriens Antiquus. Rome. Orientalia Suecana. Uppsala. Uitgaven van het Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten te Leiden, voorheen Publications de l’Institut historique-archéologique néerlandais de Stanboul. Quaderni di Semitistica. Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale. Paris. Rivista degli Studi Orientali. Rome. State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts. State Archives of Assyria Studies. = Militarev and Kogan 2000 and 2005. Studi epigraphici e linguistici sul Vicino Oriente antico. Verona. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics. Studien zu den Assur-Texten. Studi Eblaiti. Rome. Studia Orientalia. Helsinki. Türk Tarih Kongresi. Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınlarından. Typological Studies in Language. Ugarit-Forschungen. Münster. Die Welt des Orients. Göttingen. Wörterbuch der klassischen arabischen Sprache. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1958–. Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes. Vienna. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. Berlin. Zeitschrift für Althebraistik. Stuttgart. Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik. Wiesbaden. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. Giessen. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft. Wiesbaden.



List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology

2.  Abbreviations of Text Publications Editions of Akkadian texts are referred to with the abbreviations enumerated in AHw III: ix–xvi, with the following additions: Adapa

S. Izre'el, Adapa and the South Wind. Mesopotamian Civilizations 10. Winona Lake IN, 2001: Eisenbrauns. AIHA F. Rasheed, The Ancient Inscriptions in Himrin Area. Baghdad: The State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, 1981. AKI I. J. Gelb and B. Kienast, Die altakkadischen Königsinschriften des dritten Jahrtausends v. Chr. FAOS 7. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1990. AKT Ankara Kültepe Tabletleri / Ankaraner Külltepe-Texte (1/2: E. Bilgiç et al., 4: I. Albayrak, 5: K. R. Veenhof, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1990, 1995, 2006, and 2010; 3: E. Bilgiç and C. Günbattı, FAOS Beiheft 3, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1995). ARET Archivi reali di Ebla—Testi. Roma: Missione archeologica in Syria. Balag-Komp. K. Volk, Die Balag̃-Komposition úru à-ma-ir-ra-bi. FAOS 18. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1989. BAP B. Meissner, Beiträge zum altbabylonischen Privatrecht. Assyriologische Bibliothek 11. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1893. BDHP L. Waterman, Business Documents of the Hammurabi Period I. AJSL 29 (1913) 145–204; II. ibid. 288–303; III. AJSL 30 (1913/14) 48–73. CTMMA Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vols. I–III. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987–2005. Diagnostik N. P. Heeßel, Babylonisch-assyrische Diagnostik. AOAT 43. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2000. Edikt F. R. Kraus, Ein Edikt des Königs Ammi-ṣaduqa von Babylon. Studia et Documenta ad Iura Orientis Antiqui Pertinentia, vol. V. Leiden: Brill, 1958. ELTS I. J. Gelb; P. Steinkeller; and R. M. Whiting, Earliest Land Tenure Systems in the Near East: Ancient Kudurrus. OIP 104. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1991. Epilepsy M. Stol, Epilepsy in Babylonia. CM 2. Groningen, 1993. EV Estratti di Vocabulari (in Pettinato 1982: 347–81). Fernhandel B. I. Faist, Der Fernhandel des assyrischen Reiches zwischen dem 14. und 11. Jh. v. Chr. AOAT 265. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2001. FI M. Civil, M. The Farmer’s Instructions: A Sumerian Agricultural Manual. AuOr. Supplementa 5. Barcelona: Editorial AUSA, 1994. B. Kienast, Glossar zu den altakkadischen Königsinschriften. FAOS 8. Stuttgart: GAKI Franz Steiner, 1994. Gilg. A. R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. K. Radner, Das mittelassyrische Tontafelarchiv von Giricano /Dunnu-ša-Uzibi. Giricano Subartu XIV. Turnhout: Brepols, 2004. Innāya C. Michel, Innāya dans les tablettes paléo-assyriennes II: Edition des texts. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1991. Ištar B. Groneberg, Lob der Ištar, Gebet und Ritual an die altbabylonische Venusgöttin. CM 8. Groningen, 1997. Siglum of unpublished tablets from Kültepe (Kaniš). kt Kaufvertragsrecht B. Kienast, Das altassyrische Kaufvertragsrecht. FAOS Beiheft 1. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1984. Land Tenure A. Suleiman, A Study of Land Tenure in the Old Babylonian Period with Special Reference to the Diyala Region, Based on Published and Unpublished Texts. Ph.D. dissertation, London, 1966. Legends = Westenholz 1997. LB Siglum of unpublished tablets in the de Liagre Böhl Collection, Leiden.

List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology


̃ ÁL. Leiden: Brill, 1983. J. van Dijk, LUGAL UD ME-LÁM-bi NIR-G H. Freydank, Mittelassyrische Rechtsurkunden und Verwaltungstexte I–VII, 1976– 2006. MATC S. Jakob, Die mittelassyrische Texte aus Tell Chuēra in Nordost-Syrien. Vorderasiatische Forschungen der Max Freiherr von Oppenheim-Stiftung, Band 2, Teil III. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009. MATSH = Cancik-Kirschbaum 1996. O. R. Gurney, The Middle Babylonian Legal and Economic Texts from Ur. British MBTU School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1983. MesMagic Mesopotamian Magic. Textual, Historical and Interpretative Perspectives, ed. T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn. Ancient Magic and Divination 1. Groningen: Styx, 1999. Mesopotamian History and Environment: Texts. Ghent: University of Ghent, 1991–. MHET MSL SS Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon, Supplementary Series. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1986. MVN 3 D. I. Owen, The John Frederick Lewis Collection. Materiali per il vocabolario neosumerico, vol III. Rome: Multigrafica, 1975. NATN D. I. Owen, Neo-Sumerian Archival Texts Primarily from Nippur. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1982. NATSH K. Radner, Die neuassyrischen Texte aus Tall Šēḫ Ḥamad. Berichte der Ausgrabung Tall Šēḫ Ḥamad/Dūr-Katlimmu, Band 6, Texte 2. Berlin: Reimer, 2002. NBNippur = Cole 1996. NTA V. Donbaz, Ninurta-Tukulti-Aššur. TTKY VI/19. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1976. OAA Old Assyrian Archives. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2002–. OBAH F. N. H. Al-Rawi and S. Dalley, Old Babylonian Texts from Private Houses at Abu Habbah, Ancient Sippar. Baghdad University Excavations. É-DUB-BA-A 7. London: NABU Publications, 2000. U. Jeyes, Old Babylonian Extispicy: Omen Texts in the British Museum. PIHANS 64. OBE Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 1989. OBHorn 1 and 2 M. Sigrist, Old Babylonian Account Texts in the Horn Archaeological Museum. Andrews University Cuneiform Texts IV and V. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1990 and 2003. K. van Lerberghe, Old Babylonian Legal and Administrative Texts from Philadelphia. OBLAP OLA 21. Leuven: Peeters, 1986. OBRED L. Dekiere, Old Babylonian Real Estate Documents from Sippar in the British Museum. MHET, Series III, vol. II, 1–6. Ghent: University of Ghent, 1994–1997. = Whiting 1987. OBTA POAT W. C. Gwaltney Jr., The Pennsylvania Old Assyrian Texts. Hebrew Union College Annual Supplements 3. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, 1983. K. Hecker, G. Kryszat, and L. Matouš, Kappadokische Keilschrifttafeln aus den Prag I Sammlungen der Karlsuniversität Prag. Prague: Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy, 1998. RIMA Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Assyrian Periods. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987–. A. Rositani, Rīm-Anum Texts in the British Museum. Nisaba 4. Messina: Di.Sc.A.M, Rīm-Anum 2004. Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods. Toronto: University of Toronto RIME Press, 1990–. RitDiv. I. Starr, The Rituals of the Diviner. BM 12. Malibu: Undena, 1983. ŠA S. M. Freedman, If a City Is Set on a Height: The Akkadian Omen Series Šumma Ālu ina Mēlê Šakin, Volume I: Tablets 1–21. Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 17. Philadelphia: Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 1998. SAA State Archives of Assyria. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1987–. Lugal MARV

xviii SAB Sadberk

List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology

= Kienast and Volk 1995. V. Donbaz, Cuneiform Tablets in the Sadberk Hanim Museum. Istanbul: Sadberk Hanim Müzesi, 1999. ShA J. Eidem, and J. Læssøe, The Shemshara Archives, Vol. I: The Letters. Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2001. SKS W. Farber, Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf!, Mesopotamische Baby-Beschwörungen und ‑Rituale. MC 2. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989. St. Alp Hittite and other Anatolian and Near Eastern Studies in Honour of Sedat Alp, ed. H. Otten et al. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1992. Studies Presented to Robert D. Biggs, June 4, 2004, ed. M. Roth et al. From the St. Biggs Workshop of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, Volume 2. AS 27. Chicago: Oriental Institute, 2007. Miscellanea Babylonica: Mélanges offerts à Maurice Birot, ed. J.-M. Durand and St. Birot J.‑R. Kupper. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1985. St. de Meyer Cinquante-deux réflexions sur le Proche-Orient ancien, offertes en homage à Léon de Meyer, ed. H. Gasche et al. Mesopotamian History and Environment. Occasional Publications 2. Leuven: Peeters, 1994. St. Dietrich Ex Mesopotamia et Syria Lux: Festschrift für Manfried Dietrich zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, ed. O. Loretz et al. AOAT 281. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2002. St. Finet Reflets des Deux Fleuves: Volume de mélanges offerts à André Finet, ed. M. Lebeau and P. Talon. Akkadica Supplementum VI. Leuven: Peeters, 1989. St. Garelli Marchands, Diplomates et Empereurs: Études sur la civilization mésopotamienne offertes à Paul Garelli, ed. D. Charpin and F. Joannès. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1991. St. Kraus Zikir Šumim: Assyriological Studies Presented to F. R. Kraus on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. G. van Driel et al. Leiden: Brill, 1982. St. Landsberger Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on his Seventy-fifth Birthday, April 21, 1965, ed. H. G. Güterbock and T. Jacobsen. AS 16. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. St. Larsen Assyria and Beyond: Studies Presented to Mogens Trolle Larsen, ed. J. G. Dercksen. PIHANS 100. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2004. Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of St. Moran William L. Moran, ed. T Abusch et al. HSS 37. Atlanta: Scholars, 1990. St. Nimet Özgüç Aspects of Art and Iconography: Anatolia and its Neighbors—Studies in Honor of Nimet Özgüç, ed. M. J. Mellink et al. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1993. St. Oelsner Assyriologica et Semitica: Festschrift für Joachim Oelsner, ed. J. Marzahn and H. Neumann. AOAT 252. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2000. St. Pettinato Von Sumer nach Ebla und zurück: Festschrift Giovanni Pettinato, ed. H. Waetzoldt. HSAO 9. Heidelberg: Heidelberger Orientverlag, 2004. Language, Literature, and History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented St. Reiner to Erica Reiner, ed. F. Rochberg-Halton. AOS 67. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1987. St. Sjöberg DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A, Studies in Honor of Åke W. Sjöberg, ed. H. Behrens et al. Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 11. Philadelphia: The Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 1989. St. Veenhof Veenhof Anniversary Volume, ed. W. H. van Soldt et al. PIHANS 89. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2001. St. von Soden (AOAT 1) Lišān Mitḫurti: Festschrift Wolfram Freiherr von Soden, ed. W. Röllig. AOAT 1. Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker / Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1969. St. von Soden (AOAT 240) Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament: Festschrift für Wolfram Freiherrn von Soden zum 85. Geburtstag am 19. Juni 1993, ed. M. Dietrich and O. Loretz. AOAT 240. Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker / Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1995.

List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology St. Walker Tall Biʿa TAZ TB 1 TCBI TPAK VE


Mining the Archives: Festschrift for Christopher Walker, ed. C. Wunsch. Babylonische Archive 1. Dresden: ISLET, 2002. = Krebernik 2001. = Sommerfeld 1999. = Ismail et al. 1996; 2: L. Milano; W. Sallaberger; P. Talon; and K. van Lerberghe. Third Millennium Cuneiform Texts from Tell Beydar (Seasons 1996–2002). Subartu XII. Turnhout, 2004. Tavolette cuneiformi . . . delle collezioni della Banca d’Italia, 2 vols. Rome: Banca d’Italia, 2006. C. Michel and P. Garelli, Tablettes paléo-assyriennes de Kültepe, volume I (Kt 90/k). Paris: De Boccard, 2001. (Sinossi del) Vocabulario di Ebla (in Pettinato 1982: 197–343).

3. Other Abbreviations AA Afroasiatic Acc accusative adjective Adj Akk Akkadian All allative Ar Arabic Aram Aramaic ArBab Archaic Babylonian Ass Assyrian Bab Babylonian Bo Boğazköy c. br. context broken c. st. construct state comm. sect.   commentary section (in CAD) cp(s) copy/copies CT consecutio temporum Dat dative DN divine name DNF feminine divine name Du dual duf dual feminine dum dual masculine Ebl Eblaite e.o. each other ESA Epigraphic South Arabian Eth Ethiopian Fem feminine Gen genitive GN geographic name He Hebrew Imp imperative Impf imperfect Impfv imperfective incant. incantation Indic indicative Inf infinitive intr. intransitive Juss jussive

LB lex. sect. lit. LL MA Masc MB MN MSA NA NB Nn Nom OA OAk OB Obl p Partc Perf pf Pl pm PN PNF PPartc Prec Pres Pret Proh prov. PrPartc PSAk PSem R1 R2 R3 R4

Late Babylonian lexical section (in CAD) literal(ly) (attested in a) lexical list Middle Assyrian masculine Middle Babylonian month name Modern South Arabian Neo-Assyrian Neo-Babylonian noun (indexes) nominative Old Assyrian Old Akkadian Old Babylonian oblique case person participle perfect plural feminine plural plural masculine proper name feminine proper name past participle precative present preterite prohibitive provenance present participle Pre-Sargonic Akkadian Proto-Semitic first radical second radical third radical fourth radical

List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology

xx RI(s) SAk sb. SB Sem sf Sg sm Stat sth. Subj Sum

royal inscription(s) Sargonic Akkadian somebody Standard Babylonian Semitic singular feminine singular singular masculine stative something subjunctive Sumerian

Syr TN t‑Pf tr. trans. Ugar var. Vb Vent Vet WSem

Syriac temple name t‑perfect translation transitive Ugaritic variant verb (indexes) ventive vetitive West Semitic

4. Symbols /.../ [...] ⟨  ⟩

surrounds a phonological interpretation of a transliterated word or a cuneiform sign surrounds a phonetic approximation of a phonological interpretation1 (surrounding a cuneiform) sign indicates the specific reading of the sign (capitals indicate the name of the sign): pi = ⟨wa⟩, bad = ⟨be⟩ > and < indicate a phonological change, e.g. *baytum > bītum; *yilqaḥ > yilqē > ilqē; iššakin > (Ass) iššikin, or a semantic change, e.g. šaknum ‘appointed’ > ‘governor’. → and ← indicate (1) a morphophonemic or morphosyntactic (analogical) change or replacement, e.g., *ušāḫaz → ušaḫḫaz; nāmurum → nanmurum; iššaknū → (Ass) iššiknū; (2) a relationship of derivation, e.g., iparrVs → paris; iparras → ipparras. // separates different manuscripts (duplicates) of the same text. * precedes a reconstructed but not actually attested form. ** precedes an incorrectly reconstructed or presupposed form: **putanrrusum (Inf Dtn), **innimir.

Conventions of Transcription and Terminology For Akkadian, I have in general adopted a transliteration system that is fairly close to what may be considered to be the actual form of the word—i.e., basically that of von Soden and Röllig 1991 rather than the more “objective” system of Gelb 1970 and CAD; see Reiner 1973: 39–45 for a discussion of some relevant points. I will also adhere to the traditional convention of distinguishing between long vowels with a circumflex (if they are contractions of adjacent vowels) and long vowels with a macron (if they are “originally” long or compensate for a lost guttural or sonant), although it is unlikely that there is a phonological motivation to do so. However, for third-millennium Akkadian, this system is problematic for several reasons (see Rubio 2003b: 363–67 and Hasselbach 2005: 24–25). Therefore, I have adopted for Sargonic Akkadian Gelb’s system of transliteration, which is also used in Hasselbach’s recent grammar of Sargonic Akkadian (2005), supplemented by a phonological interpretation (which is of course subjective), e.g. ga-ti-su /qātīsu/, ìl-gi /yilqē/, iš-du-ud /yisdud/, etc.2 For Mari Old Akkadian, 1.  For instance, in Old Assyrian /qabyāku/ represents what I take to be the most likely phonological representation of qá-áb-a-ku and qá-bi-a-ku ‘I have (been) told’. Occasionally, I have ventured to posit a more phonetic reconstruction, e.g. [qabiyāku]. 2.  The contrast between the phoneme /s/ of Sargonic Akkadian corresponding with /š/ elsewhere (including Mari Old Akkadian; Hasselbach 2005: 135–36) is awkward in cross-dialectal comparison. There-

List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology


which has only one series of sibilants as compared with the two series found in Sargonic Akkadian (A. Westenholz 1978: 163a), I will use š for the reflex of PSem *š/ś, e.g. ù-šu-rí-id /y?ušūrid/ AKI p. 361 MŠ 4:4), where Sargonic Akkadian would have /yusūrid/.3 For Ur III Babylonian, I will normalize the transliteration in accordance with later Babylonian practice. Whenever this seemed relevant, I have added to third-millennium quotations an indication of the genre and the provenance of the text.4 Also for Eblaite, where the distance between spelling and the (presumably) intended form is fairly large and many interpretations are uncertain, I have preferred the more cautious transliteration that is employed by most specialists; for instance, I write mu-sa-ga-i-núm (VE 1306) rather than mu-śa-kà-i-núm for what is phonologically doubtless /muskayyinum/ (Bab muškênu ‘commoner’; see §13.4.4, p. 347). For the second-millennium and later dialects, I use the traditional system of transcription as it is applied in the standard manuals and dictionaries, although this is not always phonologically accurate and sometimes inconsistent with the third-millennium transcriptions. I use the forms of Old Babylonian, but without mimation, as the “default dialect” for quoting verbs in contexts where no specific dialect is referred to or when the form in question is not attested nor reconstructible for the dialect under discussion; for instance, I speak of the verb petû ‘to open’. Other forms, such as Old Assyrian patāʾum or Middle Assyrian patāʾu, will only be quoted when this is relevant in the context. With regard to other Semitic languages, I have opted for a transcription system that suits the historical and comparative orientation of the present study. For Hebrew, this is basically the Moscati system (Moscati, ed. 1964: 50), with ẹ for ṣerē (ֵ   ), e for s  egōl (ֶ   ), a for pataḥ (ַ   ), ā or o for qāmeṣ (ָ    ), o for ḥolem (ֹ    ), and u for ḥireq (  ִ ), with an additional macron if the vowel is long, and the superscript version for ḥāṭēp and pataḥ furtivum. Spirantization of consonants will be ignored. For Geʿez, I will also follow Moscati, ed. 1964: 54 in using a for the 1st order, ū for the 2nd order, ī for the 3rd order, ā for the 4th order, ē for the 5th order, ə or ∅ for the 6th order, and ō for the 7th order. For consonants of Proto-Semitic for which there is no generally accepted symbol, I will use the rather traditional and typographically convenient system of Moscati, ed. 1964: 43–44, with, however, θ for the voiceless interdental (> Akk š ), ð for the voiced interdental (> Akk z), θ̣ for the glottalic interdental (> Akk ṣ), and ṣ́ for the glottalic lateral fricative (> Akk ṣ), which is also written ð̣ or ḏ̣ elsewhere (see also Huehnergard 2004: 142–43). For the Proto-Semitic sibilants, I will use the familiar signs *š, ś, and *s rather than *s1, *s2, and *s3 (cf. Faber 1981: 253–57). With regard to grammatical terminology, there are two particular areas where the juxtaposition of forms from different languages leads to terminological difficulties: the tense/aspect system and the system of derived verbal stems. The tense/aspect system of the older Semitic languages is based on a binary opposition between a marked and an unmarked category, the former having an imperfective aspect and usually referring to non-past tense, whereas the latter may basically be a perfective but is generally used as a straightforward past tense. In the various Semitic languages, different terms are traditionally used to refer to these categories, such as Imperfect, Present, and fore, I will ignore this difference and use Babylonian š in the pertinent words, except in the phonological representation of Sargonic Akkadian words between slashes, e.g. /yusēṣī/, the Š Perf of waṣû ‘to go /come out’, but elsewhere yušēṣī. 3.  See §16.2.3 (p. 455) for this form. 4.  For the label “Me-ság,” which refers to the Sargonic Akkadian texts of BIN 8 coming from the estate of Me-ság in the Umma or Girsu region, see Foster 1982a: 6 and 1982b: 301.


List of Abbreviations, Symbols, and Terminology

Durative for the marked category, and Perfect and Preterite for the unmarked category (whereas in Akkadian “Perfect” refers to a third category). If we include other branches of Afroasiatic, a massive terminological confusion arises in which no term can be taken at its face value and in which categories that correspond across languages have quite different labels. In order to avoid ambiguity on the one hand and cumbersome formulations on the other, I—at least for Semitic—use the terms imperfective and perfective for the marked and the unmarked variants of the prefix conjugations, respectively, regardless of the traditional term in a given language and no matter whether the category in question is perhaps more temporal than aspectual (as is certainly the case in Akkadian; see §4.3, pp. 91–95): so Akk iparrVs, Ar yaqtVlu, He yiqṭol and Geʿez yəqattəl are imperfective; Akk iprVs, Ar yaqtVl, and He (way)yiqṭol are perfective (in so far as they have indicative function). For the rest, I use the traditional terms perfect and jussive for the West Semitic suffix conjugation (qatVla) and the irrealis use of yaqtVl, respectively. For the Akkadian past tense with infixed t (iptarVs), I use the label t‑perfect to avoid confusion with the West Semitic perfect. For other languages, I use the terms imperfective and perfective when these are clearly appropriate, or else the labels current in the specific language (with an initial capital), with a definition when ambiguity might arise. The abbreviations of grammatical terms in the list of abbreviations are mainly used as tags to specific forms quoted. Each Semitic language also has its own terminology for the derived verbal stems,5 and even for Akkadian itself two different systems are in use. For specific languages, I will use the system current for that language, but for comparative purposes and when referring to a specific stem across languages, I follow the Akkadian notation employed by W. von Soden in his grammar (GAG) and his dictionary (AHw), which is transparent and mnemonically superior. For the derived stems with a lengthened vowel, which occur in some West Semitic languages but not in Akkadian, I use the symbol L when that is convenient. 5.  See Goshen-Gottstein 1969 for a description of the history of the terms; Tropper 2002: 100–101 and Lipiński 1997: 334 contain handy tables for comparing the various terminological systems.

Part One

Preliminaries Chapter 1

Objective, Structure, and Method

1.1. Objective This book has two closely related objectives: to describe the Akkadian verbal system during its period of attestation, and to reconstruct its prehistory on the basis of internal reconstruction, comparison with cognate languages, and typological evidence. The first of these aims is a necessary prerequisite for the second: before we start comparing aspects of the Akkadian verb with corresponding phenomena in related languages, we must squeeze the maximum amount of information out of the languages involved—in particular, Akkadian itself. Moreover, description of the Akkadian verb has a merit of its own, because Akkadian has one of the longest documented histories of all languages: data are available from about two and a half millennia—although the data are not without interruptions and are not always as copious as we would like. During the course of this history, numerous developments took place, illustrating how languages change over time and offering parallels for the reconstruction of changes that occurred in poorly documented periods. Knowledge of historical processes enables us to go backward in time by extrapolating them into prehistory, especially because such processes are often cyclic. There is no lack of detailed and competent studies of the Akkadian verb and specific aspects of it, among which we of course single out W. von Soden’s monumental Grundriss der akkadi­schen Grammatik (1952), which has lost little of its relevance as a comprehensive description of Akkadian, although several of its historical and more theoretical statements are in need of revision. Nonetheless, even further progress can be gained from a variety of strategies. The first one is a more detailed and more comprehensive look at our primary evidence, the Akkadian texts themselves, which constitute our basic set of data. They still contain untapped resources that can be made available by means of systematic comparison between dialects, detailed investigation of orthographical features, and the exploitation of new data from recently published texts and to some extent also from the language of Ebla, which is gradually revealing more and more of its secrets. A second strategy is a greater emphasis on the systematic nature of the Akkadian verb. A verbal system is a complex structure, with its own dynamics based on and driven by the functions it has to perform. This means that we should not limit ourselves to an atomistic description of the verbal categories in isolation from one another but also study their interactions and the ways they influence each other through the course of time. The structure of the paradigm and the 1

Method  1.2.


dependency relations between its members hold important clues for understanding diachronic processes and thus also for reconstructing its prehistoric development. A third strategy is the use of typological evidence, which provides insight into the question of what kinds of developments are common or uncommon in the history of languages. Therefore, it is an important tool in evaluating the likelihood of proposed hypothetical developments and particularly relevant in situations where actual data are inadequate. By combining these strategies, I will describe the verbal categories of Akkadian as they developed in the historical period, reconstruct the oldest attainable situation, compare this with other Semitic languages, and formulate a hypothesis regarding the structure of the verb in ProtoSemitic from an Akkadian perspective, in order to bridge the gap between Akkadian and the rest of Semitic and to shed light on the diachronic processes that have led to their diversification. Deeper comparison on the level of Afroasiatic is not a specific aim of this book, although I will not hesitate to use Afroasiatic evidence if I consider it relevant to the point under discussion. In fact, achieving some kind of consensus about the nature of Proto-Semitic is a major condition for a fruitful study of Afroasiatic.

1.2.  Method The methods used will be in accordance with the objectives outlined in the preceding section. The extant Akkadian texts provide the primary data for a description of the verbal system. This description is in principle synchronic, but because of the large time span covered by the recorded history of Akkadian, this is hardly the appropriate term. A synchronic description is only possible for the individual dialects or periods of Akkadian, even though generally speaking the differences between them—or rather between the written forms in which they are available to us—are surprisingly small. I will instead use the term “historical” for the descriptive part of the present study, in contrast to “prehistoric,” when referring to the reconstruction of the genesis of the verbal system, which mainly took place in the prehistoric period. The reconstruction of the prehistoric development will primarily be based on the time-­honored methods of historical linguistics: internal reconstruction and the comparative method (in this order). However, they can be supplemented by other approaches that have been developed in the domain of general linguistics in the past few decades. I will single out three of them that are immediately relevant to the historical study of language in general, and to the present study in particular: (diachronic) typology, grammaticalization, and the structure of paradigms.

1.2.1.  (Diachronic) Typology Of particular importance to historical linguistics is the typological approach to language, which originates with Greenberg’s studies on word-order universals (Greenberg 1963, 1966) and was carried on by others, such as Bybee (1985, 2001), Croft (1991, 2003), Givón (especially 1979, 1995), Hopper and Thompson (1980, 1984), to mention only those who have been a particular source of inspiration for the present study. This typological approach starts from the assumption that variation in language is subject to universal restrictions that are ultimately grounded in the function(s) language performs. It investigates these restrictions in order to detect cross-linguistic regularities and ultimately to establish what is a possible human language or, perhaps more modestly, “what is a more probable, as opposed to less probable, human language” (Song 2001: 3). The basic method of typologists is large-scale comparison on the basis of a representative corpus of languages. Studies of this kind have revealed remarkable parallels in the way in which par-

1.2.  Method


ticular domains of grammar are encoded cross-linguistically, such as the expression of the passive (Siewierska 1984; Keenan 1985; Haspelmath 1990), the middle voice (Kemmer 1993), the causative (Nedyalkov and Silnitsky 1973; Song 1996), the resultative (Nedjalkov and Jaxon­tov 1988), tense/aspect in general (Dahl 1985; Bybee et al. 1994), adjectives (Dixon 1982; Wetzer 1996; Dixon and Aikhenvald 2004), intransitive predicates (Stassen 1997), and nominal predicates (Hengeveld 1992). It has also become clear that these domains tend to be grammaticalized through a restricted number of diachronic processes. This is the field of diachronic typology, which studies occurring changes (Greenberg 1995) in order to understand the limits of possible diversity (Givón 1999: 110). Diachronic typology conceives language states as stages in a process of change, so that the focus of attention shifts from the states themselves to the transitions between them (Croft 2003: 232–44). This has blurred the borderline between synchronic and diachronic linguistics, which has had the status of a dogma since Saussure and has long tended to relegate historical linguistics to a marginal position. It is now recognized that both approaches are equally valuable, that change is an inherent property of language, and that there are grammatical phenomena that can best be meaningfully described in a historical perspective (Hopper 1987; Heine and Claudi 1986: 147–50; Heine et al. 1991: 248–52; Bybee 2001: 57, 189–215). The typologists maintain a different emphasis from the more traditional comparative linguists: they are primarily interested in the process of diachronic change itself and the principles that govern it, and therefore focus on historical stages of languages that are attested over a long period. They do not shun reconstructions but regard them as by-products rather than as goals in themselves (Givón 1999: 109–11). Their studies have shown that diachronic developments in languages tend to follow rather narrowly circumscribed paths that recur again and again with different lexical means even in unrelated languages. This enables us to determine which kinds of historical processes are common in language development, and which kinds are uncommon or even not attested, and thus to check our hypotheses and reconstructions. The importance of this kind of information for the reconstruction of prehistoric stages of a language is obvious: a hypothetical reconstruction that has parallels in historical developments has a greater plausibility than one that has few or no parallels. The latter is not automatically disqualified but needs to be supported by stronger evidence to be acceptable.

1.2.2.  Grammaticalization The study of diachronic processes in language has demonstrated the importance of grammaticalization as a pervasive principle of language development. Grammaticalization is “that subset of linguistic changes whereby a lexical item or construction in certain uses takes on grammatical characteristics, or through which a grammatical item becomes more grammatical” (Hopper and Traugott 2003: 2).1 If an element undergoes grammaticalization, it becomes more frequent but less independent, it gets a more general and more grammatical meaning, a reduced form, and a less variable position. Ultimately, it may lose its status as an independent word and become a clitic or an affix with a grammatical rather than a lexical meaning. Accordingly, grammaticalization is an important mechanism for creating new grammatical categories and for replacing existing ones, in contrast to sound change and analogy, which normally only modify existing 1.  General introductions are Hopper and Traugott 2003 and Heine et al. 1991; see also Croft 2003: 253–79; Bybee et al. 1994: 4–9; Joseph and Janda, eds. 2003: 575–601. A non-technical account of grammaticalization and its role in the development of language, with special attention to the rise of the Semitic verbal system, is Deutscher 2005.

Method  1.2.


categories (Meillet 1948b: 133). It has its own dynamics and follows its own rules, and is often cyclical: a new mode of expression that has arisen because of its greater expressivity gradually replaces the older expression, loses its expressivity in the process and becomes vulnerable to being replaced in its turn.2 The study of well-documented grammaticalization processes has provided a considerable amount of knowledge that is applicable to the clarification of synchronic states of languages without a documented past. Since it is inherently diachronic, it has—together with typology—strongly contributed to ending the (post‑)Saussurean bias in favour of synchronic analysis and to creating an upsurge in diachronic research. A grammaticalization process that is particularly relevant for the present study is the renewal of tense and aspect categories. As far as I am aware, Jerzy Kuryłowicz was the first to draw attention to the regularity and recursiveness in the way the verbal categories referring to the present and the past evolve over time. He formulates the development of present categories as follows (1975: 104): The most important phenomenon which has repeated itself over and over again and has left numerous traces in the old I.E. languages, is the renewal of the durative character of the verbal forms denoting the moment of speaking (present-imperfect system). The durative form may easily invade other semantic spheres: general (“timeless”) present, futurity, modality (“capability,” “eventuality”), etc. This expansion, involving the loss of expressiveness (i.e., of concentration on durativity), is the cause of drawing upon derived forms designed to renew the durative function. A formal split is likely to ensue: durative present (new form) and general or indetermined present (old form), present (new form) and future (old form), indicative (new form) and subjunctive (old form).

A corresponding process for the past tense starts with the perfect: As regards the so-called perfect the normal evolution seems to be: derived form (or verbal noun + auxiliary verb) > perfect > indetermined past (“passé indéfini”) > narrative tense. The derivative is adopted as a regular member of the conjugation in order to replace the old form of the perfect, which, having been additionally charged with the narrative function, has lost its expressiveness. (Kuryłowicz 1975: 106; see also ibid. 128).

Kuryłowicz’s claims have been confirmed by the cross-linguistic study of grammaticalization processes by Bybee et al. (1994) and have been applied to the Semitic languages by D. Cohen (1984) in his monumental study of the renewal of verbal categories in Semitic. Bybee et al. have established far-reaching commonalities in the ways verbal categories that are semantically parallel develop over time even in unrelated languages. They investigate in particular the evolution of past tense forms, the rise of futures and irrealis forms, and—most importantly for the present study—the renewal of present and imperfective categories. D. Cohen uses the long period of attestation of most West Semitic languages to investigate the evolution of the verbal system and 2.  See Heine et al. 1991: 243–47 (they refer in particular to Hodge [1970], who illustrated this with examples from Old Egyptian and Coptic); Hopper and Traugott 2003: 122–24; Givón 1971; Croft 2003: 253; Haspelmath 1998: 54–55. Prominent examples of cyclic processes in Semitic are the renewal of the verbal categories by means of periphrastic constructions (to be described in chap. 4), the restriction of the perfective iprVs to subordinate clauses in later Akkadian, a repetition of what happened to the original Proto-Semitic imperfective *yiqtVlu, which became a subjunctive in Akkadian (see §9.3.3, pp. 227–232); the introduction of the new pluractional category ipta(na)rrVs after the earlier pluractional iparrVs had become the regular imperfective (see §14.7.6, pp. 431–437); and the development of the original stative/ resultative suffix conjugation into the West Semitic perfect, which is a repetition of what happened to the earlier Proto-Semitic perfective *yiqtVl.

1.2.  Method


to show in detail how the same functional tendencies repeatedly trigger the renewal of existing verbal categories. Since this is an important clue to the understanding of the evolution of the verb in prehistoric times as well, I will discuss it in greater detail in chap. 4 on the Akkadian imperfective iparrVs.3 In sum, the interest in diachronic typology and grammaticalization has proved highly fruitful for the historical study of language, especially for the solution of diachronic problems, such as the way in which complex grammatical systems develop over time. This approach is crucial for the solution of the problems caused by the Akkadian verb and its relation to the verb in other Semitic languages.

1.2.3.  The structure of paradigms An important means for language speakers to handle complex morphological structures is to organize them in paradigms. According to Bybee (1985: 49), a paradigm is “a group of inflectionally related words with a common lexical stem”.4 Each form (or “member”) is specified for one or more of the relevant inflectional categories constituting the paradigm. In a nominal paradigm, these typically include case, gender, and number; in a verbal paradigm, they include person, gender, number, tense/aspect, mood, and diathesis (Booij 1998: 15). A paradigm has a hierarchical structure, in which some forms are (more) basic and others (more) derived. Generally speaking, the more basic forms are those that perform the prototypical functions of the paradigm. For a verbal paradigm, this means that verb forms are more basic when they are finite rather than non-finite, when they refer to an event rather than to a state, and when they are realis (indicative) rather than non-realis.5 Among the finite realis forms, the most basic forms are those that refer to the actual moment of speech—that is, those of the present or imperfective—and among the persons of this category, it is the third-person singular that is the most basic form of the verbal paradigm.6 In accordance with their prototypical status, the finite realis forms also tend to show the greatest number of morphosemantic distinctions—typically, 3.  For a survey of grammaticalization processes in Semitic languages, see Rubin 2005. Deutscher 2000 is a pioneering study of the grammaticalization of complement markers in Akkadian. For an application of the results of Bybee et al.’s investigations on the verb in Biblical Hebrew, see T. D. Andersen 2000. Cook 2001 also offers a grammaticalization approach to the Hebrew verbal system. 4.  Cf. also Hock (1991: 168), who defines a paradigm as “the set of inflected forms of a given word.” 5.  See in general Bybee 1985: 49–65; for events versus states: Givón 1984: 51–56; for realis versus non-realis: Manńczak 1958: 387–88; Greenberg 1966: 46; Hopper and Thompson 1984: 708, 726; Givón 1995: 56. 6.  For the basicness of the present or imperfective, see Mánczak 1958: 388; Greenberg 1966: 48–49; Hock 1991: 218–220; H. Anderson 1990: 8–10; Croft 2003: 162. With regard to Semitic languages, Greenberg (1966: 48), Benmamoun (1999), Ratcliffe (1998a: 33 n. 6), and Heath (2002: 120–21) argue that the imperfective is the basis of word formation in Arabic. For the third-person singular as the most basic form of a verbal paradigm, see Kuryłowicz 1964: 137; Bybee and Brewer 1980: 210–14; Bybee 1985: 50; Hock 1991: 220–22; Aikhenvald and Dixon 1998: 61–62; van Loon 2005: 13 and 46. The main arguments are the following. First, semantically, the third person is the “zero person,” which refers to the one who is not present at the speech situation and which accordingly often has zero expression (Benveniste 1966; Kuryłowicz 1968: 74); second, where word counts are available, the third person usually turns out to have the highest frequency (Greenberg 1966: 44–45); third, in language acquisition by children, the third-person singular present is acquired first in many languages and used initially for all other forms of the paradigm (Bybee 1985: 50–51; Bybee Hooper 1980); fourth, in historical change, this form often serves as the basis for the innovation of the paradigm or for the remake of other forms (Bybee and Brewer 1980: 210–14 for Spanish and Provençal dialects). In nominal paradigms, it is usually the nominative or the absolutive that is basic (Hock 1991: 216–18).


Method  1.2.

those of tense/aspect, mood, diathesis, person, number, and gender; the less prototypical forms, in contrast, often show varying degrees of neutralization of these verbal distinctions. The prototypical members also tend to be the most frequent, and according to Bybee (1985: 117–18), frequency is the ultimate criterion for determining basicness: each time a form is heard and produced, it becomes more entrenched in the speaker’s mind and acquires what she calls a greater “lexical strength.” A great lexical strength entails a high degree of “autonomy”—that is, the degree to which the word in question is represented as an independent item in the speaker’s mental lexicon. Autonomous forms are relatively resistant to change (see below) and are the basis on which other, less frequent and therefore less autonomous, forms are built. In a complex paradigm, the members are organized in subgroups on the basis of similarity in meaning. Similarity in meaning can be measured by means of Bybee’s concept of relevance— that is, the degree to which the contrast between the respective forms affects the semantic content (Bybee 1985: 33): a contrast is more relevant as it has more drastic consequences for the nature of the action. In a verbal paradigm, for instance, differences in person are less relevant than differences in aspect, because for the nature of the action it makes less difference who performs it than how it is performed; in the noun, differences in case are less relevant than differences in number and gender, since the former do not affect the lexical meaning. Traditionally, forms that are similar are arranged in conjugations (in the verb) and declensions (in the noun). The definition of a paradigm quoted above stipulates that the members of a paradigm have inflectional status. As such, they are opposed to (etymologically or historically) related forms with derivational status.7 The difference is aptly summarized by Haspelmath (1996: 47): “the most basic property of inflectional forms is that they are described exclusively in grammatical paradigms, whereas derivational formations are described by listing them individually in a dictionary.” In more concrete terms, inflectional forms generally serve to express a relatively small, closed set of grammatical functions; they are predictable in meaning and function and often also in form, and they are fully productive, since they must be available for each lexeme, unless semantic factors interfere (Booij 1998: 14–15). Derivation typically serves to create new lexemes on the basis of others in order to express complex meanings that are in some way related to the basic word. It cannot be applied automatically and may therefore be more or less productive (Hock 1991: 173–75; Booij 1998: 16–17). The semantic relationship between source word and derivation is much more unpredictable than in the case of inflection: since a derivational form is essentially an independent lexeme, it undergoes lexicalization more easily than an inflectional member of a paradigm (Bybee 2001: 118).8 However, the boundary between inflection and derivation is not clear-cut (Bybee 1985: 81– 84, 108–9; Dressler 1989). Instead, it is a continuum, with prototypically inflectional and prototypically derivational categories at both ends, and in between are the categories that are more 7.  A selection of the huge literature about inflectional versus derivational categories should include Kuryłowicz 1964: 35–38; Bybee 1985: 81–110; Dressler 1989; Haspelmath 1996; Booij 1998; Stump 2001: 252–60. 8.  An often-quoted difference between inflection and derivation is that derivation entails a change in the syntactic category (word class) of the word. This is indeed often the case, but it does not seem to be an essential property (Haspelmath 1996; Booij 1998: 12–14). Well-known derivational categories such as diminutives (nouns from nouns), derived adjectives (such as English adjectives with -ish: bluish from blue), and verbs from verbs (in particular, the derived verbal stems of Semitic; see §10.5, pp. 250–252) do not entail a category change. Nor is it an essential property of inflection that it does not entail a change in wordclass; cf. infinitives and participles, which are nouns and often inflectional members of the verbal paradigm (Haspelmath 1996).

1.2.  Method


or less inflectional or derivational depending on the number of features they show of either kind (Kuryłowicz 1964: 37). The gradual nature of the contrast makes it possible for categories to shift from (more) derivational to (more) inflectional and vice versa: lexicalization and grammaticalization, respectively (see §2.2.3, pp. 35–36). A paradigm is a dynamic structure: the relations between its members are in a constant flux. Some of them may be expanding their range of use, usurping functions of others; other members may be in a process of gradual decline or replacement by another form. Therefore, the structure of a paradigm is also relevant from a historical point of view.9 The most important point is that the hierarchy among its members influences the type of change to which they are exposed. We can distinguish three kinds of historical changes affecting the members of a paradigm: sound change, analogical (morphophonemic and morphosyntactic) change, and grammaticalization. Basic forms will be affected by both sound change and grammaticalization, the former because it indiscriminately affects all words that meet the phonological conditions for the change, the latter because it is triggered by semantic and discourse factors that lead to renewal of categories regardless of their status in the paradigm. Basic forms will not normally be affected by analogical change, since they are the source rather than the target of analogical change; this is Kuryłowicz’s (1945–49: 23–25) second law (see Hock 1991: 212–22). Derived forms, on the other hand, are affected by all three kinds of change, but in particular by analogical change. Sound change affects them directly if they meet the phonological conditions for the change, or indirectly, when their basic form is affected, since they will tend to adjust to the new base form. In this way, the effects of the sound change will gradually penetrate into the more derived forms, whether or not they meet the phonological conditions (it is not always easy to determine whether a change in a derived form is caused by sound change or analogy). Even where no sound change is involved, analogical change will tend to make derived forms more regular and predictable.10 In general, derived forms are sensitive to any kind of change in their base form. This agrees with the principles formulated by Mańczak (1958, 1980), who establishes that among the forms of a paradigm some will be more conservative and others more prone to change, that the more conservative forms include the singular, the present, the indicative, the third person, inferior numerals (vs. superior numerals), and the cardinal numbers (vs. the ordinal numbers), and that these forms trigger reformation of other forms more often than vice versa. These are the categories that, also according to other criteria, are the basic ones in their respective domains.

9.  For a striking example of change under the influence of the paradigm, see Malkiel 1968, in particular pp. 47–49. 10.  See Hock 1991: 167–89, Givón 1995: 58–59, and in particular Bynon 1977: 34: “in contrast however with phonological change, which operates independently of grammatical and semantic structure, analogy is concerned precisely with the relationship between phonological structure and grammatical structure. It is in fact the very mechanism which, either by modifying existing linguistic forms or by creating new ones, brings back into alignment phonological forms and grammatical function after the relationship between these has been disrupted by sound change.” A good example from Akkadian is offered by the independent personal pronouns (GAG §41). Their paradigm shows a striking difference between the nominative, which is the basic form (both in function and in frequency), and the oblique cases: whereas the nominative remains more or less stable in form throughout the history of Akkadian, the oblique cases have a different form in almost every dialect and period. Another example is the imperfective: since the form referring to the actual moment of speech is the basic category of the verbal paradigm, a change in the present or imperfective of a given language will have important consequences for the entire paradigm. Accordingly, in Akkadian the introduction of a new imperfective with gemination of the second radical (iparrVs) led to a drastic restructuring in many other areas of the verbal paradigm, as I will argue in the rest of the present study.


The Structure of the Present Work  1.3.

Generally speaking, there will be a strong tendency within a conjugation to level formal distinctions that are not central to its function, such as stem differences in the finite verb (Mańczak 1958: 301–12; Bybee 1985: 65; Koch 1996: 229–37; see also Bybee Hooper 1980: 166–80). The outcome of all this is that derived forms are far more vulnerable to change than basic forms.11 Irregular derived forms tend to be preserved only when they are frequent enough to have a high lexical strength and thus to be stored in the speaker’s mental lexicon as independent forms (Bynon 1977: 35–36; Bybee 1985: 121–22). Very frequent forms, derived or not, may become irregular because they are subject to phonetic attrition (Zipf’s Law; cf. Bybee 2001: 60–62). Language is a system in which “tout se tient,” to use once more André Meillet’s worn-out dictum, and this is particularly relevant to the close-knit system of a paradigm. Accordingly, we should try to reconstruct paradigms or systems rather than individual categories (Petráček 1984: 434–36). The Akkadian verbal paradigm offers numerous illustrations of this, as will become clear in the course of the present study.

1.3. The Structure of the Present Work In accordance with the objectives outlined in §1.1, the description of the Akkadian verbal system will be twofold. On the one hand, it will be “factual” in the sense that it describes the form and function of each verbal category during the recorded history of Akkadian. On the other hand, it will be hypothetical to the extent that it attempts to reconstruct the prehistory of each category by means of (primarily) internal reconstruction and (subsequently) comparison with corresponding Semitic and Afroasiatic categories. In the “factual” parts, I will give a detailed description of each verbal category in the various periods and dialects in which it occurs, with particular attention (a) to its relations with competing and contrasting categories, (b) to its position in the system as a whole, and (c) to the consequences this may have for its form, its function and its development over time. Obviously, the degree of detail is limited by the quantity of the available sources and by what is possible in terms of the acceptable size of a monograph. For practical reasons, Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian will have centre stage: they are the earliest dialects for which a very large corpus is available, they are both fairly uniform, and Old Babylonian has a sophisticated orthography that reveals the underlying language with more precision than most other dialects. With the results drawn from this description, I will turn to other Semitic languages (and to Afroasiatic languages if reliable correspondences are available) and compare the Akkadian forms with the evidence they provide in order to reconstruct the prehistoric development of the category in question. Ultimately, this should enable us to derive the Akkadian category from its Semitic ancestor (if any) and thus to “explain” the Akkadian form, to the extent that a language form is explained as soon as we know where it has come from. The order in which the individual categories will be discussed is in principle from basic to derived, which by and large means from simple to complex. This gives rise to a main division of this monograph into four parts (not counting the present one, Part I, which includes the ­preliminaries): 11.  In this context we should also view the conclusions of Fox, who observes (2003: 52) that in the case of deverbal nouns usually only the patterns, rather than individual words, are reconstructible to ProtoSemitic, but that “isolated nouns”—nouns that are not primarily associated with a verbal root—can often be reconstructed back to intermediate proto-languages or even Proto-Semitic itself in their full form (see the list in Fox 2003: 72–87). This is a consequence of the ongoing reformation and renewal typical of deverbal categories.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic


• Part II deals with the categories belonging to the basic stem (the G‑stem) of the strong triradical verb; it describes their form and also includes a discussion of functional aspects such as tense/aspect and mood, which of course also apply to the corresponding categories of other types of verbs. • Part III deals with the form and function of the derived verbal stems. There is some overlap with Part II as a result of the diachronic process whereby derived stem-forms penetrate into the paradigm of the G‑stem (the imperfective iparrVs and the t‑perfect iptarVs); therefore, some issues that strictly speaking belong to this part are actually discussed in Part II. • Part IV gives a succinct account of the paradigms of the weak verbs—that is, verbs with w, y, and/or a vowel as radical—and verbs that (originally) had a guttural consonant among their radicals. The weak-verb paradigm is ostensibly modelled on that of the strong verb, but occasional deviations may provide important information about relations between forms. The importance of the verbs with gutturals is that the loss of guttural consonants is a relatively recent phenomenon in the earliest documents, so ensuing changes can be observed in the texts. Of all verbal categories, these verbs show by far the greatest number of changes in the historical period, which makes them crucial for dialect classification and particularly interesting for observing the kind of restructurings which occur after the loss of a radical. • Part V, finally, consists of a single chapter that wraps up the results achieved in the preceding parts concerning the verbal categories to be reconstructed for the common parent language from the perspective of Akkadian and attempts a—naturally hypothetical—description of the main features of the Proto-Semitic verbal system.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic The following sections contain a short description of Akkadian and its dialects and an even shorter one of the languages of the Semitic family and the branches of the Afroasiatic phylum to which Akkadian belongs. The dialect classification of Akkadian itself is not a primary concern of the present study, but in a historical description of Akkadian it is obviously essential to refer constantly to the source of the forms discussed in terms of dialect and chronology. Therefore, the main purpose of the enumeration of Akkadian dialects is to define the labels I will use and to point out some features or problems in individual dialects that are relevant in this context. Most of it is uncontroversial. In §1.4.2, I will briefly describe the subgrouping of Semitic as presupposed in the present study, and in §1.4.3 the relevance of Afroasiatic.

1.4.1.  Akkadian The earliest traces of the Akkadian language consist of personal names in Sumerian documents from ca. 2600 B.C. onward. The earliest extant documents in Akkadian date from ca. 2350 B.C., and the last ones from the beginning of the Christian era. As a spoken language, it is likely to have become extinct several centuries earlier, presumably around the middle of the first millennium B.C., although this is somewhat controversial.12 It was eventually replaced by Aramaic, doubtless after a prolonged period of bilingualism. Akkadian was originally spoken in Mesopotamia by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, but the cultural hegemony of its speakers 12.  For instance, Streck (1995a: xxiii–xxiv) places the disappearance of Akkadian as a spoken language some time during the Hellenistic period (against Buccellati 1996: 345), but Leichty (1993: 27) puts it in the eighth century B.C.; see also Streck 1997/98: 322b); Rubio 2007b: 48–52; and A. Westenholz 2007.


Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.

caused its use to spread to many of the adjacent areas, at least as a written language, in particular to the Levant and present-day Turkey. As a result, texts in Akkadian have been found in numerous centres outside Mesopotamia, such as Elam, Boghazköy (ancient Hattusas, the capital of the Hittite empire), El‑Amarna, Alalakh, Ugarit, Emar, and Nuzi. These texts were often written by people with a different native language, and to varying degrees they show divergences from the texts in “core Akkadian” and influences from the local language.13 Therefore, they are adduced here only in cases where evidence from “core Akkadian” is lacking. The very long period during which Akkadian is attested and its wide geographic expanse entails the existence of different varieties according to place and time of attestation. If we take mutual comprehension to be an important criterion distinguishing languages from dialects,14 and if we assume that the spelling more or less reliably represents the language as it was spoken (which is more plausible for the earlier than for the later periods), there can be little doubt that the varieties of Akkadian we find in the texts constitute dialects rather than languages (see below regarding Eblaite).15 For the sake of convenience, I will speak of dialects for variations both in place and in time, although strictly speaking the latter should be called periods rather than dialects. Actually, if we take into account the more than 2,000 years that separate the oldest and the latest attested forms of Akkadian, the rate of observable change is surprisingly small—much smaller, for instance, than that between present-day English and the totally different language that is generally reconstructed as its ancestor of 2,000 years ago, or, to limit ourselves to Semitic, than that between modern Aramaic and its ancestor around the beginning of the Christian era. It is quite likely, however, that the spelling, in particular that of the latest dialects, was much more conservative than the spoken language and that therefore the actual difference was larger than is visible to us.16 Most changes taking place during this period are of a type familiar from language history in general. In the domain of phonology, we observe cases of erosion of phonological substance, such as the loss of mimation and short final vowels, contraction of adjacent vowels, and simplification of consonant clusters. In morphology and morphosyntax, there are instances of the gradual elimination of non-basic and less frequent categories such as the dual (replaced by the plural), the third-person singular feminine (in Babylonian replaced by the masculine form), the vetitive (replaced by the prohibitive), and some of the derived verbal stems, such as the t‑stems (see chap. 14). The most salient change in this domain is doubtless the gradual replacement of the inherited perfective iprVs by the t‑perfect iptarVs as the past tense in affirmative main clauses. It is significant that we do not find developments that drastically change the verbal system as a whole. In particular, there are no changes that have an effect comparable to what we observe in West Semitic, where the basic verbal functions of imperfective and perfective are renewed by means of completely different categories on the basis of periphrastic constructions with parti13.  For an enumeration of the different types of “Peripheral Akkadian” and bibliographical references, see GAG3 §2l* and Huehnergard 2005a: xxv, xxxi. 14.  See, for instance, Payne 1997: 18–19. However, Gelb (1987: 72) flatly denies the usefulness of this criterion. 15.  See, for instance, Joannès, ed. 2001: 27b. A dissenting voice is Woodington (1982: 1): “What we call the dialects of Akkadian are more appropriately referred to as languages.” She gives no motivation for this statement, however. Reiner (1966: 21) states: “I would be inclined to consider Old Akkadian and NeoBabylonian as distinct languages” (the absence of Neo-Assyrian from this statement is surprising). Parpola (1988: 294) takes it for granted that Babylonian and Assyrian were mutually understandable. 16.  See also Buccellati 1996: 345. I disregard here changes in vocabulary, which obviously have a drastic effect on comprehensibility but do not affect the grammar.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic


ciples and particles. Even the replacement of iprVs by iptarVs is not a complete innovation but rather a shift in the division of tasks between two already-existing categories. A consequence of this situation is that dialect classification depends on a fairly small number of isoglosses, which leads to many uncertainties, especially in the rather poorly documented period of thirdmillennium Akkadian. In the next sections, I will enumerate the individual dialects, using the labels I will employ in the rest of the present study and with short references to the main sources on which our knowledge is based. For second‑ and first-millennium Akkadian, I will not attempt to justify the classification, since it is generally uncontroversial. However, for third-millennium Akkadian, I will be more specific about the classification I am adopting, without undertaking an exhaustive discussion of the issue. In the Excursus to §1.5 (pp. 21–25), I will elaborate on the dialect classification of third-millennium Akkadian and the relationships among its dialects.  Third-Millennium Akkadian I will distinguish four third-millennium dialects: Pre-Sargonic Akkadian, Mari Old Akkadian, Sargonic Akkadian, and Ur III Babylonian; the latter two can perhaps be combined under a single heading, for which I will use the label Old Akkadian (tout court); see §1.5 below (p. 27). For Eblaite, which is better classified as a separate language, see also §1.5 (p. 22). 1. Pre-Sargonic Akkadian is known to us almost exclusively from proper names contained in very early texts that otherwise are written in Sumerian; most of them are conveniently listed by A. Westenholz (1988), Biggs (1988), and Krebernik (1998: 260–70). In the Excursus to §1.5, I will come back to its most important feature in terms of dialect ­classification. 2. Mari Old Akkadian is known from several groups of third-millennium texts found at Mari (Tell Hariri, on the upper course of the Euphrates).17 They range from the Pre-Sargonic period until after the end of the Ur III period, which at Mari is called the “Šakkanakku period,” and comprise votive inscriptions of early Mari rulers; administrative texts, both from the Pre-Sargonic and the Šakkanakku period; and a collection of liver omina. I will also include in this dialect the closely related corpus of texts found at Tell Beydar (ancient Nabada, in the far north of Mesopotamia on the Habur river), dating from ca. 2400 B.C. These texts are mainly administrative.18 3. Sargonic Akkadian is the official language of the Sargonic Empire (ca. 2350 to 2170 B.C.). As the language of royal administration, it was used throughout Mesopotamia, replacing the earlier writing conventions associated with the Pre-Sargonic “Kish Civilization” (Sommerfeld 2003: 583–86) and fell into disuse with the decline of the Empire. The extant 17.  Mari Old Akkadian is not an early stage of the second-millennium dialect of Mari (which belongs to Old Babylonian) and should be strictly distinguished from it. 18.  A survey of the Mari sources can be found in A. Westenholz 1978: 160–61 and Gelb 1992. The votive inscriptions are collected in AKI pp. 355–67 and discussed in Gelb 1992: 152–60; for the Pre-Sargonic administrative texts, see Charpin 1987 and 1990; the texts from the Šakkanakku period were published by H. Limet in ARM 19, apart from a single but extremely interesting legal text published by J.-M. Durand in MARI 1 (1982) 79–89. According to Durand, it is Pre-Sargonic, but I concur with Gelb (1992: 167–69), who dates it to the same period as the administrative texts of ARM 19. The liver omina were published by M. Rutten in RA 35 (1938) 36–70 and are discussed by Gelb (1992: 169–71). They are an unreliable source for the Mari Old Akkadian dialect, because they combine forms with a different background, among which we can discern a heavy Babylonian influence (A. Westenholz 1978: 161 n. 9; Gelb 1992: 169–71, 195). For Tell Baydar, see Ismail et al. 1996; Milano et al. 2004. Grammatical studies of Mari Old Akkadian are Limet 1975; A. Westenholz 1978; Charpin 1987: 89–90; and Gelb 1992: 171–200. The orthography of the different kinds of Old Akkadian Mari texts is discussed in great detail in Gelb 1992.

Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.


sources consist of royal inscriptions, letters and administrative documents, and a small number of other texts, among which a fairly long and well-preserved incantation (MAD 5, 8, edited and discussed by J. and A. Westenholz (1977).19 4. Ur III Babylonian is the term I will use for the hundred-odd texts written in Akkadian dating from the Ur III Period (ca. 2110 to 2000 B.C.).20 They consist of letters, administrative documents, royal inscriptions, and a few very fragmentary incantations. All sources are listed in Hilgert 2002: 20–85. The available evidence, scarce as it is, is sufficient to prove that Ur III Babylonian is a direct predecessor of the Babylonian dialect of the second millennium.21  Babylonian From the second millennium onward, the dialect classification of Akkadian is fairly straightforward. After Ur III Babylonian, we can divide Babylonian on a linguistic and chronological basis into Archaic Babylonian, Old Babylonian, Middle Babylonian, Neo-Babylonian, and Late Babylonian. Likewise, we can divide Assyrian into Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian, and Neo-Assyrian. The boundaries between the stages are not only linguistic but usually coincide with major gaps in our documentation: most dialects are separated by several centuries from which few texts are extant (GAG §187c). This geographical and chronological classification is intersected by the literary dialect of Standard Babylonian (see §, pp. 16–17). The difference between Babylonian and Assyrian is large enough to make it fairly easy to identify even a short passage as Babylonian or Assyrian, but most differences are rather superficial, such as differences in vowel pattern (often resulting from the Assyrian vowel assimilation rule; see §2.4, pp. 48–49), differences in vowel contraction, and the specifically Assyrian ni‑subjunctive. The number of lexical differences is limited, at least for the core vocabulary (see Kogan 2006a). Generally speaking, there can be little doubt that they were mutually understandable and dialects of a single language rather than different languages. This is confirmed by the fact that their development over time runs remarkably parallel (Parpola 1988: 293–94): many changes occur in both dialects (though not always simultaneously), such as the loss of mimation and short final vowels, the gradual introduction of vowel contraction, the development of the t‑perfect iptarVs as a simple past tense in main clauses and the concomitant reduction of the perfective iprVs to secondary clause types, the gradual loss of the t‑stems, etc. This presupposes protracted and fairly intensive contact between the inhabitants of Babylonia and Assyria, for which there are also many other indications.22 19.  The royal inscriptions are conveniently edited by I. J. Gelb and B. Kienast in AKI and by G. Frayne in RIME 2; most of them are only extant in Old Babylonian copies, which in general seem to be rather reliable (see A. Westenholz 1996: 120–21, but cf. Hasselbach 2005: 11–13). The letters are edited by K. Volk and B. Kienast in SAB. There is no comprehensive edition of the administrative texts, but Hasselbach (2005: 255–62) gives a full list of extant texts that have been published so far. A recent grammatical description of Sargonic Akkadian is Hasselbach 2005, which replaces I. J. Gelb’s pioneering Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar (1952; 2nd ed., 1961). 20.  See Hilgert 2003: 11 n. 57. 21.  This fairly recent insight is associated in particular with the names of A. Westenholz (1978, esp. 163b n. 24 end), Whiting (1987), and Sommerfeld (2003); see the “Forschungsgeschichte” in Hilgert 2002: 5–15. 22.  Several concrete facts show that Babylonia had a strong cultural influence on Assyria, such as the use of Babylonian for “literary” purposes, the adoption of the Babylonian syllabary in Middle Assyrian, and the appearance of Babylonian names in the Middle Assyrian onomasticon (Saporetti 1970: II 90). A remarkable grammatical feature that Middle Assyrian may have borrowed from Babylonian is the use of š in the dative pronoun of the first-person plural ‑nâši(n); see W. Mayer 1971: 34 and Huehnergard 2006: 12 n. 57.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic

13  Archaic Babylonian Archaic Babylonian roughly covers the first half of the Isin-Larsa period—that is, from the fall of the Ur III empire until the rise of the First Dynasty of Babylon (ca. 2000 to 1900 B.C.). The main texts comprise a corpus of letters from Eshnunna, published by R. M. Whiting as OBTA nos. 1–30, some other letters, and a few royal inscriptions of kings ruling in this period.23 There is a great deal of continuity between Ur III Babylonian and Archaic Babylonian: the two share several important features, the most salient of which are global E‑colouring (see §17.5.1, pp. 525–534), the absence of contraction of heterogeneous vowels, the weak conjugation of II/  ʾ verbs and the occasional use of a subjunctive particle -na. On the other hand, Archaic Babylonian shows a few remarkable differences from Ur III Babylonian: occasional deviations from global E‑colouring, the 3ms independent subject pronoun šūt ‘he’, the common use of the dual, and the use of ta- as 3fs prefix (see for details Whiting 1987: 8–21 and Hilgert 2002: 158–68). Since these features are reminiscent of Assyrian, they may simply be due to the fact that the extant sources of Archaic Babylonian have a more northern provenance than most of the Akkadian Ur III sources. Hilgert’s conclusion (2002: 168) that Ur III Babylonian is more closely related to Classical Old Babylonian than to Archaic Babylonian should probably be seen in this light.  Old Babylonian Attestation for Old Babylonian roughly coincides with the First Dynasty of Babylon (ca. 1900 to 1600 B.C. in the conventional chronology that is followed here). There is no chronological gap between Archaic and (early) Old Babylonian: the transition is gradual, and the dividing line is not always clear-cut. The main criterion distinguishing them is the appearance of contraction of heterogeneous vowels, not only because it is readily observable in a substantial number of forms, but also because it is an innovation that provides a clear terminus ante quem. A. Westenholz (1978: 164 n. 29) dates it to “the time just before Sumu-abum, both in Babylonia and in the Diyala area”—that is, ca. 1900 B.C. It is convenient to set the first century of this period apart as “Early Old Babylonian” (see Whiting 1987: 16–17). It is mainly known from letters, mostly from Eshnunna, and published by R. M. Whiting in OBTA nos. 31–55. Subsequently, the main period of Old Babylonian begins with the reign of Hammurapi and his successors. The language of this period is often taken to be representative of Akkadian par excellence and has more or less acquired the status of a standard against which all other dialects are measured. It is characterized by a high degree of standardization in grammar and orthography, doubtless made possible by a well-functioning system of scribal education: a relatively simple and accurate syllabary; and an unusually abundant and varied quantity of texts, many of which belong to the highlights of Mesopotamian civilization. Where necessary, I will distinguish this period as “Classical Old Babylonian.”  24 In spite of this standardization, there is evidence of local varieties during the Old Babylonian period.25 Linguistic differences from Classical Old Babylonian are found in particular in texts from the north of Mesopotamia. Best known among these is the dialect of “Mari Old Babylo23.  The most important texts are enumerated by A. Westenholz (1978: 163b n. 25). An important addition is the inscription of Iddi(n)-Sin of Simurrum, edited by Shaffer and Wasserman (2003). 24.  For some more-or-less detailed lists of sources, one might consult Lieberman 1977: 9–14. See also GAG §189 for a general characterization of Old Babylonian. Buccellati 1996 is a grammar that specifically describes Old Babylonian, but almost all grammars with “Akkadian” in the title basically describe the Old Babylonian dialect (e.g., Huehnergard 2005a) or take it as the default form of Akkadian (e.g., GAG). 25.  In particular, in the domain of the sibilants, see Sommerfeld 2006: 371–74 and Streck 2006: 237. The differences between northern and southern texts pointed out by Goetze (1945a) seem to be mainly orthographical; see Kraus 1973b: 33 (but cf. Izre’el and Cohen 2004: 28–29).


Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.

nian,” attested in the huge archive of the palace of Zimri-Lim at Mari (see Finet 1956; Lambert 1967). It is only marginally different from Classical Old Babylonian; the only major divergence is the regular contraction of ia to ê (e.g., iqbêm [passim] instead of iqbiam ‘he said to me’, i-méed /imêd/ ARM 1, 6:34 ‘it will become numerous’ instead of imīad ). A very similar dialect is found in the letters from Shemshara (Kupper 2001). Traces of a more northern kind of Old Babylonian are also preserved in a few letters found at Mari but sent from Ilān-ṣurā, which is in the vicinity of Tell Leilan according to Charpin (1989: 31); this dialect is studied by Charpin (1989). Not a different dialect but a different stylistic register is what von Soden (1931/33) calls “der hymnisch-epische Dialekt” and what I will call “literary Old Babylonian.” It is found in a specific and fairly small set of literary works, mostly hymns and epic texts, of which the most typical examples are the Agušaya text, recently reedited by Groneberg (1997) along with several other specimens of the same genre. Other instances are the so-called love poems about a king and a goddess, incantations, religious texts, royal inscriptions (especially the Prologue and Epilogue of Hammurapi’s law code), and several fragments of royal epics.26 The language of these texts is more or less consciously embellished by stylistic devices, such as a special vocabulary, changes in word order, parallelismus, sound effects such as assonance, and various unusual morphological forms.27 Grammatically, literary Old Babylonian differs only superficially from “normal” Old Babylonian, so it can hardly be considered a “dialect.” 28 There are two basic types of differences. The first concerns the cultivation of archaisms, such as the case endings -iš and -um, the 3fs prefix ta-, the Š perfective forms of I/voc and I/w verbs with ū (ušūšir, ušūmid, etc.; see §16.2.3, pp. 455–456), the suffix pronouns with apocopation of the final vowel (-š instead of -šu/a, etc.), and occasional uncontracted vowels. The second is the tendency of Babylonian scribes to exploit derivational patterns in order to adorn their style by creating novel forms that were not part of ordinary language and could therefore be felt as literary. In the nominal declension, for instance, they opted for different construct-state forms (Edzard 1982: 87–88) and greatly extended the use of the old case endings -iš and -um. In the verb, they used the formal and functional similarity between the D‑ and the Š‑stems to derive Š‑stems where ordinary usage required a D‑stem, and even combined their use in the ŠD‑stem (see GAV pp. 271–77, 336–40; and §13.3, pp. 334–337). This creative process started during the Old Babylonian period but reached its peak in the postOld Babylonian stage of Standard Babylonian. Finally, a striking feature of literary Old Babylonian is that it has a much freer word order. In particular, the clause-final position of the verb is often not maintained, and the order of noun and adjective is often reversed. It remains to be determined whether this represents the preservation of an archaic feature (also attested in Eblaite and Mari Old Akkadian; see §1.5, pp. 22–23) or a secondary development dictated by metrical, prosodic, and/or stylistic factors.29 After the Old Babylonian period, this literary dialect developed into Standard Babylonian, which will be discussed below. 26.  See von Soden 1931/33: I 166–75; Groneberg 1972: 7–27. Remarkably enough, the most famous Old Babylonian epics, Atraḫasis and the Old Babylonian fragments of Gilgamesh, do not use this literary Old Babylonian extensively but apparently prefer a much more prosaic and straightforward style using ordinary words, short clauses, and relatively few stylistic adornments. This also applies to the Old Babylonian fragments of the smaller epics, Anzu and Etana. A catalogue of all Old Babylonian literary texts can be found in Wasserman 2003: 185–224. 27.  See GAG §186e/f; Von Soden 1931/33, esp. II 160–81; Groneberg 1996. 28.  A recent description of literary Old Babylonian is Izre’el and Cohen 2004; specific grammatical features are mentioned and/or discussed in von Soden 1931/33, Groneberg 1972, and Huehnergard 2005a: 346–48. Metzler 2002 contains a detailed account of the use of the tenses. 29.  There is some debate about the time of origin of this literary dialect. On the basis of similarities with Sargonic Akkadian, von Soden (1931/33: I 164, II 176–77) and Lambert (1973: 358) situate its origin in the

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic

15  Middle Babylonian Middle Babylonian is usually taken to start with the fall of the First Dynasty of Babylon ca. 1600 B.C., but the earliest texts are from a much later date (from ca. 1400 B.C. onward), so there is a considerable gap between Old and Middle Babylonian. The texts mostly consist of letters and administrative documents, mainly from Nippur, Dūr-Kurigalzu, Ur, and Babylon (the latter were found at El-Amarna in Egypt). Some other contemporary texts, such as the Epic of TukultiNinurta and a corpus of boundary stones (BBS) are in principle written in Standard Babylonian, though they occasionally contain Middle Babylonian forms.30 This also applies to the extant royal inscriptions of Babylonian and Assyrian kings of this period, which are written in an assyrianized Middle Babylonian (Aro 1955: 15; Stein 2000). Generally speaking, Middle Babylonian is a natural continuation of Old Babylonian, and most of its distinctive features are already more or less sporadically attested in (late) Old Babylonian.31  Neo-Babylonian Neo-Babylonian is usually dated to the period 1000–600 B.C. (GAG §2g). For linguistic purposes, the most important corpus consists of the Kuyunjik letters written in Neo-Babylonian, which were originally published in ABL and in CT 54.32 They were sent to Assyrian kings by their officials in Babylon and elsewhere and mainly deal with political and historical matters. As a result, they can therefore be accurately dated within the 120-year period from the reign of Sargon II (722–705) to the fall of the Assyrian Empire shortly before 600 (Woodington 1982: 2–5), so they only cover the final part of the Neo-Babylonian period. An important new corpus of NeoBabylonian letters found in Nippur and dating from around 750–730 B.C. has been published by Cole (1996). From a linguistic point of view, Neo-Babylonian rather accurately continues Middle Babylonian, although it is often credited as having been strongly influenced by Aramaic (GAG §192; but cf. Streck 1997/98: 322b).33

Sargonic Period. Whiting (1987: 18–19), however, points out that most of its archaic features are still found in the early letters from Eshnunna and that there is therefore no reason to discount the Isin-Larsa period as the time of origin. This does not exclude the possibility that even older elements have survived. A plausible example are the Š perfective forms with ū: ušūšir, etc., which are common in Sargonic Akkadian but in Old Babylonian are mainly restricted to literary texts that are directly associated with the king: the Prologue of Hammurapi’s law code and a text about Naram-Sin, first published by Lambert (1973) and reedited by J. Westenholz (1997: 189–201). It seems likely that these particular forms are intended as reminiscences of the inscriptions of the Sargonic kings. Generally speaking, the tendency to create a specific literary language is insolubly connected with the emergence of a written language used for purposes other than simple accounting, and this makes it likely that already in the third millennium B.C. there were words, forms, and expressions specifically used in literary creations. See Hasselbach 2005: 11–15 for a characterization of Sargonic Akkadian literary texts. 30.  Aro (1955: 15–18) lists the sources that were then available; see also Pedersén 1998: 103–25. The texts found in Ur were published by O. R. Gurney in MBTU. 31.  The main tools for the study of Middle Babylonian are Aro 1955 and 1957; Bloch 1940 is in most respects outdated. See also GAG §190 for a general characterization. For the differences between Old and Middle Babylonian, see Reiner 1966: 113 and Lieberman 1977: 8–9 n. 21. 32.  Most of these texts have recently been (re)edited in the SAA Series (SAA 17 and 18); see also de Vaan 1995. 33.  Grammars of Neo-Babylonian are Woodington 1982 for the Kuyunjik letters and de Vaan 1995 specifically for the letters sent by Bēl-ibni. See also GAG §192 for a general characterization of Neo-Babylonian.


Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.  Late Babylonian Late Babylonian comprises the non-literary cuneiform texts from after the fall of the Assyrian Empire—that is, from the Neo-Babylonian, Persian, and Seleucid periods (GAG §2h).34 They consist of a vast quantity of letters and administrative documents; see Dandamaev (1984: 6–29) and Streck (1995a: xxvi-xxix) for convenient surveys. The literary texts and royal inscriptions of this period are to be considered part of Standard Babylonian.35  Standard Babylonian In the English-speaking world, Standard Babylonian is the established term for the literary and scientific variety of Akkadian after the Old Babylonian period (German: jungbabylonisch). The name is unfortunate in that the standard for Standard Babylonian is actually Old Babylonian (GAG §2f; Izre’el and Cohen 2004: 2): Standard Babylonian owes its existence to the fact that the learned scribes of the post-Old Babylonian period attempted to emulate Old Babylonian without being completely successful (and getting more and more unsuccessful in the course of time), because they were influenced by their own everyday speech. “Literary Babylonian” is another possible label, but it has the disadvantage that Standard Babylonian also comprises many texts that we would designate “learned prose style” or the like rather than “literary.” The Standard Babylonian corpus is huge and varied; it contains literary texts in the usual sense of the word (epics, hymns, poems, wisdom texts, incantations, etc.), but also what we would call historical texts (royal inscriptions and chronicles) and scientific texts: medical, divinatory, mathematical and astronomical texts, and various (other) types of omen texts. To some extent, the contrast between literary and “ordinary” Old Babylonian discussed in § (p. 14) continues to exist in the various degrees of “literariness” that we observe in Standard Babylonian for different genres. The genres that used the most literary kind of Babylonian during the Old Babylonian period continue to do so and adhere most closely to the Old Babylonian tradition of the “hymnic-epic dialect.” Here belong the religious epic of Enūma Elîš and other hymnic texts. A more “simple” form of Standard Babylonian is represented by epics and other narrative texts and by royal inscriptions. Finally, various branches of scholarly activity developed their own jargon while using more or less the same grammatical features; clear examples are medical texts, extispicy literature, and other omen texts. They lack most of the stylistic adornments of the previously mentioned text types. Apart from emulating Old Babylonian, the Babylonian scribes also strove for stylistic originality by using and exploiting forms that were not used in their everyday language—not only vocabulary items but also grammatical forms. This explains their fondness of, for instance, the case endings -iš and -um. In the framework of the Akkadian verbal system, the most important feature of their style is the extensive use of derived verbal stems that were not or no longer in use in contemporary non-literary texts. The most prominent cases, which will all be discussed more fully in due course, are the ŠD‑stems (see §13.3, pp. 334–337), the “literary Š‑stems” (see §, pp. 329–331), and the non-prefixed forms of the Gt‑stem (see §14.3.4, pp. 372–376).36 34.  There is some debate about where to put the dividing line between Neo-Babylonian and Late Babylonian. For other opinions, see Brinkman 1966: 294a and Streck 1995a: xxvi. 35.  A grammatical study of Late Babylonian numerals and the verbal system is Streck 1995a. Blasberg 1997 contains a detailed study of Late Babylonian orthography and morphology, with particular attention to word-final vowels. See also GAG §193 for a general characterization. 36.  There is as yet no comprehensive grammar of Standard Babylonian; see von Soden 1931/33 and Huehnergard 2005a: 595–98. Groneberg 1987 is a grammar of the hymnic texts from the first millennium B.C., focusing on their literary aspects.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic


Unlike GAG and AHw, I will label as Standard Babylonian almost all texts that belong to the literary and scientific tradition of Mesopotamia from the post‑Old Babylonian period, regardless of their place of origin. This means that many texts that these handbooks list as Middle and Neo-Assyrian, Middle and Neo-Babylonian, and perhaps Late Babylonian are labeled Standard Babylonian here. The other labels are mostly restricted to texts belonging to genres that are relatively free of “literary” influence, such as letters and administrative documents. There are, however, also occasional instances of texts of other genres written (partly or entirely) in these dialects, such as the Neo-Assyrian vassal treaties edited by S. Parpola and K. Watanabe in SAA 2 and the Neo-Assyrian prophecies edited by S. Parpola in SAA 9. Moreover, many texts contain a mixture of literary (Standard Babylonian) and non-literary forms; for instance, Assyrianisms in the royal inscriptions of Assyrian kings (which are in principle written in Standard Babylonian) and Standard Babylonian passages in Neo-Assyrian letters (see §, p. 19).  Assyrian The homeland of the Assyrian dialect is located at the upper course of the Tigris River in the northeastern part of Mesopotamia. Its development can be divided into three periods: Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian, and Neo-Assyrian. Apart from differences in language, an important reason for this division is historical: each dialect consists of a specific corpus of texts from a particular period and location. Although they are separated by fairly long periods for which we have (almost) no documentation, the general impression is one of more or less uninterrupted development. In many respects, Assyrian is more archaic than Babylonian but it shows at least one important innovation: the vowel assimilation rule (see §2.4, pp. 48–49).  Old Assyrian Old Assyrian has come down to us mainly in texts excavated in Anatolia, where Assyrian merchants had established various trading colonies, one of which, the Kārum Kaniš (Kültepe), has produced huge quantities of texts that constituted the archives of this colony; some other places in Anatolia have yielded similar texts but in much smaller numbers.37 They cover a relatively short period and can be accurately dated on archaeological and historical grounds: most texts date from Kaniš Level II (ca. 1950–1835 B.C.); after a break of about 35 years, further texts come from Kaniš Level Ib (ca. 1800–1730; see Veenhof 2003; all dates according to the middle chrono­logy). Systematic differences in language between the texts of the two layers have not (yet) been established.38 From the Assyrian capital Assur itself, we have a few royal inscriptions of Assyrian kings from roughly the same period that are basically written in Old Assyrian; they were published by A. K. Grayson in RIMA 1.39 Almost all Old Assyrian texts are letters and administrative and legal documents that concern the business activities of the merchants and are written in a rather difficult, specialized jargon. However, aspects of their daily life are occasionally discussed as well, giving us a good idea of

37.  In GKT §1, K. Hecker enumerates the Old Assyrian texts available to him at the time of the publication of his grammar (1968); important new text editions include AKT 1–5, Prag I, TPAK 1, and VS 26; thousands of other texts remain unpublished. Michel 2003 is a full bibliography. 38.  See the remarks by Balkan (1955: 41–63), Lewy (1957), Garelli (1963: 51–79), and Hecker (1998: 300). 39.  The few inscriptions we have of earlier rulers of Assur contain hardly any Assyrian elements but are written in the traditional style that goes back to the inscriptions of the Sargonic kings of the third millennium. As a result of the rising cultural prestige of Babylonia, later kings—from Šamši-Adad I (ca. 1808–1776) onward—draw up their inscriptions in Babylonian.


Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.

their daily language.40 The style is unadorned and simple. The spelling is rather defective, and the exact shape of many Old Assyrian words can only be established by internal reconstruction and comparison with the corresponding Babylonian forms, which usually show a more accurate spelling. The general impression of Old Assyrian is a surprisingly uniform dialect, which in many respects is more archaic than other dialects and therefore of crucial importance for the history of Akkadian.41  Middle Assyrian Middle Assyrian covers the period ca. 1500 to 1000 B.C. Most texts date from the latter half of this period and come from Assur itself and from Kār-Tukulti-Ninurta in its immediate vicinity, or from Assyrian outposts in various parts of the empire that served as residences of Assyrian officials, who themselves doubtless originated from the leading circles in Assur. Outposts of this kind include Dūr-Katlimmu and Tell Sabi Abyad. The texts mainly include letters and administrative documents, an important corpus of legal texts (the Middle Assyrian Law Code and the “Harem Edicts”), inventories, and some rituals.42 Most literary texts from this period, in particular the royal inscriptions, are written in Standard Babylonian, although they occasionally contain Assyrian words and phrases. Our knowledge of Middle Assyrian is rather incomplete. The number of texts is far smaller than for Old Assyrian. Many of the economic texts, and even some of the letters, are stereotyped and provide little grammatical information (W. Mayer 1971: 4). On many points of detail, therefore, we have to supplement our knowledge of Middle Assyrian grammar by inference from earlier and later stages.43 On the other hand, the importance of Middle Assyrian also lies in the fact that it uses a different orthography that is less defective and more precise than that of Old Assyrian. In contrast to Old Assyrian, for instance, it often distinguishes voiceless, voiced, and glottalized consonants, the vowels e and i (⟨še⟩ versus ⟨ši⟩, etc.), and vowel and consonant length (Cancik-Kirschbaum 1996: 69–71). This allows us to observe distinctions that in Old Assyrian we can only reconstruct. In most respects, Middle Assyrian seems to be a close successor to Old Assyrian, in spite of the time gap.44

40.  However, the almost complete absence of other genres—in particular, literary and religious texts— hides a large part of its vocabulary from view. A noteworthy exception is the Assyrian version of a Sargon epic, first published by C. Günbattı (ArAn. 3 [1997] 131–55); see the recent discussion in Dercksen 2005. It is remarkable that the few extant Old Assyrian incantations (listed in Michel 2003: 137–38) show a strong Babylonian influence in their morphology and vocabulary. 41.  The basic tool for the study of Old Assyrian is Hecker 1968 (GKT); for a short general characterization, see also GAG §2i and p. 194. 42.  W. Mayer (1971: 1–3) lists the sources then available; see also Pedersén 1998: 80–103. Important, more recent publications include H. Freydank’s MARV 1–7 and the letters from Dūr-Katlimmu (CancikKirschbaum 1996). A few specimens of the text finds from Tell Sabi Abyad were published by Wiggermann (2000). 43.  The basic tool for Middle Assyrian is still W. Mayer 1971; see also Cancik-Kirschbaum 1996: 62–69. For a short general description, see GAG §2j and p. 195. 44.  See also Reiner 1966: 113. There are, however, at least three Middle Assyrian features that cannot be derived from Old Assyrian: the first-person plural dative pronoun with š (see n. 22, p. 12 above); the N‑stem perfective forms with an ending, which have i in Old Assyrian (iššiknū, etc.) but again show the original a in Middle Assyrian (iššaknū) (see §12.2.1, p. 289); and the use of the vowel a, which sometimes appears in Middle Assyrian where Old Assyrian has an allegedly secondary e—e.g., OA ileʾʾē versus MA ilaʾʾē ‘he is able’.

1.4.  Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic

19  Neo-Assyrian Neo-Assyrian covers the time from the beginning of the first millennium B.C. until the fall of the Assyrian Empire shortly before 600 B.C., but almost all extant texts date from the last 150 years of this period.45 The main corpus consists of letters sent to Assyrian kings and other types of documents related to the royal court (grants, decrees, treaties) that were found in the royal library of Niniveh (Kuyunjik). Smaller groups of letters and legal documents come from various places in the Assyrian empire, such as Assur, Nimrud (CTN 5), and Dūr-Katlimmu (NATSH).46 There are also a few literary texts written in Neo-Assyrian or with a strong Neo-Assyrian influence (see §, p. 17), although Standard Babylonian is the normal medium for such genres. Royal inscriptions from this period are invariably in Standard Babylonian, but those of some kings show a heavy Assyrian influence.47 Because of their varied subject matter and relatively unadorned style, the letters seem to be the best evidence for our knowledge of Neo-Assyrian. Although many of them were written by scholars and high officials and are interspersed with learned forms and quotations from Standard Babylonian (Parpola 1983: 442–43; Worthington 2006), it is usually not too difficult to distinguish these from genuine Neo-Assyrian elements. What is very difficult, however, and has hardly been attempted so far, is to get a reliable idea of the actual Neo-Assyrian dialect from the doubtless largely conventional and perhaps archaizing orthography. As far as we can tell, NeoAssyrian seems to be a close successor to Middle Assyrian in all important respects; it must have been subject to Aramaic influence, but to what extent any innovations were caused by this fact is hard to say.48

1.4.2.  Semitic Evidence from other Semitic languages is indispensable for a reconstruction of the (pre)history of Akkadian and will play an important role in this study. The relationships among the Semitic languages are fairly close; compared to Indo-European, they are on the level of similarity of the Romance or Germanic languages rather than that of Indo-European itself (Ullendorff 1971: 34). Nevertheless, there are striking differences between Akkadian and the rest of Semitic (in particular, in the verbal system) that are large enough to make the reconstruction of the verb in Proto-Semitic a hotly debated issue. Also controversial is the subgrouping of Semitic, but this mainly concerns the internal relationships of West Semitic and is not directly relevant to Akkadian, which together with Eblaite constitutes the East Semitic branch. The present study will not be directly concerned with the internal subgrouping of West Semitic, although its results may be of some consequence for it.49 45.  See K. Deller and A. R. Millard, BagM 24 (1993) 235; and Luukko 2004: 15. Interestingly, the recently published Neo-Assyrian texts from Dūr-Katlimmu (NATSH) date from the beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (604–562), thus, after the fall of Niniveh (see Radner 2002: 16–19). 46.  For lists of (published) texts, see Luukko 2004: 17–19, 191–212, and Pedersén 1998: 130–81. Most of them, in particular the letters, have been (re)published in the SAA series. 47.  See, for instance, Deller 1957a and 1957b on Assyrian elements in the inscriptions of Aššurnaṣirpal II and Tukulti-Ninurta II, respectively. 48.  A comprehensive Neo-Assyrian grammar is an urgent desideratum. Ylvisaker’s pioneering study of 1912 is largely outdated. For the present, we have Deller 1959, Hämeen-Anttila 2000, Luukko 2004, and numerous articles by S. Parpola, who was the first to place the study of Neo-Assyrian on a firm footing. For short characterizations, see Reiner 1966: 114; GAG §2k and p. 196. 49.  See Faber 1997 on the subgrouping of Semitic (with earlier literature) and, more recently, Hueh­ ner­gard 2005b.

Akkadian, Semitic, and Afroasiatic  1.4.


However, the subgrouping of West Semitic has terminological implications in that there is a major dividing line between two groups of languages according to the imperfective they use. One group uses an imperfective consisting of a “simple” prefix conjugation, sometimes with a special set of endings: Arabic yaqtulu, Hebrew yiqṭol, Syriac neqṭol, etc. The other group uses an imperfective that has (or once had) gemination of the second radical: e.g., Geʿez yəqattəl and Mehri yərūkəz. Because in the present study the former group is routinely contrasted with the latter, I will use the label Central Semitic to refer to the former (Arabic, Ugaritic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Epigraphic South Arabian, etc.) and South Semitic to refer strictly to Modern South Arabian and the Semitic languages of Ethiopia.50 An important motive for this is convenience, since it avoids the necessity of constantly referring to “South Semitic without Arabic” and “Central Semitic plus Arabic.” It is true that in many other respects Arabic is more closely related to South Semitic (e.g., with regard to the broken plural; see Ratcliffe 1998b), and in chap. 18, I will argue that this is where Arabic indeed belongs, because the imperfective yaqtulu, on which its classification as Central Semitic is largely based (Faber 1997: 8–9), is a shared retention of Arabic and Northwest Semitic and therefore a poor diagnostic for subgrouping. So the terminology I will use in the course of the present study is based on the following diagram (see also Voigt 1987d: 15): Proto-Semitic West Semitic                   East Semitic Central Semitic                South Semitic    • Northwest Semitic   • Ethiopian Semitic    • Epigraphic South Arabian   • Modern South Arabian    • Arabic Figure 1.  Subgrouping of the West Semitic Languages.

1.4.3.  Afroasiatic From a wider perspective, Semitic is one of the branches of the Afroasiatic language family. The other branches are Berber, Old Egyptian, Cushitic, Chadic, and perhaps Omotic.51 The study of this family is still in its infancy and the relationship between the branches is rather distant. However, it is precisely in the morphology of the verb that convincing correspond­ences are found. There are three points of correspondence in particular. First, there is a striking agreement in the personal prefixes of the fientive verb in Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic (see §2.5, p. 52) and of the suffixed person-markers of stative categories in at least Semitic, Egyptian, and Berber (see §7.4.3, pp. 189–193). Second, there are strong correspondences between several markers of derived verbs: a sibilant with causative function (see §13.6, pp. 351–352); t with detransitive function (see §14.4, p. 375); and n or m, also with detransitive, in particular (medio)passive, 50.  This is basically Voigt’s classification (e.g., Voigt 1987d; see the tree diagram on p. 15); in Hetzron’s classification (1976a: 106), Epigraphic South Arabian is part of the South Semitic branch alongside Ethiopian and Modern South Arabian. 51.  For an extensive survey of Afroasiatic, see Hayward 2000. Other literature includes Hodge, ed. 1971; Sasse 1981; Loprieno 1986: 1–26; Diakonoff 1988; Petráček 1988; Lipiński 1997: 23–47; Voigt 2002; Huehnergard 2004.

1.5.  The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia


function (see §12.6.1, pp. 315–317). Third, perhaps less conspicuous but no less remarkable and of particular relevance to the present study is the common tendency of present renewal (but with different formal means), as described above in §1.2.2 (pp. 3–5), in many, if not all, branches of Afroasiatic (see §, pp. 104–107). For the study of the verb in Semitic, therefore, Afroasiatic represents a potentially valuable source of information. The use of Afroasiatic evidence raises numerous problems, however. There is a huge chronological gap between the earliest Semitic data we have (from around 2500 B.C., as indicated above) and the data from other branches of Afroasiatic, which—with a few negligible exceptions—do not predate the 19th century a.d. (with the obvious exception of Old Egyptian). When we compare phenomena attested in Akkadian with putative parallels in, say, Berber and Cushitic, we should be aware that the latter languages have undergone at least 4,000 years of development—and probably far more—since their separation from some prehistoric stage of Akkadian (Kossmann 1999: 13–14). This often makes it difficult to assess the value of such parallels. In order to attain a more solid basis for comparative studies on the Afroasiatic level, we urgently need reconstructions of the common ancestors of these subfamilies, especially of ProtoBerber and Proto-Cushitic (Sasse 1980: 154; Zaborski 1994a: 234–36; Huehnergard 1996: 264–65). Otherwise, comparison may easily degenerate into picking out convenient pieces and equating them with similar pieces elsewhere, without an understanding of the system to which they belong. This has not yet been achieved, however, and for the moment I will accept Afro­ asiatic evidence that I regard as sound and plausible—on the basis of typological evidence, for instance—mainly in support of claims and hypotheses concerning (Proto‑)Semitic that are ultimately based on data from Semitic itself.

1.5. Excursus The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadian The dialect classification of third-millennium Akkadian raises vexing problems for which only provisional solutions can be offered. Important causes for this are the scarcity of (published) texts, the difficulties in establishing their provenance and date, the (in many respects) unusual orthography, with ensuing difficulties of interpretation, and, last but not least, the fact that a large part of the evidence must be extracted from proper names, with all of the uncertainties this involves. In recent years, it has become clear that the traditional view of third-millennium Akkadian, represented, for instance, in GAG §2c and in I. J. Gelb’s (1961) grammar, which lumps together all extant texts under the heading “Old Akkadian” and regards the later dialects of Babylonian and Assyrian as continuations of Old Akkadian, is far too simplistic.52 Two major innovations seem to have met with general approval.53 First, third-millennium Akkadian is by no means a coherent unity but a conglomerate of several dialects or a dialect continuum. Second, the (very scarcely attested) Akkadian texts of the Ur III Period represent the earliest manifestation of what will later be the Babylonian dialect (hence the term “Ur III Babylonian”; see §, p. 12 above). In other matters, there is not much unanimity about the relationships among the various dialects. If we consider the geographic location of each of the dialects distinguished in § above and the patterns of isoglosses that unite or separate them, a fairly consistent picture arises. In the 52.  This insight is already found in Reiner 1966: 21 and Kienast 1981: 98. 53.  The revision of traditional views on third-millennium Akkadian was in particular initiated by A. Westenholz (1978) and Sommerfeld (2003); see also Hilgert 2002: 168–70 and 2003; Rubio 2003a: 165–69, 2006: 110–12; Hasselbach 2005: 231–35, 2007.

The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia  1.5.


far northwest of Mesopotamia, we find the Old Akkadian dialect of Mari and Tell Beydar. As far as we can judge from the sparse material, it is very archaic. It shows the following phonological archaisms: • preservation of at least part of the Proto-Semitic gutturals • no E‑colouring • no vowel contraction Morphological archaisms are: • the forms PaRRvS and šaPRvS (versus PuRRvS and šuPRvS, see below) • the original vowel ū (< *aw) in the Š‑stem of I/voc verbs (ù-šu-rí-id /y?ušūrid/ AKI p. 361 MŠ 4: 4); see §16.2.3 (p. 455) • the a vowel in ti-iš-da-u /tištayū/ MARI 1 81:23 ‘they drank’; see §16.7.1 (pp. 496–497) • extensive use of the dual (Limet 1975: 39–43) • retention of case, gender, and number distinctions in the determinative/relative pronoun (Limet 1975: 45–47). Particularly important is the fact that Mari Old Akkadian has a few features that it shares only with Eblaite (to be discussed below), such as: • • • •

no E‑colouring the third-person plural prefix ti‑ (see §2.5, p. 51) instances of S-V-O word order the prepositions sin ‘to, towards’ (at Tell Beydar), and perhaps *qidmē ‘in front of’ (if this is indeed the correct reading of igi-me).

This brings us to the position of Eblaite itself, the language that is preserved on tablets from the archives of the kings of Ebla in northern Syria, to be dated to ca. 2400 B.C. Eblaite is very closely related to Akkadian, but the exact degree of relationship is a matter of debate: the question is whether it is a dialect of Akkadian or whether it should instead be classified as a separate branch of East Semitic, a “sister language” of (Proto‑)Akkadian (see Huehnergard 2006: 3–5; Rubio 2006: 110–123). Eblaite has a number of specific features that set it apart from (the rest of) Akkadian and, conversely, Akkadian has several common characteristics that are absent from Eblaite. An Eblaite innovation not shared by Akkadian is L-reduction, the apparent weakening of the phoneme /l/, presumably to y or ∅ (Krebernik 1982: 210–11).54 A common Akkadian innovation not shared by Eblaite is the dissimilation of the instrumental noun prefix ma- to na- in roots that have a labial radical. Of most other contrasting features, it is difficult to be certain which is innovative and which is a retention, but the sheer quantity of differences supports the view that Eblaite is a separate language rather than a dialect of Akkadian. Therefore, in the present study I will treat it as the closest relative of Akkadian that we know about but nonetheless a separate branch of East Semitic.55 The commonalities between Mari Old Akkadian and Eblaite are in keeping with their geographic location in the extreme northwest of Mesopotamia and their extensive contacts in the Early Dynastic period of the “Kish Civilization,” discussed in particular by Gelb (1992 and many other publications). It is not the case, however, pace Gelb, that Mari Old Akkadian and Eblaite

54.  Unless this is a purely graphic phenomenon, as argued by Rubio (2006: 17, with further literature). 55.  Similarly, Pettinato 2003; Huehnergard 2005b: 157 n. 9, 2006: 4; and Rubio 2006: 121. Krebernik, however, prefers to regard Eblaite as an Akkadian dialect (1996: 249, but cf. also 2006: 84).

1.5.  The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia


are virtually the same dialect: on balance, the former shows more commonalities with the rest of third-millennium Akkadian than with Eblaite. Among these we may single out: • the merger of Proto-Semitic *ð with z and *θ with š/ś (for the latter point, see A. Westenholz 1978: 163a) • the dissimilation of the instrumental noun prefix ma- to na- if the root contains a labial radical (Charpin 1987: 90) • the change of ay to ē, which does not seem to have occurred in Eblaite (Conti 1990: 35) • the loss of the Proto-Semitic prepositions min ‘from’ and bayn ‘between’, which are still used in Eblaite • the fact that—as far as we know—Mari Old Akkadian does not share the numerous Eblaite lexemes with a West Semitic background (which are also absent from other Akkadian dialects). Opposite Mari Old Akkadian in the far northwest of Mesopotamia, we have to assume the presence of (Pre‑)Assyrian in the northeast, although we have no texts in Assyrian from the third millennium. In many respects, Assyrian stands apart from all other dialects, particularly because of the innovative feature of vowel assimilation (see §2.4, pp. 48–49) and the use of personal pronouns with ‑ti for the dative (GKT §§48–49), but also because of numerous other morphosyntactic features, different vowel patterns, and many specific vocabulary items (see Kogan 2006a).56 These are more than enough to show that Assyrian is not a fairly recent split-off of another dialect but has had an independent development that must go back far into the third millennium. Where Assyrian agrees with other dialects, in particular with Mari Old Akkadian and Sargonic Akkadian, it almost invariably concerns shared retentions—such as the partial preservation of gutturals; PaRRvS and šaPRvS in the non-prefix forms of the D‑ and the Š‑stems; the absence of vowel contraction; the alternation PitRvS–PitaRSū in the Gt‑stem; the use of ‑kunu/‑šunu, etc., for the accusative; and the oblique plural ending ‑ē in the noun (Hasselbach 2007: 40–41). Farther to the south, in Central Mesopotamia, is where we should look for the core area of Sargonic Akkadian. In all likelihood, Sargonic Akkadian is the dialect of the homeland of the Sargonic kings (Sommerfeld 2003) that, according to Gelb (1992: 124), was “an area north of Babylonia proper, which was bounded by the Tigris, the Lower Zab, the mountains, and the Diyala River”—although this is not universally accepted (see A. Westenholz 1999: 31–34). Gelb’s location tallies with the fact that in many respects Sargonic Akkadian is linguistically intermediate between the dialects of Mari Old Akkadian and later Old Assyrian in the north and Babylonian in the south. Phonological features of Sargonic Akkadian that have parallels in the north are:57 • the at least partial preservation of gutturals • local E‑colouring58 56.  Most typically Assyrian features are retentions: for example, PaRRvS and šaPRvS (see §11.2, pp. 269–271, and §13.2.1, pp. 325–326); PitRvS—PitaRSū in the Gt‑stem (§14.2.1, pp. 358–359); the I/voc N‑stem with a long vowel innāmer (§, pp. 550–551); the ni‑subjunctive (§9.3.3, pp. 222–224); the accusative suffix pronouns ‑kunu, ‑šunu, etc.; the II/voc D perfective ukayyin (§, pp. 482–483)—to mention only the most salient points. Innovations (or at least independent developments) are, apart from vowel assimilation, the vowels of the precative (§, pp. 213–216); the t‑perfect of II/voc verbs with a (iddūak, iqtīap, see §16.5.2, p. 478); the generalization of ē in the Š‑stems of I/w verbs (ušēbil, etc., see §16.2.3, p. 456); the loss of ‑š‑ in the dative pronouns; and the change wa‑ > u‑ in word-initial position (GKT §12). See also Table 1 below (p. 27). 57.  See also Hasselbach 2005: 234. 58.  That is, the change a > e in immediate contact with the guttural only, in contrast to global E‑colouring, which also affects other a vowels in the word; see §17.5.1 (pp. 525–534) for details.


The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia  1.5. • the absence of vowel contraction • the change *ay > ē (rather than ī).

Morphological features agreeing with northern dialects include: • the (residual) use of the subjunctive particle ‑ni • the partial preservation of the original vowel ū (< *aw) in the Š‑stem of I/voc verbs (alongside ē) • PitRvS—PitaRSū in the Gt‑stem (see §14.2.1, pp. 358–359) • the 3mp accusative suffix pronoun ‑šunu (only in copies of royal inscriptions) • the oblique plural ‑ē in the noun • the preposition in (rather than ina). On the other hand, Sargonic Akkadian shares a number of features with the southern dialect of Babylonian: • the pattern PuRRvS/šuPRvS in the non-prefix forms of the D‑ and the Š‑stems • the prefix vowels of the precative • the weak form of the D perfective of the II/voc verbs (ukên/ukîn; see §, pp. 482–483) • preservation of the dative pronouns with ‑š‑ and the use of genitive/accusative plural forms with ‑ti (šunūti, etc.) • the regular absence of the ni‑subjunctive (apart from residual cases) • the preposition ana (Hasselbach 2005: 167). This raises the question of the relationship between Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian, which is one of the main problems in the dialect classification of third-millennium Akkadian. Hilgert (2002: 168; 2003: 11) emphasizes the differences between Sargonic Akkadian and Ur III Babylonian and concludes that there is no continuity between them, which means that Babylonian is not a later stage of Sargonic Akkadian. A similar view was expressed earlier by A. Westenholz (1978: 163b n. 24). Hasselbach (2005: 2, 234–35; 2007: 41–42), on the other hand, points out that the similarities between them, although not very numerous, are more significant than the differences, because most of them are shared innovations and therefore indicate a period of common ­development. In fact, if we consider the differences between Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian, it turns out that most of the Babylonian features can be regarded as later stages of the corresponding Sargonic Akkadian features: • the complete (instead of partial) loss of the gutturals (except the “strong aleph,” for which see §17.4, pp. 520–525) • the contraction of heterogeneous vowels (post-Ur III) • the loss of the ni-subjunctive (and its variant with ‑na), which is the endpoint of a process already well under way in Sargonic Akkadian • the loss of the 3fs prefix ta‑ • the decline of the dual • the loss of the genitive ending ‑i in the construct state (A. Westenholz 1978: 165a; Hassel­ bach 2005: 183), which can be explained from analogy with the nominative and accusative • the oblique plural suffix pronouns ‑šunūti, etc., resulting from a gradual replacement of the original accusative ‑šunu with the independent pronoun šunūti, which itself became a suffix in the process (see Gensler 1998: 238–39, 274)

1.5.  The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia


• the use of ‑ninni instead of ‑ni as the 1s direct object suffix after the long vowels ‑ū and ‑ā (Hasselbach 2005: 154 n. 23; cf. Kouwenberg 2002: 222–23) • the replacement of in by ina, perhaps caused by the analogy with ana (Hasselbach 2005: 168) and of išti by itti 59 The main question is whether all differences between Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian can be regarded as internal developments of Sargonic Akkadian. If the answer is positive, nothing prevents us from classifying Babylonian as a later stage of Sargonic Akkadian. Unfortunately, the rest of the evidence is equivocal and therefore inconclusive. The relevant features are the change *ay > ī and E‑colouring. A first point of divergence between Sargonic Akkadian and Ur III Babylonian is that the Proto-Semitic diphthong *ay becomes ē in Sargonic Akkadian but ī in Babylonian. If the latter dialect is a later stage of Sargonic Akkadian, we have to adduce arguments for a regular change ē > ī between the two stages—e.g., Proto-Semitic *baytum > SAk bētum > Bab bītum. Hasselbach (2005: 91 n. 186) does indeed assume this sort of process and adduces parallels for it from other languages. The problem is, however, how to account for numerous ē vowels in Babylonian from various sources that have not become ī.60 Second, a salient difference between Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian is the kind of E‑­ colouring: if Sargonic Akkadian has E‑colouring, it is of the local type—e.g., e-ra-si-iš /   ʾerāsis/ SAB p. 183:23 (Gasur) ‘in order to cultivate’. In Babylonian, it is global­—e.g., eleqqē ‘I will receive’ < *ʾalaqqaḥ (cf. Ass alaqqē, which is also local; see §17.5.1, pp. 525–529). Several scenarios that might explain this difference can be envisioned, each with its own problems. It is possible that the global form is a secondary extension of the local one—that is, Babylonian would have had alaqqē first and changed it to eleqqē later—thus a case of “Babylonian vowel harmony” (see §17.5.1, p. 525). The problem is that it does not account for forms such as the Stat leqī ( eleqqē without an intermediate alaqqē, since this directly accounts for petī < *patiḥ. However, this implies that E‑colouring in Babylonian was a fundamentally different process from E‑colouring in Sargonic Akkadian (and Assyrian). Finally, we should mention another point of difference between Babylonian and Sargonic Akkadian, namely, the formation of the Š‑stems of I/w verbs. Hilgert (2002: 166–67) adduces the fact that the Š‑stems of I/w verbs have the vowel ā in Ur III Babylonian as an important indication of the distance between Ur III Babylonian and Sargonic Akkadian, since the latter either has the original vowel ū < *aw or (more often) ē. This argument must be questioned, however. First of all, the Ur III Babylonian evidence consists of a single form: tù-ša-ba-lam TCS 1

59.  More difficult is the appearance of Bab elī < *ʿalay instead of SAk al < *ʿal (Hasselbach 2005: 168). We have to assume either that elī took over its final vowel from other prepositions, such as ittī ‘with’, adī ‘until’, qadī ‘together with’, etc., or that Sargonic Akkadian also had an unattested alē alongside al. 60.  Instances: (a) near gutturals (bēlu ‘lord’ < *baʿlum, ipettē ‘he opens’ < *yipattaḥ, mēšenu ‘shoe’ < *mašʿanum, and passim); (b) near ṣ and r (ṣēru ‘back’ < *θ̣ahrum, rēšu ‘head’ < *raʾšum); (c) other cases: ušēṣi ‘he caused to go out’ (Š Pfv of waṣû, see §16.2.3 [pp. 455–456], already in use in Sargonic Akkadian!), ušēdi ‘he informed’ (Š Pfv of idû ‘to know’). Is it possible to assume that ē near gutturals remained because it arose only when the change ē > ī was no longer operative?


The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia  1.5.

370:8 ‘you will have (sth.) brought to me’.61 Remarkably enough, it is precisely this verb that in Sargonic Akkadian shows a few exceptional forms with ā alongside regular ones with ē: lu-sabí-la-kum /lusābilakkum/ SAB p. 141:12, 14 (Kish) ‘I will send to you’ and perhaps uš-da-abí-la /  ʾustābila/ OAIC 10:8 (Diyala) ‘I considered’ (Subj), if this form is correctly interpreted as coming from wabālu Št2 ‘to consider’ (Hasselbach 2005: 227). Since usābil existed as a variant of usēbil in Sargonic Akkadian, tù-ša-ba-lam provides no evidence for discontinuity between Sargonic Akkadian and Ur III Babylonian. We have to await evidence from other verbs before we can draw any reliable conclusion about these particular forms. The commonalities between Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian are significant, but our view on E‑colouring and the outcome of Proto-Semitic *ay will determine whether we classify Babylonian as a later stage of Sargonic Akkadian or assign it an independent position as a closely related “sister” of Sargonic Akkadian. It is clear, however, that the two dialects had close contacts or a substantial period of common development during the third millennium. There is a final set of data to be considered here, and these concern Pre-Sargonic Akkadian. The most striking feature of the proper names attested in Pre-Sargonic Akkadian texts is that several of them show E‑colouring and the loss of a syllable-final guttural. The forms in question are /yismē/ ‘he heard’ and /bēlī/ ‘my lord’ in the following proper names: • Iš-me-ì-lum (A. Westenholz 1988: 115 no. 215, 116 no. 292) • Iš-me-lum (A. Westenholz 1988: 115 no. 216, 116 no. 293), and Èš-me-lum OrAnt. 18 225:I 9; see Foster 1982: 307 s.v. • be6 (PI)-lí in, e.g., Ì-lí-be6 (PI)-lí (A. Westenholz 1988: 115 no. 220). The loss of the final guttural may be inferred from Iš/Èš-me-lum, which not only shows E‑­ colouring but also vowel contraction (or syncope) over two gutturals (< *Yismaʿ-ʾilum). This suggests that the process of weakening of the gutturals was far advanced.62 According to A. Westenholz (1988: 101), during the Pre-Sargonic period, forms such as these are only found in Nippur and further south. Since they are typical of the Babylonian dialect and restricted to what will later become the Babylonian dialect area, it is attractive to see the first attestations of Babylonian in these forms.63 This seems to support the idea that what we find as Babylonian many centuries later had very ancient roots in the south of Mesopotamia and coexisted with what we find as Sargonic Akkadian more to the north, close enough to explain the shared innovations listed above. Table 1 summarizes the preceding discussion in the form of a list of the most important innovations on which the classification proposed here is based. It includes neither shared retentions nor features that are lost in more than one dialect, since these are less consequential for subgrouping. I have also omitted Pre-Sargonic Akkadian because of the lack of data on most of the relevant features.

61.  Hilgert (2002: 339) registers a second Š‑stem of a I/w verb, ù-sa-ti-ir AKI p. 326: 51 (RI from Elam) ‘he gave in addition’ from watāru ‘to exceed, surpass’, but as long as watāru Š is only attested in Babylonian, it offers no evidence for dialect classification. 62.  Although it is not certain that we may generalize on the basis of proper names about the state of the gutturals, see Kouwenberg (2003–4b: 363–64) regarding Old Assyrian names in which gutturals are dropped that are never dropped in other circumstances. 63.  Cf. D. O. Edzard, RlA 9 (1998–2001) 108a §3.2 and Hilgert (2002: 170 n. 205). A. Westenholz (1999: 33 n. 81) is skeptical. Hasselbach (2005: 9 n. 50) summarizes the debate without taking a position. However, if these Pre-Sargonic forms indeed represent the oldest traces of the Babylonian dialect, this is incompatible with the claim that Sargonic Akkadian is an early form of Babylonian.

1.5.  The Dialect Classification of Third-millennium Akkadia


Table 1  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15

L-reduction ‑ma > na‑ with labials merger of *ð and *z ay > ē or ī SOV word order PaRRvS > PuRRvS E-colouring yusūbil > yusē/ābil Acc ‑šunu, etc. > ‑šunūti vowel contraction Gt PitaRSv > PitRvSv in replaced by ina Dat ‑šunūšim, etc. > ‑šunūti vowel assimilation ni-subjunctive

Ebl + – – – – – –

MariOAk – + + + (ē) – – – –

– –b –

– –

SAk – + + + (ē) + + –/+a –/+a –/+a – – – – – –c

Bab – + + + (ī) + + + + + + + + – – –c

Ass – + + + (ē) + – + + – – – + + + +

Notes to the Table: a blank cell indicates lack of reliable data. a. The feature is incipient and both types of forms are found b. If si-dar-KI-šu is indeed Inf Gt of šarāqu, see n. 24 to chap. 14 (p. 362). c. Apart from residual cases without a clear function, see §9.3.2 (p. 225).

This leads to the provisional diagram shown in fig. 2 for the relations among the third-millennium languages or dialects (only those without an asterisk are actually attested):         *Proto-East Semitic Eblaite                *Proto-Akkadian     Mari Old Akkadian   *(Pre-)Assyrian      *Old Akkadian             Assyrian     Sargonic Akkadian    Ur III Babylonian Figure 2.  Sub-groupings of third-millennium Akkadian. Note that there is a global correspondence between a dialect’s position in this tree and its geographical location: from left to right roughly corresponds with northwest to southeast. The location of Eblaite far to the northwest of other kinds of East Semitic and from the centre of Mesopotamian civilization is in perfect agreement with its linguistic position: it shows a greater difference from Akkadian than the third-millennium dialects do among themselves.

Chapter 2

Structure and Organization in the   Akkadian Verbal Paradigm

2.1. Introduction In order to master and use a system that is as complex as the Akkadian verb, a tight organization and a transparent structure are indispensable. Organization refers here to the hierarchical relations among forms and categories, which constitute a paradigm with the properties described in the previous chapter (§1.2.3), and structure to the structure of individual forms. This chapter investigates the organization of the Akkadian verbal system as a paradigm and the structure of each of its constitutive members in terms of the “root-and-pattern system.” There are several reasons to start the description of the Akkadian verb with a general account of its organization and structure. First, this makes it possible to draw a precise picture of the relationships between the various verbal categories and the way they interact with each other. Second, it enables us to distinguish the verbal paradigm from derivational forms that are outside the paradigm but are related to it and interact with it. Third, as I argued in §1.2.3 (pp. 7–8), the position of a form in the verbal paradigm influences the way it develops over time. It is convenient here to point to a terminological difficulty concerning the term stem. This term is used in two different meanings in Semitic linguistics:1 it refers both to a word without its inflectional ending(s) and to a specific type of morphosyntactic category—namely, the derived verbal stems, in well-established terms such as the G‑stem, the D‑stem, the Š‑stem, etc.2 On the one hand, we call, for instance, šarr‑ the stem of šarru ‘king’, ‑parras‑ the stem of iparrasū ‘they separate’, and pars‑ the stem of parsāku ‘I am/have separated’; on the other hand, both iparras and parsāku are said to be the G‑stem of parāsu ‘to separate’. In order to avoid confusion, I will use the term inflectional stem for stem in the morphological sense (the word minus the inflectional endings), and verbal stem or derived (verbal) stem for the functional categories traditionally referred to as G‑stem, etc., whenever confusion is possible. Finally, I will use the term stem vowel for the vowel between R2 and R3 that replaces the root vowel (see §2.3.4, p. 45) in most grammatical categories, e.g., i in the D Pfv uparris (root vowel u). Among the stem vowels, the vowel of the G‑stem Impfv iparrVs—which I will call the “imperfective vowel”—has a privileged status, because it is introduced into several categories derived from the G‑stem imperfective (see §4.2, pp. 89–90).

1.  The stem is in general defined as minimally consisting of the root, but usually it is extended with a derivational morpheme, and it may or may not be a complete word (Payne 1997: 24). 2.  See chap. 10 n. 2 (p. 246) for alternative designations of what I will call the derived verbal stems.


2.2.  The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm


2.2. The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm 2.2.1.  The basic structure The Akkadian verbal paradigm formally distinguishes eight major grammatical categories (see GAG §74): • four finite indicative categories for the expression of tense/aspect: the imperfective, the perfective (usually called preterite), the t‑perfect, and the stative; • one irrealis category: the imperative; • three verbal nouns: the infinitive, the past participle (usually called verbal adjective; see n. 14 to chap. 8), and the present participle.



These categories are shown in Table 2.1 in their Old Babylonian form; by way of illustration, this table contains the forms of the paradigmatic verb parāsu ‘to separate, decide’ in the G‑stem; the finite forms are third-person singular (masculine), apart from the imperative, which is secondperson singular masculine; the nominal forms are nominative singular masculine. Category


(1) imperfective


(2) perfective


(3) t‑perfect


(4) imperative


(5) stative


(6) infinitive


(7) past participle


(8) present participle


Type of Stem

prefix base ‑PRvS

suffix base PaRvS

Table 2.1: The eight members of the Akkadian verbal paradigm. Parāsu represents the conjugation of the strong triradical verb, which is the norm for all other types of verbs, both basic and derived. In principle, the verbal paradigm functions independently of any specific type of verb: all Akkadian verbs have essentially the same paradigm, although they do not all have the full range of formal distinctions shown by the basic verb.3 These eight categories are inflectionally related to one another and constitute the primary members of the verbal paradigm. There are three other types of categories that are in some way related to it and dependent on it: a number of secondary members, also with inflectional status, which will be discussed at the end of this section; and two kinds of derivational categories: deverbal nouns and derived verbs, for which see §2.2.2 (pp. 33–35). The structure of this paradigm can be described on the basis of the criteria outlined in §1.2.3 (pp. 5–8). The eight members form a functional hierarchy with the prefix conjugations of imperfective, perfective, and t‑perfect at the top. They represent the quintessentially verbal forms, on which the tense/aspect system of Akkadian is based and which therefore constitute the core of the 3.  The adjectival verbs discussed in §3.3.2 (pp. 58–60) have a more restricted paradigm and a different relationship among some of their members.

The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm  2.2.


verbal paradigm. As prototypical verb forms, they can express all morphosyntactic distinctions of the Akkadian verb: • • • • •

person, number, and gender (by means of prefixes and suffixes) tense/aspect (by means of differences in stem) mood (by means of a prefix [l- in the precative] and proclitic particles [i, lū, ē /ay, lā]) orientation (by means of the suffix -am/-m/-nim of the ventive) subordination (by means of the subjunctive suffix -u).

Their basic status is confirmed by the fact that they show different vowel patterns, which—at least in the basic stem—are unmotivated. This variation lies at the basis of the vowel classes; see §3.5 (pp.  68–71). Among the three prefix conjugations, the imperfective has the highest rank in the functional hierarchy of the verbal paradigm, since it is the only one that can refer to the actual moment of speech. Its basic status, in particular that of the G‑stem iparrVs, is demonstrated by the strong influence it has exerted on other categories; see §4.2 (pp. 89–90). The perfective and the t‑perfect, as past tenses, are semantically subordinate to the imperfective. In one respect, the relationships among the prefix conjugations are atypical: the imperfective is the basic member, but it is not unmarked: in Akkadian it is the perfective that is formally unmarked; see further §4.2. The stative is also a finite indicative form, but it is lower in rank because it refers to a state. This is reflected in the fact that it does not make the typically verbal distinctions of tense and diathesis (see §7.3, pp. 163–165, for details) and that it is predictable in form, since it has the same inflectional stem PaRiS as the past participle, from which it is historically derived. The stative can also have the patterns PaRuS or PaRaS in the G‑stem, but only in primary adjectives. This agrees with the fact that a primary adjective is a basic, unmotivated form, whereas a past participle is a low-ranking derived category. The imperative is closely associated with the prefix conjugations and, particularly, with the perfective, whose inflectional stem it shares and from which it is derived by means of subtraction of the personal prefixes (at least synchronically; see §5.5, pp. 133–134). It is subordinate in rank to the prefix conjugations because of its irrealis function. The highly irregular semantic relationship between the imperative and the perfective (which is basically a past tense) can be understood from a historical perspective: in an earlier stage of the language, the inflectional stem ‑PRvS was also employed for the imperfective, as I will argue in §4.4.2 (pp. 100–103). The three remaining categories—the infinitive, the past participle, and the present participle— are peripheral members subordinate to the finite forms, since they do not serve as predicate but as an argument or an attribute to an argument and accordingly have nominal morphology. Their lower rank is reflected in the fact that they are predictable in form and show neutralization of verbal distinctions such as tense, aspect, mood, and diathesis, which is a typical property of decategorized verb forms (Hopper and Thompson 1984: 737–38). I have classified the infinitive and the participles as inflectional on the basis of the criteria mentioned in §1.2.3 (pp. 5–8): they are generally productive, predictable in meaning and form, and strongly dependent on the corresponding finite verb forms in some of their uses (see below).4 It is true that they also show derivational features, such as a change in word class from verb to noun and idiosyncrasies in their meaning. However, a change in word class does not automatically lead to derivational status. According to Booij (1998: 13–14), such forms can be inflectional if they are felt to belong to the paradigm and can be made for each word of the relevant word 4.  Cf. Izre'el (2005: 545), who places them “somewhere mid-way on the derivational-inflectional continuum.”

2.2.  The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm


class. In a similar vein, Haspelmath (1996) argues that word-class-changing processes are not necessarily derivational. He introduces (1996: 58–59) the additional criterion of syntactic behaviour: if a noun derived from a verb preserves its “internal syntax”—i.e., its syntactic behaviour as a verb—it can still be inflectional; if, on the other hand, it adopts the internal syntax of the noun, it is derivational. According to this criterion, the infinitive is inflectional, at least in the older stages of Akkadian, where it can be construed verbally, with the subject in the nominative and the direct object in the accusative (see §8.2.1, pp. 197–198). The past and present participles, on the other hand, always have the internal syntax of the noun, if they are the head of a noun phrase or syntagm; they are construed, for instance, with a genitive rather than an accusative. However, they also have some typically verbal functions in which they are closely dependent on the finite verb; for instance, in alpū dāʾišūtu ‘threshing oxen’, the present participle is closely associated with its finite counterpart in alpū idiššū ‘the oxen are threshing’; and in awīlu ḫablu ‘a wronged man’, the past participle is closely associated with awīlu ḫabil ‘the man has been wronged’ and more distantly with awīla iḫbul ‘(someone) wronged the man’ (see further §8.3.1, pp. 200–203, and §8.4.1, pp. 203–207). Although both participles are admittedly more often used as lexicalized nouns, this verbal part of their use— which certainly for the past participle and perhaps also for the present participle is more original—justifies their classification as inflectional members of the verbal paradigm. Formally, the eight members are contrasted by differences in their inflectional stem, apart from the fact that the perfective and the imperative on the one hand, and the stative and the past participle on the other, have the same inflectional stem for historical reasons (see §5.5, p. 137, and §7.4.1, pp. 176–177, respectively). Table 2.1 (p. 29) shows that the G‑stem paradigm consists of no less than six inflectional stems; in most derived stems, the number is lower because some contrasts are neutralized, as we will see in the respective chapters. The finite members are conjugated for the typically verbal categories of person, gender, and number; these are expressed by endings (prefixes and suffixes) that are basically the same for all verbal conjugations; they will be briefly discussed in §2.5 (pp. 49–52). The non-finite members are declined for case and some of them also for number and gender, depending on their function, with the same nominal endings as nouns in general. The endings are the same across all conjugations with parallel functions.5 This causes an association between forms that have both the same function and the same form across conjugations, such as first-person singular forms with the prefix a- or causatives with the prefix ‑š-. Such an association functions as a “morphological relation,” in the terminology of Bybee (1985: 118), and enables speakers to identify such elements as markers of a specific function. The most important dividing line among the inflectional stems is the contrast between the prefix stems (nos. 1 through 4 in Table 2.1), which are built to accommodate prefixes (even if they do not have them), and the suffix stems (nos. 5 through 8), which are built to take suffixes (including zero). Each actually comprises three different forms, one simple and two extended (or marked). Among the three prefix stems, ‑PRvS of the perfective and the imperative is unmarked and is overall the simplest of all inflectional stems; the other two prefix stems are marked by means of an extra consonant, the geminate in ‑PaRRvS and the t-infix in ‑PtaRvS. Among the 5.  In this respect, Akkadian is similar to many other languages: since distinctions of tense/aspect and diathesis are more relevant (in the sense of Bybee 1985: 13–14 and 22–23; see §1.2.3, pp. 5–8) to the meaning of the verb than distinctions of person, number, and gender, the morphemes expressing them tend to have a more central position in the word, whereas the morphemes for person, number, and gender tend to occupy a more peripheral position. In accordance with this tendency, Akkadian uses different stems for the former and different endings for the latter.

The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm  2.2.


prefix stems suffix stems

Inflectional stems

three suffix stems, PaRvS- of the stative and the past participle is the simplest, whereas PaRāSand PāRiS- of the infinitive and the present participle, respectively, are marked by means of a long vowel. It is convenient to introduce the term prefix base for the simple prefix stem ‑PRvS, and suffix base for the simple suffix stem PaRvS. The contrast between prefix and suffix base also plays a prominent role in some of the derived stems, even though they tend to have far less different inflectional stems. Table 2.1 clearly shows the peculiar position of the stative: it is finite but belongs to the deverbal members because of its form. This testifies to its relatively recent verbalization and its penetration into the verbal paradigm as an inflectional form (see chap. 7). Before this happened, there was an even stronger correlation between prefixation = verbal = finite and suffixation = deverbal (nominal) = non-finite. For the G‑stem, see Table 2.2:


Strong verb


Pfv stem



Impfv stem



t‑Pf stem



PPartc stem



Inf stem



PrPartc stem



Status finite


Table 2.2: The six inflectional stems of the basic verb A common inflectional stem implies a close relationship, not only in function but also in historical background, as in the case of the stative and the past participle. If, on the other hand, forms have a markedly different inflectional stem, it is likely that they come from different sources. This holds in particular for those members of the paradigm of the basic stem that have a consonantal addition to the simple triradical stem (and are therefore not basic in the strict sense of the word): the imperfective (PaRRvS) and the t‑perfect (PtaRvS). This suggests that they originally did not belong to the basic stem but have penetrated secondarily into a pre-existing paradigm.6 It is generally assumed that this is indeed the case for the t‑perfect (see chap. 6), and in chap. 4 I will argue that it also applies to the imperfective. Each of the eight members forms a conjugation based on its common inflectional stem. In the finite conjugations of imperfective, perfective, t‑perfect, and stative, the third-person singular (masculine) is the basic form; in the imperative, the endingless second-person singular masculine; and in the nominal categories, the nominative singular masculine. Since this is based on theoretical considerations rather than on any specific Akkadian evidence,7 it is perhaps more 6.  That this is indeed the case is confirmed by a comparison with Central Semitic, where all members of the verbal paradigm of the basic stem have a simple inflectional stem without consonantal additions. In my view, this can only be an archaism; see chap. 4 and §18.3.1 (p. 590). 7.  The criteria for establishing the basicness of the third-person singular (masculine) mentioned in chap. 1 n. 6 (p. 5) are difficult to apply to Akkadian. It does not have zero expression and is not unmarked in relation to the other persons (except in the stative). Statistical data on the relative frequency of Akkadian verb forms are not available to me and probably difficult to obtain, because almost all extant genres have some

2.2.  The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm




cautious to state that the endingless forms of the finite conjugations are basic to the forms with endings. This is clear from the way the latter tend to be changed by analogy with the former, rather than vice versa.8 As I stated above, the eight members of the verbal paradigm included in Table 2.1 do not represent the whole array of inflectional forms constituting the paradigm. There is a second group of inflectional forms that are formally dependent on the primary members. These secondary members are presented in Table 2.3 in their Old Babylonian form: Category



(1) Impfv

iparras(-am, -u)

liprus(-am), ay iprus(-am), lā iparras(-am)

(2) Pfv

iprus(-am, -u)

(lū iprus(am))

(3) t‑Pf

iptaras(-am, -u)

(4) Imp


(5) Stat

paris(-am, -u)

lū paris(-am), lā paris(-am)

(6) Inf


(7) PPartc


(8) PrPartc

pārisum, pārisānum

Table 2.3: The secondary members of the verbal paradigm The function of the finite secondary members is modal (for the precative, the vetitive, and the prohibitive), syntactic (for the subjunctive), or deictic (for the ventive). The secondary participle pārisānu serves to renew the verbal nature of the present participle pārisu (see §8.4.2, pp. 207–209). The secondary members with modal (irrealis) function show a continuum of expression from bound (prefixes in most forms of the precative) via “half-bound” (proclitics in some precative forms and in the vetitive) to periphrastic (in the prohibitive and the “asseverative” forms with the particle lū);9 these categories will be discussed in §9.2 (pp. 211–220). The appurtenance of these forms to the verbal paradigm and their inflectional status is shown by the fact that they are fully productive and predictable in form and meaning.

2.2.2.  Derivational categories related to the verb Outside the verbal paradigm, there is a large number of deverbal categories with derivational status. They are of two kinds: verbal and nominal. The verbal derivations comprise what is generally known as the derived verbal stems: the D‑stem, the Š‑stem, etc. They will be discussed particular bias for a specific kind of form: letters for first and second person, omen texts for third person, royal inscriptions for either first or third person (and sometimes a mixture of both), etc. There are hardly any texts that can be regarded as a written reflex of the “normal” use of language in conversation and very few with a natural, unadorned kind of narrative. 8.  Examples of this process are the G‑stem imperative (  purus § pursī/ā; see §5.5, p. 133), the nonprefixed Gt forms (original pitrus - pitarsū § pitrus - pitrusū in Babylonian; see §14.2.1, p. 358), the Old Assyrian N‑stem (original iššikin - iššaknū § iššikin - iššiknū; see §12.2.1, p. 289), the Babylonian N‑stem of I/voc verbs (ipparras - ippăris § innammar - innămir instead of innāmir; see §, p. 552), the Middle and Neo-Assyrian t‑perfect (ilteqē - iltaqyū (OA) § ilteqē - ilteqiū (MA); see §6.2, p. 140, and §, pp. 505–506), and the paradigm of the III/voc verbs in general; see §16.7.1 (p. 498). 9.  Which I have put in parentheses, since it is unclear to me to what extent the asseverative represents a mood in its own right; see the recent discussion in E. Cohen 2005: 17–68.


The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm  2.2.

in later chapters. The nominal derivations comprise a large number of deverbal patterns with a more-or-less specific semantic function, mostly in the sphere of abstract nouns, agent nouns, instrument nouns, etc. Their productivity tends to be limited and their meanings show many idio­ syncrasies. It is also typical that there is a considerable overlap between similar patterns rather than a strict semantic differentiation. An exhaustive enumeration is to be found in GAG §55/56. The most important derivational categories of the verbal paradigm are the following: 1. The patterns PaRRiS and PaRRāS are used to form agent nouns derived from fientive verbs; in spite of their geminate second radical, they belong to the basic stem (GAG §55o; GAV pp. 65–66). Common examples of PaRRāS are šarrāqu ‘thief’, rakkābu ‘sailor’, dayyānu ‘judge’, errēšu ‘cultivator, farmer’, and kaṣṣāru (OA) ‘donkey driver’; examples of PaRRiS are babbilu ‘carrier’ (from wabālu), maššiʾu ‘robber’, ṭabbiḫu ‘butcher’, and šaggišu ‘murderer’. For lists of the relevant forms and a discussion of their nature, see GAV pp. 58–66. These patterns compete with the G‑stem present participle PāRiS, which is also regularly used for agent nouns (see §8.4.1, p. 205). 2. The pattern maPRaS(t) is a common device for the formation of deverbal nouns with a wide range of meanings (GAG §56b/c; Streck 2002b). It comprises abstract nouns that express the verbal content (mašdaḫu ‘procession’ from šadāḫu ‘to walk in procession’), the result of the verbal action (mēreš (t) u ‘cultivated field’ from erēšu ‘to cultivate’), the instrument (naglabu ‘razor’; cf. gullubu ‘to shave’), and the place of the action (maṣallu ‘resting place’ from ṣalālu ‘to sleep’). A few instances serve as abstract nouns of adjectives (nēmequ ‘wisdom’ from emqu ‘wise’). 3. The pattern PiRS and its feminine form PiRiSt are very productive as verbal nouns to fientive verbs, which may subsequently acquire a wide range of meanings (GAG §55c; Fox 2003: 141–42). They are sometimes used as abstract nouns (e.g., rimku ‘washing’) but are more often concretized (riksu ‘bundle’, šipru ‘messenger’ [OA], migru ‘favorite’, ṣibittu ‘prison’). 4. Derivational patterns of the derived verbal stems are not very numerous, but a prominent case is PitRāS derived from the Gt‑stem, a derivational variant of the past participle PitRuS (GAG §56n, Streck 2003a: 99–101 and §14.2.1, p. 359), e.g., šitrāḫu ‘splendid’ (cf. šarḫu and šitruḫu with a similar meaning); most of them are restricted to literary texts, but a few have a wider use, e.g., mitḫāru ‘of equal size, equivocal’ and itbāru ‘partner, associate’ (OB and OA) (see §14.2.1 about the question of whether the a is long or short). Less productive deverbal patterns with derivational status, which I will not further discuss, are PuRāS (GAG §55k; Fox 2003: 229–30), PuRūS (GAG §55l; Fox 2003: 209), and PuRuSSāʾ (GAG §56o and von Soden 1989: 69–82). A few other relatively productive derivational patterns are de-adjectival rather than deverbal, such as PaRRăS, which is a plural formation of a small number of adjectives, especially adjectives denoting dimensions, such as kabbaru ‘thick’ (cf. kabru); see GAV, pp. 52–58, and PuRS, which derives abstract nouns from adjectives, e.g., dunnu ‘strength’ from dannu ‘strong’ (GAG §55d).10 A feature of derivational forms is that they are less subject to the pressure of the verbal paradigm than inflectional forms (Dressler 1989: 8 sub 17; Booij 1998: 16). They have not only a greater freedom to go their own way semantically but in some cases also formally. The pattern maPRaS(t) provides two illustrations of this. First, its prefix ma- is replaced by na- if the root contains a labial consonant (GAG §31b), whereas the prefix mu- of the present participle, which has inflectional status, always remains mu-; cf., for instance, the maPRaS(t) form nablaṭu 10.  It is arguable that these de-adjectival patterns are ultimately deverbal.

2.2.  The Organization of the Verbal Paradigm


‘healing, recovery’ versus the D PrPartc muballiṭu, from balāṭu ‘to live, to be(come) healthy’. The pressure of the verbal paradigm prevents dissimilation, but outside the paradigm this pressure is not strong enough to do so.11 Second, in II/gem roots there is a tendency of identical radicals to cluster together if they are separated by a short vowel; in Arabic, for instance, II/gem verbs show forms such as yaruddu ‘he returns’ instead of *yardudu in conformance with the strong verb (Fischer 1972: 111–13). In the Akkadian verbal paradigm, this tendency is suppressed: Akkadian has idbub, idbubū ‘he/ they spoke’, just as the strong forms iprus, iprusū. However, in maPRaS(t) forms of these verbs, we find instances in which the two final radicals occur as a cluster: maṣallu ‘resting place’ from ṣalālu ‘to sleep’, madakku ‘mortar’ from dakāku ‘to crush’; mašaddu ‘pole’ from šadādu ‘to pull, to stretch’ and namaddu ‘measuring vessel’ from madādu ‘to measure’. In addition, the regular form with the two identical radicals separated by a vowel is also found, in particular in feminine nouns, e.g., maškakātu ‘harrow’ from šakāku ‘to harrow’ and napšaštu ‘ointment’ from pašāšu ‘to anoint’ (Streck 2002b: 250).12

2.2.3. Lexicalization and grammaticalization As stated in §1.2.3 (pp. 5–8), there is no clear-cut boundary between inflectional and derivational categories. In between the prototypical instances of inflection and derivation, there are intermediate categories that combine features of both types, such as the nominal members of the verbal paradigm discussed in §2.2.1 (pp. 29–33). In a historical perspective, these often show a tendency to shift gradually from (more) inflectional to (more) derivational (lexicalization), or vice versa (grammaticalization).13 An important reason for emphasizing the distinction between inflection and derivation is that it clarifies various aspects of the behaviour of these intermediate forms. Lexicalization in the sense intended here is the process of emancipation of members of a paradigm, which makes them (more) derivational and may ultimately make them into independent lexemes.14 In the verbal paradigm, the non-finite, nominal members are most affected by this process: • Present participles tend to develop into agent nouns, e.g., māḫiṣu ‘weaver’ (cf. maḫāṣu ‘to hit, to strike)’, mukinnu ‘witness’ (cf. kânu D ‘to confirm’). • Past participles are often substantivized and acquire some lexicalized meaning, e.g., šaknu ‘appointed’ > ‘governor’, ṣarpu ‘(refined) silver’, eršu ‘(cultivated) field’; see the end of §8.3.1 (pp. 201–202.15 11.  The exception mentioned in GAG §31b, nubattu ‘evening’, related to bâtu (ī) ‘to spend the night’, actually confirms the rule, since in spite of its prefix mu-, it is a derivational form and not a regular participle. 12.  An interesting instance of the phenomenon discussed here is the verb pitqudu: originally a Gt‑stem of paqādu ‘to entrust, provide, muster’, it became lexicalized in the meaning ‘to be careful’ and in NeoBabylonian developed an irregular stative/past participle putqudu (but imperative pitqid ), with the assimilation of i-u to u-u, as in izuzzu > uzuzzu and and itūlu > utūlu (see GAG §107d, §107j). This is a symptom of its separation from its verbal origin: in regular Gt forms with i-u (stative/past participle and infinitive pitrus (u)), the sequence i-u was maintained. 13.  On lexicalization versus grammaticalization, see Kuryłowicz 1964: 36; Comrie 1985a: 10–13; Anttila 1989: 149–52; Brinton and Traugott 2005, especially pp. 62–88. 14.  Cf. Anttila 1989: 151: “Whenever a linguistic form falls outside the productive rules of grammar it becomes lexicalized”. 15.  The lexicalization of past and present participles is often accompanied by adopting the nominal ending ‑ū/‑ī (or ‑ē) instead of ‑ūtu/i in the masculine plural; see §8.3.1 (p. 201) and §8.4.1 (p. 203), respectively.


The Structure of Individual Verb Forms  2.3. • Infinitives may become abstract nouns (e.g., balāṭu ‘to live’ > ‘life’) and thence concrete nouns (e.g., danānu ‘strength’ > ‘stronghold’ (as part of the liver, OB) and nadānu ‘to give’ > gift (NB, Pl nadānātu); see the end of §8.2.1 (p. 198).

As these examples illustrate, the starting point of this process is usually that the form in question acquires a specialized meaning with a relatively high frequency. This gives it its own niche in the vocabulary and so opens the way for an independent development. Lexicalization primarily occurs on the level of individual words, but if it involves numerous members of the same category, it becomes more difficult for speakers to recognize the category as a coherent entity with a specific function, so that it becomes less productive and may disintegrate into individual words that only share a similar form.16 For lexicalization in the derived verbal stems, see §10.4 (p. 250). The opposite process, the incorporation of derivational forms into the paradigm, may be called grammaticalization, although this term normally has a wider meaning (as described in §1.2.2, pp. 3–5).17 In the context of the verbal system, it can also be called verbalization. This process occurred with the Akkadian stative; see chap. 7. Another process is the incorporation of a derived verbal stem into the paradigm of the basic stem; this occurred at least twice in the history of Akkadian: with the t‑perfect iptarVs (see chap. 6) and with the imperfective with gemination iparrVs (see chap. 4). It is also possible that the nominal members of the verbal paradigm, or some of them, have originated as derivational forms that gained in productivity and penetrated into the paradigm. It is well-known that infinitives often originate as abstract nouns (cf. the Arabic maṣdars). To what extent this also applies to the nominal forms of the Akkadian verbal paradigm remains unclear. Since membership in the verbal paradigm is only open to categories, not to individual forms, verbalization normally concerns entire categories. Only under exceptional circumstances (in Akkadian, this mostly means: if the verb has an exceptional form) may individual members of a derivational pattern be included in the verbal paradigm. This happened, for instance, with the PaRRāS forms kayyānu ‘normal, regular’ and tayyāru ‘returning, relenting’, which replace the regular present participles *kāʾinu of kânu ‘to be(come) stable, true’ and *tāʾiru of târu ‘to return’, and with ma/upras forms of irregular verbs, which serve as present participles: mūdû ‘knowing’ from idû and muzzazzu ‘standing’ from izuzzu.18

2.3. The Structure of Individual Verb Forms In addition to the organization of verb forms in a tightly-structured paradigm, the complexity of the Akkadian verbal system was made manageable for its speakers by the high degree of transparency and predictability in form and meaning of the verb forms themselves. This was achieved by two interrelated strategies: first, vowels and consonants were invested with different aspects of the meaning of a verb form; and, second, the basic members of the paradigm—which serve as the input of the derivational rules for creating the more derived members—have severe restrictions on their form. The first strategy gave rise to the division of tasks between consonants and vowels that we know as the root-and-pattern system; the second lies at the basis of the predominant triradicality of the verbal root in Semitic. I will discuss each of these strategies in the following sections. 16.  Sometimes this leads to a renewal of the old function by means of a new form—for instance, the renewal of the present participle by means of the suffix ‑ān‑; see §8.4.2 (pp. 207–209). 17.  “Inflectionalization” would be more accurate, but this term does not seem to be in common use. 18.  An example similar to kayyānu and tayyāru is šarrāqānu from šarāqu ‘to steal’. It usually replaces the present participles šāriqu and šāriqānu, which for no obvious reason are hardly ever used; see chap. 8, n. 39 (pp. 207–208).

2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms


2.3.1.  The root-and-pattern system In the root-and-pattern system, which is generally regarded as the hallmark of the Semitic language type,19 consonants and vowels have different functions: the consonants, which make up the root, provide lexical information, whereas the vowels, which constitute the pattern, specify the grammatical function and/or the meaning (basically, according to whether the word is inflectional or derivational). In addition, there may be an optional third element consisting of one or more consonantal affixes that also have grammatical or lexical function. For instance, Akkadian has a root √rkb (corresponding to Proto-Semitic √rkb) that expresses the general meaning of riding (an animal) and sailing (a boat). Combining it with different patterns, we get, first of all, inflectional forms of the verb ‘to ride, sail’ with grammatical meaning, such as the infinitive rakābu (pattern C1aC2āC3), the imperfective irakkab ‘he rides’ (pattern ‑C1aC2C2aC3), the stative rakib ‘he (has mounted and now) is riding’ (pattern C1aC2iC3), the causative ušarkib ‘he caused to ride’ (pattern ‑ša‑C1C2iC3), etc.; and second, derivational forms such as the agent noun rakkābu ‘sailor’ (pattern C1aC2C2āC3), the instrument nouns rukūbu ‘vehicle, boat’ (pattern C1uC2ūC3) and narkabtu ‘chariot’ (< *markabtum, pattern ma‑C1C2aC3 with the feminine ending ‑t), and the action noun rikbu ‘riding’, often used as a collective noun for ‘crew’ (pattern C1iC2C3). Consistent application of such a system makes the morphology of a language completely transparent, and, as long as there is a reasonable balance between the number of functional and of morphological categories, also highly isomorphic. It enables the language user to assign a rather precise grammatical or lexical function to many words on the basis of their vowel pattern alone and to get at least a general idea of their meaning on the basis of their consonantal skeleton. Because the root-and-pattern system embeds regular forms in a formal and semantic network of associations, it stabilizes both the form and the meaning of words and makes both the root and the pattern applicable to new items—that is, productive. Since the pattern normally expresses a grammatical function (in the widest sense of the word), an enumeration of the patterns with their functions is an indispensable part of the grammars of Semitic languages, in particular for the “classical” Semitic languages of Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Geʿez (Goldenberg 1994: 31–32). However, the working of the root-and-pattern system is dependent (1) on the possibility of associating a specific pattern with a particular function on the basis of the fact that it recurs in a substantial number of other words with a parallel function but with different consonants and (2) on the possibility of associating a specific root with a particular lexical meaning on the basis of the recurrence of the consonants in other words with a related meaning (Cantineau 1950b: 120–21; Larcher 1999: 104). It is of little use (and counter-intuitive, as pointed out by Schramm 1991: 1402) to posit a root for combinations of consonants that only occur in a single word or a few words without a clear semantic relationship, or to posit a pattern for a vowel sequence that has no obvious meaning. Therefore, the root-and-pattern system is only applicable to productive processes of inflection and derivation of the kind we typically find in verbal paradigms and their deverbal derivations. Its usefulness for nominal derivation is far more restricted: many nouns remain unaccounted for. This applies to two kinds in particular: primary nouns and deverbal nouns with sporadic unproductive vowel patterns that do not have an obvious function, such as Akkadian šakkūru ‘drunk person’ (cf. šakāru ‘to be(come) drunk’), sikkūru ‘bolt’ (cf. sekēru ‘to lock’), and zuqāqīpu 19.  See, for instance, Cantineau 1950a, 1950b; Goldenberg 1994; Fox 2003: 37–44; and in particular Rubio 2005, which is an exhaustive discussion of recent literature on the nature of root and pattern in Semitic from a general linguistic point of view.


The Structure of Individual Verb Forms  2.3.

‘scorpion’ (cf. zaqāpu ‘to erect, to rear up’). The former kind is extremely common in all Semitic languages. Primary nouns typically have a fixed vowel pattern and use suffixation rather than the root-and-pattern system to create secondary derivations (see Fox 2003: 61–68). This applies in particular to Akkadian (Buccellati 1996: 43–45, 139–42).20 In this respect, there is an important difference between Akkadian and the rest of Semitic, especially Classical Arabic, which has exploited the potential of the root-and-pattern system to its utmost, also implicating in it (a part of) nominal derivation, particularly for the formation of plurals, diminutives, and elative adjectives (Cantineau 1950a: 74; Fischer 1993: 40–41).

2.3.2.  The rise of vowel alternation in Semitic The root-and-pattern system is a purely synchronic mechanism. In the context of the present study, it has to be supplemented with a reconstruction of how the typically Semitic division of tasks between consonants and vowels came into being.

20.  Buccellati posits a fundamental difference between the verbal system and nominal derivation. The former employs “internal inflection” (i.e., the root-and-pattern system) for its most essential distinctions (tense/aspect and diathesis) and “external inflection” (i.e., suffixation) for person, number, and gender and for the secondary inflectional categories of the subjunctive and the ventive. Nominal derivation, on the other hand, only employs external derivation: both primary and deverbal nouns only use suffixation for operations such as plural formation and derivation of abstract nouns, with very few exceptions (alkakātu, Pl of alaktu ‘gait, behaviour’, derived from alāku ‘to go /come’). However, there are some instances of internal inflection in primary nouns: 1. Plural forms with gemination, mainly in kinship terms: abbū (Ass abbāʾū) ‘fathers’, etc.; see §4.4 (p. 96) (admittedly, the insertion of gemination is not a prototypical instance of internal inflection, since the pattern itself is not affected). 2. A few expressive derivations (diminutives?) of primary nouns by means of reduplication: kulbābu ‘ant’ (at least if derived from kalbu ‘dog’—i.e., ‘little dog’?) and *pērūru ‘(little?) mouse’ (only attested in the further derivation pērūrūtu; cf. AHw 856b s.v.) < *paʾrūru, of which the basic form *pērum has been lost (Landsberger 1934: 106–7; cf. Ar faʾr ‘rat’). 3. A few (other) diminutives of which the basic noun is not attested in Akkadian but has parallels elsewhere in Semitic (Testen 2006): unīqu ‘young female goat’ (cf. Ar ʿanāq ‘female kid’), urīṣu ‘male goat’ and ḫuzīru ‘pig’ (< ‘piglet’); they show the (Proto-)Semitic diminutive pattern -u-ay- (with ay > ī in Babylonian), which is well-known from Arabic (see von Soden 1991a). It is attested for East Semitic by the Eblaite noun šu-ga-ga-bù-um VE 1128 /ḏuqāqaypum/ (or the like) ‘scorpion’ (Krebernik 1983: 39; Testen 2006: 146–49), which regularly becomes zuqāqīpu in Akkadian. This demonstrates that it was possible in Akkadian to derive diminutives from primary nouns by means of internal inflection, just as in other Semitic languages. In Akkadian, it is also possible—but not very common—to derive a verb from a primary noun by abstracting its consonants and treating them as radicals; cf. the D‑stems wazzunum ‘to listen attentively’ (OA) from uznu ‘ear’ (first noted by K. R. Veenhof; see AHw 1494a s.v.), uppulu ‘to delouse’ (SB) from uplu ‘louse’, ruggubu ‘to provide with an attic’ (OB) from rugbu ‘attic’, and šammunu ‘to anoint with oil’ (NA) from šamnu ‘oil’. Moreover, the noun atḫū ‘partner(s)’, which comes from aḫu ‘brother’ with the reciprocal t-infix (see §14.2.1, p. 359), presupposes a denominal verb in the Gt‑stem (I am aware that this is not quite consistent with my remarks in Kouwenberg 2005: 99). There are even a few instances of verbs derived from loanwords, which are also primary nouns to the extent that they are unmotivated: nukkusum ‘to balance an account’ (SAk) from nikkassu ‘account’ (B. R. Foster, NABU 89/115), and lullû ‘to provide abundantly’ (SB) from lalû ‘desire, charm, luxury’ (both loanwords from Sumerian). To a very limited extent, then, it was possible in Akkadian to “break open” a primary noun and use the consonants to derive a noun or a verb. However, this does not impair the overall validity of Buccellati’s distinction between internal and external inflection.

2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms


Complex systems usually evolve from more simple ones, and the root-and-pattern system is no exception. An important factor in its emergence is the well-known fact that vowels are less stable than consonants. They are particularly susceptible to influence from the environment: their quality tends to be influenced by adjacent consonants and by vowels in neighbouring syllables, and their quantity by accent. This relative instability lies at the basis of widespread phenomena such as vowel harmony and “Umlaut” and “Ablaut” (apophony), in which original phonological vowel alternations are exploited for grammatical purposes (Hock 1991: 66–68, 141–43). Accordingly, derivation by means of vowel alternation is a common phenomenon in the languages of the world; in this respect, the Semitic languages are not very special. Kuryłowicz (1972, especially pp. 36–40) has argued that the guttural consonants and the semi-vowels, in particular, are responsible for the rise of apophony, since they are known to have the greatest influence on neighbouring vowels.21 Semitic also makes wide use of affixation, both prefixation (in the verb and in deverbal nouns) and suffixation (both in the verb and the noun), and combines this freely with vowel alternation, thus accumulating derivational processes: a derived form is taken as the input for a new derivation, often with the aim of strengthening or renewing its form.22 This may lead to a large formal difference between the original source word and its derivative, particularly when the intermediate stages no longer survive. The gradualness of the process may be obscured by the fact that, once a productive derivational relationship has established itself, the intermediate steps may be skipped (Kuryłowicz 1972: 7). In this way, an association arises between words that are far apart in form. The difference will appear in the vowels more than the consonants. Because inflectionally related forms have the same meaning and derivationally related forms different but related meanings, speakers will associate the meaning of the forms in question with their only common element, the consonants, and because productive derivation will assign a specific function to parallel derived forms, the patterns will come to be associated with this function. In this way, vowels and consonants underwent a gradual specialization: they were automatically given their different association with lexical meaning and grammatical meaning, respectively (Rundgren 1980: 89–90). The association of lexical meaning with the consonants only and the location of grammatical meaning in the vowels are, as it were, accidental consequences of the increasing complexity of patterns and the ensuing absence of an invariant sequence of phonemes that could be abstracted as a linear stem with a lexical meaning. The ultimate form of the root-and-pattern system was achieved by the mechanism of “derivation by association”—that is, the common practice in Semitic of combining categories that formally come from different sources in a derivational or even inflectional relationship on the basis of a purely semantic association. Extreme examples of this procedure are the Arabic pattern taqtīl which serves as maṣdar to Stem II qattala (already in Akkadian; see §14.6.1, pp. 401–402), the patterns qatlā and qutlā as feminine to the elative ʾaqtal (Kuryłowicz 1972: 97) and numerous broken plurals and maṣdars of the basic stem (ʾaqtilah from qatīl, etc.). This kind of derivation is a weak type of suppletion—that is, the secondary combination of forms that are formally unrelated into a single paradigm (Payne 1997: 100–101). It is well known in the Indo-European languages, where it mostly occurs in individual words of high frequency: English go and went, good and better/best, Latin sum (present) and fui (perfect) ‘to be’, Classical Greek phérō (present), oísō (future), and ḗnenkon (aorist) ‘to carry, bring’, etc. In the Semitic cases, the words in question also have a different background, although they belong to the same root. 21.  Petráček (1960: 574–82) discusses a number of earlier proposals to explain the rise of apophony in Semitic. 22.  See, for instance, Fleisch 1961: 362–469; 1968: 49–92; GAV pp. 28–33.


The Structure of Individual Verb Forms  2.3.

The Arabic examples mentioned above are extreme cases, but a milder form of derivation by association is ubiquitous in Semitic morphology: entire morphosyntactic categories are associated with each other via this process. For instance, the four finite categories of the Akkadian verb, the imperfective iparrVs, the perfective iprVs, the t‑perfect iptarVs, and the stative parVs, all have a different background and have entered into an inflectional relationship through a secondary association based on their function. The same applies to the basic opposition between the prefix and the suffix conjugation of West Semitic, to which I will return below.23 In the course of history, the difficulty of isolating a fixed stem in the verbal paradigm has steadily increased. In Proto-Semitic, the finite categories of the basic verb (insofar as they are reconstructible) still have a single inflectional stem *‑qtVl- (which occurs in the imperfective *yiqtVlu, the perfective *yiqtVl, and the imperative *q(V)tVl ).24 Surely there is another inflectional stem, *qatVl- (in the infinitive *qatāl-, the past participle *qatil-, and the present participle *qātil-), but it is restricted to the non-finite and therefore subordinate forms of the verbal paradigm (see further chap. 8). In Akkadian, on the other hand, the four finite categories of the verb that I mentioned above all have a quite different inflectional stem as a result of different verbalization processes. In West Semitic, the rise of qatala as a new perfect instead of older yaqtul entailed the penetration of the erstwhile deverbal stem *qatVl into the core of the paradigm, creating a situation in which the two most basic forms have different inflectional stems, from which it is no longer possible to extract a fixed sequence of consonants and vowels. As a result, the speakers had to break up the stem and rearrange its parts in order to use it as a basis for derivation. This paved the way for other rearrangements and was undoubtedly an important stimulus for the huge increase in the importance of “internal inflection”.25 Ultimately, Semitic word formation is not essentially different from that in other languages. The difference between the use of apophony in Semitic and in Indo-European languages—e.g., the Ablaut of English sing/sang/sung—lies in the extraordinary degree of productivity and complexity of the former rather than in its nature (Ullendorff 1958: 69; Rubio 2005: 58–59). This applies even to Arabic, which has exploited the possibilities of apophony to an extreme that has hardly any parallel in the languages of the world.

2.3.3.  The root and the radicals The root is usually defined as the element that is common to all members of the paradigm of a given verb and its deverbal derivations. The nature of the Semitic root is one of the most disputed problems of Semitic comparative linguistics. The most important issues were summarized 23.  Petráček (1963: 613) argues for the same kind of origin for the apophonic passive in the West Semitic languages. 24.  The arguments supporting this statement will be provided in the course of the present study; see in particular chap. 18. 25.  Another consequence of this process is the relative stability of Semitic radicals over a long time. It is instructive to compare their rate of change with the situation in Indo-European, where the consonants reconstructed for the proto-language show massive changes in their development toward the historically attested daughter languages. The consonant inventory of many Semitic languages preserves a considerable part of the phonemes of the proto-language. To a large extent, this is due to the fact that the “internal inflection” causes a radical to be word-initial or word-final in some forms, intervocalic in others, and the first or last part of a cluster in still other forms. This means that sound changes will only have effect if they are more or less unconditional, because as long as a consonant is unaffected in some of its positions, the pressure of the paradigm will tend to preserve it also in other positions, thus effectively blocking the change. A radical will often undergo phonological change only if the change is unconditional and thus affects all environments (e.g., p > f in South Semitic and Arabic and g > j in Arabic (Diakonoff 1965: 35 and 1991/92: 94; Voigt 1995: 518).

2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms


and extensively discussed by del Olmo Lete (2003); a more recent discussion is Rubio (2005). Therefore, I will restrict myself to the issues that are directly relevant to understanding the structure and the evolution of the Akkadian verbal paradigm: strong versus weak roots, the possible existence of biradical roots, the incompatibility of radicals, and the difference between verbal and nominal roots. 1.  In its prototypical form, the Semitic root contains three strong radicals, which remain unchanged during all inflectional and derivational processes.26 Strictly speaking, the definition given above only applies to such “strong roots.” In reality, we have to allow for the existence of weak roots as well, which have one or more radicals that are unstable and may undergo changes such as assimilation, replacement by another phoneme, or total disappearance. Already in ProtoSemitic, there were weak roots with a semi-vowel (*w or *y) among their radicals and others with the long vowels *ū and *ī as second radical: e.g., √mūt ‘to die’ and √śīm ‘to fix, decree’ (see §16.5.1, pp. 474–476); and as third radical: e.g., √ðrū ‘to scatter’ and √bkī ‘to cry’ (see §16.7.1, pp. 496–498). In Akkadian, too, the verbal paradigm is based on strong roots, but various phonological changes have greatly increased the number of verbs with weak radicals. As a result of the loss of the Proto-Semitic guttural consonants, which mostly have become vowels or glides (see §17.3, pp. 515–520), the original I/H verbs have become I/voc verbs, the II/H and the III/H verbs have joined the paradigms of the II/voc and the III/voc verbs, respectively, and the original I/y verbs have also become I/voc verbs. Moreover, Proto-Semitic verbs with *w and *y as R3 occur as III/ voc verbs in Akkadian. All in all, we can distinguish the following types of weak roots (the paradigms of which will be discussed in chaps. 16 and 17):27 1. Roots with n as R1 (the I/n verbs), which is weak because it regularly assimilates to the next consonant, e.g., nṢuR ‘to guard’ (in other positions, n is strong); see §16.4 (pp. 469–471). 2. Roots with u as R1 (traditionally called the I/w verbs), e.g., uLiD ‘to give birth’; u interchanges with w (short u does not occur as R2 or R3); see §16.2 (pp. 448–462). 3. Roots with the vowels a or e as R1 (the I/a and the I/e verbs, together the I/voc verbs), e.g., aMuR ‘to see’, ePuŠ ‘to do /make’, aLiK ‘to go /come’; these verbs go back to verbs with a guttural in Proto-Semitic; see §17.6 (pp. 537–554). 4. Roots with a long vowel (ū, ī, ā, or ē) as R2: the II/ū, II/ī, II/ā and II/ē verbs, together the II/voc verbs, e.g., MūT ‘to die’, QīŠ ‘to give’, BāŠ ‘to become ashamed’, and RēQ ‘to be/ go far away’. The II/ā and II/ē verbs probably all go back to verbs with a guttural in ProtoSemitic. See §16.5 (pp. 474–490) for the II/ū and II/ī verbs; and §17.7 (pp. 554–572) for the II/ā and II/ē verbs. 5. Roots with a long vowel (ī, ū, ā, or ē ) as R3: the III/ī, III/ū, III/ā, and III/ē verbs—as a group, the III/voc verbs, e.g.—BNī ‘to build’, TRū ‘to take/bring along’, MLā ‘to be(come) full’ and LQē ‘to receive’. The III/ā and III/ē verbs probably all go back to verbs with a 26.  Apart from superficial phonological processes of assimilation to a suffix, such as Akk anaddikkum < anaddin-kum ‘I will give to you’ from nadānu, aṣbassu < *aṣbat-šu ‘I seized him’ from ṣabātu, and uššamma < uššab-ma ‘I will sit down and’ from wašābu. 27.  For an economical description of the weak verbs, it is more efficient to allow for both semi-vowels (u and i ) and real vowels (a and e) as radicals than to hold to the axiom of only consonantal radicals. The same kind of development took place between Geʿez and Amharic, according to Gragg (1987: 140). Izre'el (1991; 2005: 534) also assumes vocalic radicals. For vocalic radicals in Arabic, see Voigt 1988a: 15 (who accepts u and i as vocalic radicals, but not a, because it cannot open a syllable).


The Structure of Individual Verb Forms  2.3. guttural in Proto-Semitic. See §16.7 (pp. 496–509) for the III/ī and III/ū verbs and §17.8 (pp. 572–583) for the III/ā and III/ē verbs.

Some verbs have more than one weak radical but never two successive ones. If two successive radicals belong to the class of weak radicals, one of them is treated as strong. Examples are NūḪ ‘to be(come) quiet’ (II/ū but with strong n as R1), LWī ‘to surround’ (III/ī but with strong w as R2), nWR ‘to shine’ (I/n but with strong w as R2), Bāʾ ‘to pass’ (II/ā, but with strong final ʾ  ), and WīṢ ‘to be(come) few’ (II/ī but with strong w as R1). 2.  If we allow for vocalic and semi-vocalic radicals, no Akkadian root has less than three or more than four radicals.28 There are hardly any verbal forms that cannot be derived from a triradical or quadriradical root. More specifically, Akkadian has no verb forms that are unambiguously derived from a biradical root. However, there are a few individual verbs and groups of verbs of which the root can be broken down into a sequence of two consonants plus an additional third consonant that is arguably a secondary accretion.29 The most plausible instances of individual verbs are šakānu ‘to place’, which is perhaps a fossilized causative of the root √kūn (Akk kânu) ‘to be(come) stable, firm, true’ (Kuryłowicz 1972: 6–7), the twin verbs šaḫālu and naḫālu ‘to sift’, where the alternation of š and n also suggests an old prefix (without an obvious semantic motivation, however); and šaḫātu ‘to fear’, because of ḫātu/ḫattu ‘fear, panic’.30 The most plausible instances of groups of verbs are the following: • a group of I/n verbs denoting sounds, which can be derived from onomatopoeic interjections containing two consonants (see §12.6.1, pp. 314–321) • a group of I/n verbs that denote directional motion and show biradical forms in other Semitic languages (see §12.6.1) • the fientive I/w verbs, which preserve a biradical PiRS or PuRS derivation; e.g., šubtu ‘domicile’ from wašābu ‘to live, stay’ (see §16.2.4, p. 460). None of these verbs have preserved a clearly biradical form in their historical paradigm, with the possible exception of the Assyrian imperative din ‘give!’ of tadānu ‘to give’.31 I will discuss this issue in greater detail in the respective sections on the paradigms of the weak verbs in chaps. 16 and 17.32 28.  In addition, Akkadian has various subparadigms to accommodate verb forms with five or even six consonants but uses these only in non-basic categories: in the derived verbal stems (where it has to allow for the additional consonant of the prefix or for the cluster caused by gemination or both) and in the quadriradical verbs. 29.  Note that this does not imply that such a sequence of two consonants was itself ever in use as a root. 30.  The claim in GAG §73b that Akk šapāru ‘to send’ is related to the well-known biradical sequence PR, which is part of many triradical roots denoting some nuance of separation, seems rather doubtful. If we include instances from other Semitic languages, we might adduce šapālu ‘to be(come) low’, cf. He nāpal ‘to fall’. However, the fact that šapālu is intransitive does not increase the plausibility of this association. 31.  It cannot be ruled out, however, that din is a secondary shortening of the regular form idin (the Babylonian form), although in Assyrian this verb is not normally a I/n verb; see §16.4.3 (p. 474) for details. The allegedly biradical imperatives of the I/w verbs are poor candidates for being genuine biradicals since they can be derived from the triradical perfective by means of the regular rule of imperative formation, namely subtraction of the personal prefix, such as bil ‘bring!’ from tubil like parris ‘separate!’ (Ass, D‑stem) from tuparris, see §5.5 (pp. 133–134) and §16.2.4 (pp. 459–460). 32.  All other cases where two radicals alternate can also, and even more plausibly, be explained as variations of an originally triradical pattern (Zaborski 1991; Goldenberg 2005: 18–19). Akkadian instances are arāru / tarāru ‘to tremble’, ezû / tezû ‘to defecate’, and dakāku ‘to crush’ versus dâku ‘to beat, kill’, for which see §16.6.2 (pp. 495–496).

2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms


3.  A remarkable and often discussed feature of the verbal root in Semitic concerns the “incompatibility rules,” the co-occurrence restrictions of certain (groups of) radicals in the strong root. These rules were first formulated by Cantineau (1946: 133–36) for Arabic, but are best known from Greenberg’s classic article (1950) and later were applied to other Semitic languages by other scholars.33 In a Semitic root, R1 and R2 are never identical nor homorganic (i.e., having the same place of articulation); R2 and R3 are never homorganic unless they are identical; and R1 and R3 may be homorganic and identical, but this occurs only rarely. The absence of identical and homorganic R1 and R2 cannot be separated from the fact that in the basic forms of the verbal paradigm as it existed in Proto-Semitic, and without any doubt also in Afroasiatic, R1 and R2 were adjacent in the prefix conjugations of the basic stem (the ProtoSemitic Impfv *yiqtVlu and the Pfv *yiqtVl; see Kuryłowicz 1972: 22, 30–31; Zaborski 1991: 1684–87). This caused assimilatory changes, the product of which could spread to forms where R1 and R2 were not adjacent. Traces of this process are visible in the existence of variants of the same root, such as He ṣāʿaq and zāʿaq ‘to scream’, where ‑ṣʿ‑ became ‑zʿ‑ by assimilation of voicing, and in irregular sound correspondences between cognates in different languages, e.g., He sābal and Akk zabālu ‘to carry’, where ‑sb‑ became ‑zb‑ (Kuryłowicz 1972: 30–31).34 Where total assimilation would occur (as in the case of homorganic radicals), a loss of transparency would result, which was apparently avoided in Proto-Semitic (Kuryłowicz 1972: 16). The reason why R2 and R3 may be identical but not homorganic is also primarily phonetic and due to ease of articulation: similar but not identical phonemes in close vicinity tend to be avoided: they are either assimilated or dissimilated.35 Moreover, since R2 and R3 are contiguous in various deverbal categories (in Akkadian even in the verbal paradigm itself as a result of the vowel syncope rule), they were subject to assimilation, the product of which could also easily spread to other environments.36 The restrictions on the co-occurrence of R1 and R3 doubtless have the same phonetic background but are far weaker than the other ones. The strength of the incompatibility therefore nicely correlates with the degree of adjacency of the radicals: R1 and R2 have the strictest incompatibility, since they are immediately adjacent in the core members of the verbal paradigm; R2 and R3 are close but rarely contiguous; and R1 and R3 are relatively distant.37 So it is the verbal paradigm that determines the incompatibilities and explains them in a historical perspective.38 Akkadian inherited the incompatibilities of the Proto-Semitic root (see Buccellati 1996: 66– 68 for a discussion and examples).39 There is one type that Buccellati does not mention explicitly: 33.  Such as Kuryłowicz (1972: 15–31). Zaborski (1994b and 1996b) has shown that the exceptions occur mainly in denominal and onomatopoeic verbs or are clearly secondary developments. See also del Olmo Lete 2003: 70–76 and, for Akkadian, Buccellati 1996: 66–67. 34.  Instances of this kind of alternation within Akkadian include baqāru and later paqāru ‘to claim, contest’ and perhaps also zakāru and saqāru ‘to speak’ (Sem √ðkr), although the details are unclear. 35.  Cf. Akk zanānu ‘to rain’, compared to Geʿez zanma and Sabaic ðnm ‘to rain’; Tigriña zänäbä or zänämä, Tigre zälma or zänma (CDG 641a s.v. zanma), and He zerem ‘heavy rain’ show a different solution to get rid of the apparently all too similar radicals n and m. 36.  See §16.6.2 (pp. 494–496) for the background of II/gem roots. 37.  For changes in R3, cf. also Akk kabātu ‘to be(come) heavy’ versus West Semitic kbd (which is also Neo-Assyrian), an alternation that may be caused by assimilation of d to the feminine suffix t: -dt- > -tt-. Within Akkadian, similar cases are Ass nābudu ‘to flee’ and biādu ‘to spend the night’ versus Bab nābutu and bâtu (ī). 38.  For a different view on the incompatibilities, see, for instance, Petráček 1964 and Voigt 1981. 39.  Incidental instances of incompatible radicals in Akkadian include the following: R1 = R2 only occurs in ḫaḫû ‘to spit’ (doubtless onomatopoeic) and lullû ‘to provide abundantly’ (a loanword from Sumerian


The Structure of Individual Verb Forms  2.3.

the incompatibility of a glottalized consonant and ʾ in the position of R1 and R2: there are no Akkadian roots that (originally) had ʾ as R2 and ṣ, ṭ, or q as R1 and vice versa.40 This is related to Geers’ Law, which forbids more than one emphatic (i.e., glottalized) radical in an Akkadian root (Buccellati 1996: 68). However, there is no ban on a sequence of glottalized consonant plus ʾ as R2 and R3: cf. waṣû ‘to go /come out’, kaṣû ‘to be(come) cold’, maṣû ‘to be sufficient’, and ḫaṭû ‘to err’, which are all original III/  ʾ verbs (see Kouwenberg 2003: 83–84).41 4.  A further issue is the difference between verbal and nominal roots. A nominal root (i.e., the consonantal skeleton of a primary noun) shows less restrictions on its form than a verbal root: it need not be triradical and has no incompatibility of radicals.42 This is caused by the fact that in Semitic the nominal paradigm is far simpler than the verbal paradigm; in particular, it does not include prefixation, which was an important determinant of the incompatibility of radicals and— as I argued in the preceding section—an important trigger of the rise of the root-and-pattern system. In most cases, therefore, we can do with an invariable stem as the basis of nominal inflection and derivation (see also GAG §51h; Diakonoff 1970; Fronzaroli 1973). However, because many primary nouns are also triradical, they can easily be analyzed as if they consist of a root and a pattern, even though the pattern does not have an identifiable function. This makes it possible to integrate them into the verbal system as denominal verbs (Fischer 1993: 40–41; Fox 2003: 63–65; Rubio 2005: 51–52; Goldenberg 2005: 14–15). Moreover, the oldest stages of Semitic already show clear instances of diminutives formed according to the root-and-pattern system. This is doubtless related to the fact that diminutives are, in origin, expressive derivations and therefore have a greater capability of incorporating additional elements, in particular as reduplicated syllables, which may disrupt the stem and cause internal changes.

2.3.4.  The pattern and the base The pattern (also called scheme or template) is the vocalic complement of the consonantal root: a vowel sequence, sometimes extended with one or more consonantal affixes, which is shared by the members of a specific grammatical category (inflectional or derivational) and can therefore be seen as carrier of its function; the pattern ‑a‑ā‑, for instance, characterizes the G‑stem infinitive PaRāS in Akkadian. This implies that not every vowel sequence is a pattern. and a D tantum verb; see n. 20); babālu is secondary to wabālu. The ban on homorganic R1 and R2 does not affect I/w verbs, as is clear from verbs such as wabālu, wabāʾu, wamālu, wamāʾum, wapû, and wapāšu; see §16.2.1 (pp. 448–450). Identity of R1 and R3 is not uncommon: ḫašāḫu ‘to need’, kanāku ‘to seal’, karāku ‘to collect’, nadānu ‘to give’ (Bab), šabāšu ‘to collect (taxes)’; šagāšu ‘to murder’, sabāsu ‘to be(come) angry (Ass, Bab šabāsum), and the denominal verb šalāšu ‘to do for the third time’. 40.  Because in Babylonian ʾ has been dropped, original II/  ʾ verbs can no longer be distinguished from II/*h verbs and original II/ā verbs (if there are any). The assumption made here is that Babylonian II/ā verbs starting with a glottalized consonant were not II/  ʾ verbs but original II/h (or II/ā?) verbs. Apart from the very problematic verb ṣânu ‘to load, fill’, this only concerns ṣâlu ‘to quarrel’, of which the Old Assyrian forms are ambiguous but compatible with an original root √ṣhl; see chap. 17 n. 152 (p. 557). 41.  Arabic and Geʿez have a number of roots with R1 = glottalized and R2 = ʾ, but they seem all to be denominal or otherwise secondary; see Zaborski 1994b: 4–7. 42.  For instance, verbal roots in Akkadian never have a dental and a sibilant as R1 and R2 (Hirsch 1975: 293; Bucccellati 1996: 68), but nominal roots do; cf. √dšʾ ‘grass, spring’ in the Babylonian noun dīšu ‘grass’ (< *dišʾum), cf. OA dašʾum ‘spring’ and the adjective dešû ‘luxuriant’; √dšp ‘honey’ in the noun dišpu ‘honey’ and the adjective dašpu ‘sweet’ (the infinitive dašāpu occurring as a citation form in lexical texts is doubtless artificial). What applies to nominal roots also applies to the roots of numerals: cf. √tšʿ of the numeral tišē ‘nine’ and √θlθ of šalāš ‘three’, with R1 = R3. The shape of these roots identifies them immediately as non-verbal.

2.3.  The Structure of Individual Verb Forms


Among the vowel patterns that can be combined with a root, a special position is occupied by the “root vowel,” an unmotivated short vowel between R2 and R3. The combination of root and root vowel is the “base”; for instance, the root √prs of parāsu ‘to separate, decide’ has a base PRuS.43 The root vowel is not a pattern insofar as it has no obvious (synchronic) function; its importance lies in the fact that it is the basis of inflection and derivation and therefore historically prior to the purely consonantal root, which owes its role to the rise of a more-and-more-complex apophony and the ensuing gradual phase-out of the root vowel (see §2.3.2, p. 40). Most of the categories in which the root vowel originally occurred were replaced by categories with other vowel patterns—usually more complex ones—so that the root vowel was marginalized: in Akkadian, it only surfaces in the perfective and the imperative of the G‑stem—i.e., iprus and purus, respectively, for the verb parāsu. Elsewhere, it was sacrificed to the demands of inflection and derivation (GAG §1b; Schramm 1991: 1403). However, this description mainly applies to strong roots, in which there is a clear distinction between the root and the pattern. In weak roots, the boundary between root and pattern tends to be blurred. In the G infinitive of the I/voc verbs, such as amāru ‘to see’, the initial vowel a is both part of the root aMR and of the G infinitive pattern PaRāS. In the II/voc verbs, the vocalic radicals ī, ū, ā, and ē do double service as radical and as root vowel. Therefore, there are no vowel classes: all II/ī verbs are conjugated in the same way: e.g., iqīap - iqīp ‘he entrusts/entrusted’ (OB), and likewise all II/ū, II/ā, and II/ē verbs. This also applies to the III/voc verbs. Insofar as they originally had a consonantal R3, their final vowel—which is at least structurally long (see §, p. 499)—is the reflex of the root vowel plus the original weak radical: e.g., imlā ‘it became full’ < *yimlaʾ in the III/ā verbs, and ilqē ‘he received’ < *yilqaḥ in the III/ē verbs. Something similar may have happened in the III/ ī and III/ū verbs: e.g., ibkī ‘he cried’ < *yibkiy and imnū ‘he bound’ < *yimnuw (but the long vowel may also be original here). The outcome of these developments (which will be discussed in greater detail in chaps. 16 and 17) is that the final vowel serves both as radical and as root vowel and thus determines the vowel class: a III/ ī verb automatically belongs to the I/i class, a III/ū verb to the U/u class, etc.44 This double function makes the vowel in question relatively stable, because where it is not required as radical, it may still be required as root vowel and vice versa (Kienast 2001: 63–64). For instance, whereas the root vowel u of parāsu only surfaces in the perfective iprus and the imperative purus, the root vowel ū of mâtu ‘to die’ not only appears as root vowel in the perfective imūt and the imperative mūt but also as radical in the imperfective imūat, the infinitive muātum, and the deverbal noun *mawtum ‘death’ (> mūtu), at least as long as it is not removed by vowel contraction. In this respect (but not historically), a form such as imūt can be seen as based on *imwut Ÿ iprus.45 Thus the weak roots bridge the gap between root and (inflectional) stem, because they are both at the same time.

43.  This use of the term “base” is to be distinguished from its use as part of the designations prefix base and suffix base introduced in §2.2.1 (p. 32). The term “base” is already used by Brockelmann (1908: 287); see also Fronzaroli 1973: 2–3 and Wolff 1977: 203. 44.  However, this only applies to historical Akkadian. In the oldest texts we have, there are some traces of a more complex situation, such as the Mari Old Akkadian form tištayū ‘they drank’, with y as R3 and the root vowel a, from šatû, which is an I/i verb in later dialects; see §16.7.1 (pp. 496–497). 45.  Cf. Voigt 1988a: 59, 73–78.


Vowel Syncope and Vowel Assimilation  2.4.

2.4.  Vowel Syncope and Vowel Assimilation In principle, the inflectional stem is the part of a word that remains after the inflectional endings have been removed, and also the form that after the attachment of an ending gives a complete surface form. In some cases, however, the combination of inflectional stem and ending must still be adjusted to the requirements of three superficial phonological rules: vowel syncope (in all dialects of Akkadian), vowel assimilation (only in Assyrian), and vowel harmony (only in Babylonian). Here, I will discuss the first two rules; the (Babylonian) vowel harmony rule can best be discussed in the context of the verbs with E‑colouring in chap. 17. The vowel syncope rule stipulates that if an inflectional stem contains a sequence of two or more short syllables apart from the final syllable, the vowel of the last syllable of the sequence is syncopated.46 For sequences of two syllables, cf. the t‑perfect 3mp iptarsū < iptărăsū ‘they have separated’ and the PPartc parsu < *părĭsum ‘separated’, Pl parsūtu < *părĭsūtum, in contrast to the PrPartc pārĭsu, Pl pārĭsūtu, which remains unaffected (the relevant sequence of syllables is underlined). For sequences of three short syllables, cf. the feminine singular of the adjective damiqtu ‘good’ < dămĭqătum (versus Masc damqu < *dămĭqum), the non-prefixed Gt forms with an ending in Old Assyrian, e.g., the Gt PPartc pitarsum (GKT §88a) < *pĭtărŭsum,47 whereas the form without ending is regularly pitrus < *pĭtărus (Gt Stat 3ms) (see further §14.2.1, p. 358), the suffixed pronouns ‑kunu/‑šunu, etc., in libbaknu ‘your (Pl) heart’ < *libbăkŭnu (and similarly the other suffix pronouns of the second and third person plural; see GKT §49a),48 and the Ntn imperfective of the quadriradical verbs, such as the 3ms ittanablakkat < *ittănăbălakkat (GAG Verbalpar. 39; see further §12.5, p. 312). The overall working of this rule is regular and pervasive and it has a profound influence on the shape of Akkadian; Knudsen (1986: 724) appropriately calls it “one of the most characteristic features of Akkadian phonology.” Of particular interest is that it can apply across word boundaries (Greenstein 1984: 33–34), as in the preposition ănă, which often appears as an, and, more remarkably, in compound proper names, such as OB Aš-ri-ì-lí-šu /Ašr-ilīšu/ < ašir-ilīšu ‘cared for by his god’ and Kur-bi-la-ak /Kurb-ilak/ < kurub-ilak ‘pray to your god!’; and OA Šalmaḫum for Šalim-aḫum ‘the brother is well’, Wardilīšu for Warad-ilīšu ‘servant of his god’, and Taqnabum for Taqun-abum ‘the father is well’.49 However, in these compound names, it is the middle of three short syllables that is syncopated: Šalmaḫum < Šălĭm-ăḫum, rather than **Šalimḫum, perhaps because they had a different stress pattern from single words: Šalim-ʹaḫum (in contrast to *dam ʹiqatum). There are, however, a few exceptions and difficulties in the details. First, a short vowel is sometimes preserved before r, e.g., labĭru ‘old’; in particular, if it is a short ă (including a short ĕ that has developed from ă), as in zikăru ‘male’, išăru ‘straight’, šikăru ‘beer’, ašăru ‘place’,

46.  See GAG §12 and especially the extensive discussion in Greenstein 1984. 47.  The corresponding Babylonian form pitrusā results from an analogical change on the basis of the endingless form pitrus < *pitarus; see §14.2.1 (p. 358). It is not an indication that vowel deletion can also affect the antepenultimate syllable. 48.  The spelling libbakunu is also attested and is perhaps morphophonemic (GKT §49a). For libbakunu in Babylonian, see below. 49.  References for Ašr-ilīšu: AbB 2, 154:1; for Kurbilak: see Hilgert 2002: 589–90 s.v.; for Šalmaḫum: Šál-ma-ḫu-um Prag I 557:6; for Wardilīšu: Wa-ar-dí-li-šu HSS 10, 223:1; for Taqnabum: Táq-na-bi4-im BIN 6, 190:9; Ta-aq-na-bu-um ICK 1, 33b:5 (all OA). A possible instance outside proper names is the genitive construction ri-ig-ma-dIškur YOS 10, 18:47 (OB), if it stands for /rigm-Adad/ < rigim Adad ‘the thunder of Adad’ (CAD R 332b s.v. rigmu 4).

2.4.  Vowel Syncope and Vowel Assimilation


epĕru (< *ʿapărum) ‘earth, soil’, epĕrū (Pl) provisions’, and ešĕret (< *ʿaśărat) ‘ten’ (Fem).50 Some other exceptions include Sumerian loanwords (Goetze 1946b: 235–36; Buccellati 1971: 82), but the quantity of the vowels in Sumerian loanwords is often hard to establish. A few forms suggest that l may have the same effect (Huehnergard 1987b: 192), but this is extremely rare: it only occurs in akalu ‘bread’ alongside regular aklu, a PaRs form of akālu ‘to eat’, and perhaps in the irregular trisyllabic perfective forms ubilū, ubilam, etc., of wabālu ‘to carry’, which will be discussed in §16.2.2 (pp. 451–452).51 Second, in contrast to Old Assyrian forms of the libbaknu type, Babylonian always shows the full suffix (libbakunu, etc.), in apparent violation of the rule. We could explain Babylonian libbakunu as a morphophonemic spelling, but this does not seem very likely, since we would expect to find at least some instances of the phonemic spelling, as we do in Old Assyrian. It seems more plausible to assume that -kunu is restored on the basis of other environments, where the rule does not apply, such as the Gen Sg libbīkunu,52 or that the Babylonian form is actually libbākunu, with ā by analogy with the other long vowels that may come after the stem: the Gen Sg -ī and the plural endings -ū and -ī. Third, there is at least one case where the application of vowel syncope is blocked by “paradigmatic pressure”, namely in the non-prefixed forms of the Št2‑stem of II/voc verbs (GAG Verbalpar. 28), e.g.: • Inf šŭtăkūnu ‘to confirm’ (e.g., šu-ta-ku-nu-um ARM 28, 155:11 (OB Mari) and šŭtănūdu ‘to praise’ ((ana) šu-ta-nu-di-im BagM. 34, 150: XIV 13 (OB)) • Stat 3fp šŭtăḫūqā ‘they are intermingled’ BE 14, 4:6 (MB) • Imp šŭtăqīp (šu-ta-qí-ip FM 1 p. 128:30 ‘buy on credit!’ (OB Mari)). This is based on the relationship between the corresponding strong forms: uštaparras : šutaprVs(u) § uštakān : šutakV¯n(u) (instead of **šutkV¯n(u)); see § (pp. 487–488) for the paradigm of these forms. In later dialects, in particular in Neo-Assyrian, more forms emerge in which short ă is restored on the basis of the strong verb—for instance, in the Š‑stem of II/voc verbs: • lu-šá-di-il-lu /lušadillū/ SAA 2 p. 53:575 var. Q (NA) ‘may they cause to ride around aimlessly’ from dâlu (see §, p. 487) • li-šá-ṭib /lišaṭīb/ Wedg. 16: r.3 (LB) ‘may he make pleasant’ from ṭâbu Š (earlier lišṭīb), and also in the quadriradical verbs, which will be discussed in §13.4.1 (p. 339), e.g., Š Impfv ušabalakkat for earlier ušbalakkat. Sporadically, we find exceptions the other way around: vowel syncope in cases that do not meet the criteria of the vowel syncope rule, usually of a short vowel following a long syllable.

50.  See GAG §12b Anm.; Goetze 1946b: 234–35; Matouš and Petráček 1956: 10–12. This happens especially in Babylonian; Assyrian more often (but not always) shows syncope in these words: e.g., epru ‘dust’ (ep-ra-am BIN 4, 10:26) and šikru ‘beer’ (e.g., ší-ik-ri-im CCT 4, 7b:6) versus išaru (i-ša-ru-ú OIP 27, 15:11 ‘they are correct’) and igaru ‘wall’ (i-ga-ri-im RA 80, 128 no. 26:30, both without vowel assimilation!). 51.  The Old Assyrian instances mentioned by Matouš and Petráček (1956: 11) of the type bu-qú-lam KTK 67:12 ‘malt’ alongside bu-uq-lúm TC 3, 181:15 and šu-qú-lu-um TC 3, 81:19 ‘package (for shipping metals)’ alongside šuqlum (passim), both PuRS forms, and perhaps also imperatives such as šu-ku-nam TC 3, 1:29 ‘place for me!’ beside šu-uk-nam TC 3, 1:22 from šakānu are instances of vowel epenthesis rather than vowel syncope. 52.  For long ī in the genitive singular, see Aro 1953: 7–8 and Hecker 2000.


Vowel Syncope and Vowel Assimilation  2.4.

This occurs in meršu (mēršu?) ‘cultivated land’ (see CAD M/2 27a s.v. meršu) (OB) and in meṭlūtu (mēṭlūtu?) ‘mature age’, a maPRaS form related to eṭlu ‘young man’ (SB).53 Finally, the application of the rule to vowels followed by a semi-vowel or an (original) ʾ is a difficult point. Most pertinent forms suggest that the rule does not work in this position, e.g., Bab rabiāku ‘I am big/old’ from the III/ ī verb rabû, and OA zakuāku ‘I am free’ from zakû (III/ū), which correspond to parsāku in the strong verb (Greenstein 1984: 28–29).54 In the discussion of the paradigm of the weak verbs, I will argue that in principle vowel syncope also applies to this environment but that it was restored (in Old Assyrian often and in other dialects always) by introducing an epenthetic vowel; see §–4 (pp. 501–509). Vowel syncope is a phonological process that operates “across the board,” i.e., regardless of grammar or word class. It gives important information on the quantity of vowels in the word independently of the actual orthography and thus greatly helps us to reconstruct the exact form of words. It is valid for all dialects of Akkadian and is therefore certainly Proto-Akkadian, but it is uncertain to what extent it was already operative in Eblaite, especially because of the highly ambiguous orthography (cf. Huehnergard 2006: 8; Krebernik 2006: 86–88). The vowel assimilation rule is a specifically Assyrian phenomenon.55 It stipulates that a short ă in the penultimate syllable of a word of three or more syllables is assimilated to the vowel of the final syllable: e.g., ippăris > ippiris, but bisyllabic păris does not change.56 Accordingly, Old Assyrian has aššutum (Nom) - aššitim (Gen) - aššatam (Acc) instead of OB aššatum - aššatim aššatam ‘wife’; in the verb, Assyrian has išakkan, išakkunū instead of OB išakkan, išakkanū ‘he/ they (will) place’, and taṣbitī instead of taṣbatī ‘you (Fem) seized’, etc.57 Occasionally we find forms in which an apparent short ă does not show assimilation (GKT §10 end): kar-pá-tim kt c/k 1645:9, Gen Sg of *karpatum ‘jar’ alongside regular karpitim, and 53.  Perhaps the difficult verb forms muštedqi from edēqu Št2 ‘to put on’ in mu-uš-te-ed-qì apluḫtim JRAS CSpl. p. 67: 11 (OB) ‘clad in armour’ and tuštētepšam from epēšu Št2(?) in tu-uš-te-te-ep-ša-am AbB 14, 116:26 (OB) ‘you have caused to be made for me’ for expected muštēdiq‑ and tuštetēpišam also belong here. 54.  Unless zakuāku is to be interpreted as a D‑stem zakkuāku, see chap 3 n. 76 (p. 65). 55.  Traditionally called vowel harmony in Akkadian grammar. However, this term as it is usually defined in handbooks of phonology is exclusively applied to rules that stipulate that all vowels of a word must share one or more specific phonological properties, such as being all either front or back, rounded or unrounded, etc.; see, for instance, Katamba 1989: 211. The Assyrian phenomenon does not satisfy this condition, because it only concerns the penultimate vowel. 56.  GAG3 §10e/f; for Old Assyrian: GKT §10; for Middle Assyrian: Meyer 1971: 12 §8 sub 1a) aʹ (the forms W. Mayer quotes sub 1a) bʹ) and 1a) gʹ (sic) are uncertain [see Postgate 1974: 273–74] or belong to a different category); for Neo-Assyrian: Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 30f.; see also Greenstein 1984: 38 n. 48 (but read “only a ” instead of “usually a ” for Old Assyrian). The formulation excludes the first syllable of a word from being affected, but there are a few words that in Babylonian have short ă in the first syllable but in Assyrian i or u, just as in the next syllable: isītu ‘tower’ (Bab asītu) and ziqīpu ‘stake’ (Bab zaqīpu), kulūmu ‘lamb’ (Bab kalūmu). Perhaps these forms are a kind of side-effect of the rule. Other words with short ă in the first syllable do not have assimilation, such as maḫīru ‘market’. 57.  The first syllable of a bisyllabic word is affected by way of exception in kulu (also kalu), Gen kili, Acc kala ‘all’ (GKT §10c) and perhaps also in iš-ri- + suffix pronoun, Gen of ašrum ‘place’, but as long as no Nom **ušrum is attested, it is not certain that i- of išrī- is caused by vowel assimilation. The forms -neand ‑nu‑ instead of ‑na‑ in the imperfective of tan‑stems such as uštenebbal, Štn imperfective of wabālu ‘to bring/take’, and ittunūar, Gtn imperfective of târu ‘to come back’, are not instances of this rule but analogical formations (uštakkal : uštanakkal § uštebbal : uštenebbal, etc.; see §16.2.3 sub 3 (p. 457). It is questionable whether the vowel variation in the declension of pû ‘mouth’ is caused by vowel assimilation, as GAG3 §10f claims: several other forms are attested than the ones quoted, and the details remain to be established.

2.5.  The Personal Affixe


ma-ak-na-ki-im CCT 4, 7c:3 ‘seal’ (Gen Sg) alongside ma-ak-ni-ki-im BIN 6, 241:6. It is hard to establish whether these exceptions reflect the actual pronunciation or whether they are only examples of careless or partly morphophonemic spellings. It is possible that, in a word such as maknakum, forms with long and short ă coexisted (cf. the agent nouns kaṣṣārum ‘donkey-driver’ versus *šarrăqum [> šarruqum] ‘thief’), but this is unlikely in the case of *karpatum. Whatever the explanation, the important thing for our purpose is that, wherever the rule is applied in general, we have to do with an original short ă. Like vowel syncope, vowel assimilation is basically a phonological process that is purely conditioned by formal criteria. In one environment, however, it has spread beyond its original domain, namely in the perfective of the N‑stem: the 3ms ippiris (< ippăris, as in Babylonian) has extended its i to the forms with an ending, e.g., 3mp ippirsū; see §12.2.1 (p. 289). Chronologically, vowel assimilation is posterior to vowel syncope: first, because it is an Assyrian innovation whereas vowel syncope is pan-Akkadian; and second, because it is posterior to the change a > e in the vicinity of a guttural, as is clear from forms such as ilqeū ‘they received’ < *yilqaḥū versus išʾulū ‘they asked’ < *yišʾalū, and mašʾenum ‘shoe’ < *maśʿanum versus namʾudum ‘large quantity’ < *namʾadum. These forms would otherwise be **ilquʾū and **mašʾunum. So the chronological order of the three great vowel-changing developments of Assyrian is: vowel syncope – E‑colouring – vowel assimilation. Vowel assimilation also operates in Middle and Neo-Assyrian (W. Mayer 1971: 11–12; Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 30). However, in Middle Assyrian, its effects are partly reversed by the change u > a in an open syllable preceding a stressed u (Postgate 1974: 274). It causes forms such as errabūni ‘he enters’ (Subj) instead of errubūni (Indic errab) and aḫzatūni ‘she has been married’ for expected aḫzutūni (Indic aḫzat) (for references, see W. Mayer 1971: 12, where the attested Middle Assyrian instances are listed).58 As Postgate argues, this is doubtless a side-effect of a stress shift caused by the additional syllable. In Neo-Assyrian, the u > a change before a stressed u becomes widespread, affecting not only verbal forms but also nouns (e.g., a-nu-tú SAA 16, 139:6 ‘utensils’ for unūtu) and pronouns (atta-nu-u-ni SAA 1, 25:9 ‘you (Pl)’ for attunu + Subj) (Luukko 2004: 93–94). Interestingly, the existence of the rule is exploited to express (or rather to restore) a morphosyntactic contrast between the third person masculine singular and plural of verb forms that had coincided as a result of the generalization of the subjunctive marker ‑ni in Middle Assyrian (see §9.3.1, pp. 223–224). For instance, both the 3ms ekkal ‘he eats’ and the 3mp ekkulū ‘they eat’ have a subjunctive ekkulūni in Middle Assyrian, which may become ekkalūni through the u > a change. In Neo-Assyrian, the latter form is in practice mainly used for the plural ‘they eat’ (Subj), whereas ekkulūni is mainly reserved for the singular ‘he eats’ (Subj) (Fabritius 1995; Luukko 2004: 93–97). The mechanism behind this diversification is not clear to me: is it a tendency to maximize the formal contrast: 3ms ekkal § ekkulūni versus 3mp ekkul(ū) § ekkalūni ?

2.5. The Personal Affixes In principle, Akkadian has only one set of personal affixes for all finite categories, apart from superficial distinctions resulting from vowel contraction, E‑colouring, and similar processes. The deverbal, non-finite members of infinitive and present and past participle all show the regular nominal declension consisting of endings for case, number, and gender (insofar as these are 58.  Interestingly, several exceptions to vowel assimilation in Old Assyrian can be explained as very early instances of this rule: (ša . . .) i-lá-ku-ma BIN 6, 11:13 ‘(who) should go’ (normally īllukū); ú-ša-aḫda-ru-ni TC 2, 2:31 ‘they frighten me’; see GKT §47c and 79g for a few other examples.

The Personal Affixe  2.5.


applicable), which I will not further discuss here (see GAG §63). Table 2.4 presents the set of personal affixes of the strong verb (without E-colouring; see §17.5.1, pp. 525–534) in its Old Babylonian form (“---” represents the stem; forms within parentheses are obsolete in Old Babylonian).59 Prefix Conjugations




i ---

u ---



(ta ---)

(tu ---)

--- at


ta ---

tu ---


--- āta/i, -āt


ta --- ī

tu --- ī

--- ī

--- āt, -āti


a ---

u ---

--- āk(u)


(i --- ā)

(u --- ā)

(--- ā)


i --- ū

u --- ū

--- ū


i --- ā

u --- ā

--- ā

ta --- ā

tu --- ā

ni ---

nu ---

2mp 2fp 1p

--- ā

--- ātunu --- ātina --- ānu

Table 2.4: The personal affixes of the finite verb forms. In the prefix conjugations, the prefixes are the basic person markers. The suffixes provide additional specification of gender or number in the second and third persons, but not consistently.60 The stative only has suffixes, which will further be discussed in §7.4.1 (pp. 176–181). The variation between the prefixes with a/i and those with u is predictable: the u-set is only used for the D‑ and the Š‑stems and their derivatives and in the G‑stem imperfective and perfective of I/w verbs. However, the prefix of the present participle of the derived stems is always mu-, even in 59.  See also GAG §75d/h; Reiner 1966: 69–70. I do not see any advantage in assuming that the prefixes are basically consonantal and that the following vowel belongs to the stem, as claimed by Izre'el (1991), Goldenberg (1994: 35–36), and Buccellati (1996: 92–93). This would be justified if the prefix vowels had a consistent function separate from their environment; this is not the case, however, as can be inferred from Akkadian u. In terms of descriptive simplicity, it makes little difference, since it reduces allomorphy in the prefixes, but it increases allomorphy in the stem (although stem allomorphy is strongly disfavoured in Akkadian; cf. p. 33 n. 8). Moreover, the fact that all non-prefixed forms start with the first radical rather than with a vowel is a strong indication that the first radical should also be taken as the beginning of the stem in prefixed forms. Especially in derived verbal stems, where the inflectional stem is relatively stable, it seems counter-intuitive to claim that the prefix forms have a stem uPaRRvS (Izre'el 1991: 44), whereas the nonprefixed forms obviously have PaRRvS. 60.  Actually, this only occurs in the second person singular and the third person plural. The identity of second person singular masculine and the third person singular feminine (before the latter was given up in Old Babylonian) is a pervasive feature of Semitic. After the 3fs prefix ta‑ was lost in Babylonian, no new gender distinction arose in the third person singular. The overall inconsistency in the formal distinctions of person, gender and number suggest that the combination of prefixes and suffixes as we know them in Akkadian was not devised with the express function of indicating unambiguously all possible combinations of person, gender and number, but is the outcome of accidental grammaticalization processes.

2.5.  The Personal Affixe


the stems that elsewhere have a/i.61 Instead of the second person ta‑, the defective verbs idû ‘to know’ and išû ‘to have’ have ti‑ in all dialects—e.g., OB 2ms tīdē ‘you know’, tīšū ‘you have’, where tī‑ includes the original weak first radical—against tā‑ or tē‑ in all other I/voc verbs; see §16.3.3 (p. 465). The forms in the Table 2.4 are basically valid for the strong verb in all dialects, with the following qualifications: • the special 3fs prefix ta- gradually disappears in the early Old Babylonian period.62 • the 3ms and 3pl prefixes i- and u- appear in their older form yi- and yu- in thirdmillennium Akkadian, as indicated by the use of the specialized signs and , in contrast to other i‑ or u‑signs (Hasselbach 2005: 190–92), except in Ur III Babylonian.63 • Mari Old Akkadian shows a 3pl prefix ti- instead of (y)i- (which does not seem to be attested): tim-ḫa-ṣú ‘they beat’, ti-ku-lu ‘they ate’, ti-iš-da-u ‘they drank’, ti-il-tap-tu ‘they rubbed each other’ in MARI 1, 81:21–24; ti-ku-lu ARM 19, 382, and tim-za-u ‘they cleaned(?)’ ARM 19, 38–45.64 • The 3du affixes are regularly used in Mari Old Akkadian, Sargonic Akkadian, and Old Assyrian, but are residual in Babylonian.65 On the other hand, Old Babylonian shows a few instances of a first person dual in reciprocal verbs, consisting of the first person singular with the dual ending ‑ā affixed: lurtāmā ‘let us love (each other)’, lunnamrā ‘let us meet’; see Kouwenberg 2005: 100–101.66 • a sporadically occurring deviation from the forms in the table is the second-person prefix ti‑ instead of ta‑ in Old Babylonian: (ša) ti-qà-bi-ú AbB 9, 253:9 ‘whom you mention’, ([lā]) [t]i-ḪA-da-ar ibid. 19 ‘do not worry’, and ti-iq-bi-am AbB 14, 82:6 ‘you said to 61.  Since mu‑ is absent in the basic stem, one could argue that it belongs to the stem and is therefore not an inflectional affix. However, it behaves like the personal prefixes in that it is followed by the prefix base, and therefore it is more efficient to classify it as an inflectional affix. The present participle is the only member of the paradigm for which the derived stems show a form fundamentally different from the basic stem. 62.  See GAG §75h, Hilgert 2002: 160 and Whiting 1987: 11. In Old Babylonian, it occurs occasionally in literary texts (von Soden 1931/33: II 148–51), in particular in the precative preceded by the particle i; see chap. 9 n. 8 (p. 213), and very rarely in letters (tu-ši-ib AbB 7, 52:13 ‘she stayed’; ta-at-ta-na-la-ka-ku AbB 14, 49:14 ‘she keeps coming to you’. 63.  Also in Eblaite, as is clear from spellings with : e.g., i-da-ḫa-ú /yiṭaḫḫaʿū/ OrAnt. 18, 341: I 4 and Plate 37 ‘they come near’; see Fronzaroli 1982: 109 sub k; and with (e.g., u9-ga-da-ra /yuqaṭṭar(a)/ ibid. 112 ‘he will sacrifice incense’. According to Krebernik (1988a: 52), some instances of the prefix aalternating with i- may represent an older form ya-, as in the interchange of a-me-tum and i-me-tum ‘right (hand)’ < *yamittum (Sem √ymn). 64.  For an extensive discussion, see Bonechi 1988. It also occurs in Ebla (alongside yi‑, as in i-da-ḫa-ú; see the previous note), in peripheral Akkadian (Emar) and West Semitic—namely, in some Amarna letters, especially those of Rib-Addi (Rainey 1996: II 43–45)—and in Ugaritic (Tropper 2000: 432–41). Tropper argues that in Ugaritic y‑ is archaic and t- an innovation. Hasselbach (2004: 25–26) suggests that the consonant t‑ arose from leveling with the 2p t‑ and the 3fp t‑ (which is not actually attested but reconstructed on the basis of Ugaritic, Hebrew, and Amarna letters) and that the vowel of ti‑ arose by analogy with yi‑ in the third person singular and dual masculine. This is all extremely speculative. See, for earlier explanations, Edzard 1985, Lambert 1992: 53–54, and Gelb 1992: 188–89. 65.  See Limet 1975: 39–43 for Mari Old Akkadian; Hasselbach 2005: 191 for Sargonic Akkadian; GKT §73a for Old Assyrian. In Ur III Babylonian, the dual is not attested (except in the curse formulae of royal inscriptions, where it is doubtless traditional; see Hilgert 2002: 161), but since it is still used occasionally in later Babylonian, it cannot have been completely extinct; see Whiting 1987: 15–16. 66.  Since the second person plural (also) has the ending ‑ā, we cannot establish whether there was a second person dual, since it would doubtless have the same ending.


The Personal Affixe  2.5. me’, and perhaps in the Sargonic Akkadian incantation MAD 5, 8:11 = Or. 46, 201:11 (Kish) ti-ib-da-ad-ga,67 if this stands for /tibtatqā/ ‘you (Du) cut off for yourselves’ (Gt perfective).68

There are some clear similarities between the personal prefixes and the independent subject pronouns. In the second person, the prefix ta‑ agrees with ‑ta/‑ti/‑tunu, etc., in the pronouns atta < *an‑ta, atti < *an‑ti, attunu < *an‑tunu, etc. In the first person plural, the prefix ni‑ corresponds to the pronoun nīnu ‘we’, and also in the first person singular ʾ‑ recurs in the personal pronoun, if we assume that PSem *ʾanā(ku) comes from *an‑ʾā(ku). There is also a connection between the 3fs prefix ta‑ and the nominal feminine suffix -(a)t. With regard to the gender and number suffixes, the third person plural gender markers ‑ū and ‑ā are also used as (parts of) the nominal and adjectival plural markers. On the basis of purely theoretical considerations (i.e., grammaticalization processes of person markers in better-documented languages), it is plausible that the personal prefixes represent either cliticized pronominal elements or cliticized auxiliary verbs containing a pronominal element. This implies a gradual shortening until they acquired the monosyllabic form that is actually attested.69 Since Berber and Cushitic show a set of prefixes that is very similar to the Semitic set, this process must be situated in the Afroasiatic period or even earlier.70 This makes further speculations about the details of this process rather fruitless.71 The fact that they cannot easily be reduced to a uniform paradigm in Proto-Semitic is doubtless caused by recurrent remodelling through analogy and the influence of neighbouring elements, which is difficult to retrace but which may have made them quite different in form from their original pronominal shape.72

67.  Interpreted as 2du by J. and A. Westenholz (1977: 208); according to Lambert (1992: 54) and Hasselbach (2005: 191–92), it is 3duf; if so, it belongs to the cases mentioned previously. 68.  3fs ti‑ has parallels in Eblaite as well: ti-ig-da-ra-ab ARET 11, 1: r.ix 5 /tikta(r)rab/ ‘she blesses’, ti-a-ba-an ARET 5, 3: I 2 ‘she makes bricks’ /tilabban/, alongside ta‑ in da-ne-a-al6 ARET 11, 1: iii 1 / tanīal/ ‘she lies down’ (see also Gelb 1992: 188–89; Edzard 2006: 80). 69.  A recent discussion with a survey of earlier literature is Hasselbach 2004. 70.  See, for instance, Lipiński 1997: 380–83. 71.  The claim that the Semitic prefixes go back to originally vowelless forms that needed an epenthetic vowel to be attached to the verb (Testen 1994a: 432–34; Hasselbach 2004: 32–34) is not acceptable to me. First, it is unclear what kind of status such a monoconsonantal element could have had unless it was a reduction of a longer element that included at least one vowel. Second, it seems illogical to assume that an original independent element was first reduced to a single consonant and subsequently acquired an epenthetic vowel to be combined with a verb stem. Such a development is inconsistent with what we know from grammaticalization processes. Another important point is that the very existence of vocalic sonants in Semitic remains to be proven. The parallel with Indo-European to which Testen refers (1993b: 5) is unconvincing because the Indo-European languages have many different forms to base the existence of vocalic sonants on, and a clear morphological raison d’être: the coexistence and the morphological alternation of full and zero grade forms in the same paradigm; this makes it necessary to create alongside a form such as *bheugh (full grade) : *bhugh (zero grade) or *leikw : *likw from a root such as *bhendh a zero grade *bhṇdh and from *pleH a zero grade *pḷH, etc. This morphological motivation for the existence of these cross-linguistically not-very-common phonemes is absent in Semitic. See also Voigt 2002: 276, who argues against the existence of syllabic sonorants in Afroasiatic. 72.  For the sake of convenience, I will adopt Hetzron’s (1973/74: 40) reconstruction of the ProtoSemitic personal prefixes of the basic stem (*ʾa‑, *ta‑, *yi‑, *ni‑) when quoting Proto-Semitic verb forms, with the qualification that there are reasons to assume that there was an additional series of prefixes with i in all persons, mainly or exclusively for prefix forms with a as root vowel (*yiqtal(u)), in accordance with the Barth-Ginsberg Law; see especially §16.3.1 (pp. 462–464).


The Basic Stem Chapter 3

The Paradigm of the G-Stem

3.1. Introduction In this chapter, I will take a closer look at the paradigm of the G‑stem. In particular, I will discuss the semantic and formal distinctions that hold among the G‑stem verbs. The semantic distinctions concern the subclasses of fientive, stative, and adjectival verbs on the one hand and differences in transitivity on the other; the formal distinctions concern the vowel classes. Fientive, stative, and adjectival verbs show differences in the structure of their paradigm and also in the meaning of some tense/aspect categories (§3.3). Differences in transitivity influence the meaning of the stative, the possibility of passivization, and the choice of derived stems (§3.4). Finally, the vowel classes reflect differences in transitivity and Aktionsart (§3.5).

3.2. The G‑stem as the Basis of the Verbal Paradigm The paradigm of the G‑stem of the strong triradical verb is the norm for all other paradigms. It owes this status to the fact that triradical verbs are more frequent than any other type of verb, that the class of strong verbs is much larger than any class of weak verbs (although all weak verbs taken together are not much less in number than the strong verbs), and that their paradigm is more transparent. In relation to the other verbal stems, the G‑stem is dominant because it is unmarked and, again, much more frequent than any derived stem individually. The unmarked nature of the G‑stem concerns both form and function.1 With regard to form, the G‑stem has no special marker, it has the greatest number of formal distinctions,2 and, most importantly, it shows variation in its vowel pattern, because it has an unmotivated vowel between R2 and R3: the root vowel. This is a typical feature of unmarked categories (van Loon 2005: 67–73). The G‑stem is also semantically unmarked because it expresses verbal concepts in their most natural valency and because there are no restrictions on the nature of the situations (i.e., actions, events, processes, and states) it can denote. Finally, it is the semantic nature of the G‑stem 1.  For markedness and its criteria in general, see Greenberg 1966: 9–12; Croft 2003: 87–101; Givón 1995: 25–69; Battistella 1996; van Loon 2005: 1–11. 2.  It has six inflectional stems, as we saw in §2.2.1 (pp. 31–32), and it is the only stem in which the infinitive and the past participle have a different form ( parāsu versus parsu).



Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs  3.3.

(whether it is transitive or intransitive, stative or fientive, etc.) that to a large extent determines which of the derived stems can be selected as productive derivations (see §10.6, pp. 252–254). Therefore, the G‑stem contains verbs of widely different meanings and can be divided into several classes on the basis of differences in Aktionsart—i.e., in fientive, stative, and adjectival verbs (§3.3); and on the basis of differences in transitivity—i.e., in transitive and intransitive verbs on the one hand and high- and low-transitivity verbs on the other (§3.4). Both Aktionsart and transitivity are relevant to another distinction among the G‑stem verbs, namely, the formal distinction of the vowel classes (§3.5).

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs The term Aktionsart will be used here—for want of a better one—to refer to the type of situation that is inherent in the meaning of the verb. The most common Aktionsarten are such notions as punctual versus durative, telic versus atelic, stative versus dynamic (fientive), iterative and ingressive.3 Most verbs have a single Aktionsart, which is a constant property, independent of the context or the grammatical category in which the verbs happen to be used.4 Aktionsarten are lexical categories, which may or may not be grammatically relevant. In this and the next sections, we are only concerned with a single set of Aktionsarten, namely, the distinction between fientive (i.e., dynamic), stative and adjectival verbs.5 There is a fundamental distinction in language between dynamic and static situations, on the basis of which we can distinguish dynamic (usually called fientive in Semitic studies) and stative verbs.6 Since it is the primary function of a verb to express an event or a process, most verbs are inherently dynamic. Many languages also have a small number of stative verbs, such as English to know, possess, live, belong, contain (Lyons 1977: II 706–7; Binnick 1991: 183–88); in general, states are more typically expressed by non-verbal clauses or copula constructions. Changes from stative to fientive or vice versa are typically expressed by lexical or derivational processes—i.e., by using a derived verb or an altogether different verb as, for example, English know (stative) vs. learn (dynamic), which corresponds to German kennen versus erkennen, Russian znatj versus uznatj, Dutch weten versus te weten komen or vernemen (Lyons 1977: II 706; Bybee 1985: 21; Buccellati 1988: 178). The situation in Akkadian is quite different. Akkadian has grammaticalized the contrast between dynamic and static situations in the opposition between the prefix conjugations and the stative.7 Since the stative is an inflectional category of the verb, Akkadian does not have a 3.  For a definition, see, for instance, Bybee 1985: 21 (“aspectual distinctions expressed lexically [. . .] such as English do vs. complete, know vs. realize”). Lyons (1977: II 706) calls it “aspectual character” (“The aspectual character of a verb (. . .) will be that part of its meaning whereby it (normally) denotes one kind of situation rather than another”), and Smith (1997) speaks of “situation aspect.” See also Comrie 1976: 6–7 n. 4, 41–51; Binnick 1991: 144–46, 170–78; D. Cohen 1989: 31–33. 4.  It is therefore better not to use the term Aktionsart for the functions of the derived verbal stems, although some of them express the same kind of meaning (e.g., pluractional in the tan‑stems and ingressive in the N‑stem). Iterative as an Aktionsart is found in a G‑stem verb such as baṣāṣu ‘to drip’; see §16.6.2 (pp. 494–495). 5.  In other chapters, we will find other Aktionsart distinctions playing a certain role in Akkadian, such as durative versus punctual in the use of the imperfective (see §4.3, pp. 91–95) and telic versus atelic in the stative (see §7.3.2, p. 169). 6.  For the difference between dynamic and stative situations, see, for instance, Comrie 1976: 48–51; Lyons 1977: II 483; Binnick 1991: 183–88; Bybee et al. 1994: 55. 7.  See also Leong 1994: 14; Metzler 2002: 898–99.

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs


semantic distinction between inherently fientive and stative verbs but a grammatical distinction between fientive and stative forms of the same verb, which are inflectionally related. This means that the question whether an Akkadian verb expresses a static or a dynamic situation depends on the form in which it is used rather than on the Aktionsart of the verb itself: in the stative, it expresses a state; in the prefix conjugations, an event or a process.8 The verb kabātu ‘to be(come) heavy’, for instance, which looks like a typical stative verb, denotes a process if it is used in a prefix category such as the perfective ikbit; its fientive meaning is usually interpreted as ingressive: ‘it became heavy’.9 A verb such as paḫāru ‘to come together’, on the other hand, denotes a movement and therefore seems typically fientive. Used in the stative, however, it denotes a state that results from a previous event, e.g., ṣābum pa-ḫe-er ‘the army is assembled’ (ARM 6, 52:22 and elsewhere). This explains why it is often difficult to determine whether a given Akkadian verb is stative or not. This applies especially to intransitive change-of-state verbs such as abālu ‘to be(come) dry’, takālu ‘to put one’s trust in, to trust’, and malû ‘to be(come) full’. For abālu, for instance, we cannot establish on the basis of its meaning alone whether it is parallel to kabātu, i.e., basically stative ‘to be dry’, with ingressive prefix forms (ībal ‘it became dry, dried out’), or parallel to paḫāru, i.e., basically fientive ‘to become dry’, with a resultative stative abil ‘it has become (and therefore is now) dry’. This difficulty is recognized by scholars who have attempted to classify Akkadian verbs on the basis of their meaning.10 Aro (1964: 7–10), for instance, points out that for intransitive verbs the criteria for deciding whether a verb is stative or fientive often contradict one another. He concludes (ibid., 9) that there is no clear-cut distinction between stative and fientive, but that these concepts are instead the two poles of a system, and that individual verbs are only “a potiori” stative or fientive. In sum, the distinction between stative and fientive as a lexical opposition in Aktionsart is not applicable to Akkadian; however, as a grammatical opposition within the verbal paradigm it is one of the most fundamental features of the Akkadian verb. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons that will become apparent in the course of the present study, it is difficult to dispense completely with a distinction between (prototypical) fientive verbs on the one hand, and at least two other types of verbs that are not prototypically fientive, on the other: formally fientive verbs with a stative meaning (§3.3.1), and adjectival verbs (§3.3.2).

3.3.1.  Fientive verbs with a stative meaning There is a small group of verbs in Akkadian that have a prototypical stative meaning yet are mostly used in the prefix conjugations (GAG §78b). The most common examples are bašû ‘to exist, be available’, i/uzuzzu ‘to stand’, kullu ‘to hold’,11 ḫašāḫu ‘to need, wish’, leʾû ‘to be able’, 8.  Nevertheless, the existence of fientive and stative verbs is taken for granted in most studies on Akkadian and Semitic. For instance, GAG §52a claims that there is a distinction between the “Schilderung von Handlungen und Vorgängen” and the “Beschreibung von Zuständen und Eigenschaften.” The former is the domain of “das eigentliche Verbum,” the latter is the domain of the adjective and the verb derived from it (the “Zustands­verben”). It is more or less implied that only the fientive verb is a real verb (§§52a, 73c), whereas the stative verb is actually a conjugated adjective, which, for instance, has no part in the vowel classes. On the other hand, there is no clear formal difference between the two types (§73c end). 9.  See Comrie 1976: 19–20; Lyons 1977: II 713; Wetzer 1996: 188–92; Stassen 1997: 162–64. 10.  For instance, W. von Soden in GAG §87b Anm., Rowton (1962: 264), and Kienast (1967: 67). 11.  Kullu is only partially a stative verb: it is fientive in the meaning ‘to offer, provide’ (CAD K 515–16 s.v. 4).


Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs   3.3.

muāʾu (OA) ‘to be willing’ (always with negation: ‘to refuse’), bêlu ‘to be master/owner of, to rule’, râmu ‘to love’, and zêru ‘to hate’.12 Their stative meaning is so dominant that even their prefix forms can express a state, although most of them may also denote an event, depending on the context. This results in a number of deviations from ordinary fientive verbs in the use of several verbal categories. First of all, their imperfective is used to refer to states in present, past, and future, adopting the neutrality towards tense of the stative (which also has imperfective aspect; see §7.3, pp. 164).13 The verb bašû is the prototype of these verbs. Its imperfective ibaššī has a purely stative meaning, ‘is present, is available’, and may even be used in a way that is very similar to a copula, as in (01), but may also refer to past (02) or future (03):14 (01) KH xlviii 21/4 (OB) (a lord) ša kīma abim wālidim ana nišī i-ba-aš-šu-ú ‘who is (present) like a natural father for the people’ (also Syria 33, 66:6–9; ARM 28, 147: r.13ʹ) (02) ARM 10, 50:9–10 (OB) GNF ul wašbat u ṣalmū ša maḫrīša ul i-ba-šu-ú ‘Bēlet-ekallim was not staying there and the statues in front of her were not present either’ (see also Metzler 2002: 500; note the coordination of stative and imperfective) (03) YOS 10, 31: XIII 34–35 (OB) kuṣṣum mādum i-ba-aš-ši ‘a severe cold will occur’15 Second, the perfective of these verbs is also neutral towards the contrast between event and state: it may refer to a state in the past (04), but it may also express an event, namely, the beginning of the state—that is, it may also be ingressive (05): (04) VS 8, 71:23–25 (OB) ((I swear that) the silver) itti PN abīya lā ib-šu-ú ittīya lā i-ba-aš-šu-ú ‘was not in the possession of PN, my father, and is not in my possession’ (05) BagM. 2, 57: II 13–14 (OB) šitūl ina libbī ib-šu-ú ina libbi PN ib-ši ‘the idea that occurred to me also occurred to PN’ Both ibaššī and ibšī can refer to a past state, but the perfective ibšī is far less common and presumably states more emphatically that the situation no longer exists.16

12.  The defective verbs idû ‘to know’ and išû ‘to have’, the so-called ‘prefixed statives’ (GAG §78b and §106q/r), also belong to this group semantically; they will be discussed in §16.3.3 (pp. 465–468). 13.  Therefore, stative verbs are prominent among the imperfective forms with past reference (see §4.3, p. 92). 14.  Bašû also shows other features of copular behaviour (see Hopper and Thompson 1984: 729–30; Pustet 2003: 40–41). First, it tends to become invariable: already in Old and Middle Assyrian, it may be in the singular, even if the subject is plural (GKT §115f and W. Mayer 1971: 97), and this becomes the norm in Neo-Assyrian (Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 103). Second, it is often placed at the beginning of the clause, either in its existential meaning or as an emphasizing adverb (e.g., in Neo-Assyrian; see Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 109). The suggestion that bašû arose from a verbalization of the West Semitic preposition *ba‑ followed by the 3ms suffix pronoun ‑šu is contradicted by Sargonic Akkadian spellings, which show that the middle radical was originally *θ; see Rubin 2005: 45–46, with earlier literature; Hasselbach 2005: 45 with n. 91. 15.  In the future, the distinction between the state itself and its beginning is usually neutralized. 16.  The perfective ibšī is mainly used as part of the precative (libšī, etc.), where it appears for purely formal reasons; see, in particular, CAD B 145–46 s.v. bašû v. 1b-1′ about Old Assyrian. There seems to

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs


The same semantic relationship exists between izzāz and izzīz from i/uzuzzu ‘to stand (up)’: izzīz either denotes a past state ‘he was standing’ or a past event (and is then telic and ingressive): ‘he stood up’ (Metzler 2002: 500), e.g.:17 (06) AbB 13, 77:3 (OB) (concerning the field rent) ša ina qātīka iz-zi-zu ‘which was (lit., stood) in your hand’ (07) AbB 2, 65: 27–28 (OB) niāti ul issûniāt[īma] ul ni-iz-zi-iz ‘(since) they did not summon us, we did not stand up (as witnesses)’ Third, a peculiarity, which is puzzling at first sight, is that most of these verbs do not or only rarely occur in the stative.18 Bašû, for instance, has a stative bašī, which alternates with ibaššī without observable difference in meaning, but it is comparatively rare (mainly Standard Babylonian) and gives the impression of being secondary; an Old Babylonian instance is (08), which alternates with the imperfective in (09):19 (08) AbB 3, 88:20–21 anāku uznāya ana kâšim ba-ši-a-ku ‘As for me, my attention is on you’20 (09) AbB 11, 106:13′–14′ kīma bēlīa u beltīa uznāya i-ba-aš-ši-a-ni-kum ‘My attention is on you as (if you were) my Lord and my Mistress’ (tr. M. Stol) The reasons for the rarity of the stative of these verbs are that they are basically atelic and therefore incompatible with the resultative function of the stative (just like atelic activity verbs; see §7.3.2, p. 169) and that the stative is a derived and therefore marked form: if a verb has a stative meaning anyway, there is no need to use this form, and the speaker may fall back on the basic form of the imperfective. Fourth, just like the adjectival verbs to be discussed in the next section, many of these stative verbs do not have a present participle, because this is basically an agent noun restricted to fientive verbs denoting actions, as we will see in §8.4.1 (p. 206).21 In the rest of this study, I will reserve the term “stative verb” for members of this small set of verbs, which are conjugated like fientive verbs but have a prototypically stative meaning. On the other hand, I will not use the term “stative verb” for the much larger group of adjectival verbs to be discussed in the next section, since these are only stative when they are used in the stative.

be no t‑perfect *ibtašī (Maloney 1981: 32), but perhaps the rather common t‑perfect of the N‑stem ittabšī replaces this form. 17.  An interesting case of such an “ingressive” perfective is the form yirʾam/tarʾam in Sargonic Akkadian proper names, such as Dar-àm-A-ga-dè KI MDOG 132 (2000) 140 fig. 3 ‘She has conceived love for Akkad’ > ‘She loves Akkad’, the name of a daughter of Naram-Sin; see §17.7.2 with n. 157 (p. 558). These perfectives have a resultative nuance (just as in idû ‘to know’ and išû ‘to have’; see §16.3.3, pp. 465–468), which is perhaps an archaic trait; see §5.4 (p. 130). 18.  Obviously, this does not apply to ḫašāḫu, of which the stative is common for ‘to need’, whereas the imperfective seems to express the more active nuance of wishing for or demanding something but is also used for ‘to need’ in the future; see von Soden 1964: 438 and Loesov 2005: 137–38. In many contexts, however, which translation one prefers is rather subjective. 19.  For bašī = ibaššī in Late Babylonian, see Streck 1995a: 172–73. 20.  I.e., presumably bašiā (3fp) + ku(m) (or 1s bašiāku, so that the sentence is an anacoluthon caused by the emphatic anāku in front?). 21.  Kullu is an obvious exception, in the light of the ubiquitous mukillu (see §, pp. 484–485). On alleged present participles such as **bāšû and **šēbû, see chap. 8 n. 32 (p. 206).


Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs   3.3.

3.3.2.  Adjectival verbs Apart from the cases discussed in the preceding section, there is yet another subclass of fientive verbs that significantly differs from prototypical fientive verbs in their morphosyntactic behaviour, namely, verbs that are closely related to primary adjectives, such as lemēnu ‘to be(come) bad’, rabû ‘to be(come) big’, and warāqu ‘to be(come) green’. Therefore, I will call them “adjectival verbs.” Adjectival verbs are not stative, since their verbal paradigm denotes the meaning of the adjective as a process (it is usually ingressive); only the adjective itself and its predicative form, the stative, are stative in meaning. The adjectival verbs differ from prototypical fientive verbs in several respects:22 1. Since they are not action verbs, their verbal paradigm does not include a present participle (GAG §85d and Buccellati 1996: 405). 2. They do not have a past participle either. Its place is occupied by the primary adjective itself, but rather than being a low-ranking member of the verbal paradigm (see §8.3.1, p. 200), it is the basic form from which the entire paradigm of the adjectival verb is derived.23 Accordingly, the adjective has an unpredictable vowel pattern, PaRiS, PaRuS, or PaRaS. The formal relationship between adjective and adjectival verb is complex, in the sense that the vowel class of the latter is not quite predictable from that of the adjective, although there is a clear tendency: adjectival verbs usually belong to the I/i class (for the exceptions, see A3 and A4 in §3.3.3), but those corresponding to PaRuS adjectives predominantly belong to the U/u class (for the exceptions, see B2 and B3 in §3.3.3). A major cause of this lack of regularity is doubtless the instability of their vowel pattern (see below). 3. The fact that fientive verbs have a predictable stative/past participle PaRiS24 implies that verbs that do not have PaRiS must be adjectival. This agrees fairly well with the overall meaning of the latter verbs, with the exception of a few specific types discussed in n. 30 (p. 59). For adjectives of the pattern PaRiS, we need additional semantic information to decide whether the corresponding verb is adjectival or not. 4. In two classes of weak verbs, there are some differences in form between fientive and adjectival verbs. First, in II/gem verbs the 3ms stative is bisyllabic in fientive verbs (madid from madādu ‘to measure’, balil from balālu ‘to mix’) but monosyllabic in adjectival verbs (dān from danānu ‘to be(come) strong’, ēl from elēlu ‘to be(come) clean’; see §16.6.1 (pp. 492–493) for details. Second, in the prefix forms of the I/w verbs, the adjectival verbs are conjugated like I/y verbs (Impfv ītter from watāru ‘to exceed’, īrriq from warāqu ‘to be(come) green’), but the fientive verbs have the prefix vowel u (Impfv uṣṣī from waṣû ‘to go /come out’, urrad from warādu ‘to descend’); see further §16.3.1 (pp. 462–463).25 22.  According to Hopper and Thompson (1984: 726) and Wetzer (1996: 30–31), adjectival verbs often differ in some respect from prototypical verbs, in particular in having a defective paradigm. 23.  This view of the relationship between adjective and adjectival verb is also expressed by Aro 1964: 200–201 and Tropper 1995a: 496–97. 24.  At least in Babylonian; see §7.2 (p. 162) for a few exceptions in Assyrian. 25.  In the literature, some other differences are mentioned, which have to do with the occurrence or nonoccurrence of specific categories; see, in particular, Buccellati 1988: 166 and 1996: 405–8: stative verbs do not normally occur in the N‑stem and have a factitive D‑stem, whereas intransitive fientive verbs have a causative Š‑stem. These criteria have a limited value, however: they are tendencies rather than rules and are sometimes contradictory. For instance, târu ‘to return’ (intr.) is stative according to the criterion of the D‑stem but clearly fientive because of its meaning and the fact that its G‑stem does not even have a stative ( pace Buccellati 1996: 409).

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs


5. A semantic criterion to identify adjectival verbs is the kind of property they express: a verb is more positively adjectival as the corresponding adjective denotes a more stable, inherent, or permanent property.26 6. There is, finally, also a distributional criterion, namely, the relative frequency of verb and adjective: in adjectival verbs, the adjective is unmarked vis-à-vis the verb and is therefore expected to occur more frequently. For part of the adjectival verbs listed below in §3.3.3, this is borne out by an impressionistic survey of the dictionaries, although exact statistics are not available to me. This criterion can obviously only be applied to common adjectives, or if the difference in frequency is so large that even small numbers are statistically valid, as in the case of adjectives without corresponding prefix forms, such as barmu ‘multicoloured’, paglu ‘strong’, and dašpu ‘sweet’.27 A corollary of this difference in frequency is the fact that primary adjectives tend to be relatively stable in their vowel pattern,28 whereas adjectival verbs show a fair amount of variation, in particular when they do not belong to the I/i class, which is the default vowel class for adjectival verbs. This may be inferred from the footnotes to §3.3.3, where alternative vowel patterns are listed.29 All in all, these criteria do not lead to a hard and fast distinction between adjectival verbs and the rest of the fientive verbs. There is rather a continuum with some verbs more clearly adjectival than others, and with a substantial number of verbs which are difficult to classify.30 In some cases 26.  According to Dixon (1982: 16), the properties that cross-linguistically are most typically expressed by adjectives are dimension, physical properties, colour, human propensity, age, value, and speed. However, other linguists give slightly different lists; see Stassen 1997: 164–79 for an extensive discussion. 27.  Some of these have, however, an infinitive in lexical texts as citation form. 28.  Primary adjectives show very little variation, apart from a weak tendency to adopt the most frequent pattern PaRiS, e.g., in paluḫ ‘frightful’ and raṭub ‘moist’; see §3.3.3). There are, however, a few important differences between Babylonian and Assyrian which point to changes in vowel pattern in the prehistoric period; see §3.3.4 below. 29.  To conclude from this that adjectives originally did not have a prefix conjugation (e.g., Tropper 1995a: 497; Voigt 2004: 44–45) would be unjustified: rather, we cannot reconstruct it because of the amount of variation in vowel pattern. The relatively infrequent use of adjectival verbs makes them vulnerable to analogical changes. 30.  This applies in particular to change-of-state verbs with a PaRiS stative, such as abālu ‘to be(come) dry’ and kabātu “to be(come) heavy’, discussed in §3.3 (p. 55), and three specific groups: 1. Adjectives and verbs of speed: lasāmu ‘to run’ (U/u) alongside lasmu ‘swift’ (lasim), arāḫu ‘to hurry’ (A/a) alongside arḫu ‘quick’ (aruḫ), and ḫamāṭu ‘to hurry’ (U/u) alongside ḫamṭu ‘quick’ (ḫamuṭ). The verbs are prototypically fientive because they denote motion, and the adjectives are not resultative and therefore primary. The irregularity of their vowel patterns is doubtless related to the fact that the concepts they express are common both as properties (‘to be quick’) and as events (‘to move quickly’). This makes verb and adjective relatively independent of each other. 2. A number of PaRiS adjectives related to atelic activity verbs: gaṣṣu ‘ferocious’ and gaṣāṣu ‘to gnash the teeth’, tarru ‘trembling’ and tarāru ‘to tremble’, g/qarru ‘round’ and garāru ‘to roll’, and perhaps also šapṣu ‘strong, resistant’ alongside šapāṣu ‘to grip, twist’ and zaqtu ‘pointed’ alongside zaqātu ‘to sting’ (cf. W. R. Mayer 2003: 370–71 n. 3). These adjectives are not resultative and therefore not past participles (see §8.3.1, p. 200). They are etymologically related to the verbal paradigm but (synchronically) independent of it. Similar cases occur in the D‑stem, e.g., gunnuṣu ‘constantly wrinkling the nose’ alongside the verb gunnuṣu; see GAV p. 402 n. 4. 3. Three adjectives of location and the corresponding verbs: qerbu ‘near’ and qerēbu ‘to come near’, rê/ūqu ‘far’ and rêqu ‘to go far’, and nesû ‘far’ (nesū) and nesû ‘to go far’ (E/e). I have added no vowels to the first two because they are very unstable. I will discuss them below, in § (p. 565).

Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs   3.3.


it seems appropriate to assign a verb to both classes and posit, for instance, both a fientive elû ‘to go /come up’ and an adjectival elû ‘to be high’. Similar cases include šaqû with roughly the same meanings, and ešēru ‘to be straight, normal, just’ (adjectival) versus ešēru ‘to go straight toward’ (fientive). Since the adjectival verbs form a marked subgroup among the fientive verbs, the correct procedure is to classify a verb as adjectival only when there is sufficient positive evidence and to classify all doubtful cases as fientive. Since they are intransitive, the adjectival verbs can only belong to the isovocalic vowel classes—mostly I/i, sometimes U/u, and rarely A/a (see §3.5.2, pp. 71–75). Actually, it would be more useful to characterize adjectival verbs by means of the vowel of the adjective and the vowel of the prefix conjugations: e.g., to call kabāru ‘to be(come) thick’ A/i because of kabar, ikabbir/ ikbir), and lemēnu ‘to be(come) bad, evil’ U/i because of lemun, ilemmin/ilmin), etc. I will not use this notation, however, in order to avoid confusion.

3.3.3.  List of adjectival verbs This section contains a list of verbs that, on the basis of the criteria discussed above, can be plausibly classified as adjectival, arranged according to the pattern of the adjective. For reasons of clarity, the adjective is mostly mentioned in its 3ms stative form, where the relevant vowel is visible (in some cases this form is inferred from the feminine adjective) and the verb in its 3ms imperfective. Since we have far more data on Babylonian than on Assyrian, the list is based on Babylonian. Where no indication of dialect is added, the Assyrian form is either the same or not attested; where “Bab” is added, Assyrian is known to have a different form. Specifically Assyrian forms are listed and discussed separately in §3.3.4. However, where Assyrian is only different in not having E‑colouring in the first syllable or in having ē instead of ī, this is simply indicated by “Ass a ” or “Ass ē.” References are only given for forms not listed in the dictionaries. A1. PaRiS adjectives with i in the prefix forms: arik banī damiq ebī ediš ekil elī eniš gašir kabit labir

īrrik ibannī idammiq 32 ībbī   īddiš īkkil īllī īnniš igaššir ikabbit ilabbir

long beautiful good thick new dark 33 high weak (Ass a?) powerful heavy old

peṣī rabī salim ṣalim ṣeḫir šadil šalim šanī šapil šelī wasim

ipeṣṣī irabbī isallim iṣallim iṣeḫḫir išaddil išallim išannī išappil išellī īssim

white (Ass a) big 31 friendly dark, black small (Ass a) wide, spacious good, sound34 different low, deep blunt appropriate35

31.  Earlier Pfv islam (ìs-lam ARM 2, 40:6; ìs-la-am A. 488+492:94 quoted FM 6, 148 n. 108, both OB); see §3.5.3. 32.  For ībbī, cf. Prec lu-ú-bi ZA 75, 200:35 (OB). 33.  Also fientive in the meaning ‘to go /come up’. 34.  Earlier Pfv išlam (Iš-lam-gi ELTS p. 147 no. 41: IV′ 13′ (Pre-Sargonic kudurru from Sippar); Išlam-dingir CTMMA 1, 6 nr. 6: III 36 (SAk account text from Sippar); Iš-la-am-DN Tall Biʿa p. 52 no. 48:5 (early OB); and Ina-pîm-lu-úš-lam ARM 13, 1: VII 40 (OB). 35.  Earlier, perhaps wasum in theophoric PNs of the type Ina-šamê-wasum, DN-wasum, etc. Contrary to Stamm (1939: 81), I do not interpret the spelling pi-súm in such names as a D-form wussum but as a G stative wasum, first, because the use of PuRRuS forms in theophoric names is exceptional: they almost

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs maṣī imaṣṣī sufficient, able maṭī imaṭṭī insufficient nawir inawwir bright

zaqir zenī

izaqqir izennī/ē


high, steep36 angry (Ass a)

A2. PaRiS adjectives of II/voc verbs: pīq rīq sīq

ipīaq irīaq isīaq

narrow (Bab) šīb išīab empty (Bab) wīṣ iwīaṣ narrow (Bab)

A3. PaRiS adjectives with u in the prefix forms: daʾim idaʾʾum dark37 lasim emiṣ īmmuṣ hungry38 ṣamī

gray, old (Ass ē) few (Ass ē)

ilassum iṣammū

swift thirsty



A4. PaRiS adjectives with a/e in the prefix forms: berī kaṣī

iberrē ikaṣṣā

hungry39 (Ass a) cold41


A5. PaRiS adjectives without prefix forms attested: baḫir emiṣ eriš erī laḫim masik

hot sour  42 wise naked hairy bad, ugly

pagil pelī qarid qašid sakil zaqin

strong white heroic 43 holy (< *qadšum) foolish, stupid bearded

always contain simple adjectives (cf. Stamm 1939: 81, 229), and second, because we would expect to find occasional instances of this rather common type of name where the geminate is graphically indicated or with initial ú- instead of wu-; such spellings do not occur, as far as I know. However, we have to distinguish these theophoric names with the stative wasum from the Sargonic Akkadian PuRRuS name Wussum(t)um (AHw 1498a s.v. and GAV p. 376) and from names with the construct state of wusmum ‘ornament, fitting attribute’, such as DN-ú-su-um-šamê ‘DN is a fitting ornament of heaven’ (Stamm 1939: 81). 36.  Also izqur and izaqqar ; see AHw 1513a s.v. zaqāru I G. 37.  Only in [i]-da-aḪ-Ḫu-mu LKA 105: IV 6 (SB, but the spelling with aḫ and ḫu reveals that this form has an Old Babylonian source; see §17.4, p. 520), versus id-ḪI-im Legends p. 70:62 (OB) and i-da-im AMT 85, 1: ‘VI’ 6 (SB). This distribution makes it difficult to establish which vowel is more original; I have opted for U/u on the basis of the general drift from U/u towards I/i; see §3.5.3 (pp. 78–79). 38.  Stat emiṣ according to e-mi-iṣ OBTA p. 52 no. 12:35 (ArBab); for īmmuṣ, cf. im-mu-ṣa(-a) BWL 40:44 (SB). 39.  Originally perhaps A/a; cf. SAk a ib-ra /ay yibrā/ SAB p. 163:5 (Diyala) ‘let it (the field) not starve’, i.e., lie fallow. 40.  SB rarely imallī. 41.  SB also ikaṣṣī. 42.  Emiṣ 1x OB (e-mi-iṣ Sumer 13, 113:12); also u in SB. 43.  The Fem qarrattu (qá-ra-at-ta Ištar p. 75: I 2 (OB lit.) and elsewhere) is the feminine of qarrādum.

Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs   3.3.


B1. PaRuS adjectives with u in the prefix forms (at least originally; see §3.5.3):44 baḫū eṭū gapuš ḫabur ḫamuṭ ḫarub ḫarup karū naqud pašuq

ibaḫḫū īṭṭū igappuš iḫabbur iḫammuṭ iḫarrub iḫarrup ikarrū inaqqud ipaššuq

thin45 dark (Bab)46 huge, massive noisy quick (to hurry) waste49 early short51 worried narrow

š/sabus šaḫun šamuḫ šapū šaqū šarū taqun ṭaḫud zakū

B2. PaRuS adjectives with i in the prefix forms: emuq īmmiq52 wise matuq lapun ilappin poor  53 waruq lemun ilemmin bad54 (Ass. also a)

iš/sabbus išaḫḫun išammuḫ išappū išaqqū išarrū itaqqun iṭaḫḫud izakkū

angry (Bab) warm prosperous loud, dense47 high (Bab)48 rich (Bab)50 certain abundant clean, free

imattiq īrriq

sweet green (Bab)

B3. PaRuS adjectives with a in the prefix forms (at least originally; see §3.5.3): aruḫ īrraḫ maruṣ imarraṣ nesū/ī inessē

quick (to hurry) ill (Bab)56 far

paluḫ ipallaḫ qerub iqarrab rêq/rūq irêq

awesome55 (Bab) near (Bab)57 far (Bab)

B4. PaRuS adjectives without prefix forms attested: barum dašup

multicoloured sweet

rašub raṭub

awe-inspiring moist58

44.  Ordinal numbers, which regularly have PaRuS in Babylonian but PaRiS in Assyrian (GAG §70a/b), are not included. 45.  Also Stat baḫī and Impfv ibaḫḫī. 46.  The Impfv īṭṭū is only based on Gilg. p. 234:39 (OB) i-˹ṭù˺-ma u4-mu, cf. A. R. George, NABU 2004/49; ūmu is unlikely to be plural, cf. also Sg u4-mu in 35); elsewhere I/i. 47.  Also išappī (SB); this might be the same word as šapī ‘thick’ (A5). 48.  Also išaqqī (SB). 49.  Also iḫarrib (LB). 50.  Also išarrī (SB). 51.  Also ikarrī (OB, SB). 52.  Only based on Gilg. p. 580:104 (SB) ˹i ˺-mì-iq ‘he will become wise’. 53.  It occurs as I/i in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian (i-lá-pì-nu AKT 1, 21:9; il5-tí-pí(-ma) ArAn. 1, 48 n. 23 kt 88/k 507b:14), alongside U/u in SB (lu-ul-pu-un-mi ZA 43, 86: I 6). The stative pattern *lapun suggests that U/u may be older, and this would also agree with the general pattern of change. 54.  But NB ilemmun. 55.  Paluḫ only in SAk and OB proper names, later paliḫ. 56.  But NB imarruṣ. 57.  Iqarrab inferred from sporadic OB Pfv iqrab (e.g., iq-ra-ab Legends p. 198:46), later Bab iqerri/ub; OA iqarrub, Stat qurub; see § (p. 565) for this verb and the next one. 58.  But also raṭib (ra-ṭi-ib YOS 10, 33: II 24. 26; ra-ṭì-ib-tum ARM 27, 66:18). Cf. also the noun ra-ṭàab-tum ‘terre irriguée’ ARM 26/1, 217 no. 76:26 (OB). Perhaps raṭib is already attested in Ebla, if la-ti-bat [um?] // la-ti-tum stands for /raṭibtum/ (Krebernik 1983: 42).

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs kazub narub naṭū raṣum/n


luxuriant59 (Bab) šaruḫ proud, magnificent soft, moist (Bab) waruš dirty, impure appropriate z/ṣap/bur evil, malicious loud

C1. PaRaS adjectives with i in the prefix forms (at least originally; see §3.5.3): išar kabar nakar qatan

īššir ikabbir inakkir iqattin

straight, just thick foreign thin, fine

rapaš waqar wašaṭ watar

irappiš īqqir īššiṭ?  60 īttir

wide, broad rare, precious fierce exceeding



good, pleasant

C2. PaRaS adjectives of II/voc verbs: mād sām

imīad isīam

numerous (Bab)61 red

C3. PaRaS adjectives with vowel class U/u (at least originally): No instances. C4. PaRaS adjectives with vowel class A/a: No instances in Babylonian.62 C5. PaRaS adjectives without prefix forms attested: ḫamar


D1. Adjectives of II/gem verbs with i in the prefix forms: dān idannin strong ēb ībbib pure ēl īllil pure, free ēm īmmim hot erur(!)63 īrrir dry

mār qāl raggu rāq

imarrir iqallil iraggig iraqqiq

bitter light (of weight) bad, wicked thin, fine

59.  Only as PNF Kazubtum (Ka-zu-ub-tum AbB 14, 46:3; CT 6, 4: I 6, both OB). 60.  Only based on iš-ši-ṭ [a] Erra IIIc 49 (SB). CAD does not have a verb ašāṭu, only an adjective ašṭu (A/2 475–76). 61.  Bab mād, imīad replaces an earlier II/  ʾ adjective and verb with maʾad and imaʾʾid (belonging to C1), which is preserved in Assyrian; see §16.5.1 (pp. 474–476). 62.  One might include here Ass balaṭ—iballaṭ ‘to live, be(come) healthy’ (corresponding to Bab baliṭ— iballuṭ), but there is insufficient reason to classify balāṭu as an adjectival verb. See §7.2 (p. 162) for the Stat balaṭ. 63.  Erur, a rather abnormal form, occurs in JCS 24, 66 no. 66:8 e-ru-úr (OB). It cannot be ruled out that it is a Pfv with e‑ prefix instead of i‑. For īrrir, cf. lā ir-ri-ra BAM 1, 22:34 (// lā i-ba-l [a] 6, 515: I 65), said of herbs; and for the meaning, see Köcher 1965.

Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs   3.3.


D2. Adjectives of II/gem verbs with u in the prefix forms: ēd īddud?  64 sharp rāb irabbu/ib soft, weak ēz, eziz īzzu/iz angry D3. Adjectives of II/gem verbs without prefix forms attested: daqqu

very small



E. Adjectives of unknown pattern but with corresponding verb: erpu






3.3.4.  Deviating adjectives in Assyrian For the adjectives that have a different pattern in Assyrian, the vowel class of the corresponding adjectival verb is often unknown, so it is no use listing them in the way that I have listed the Babylonian ones above. Instead, I will arrange them according to the corresponding verb of the Babylonian adjective. There are three types:66 1. Ass PaRiS corresponding to Bab PaRuS: mariṣ imarraṣ narib sabis eriq šaqī išaqqī (MA/NA) šarī išarrū

ill moist67 angry green high rich

Bab maruṣ—imarraṣ (B3) (< *weriq < *wariq)68 Bab šaqū—išaqqū (B1) Bab šarū—išarrū (B1)69

2. Ass PuRuS corresponding to Bab PaRuS: qurub70 rūq71

iqarrub irūaq

near far

Bab qerub—iqarrab (B3), Bab rêq/rūq, irêq (B3)

64.  Based on several doubtful forms (all SB): id-du-ud AnSt. 30, 101:19 // Iraq 60, 192:19 (= Ludlul I 19, SB), of uncertain inter­pretation, and e-du-ud AfO 14, pl. IV: ii 17; ACh. Spl. 8:9, 11, which at first glance is a stative (like ed-de-et in the same context, e.g., ACh. 2. Spl. 1: I 10), but the subject qarnu ‘horn’ is feminine, so it is a 3ms Perfective, in spite of e‑. 65.  There are, however, N forms with stem vowel a, which is highly irregular: Impfv is-sa-ra-ar/ár LSS 1/6, 33:2, 4 and t‑Pf it-tas-ra-ar MSL 1, 48:10 ‘he will prove/has proved to be unreliable’ (both SB); perhaps also in AbB 12, 32:28 (OB). 66.  The forms are Old Assyrian, unless indicated otherwise. 67.  Fem Adj naribtum (e.g., na-ri-ib-tum Prag I 429:11). 68.  OA also has warqum (stem vowel unknown, also written barqum: bar-qú-t [u]m RA 58, 64 no. 7:5), and substantivized in rabi ur-qé/wa-ar-qé TMH 1, 27b:2 and VS 26, 125:13′ ‘the overseer of the vegetables’. 69.  The OA adjective e-ṭí-ú-tim JCS 14, 3:21, said of textiles, which AHw 266a s.v. eṭû I 4 connects with Bab eṭû ‘dark’ might be another instance. It is, however, more likely that this eṭium is a variant of WA‑DÍ‑um, an adjective of unknown meaning that qualifies textiles, hides, and saddles; see Veenhof 1972: 186 and 2010: 141. 70.  Attested in Old Assyrian (ana ūmē qurbūtim ‘on short terms’; see CAD Q 215a s.v. qerbu adj. 2; qú-ru-ub Prag I 483:25; qú-ur-bu OAA 1, 83:26), Middle Assyrian (qur-bu-ú-te KAV 1: III §24:44), and Neo-Assyrian (qu-ru-ub SAA 16, 125:9′ and passim). See further § (p. 565). 71.  Rūqu (< *ruḥqum; see §, p. 565) occurs in Old Assyrian as adjective in ru-qú-um(-ma) RA 88, 121:20; as stative in ru-qú BIN 4, 32:27; in Middle Assyrian perhaps in the PNF Ṣīḫtī-ru-[qá-at] KAJ

3.3.  Distinctions in Aktionsart: Fientive, Stative, and Adjectival Verbs puluḫ72 kuzub73


frightful charming

3. Ass PāS corresponding to Bab PīS in II/voc verbs: rāq irīaq pāq (NA)74 sāq (MA/NA)75isīaq (NA)

empty narrow narrow

~ class A2 in Bab ~ class A2 in Bab ~ class A2 in Bab

The fact that the differences between Assyrian and Babylonian concern groups of adjectives rather than individual cases is striking, but the historical significance of this is not very clear. The most remarkable fact is the rare occurrence of PaRuS in Assyrian. There are only three instances: la/emnu ‘bad, evil’, zakû ‘clean, free’, and naṭû ‘appropriate’.76 The rest of the Babylonian PaRuS adjectives show either PaRiS (Type 1) or PuRuS (Type 2) in Assyrian. The importance of Type 1 is enhanced by the fact that it also includes the ordinal numerals from three to ten: they normally have the pattern PaRiS instead of Bab PaRuS (GKT §69). I would not dare to speculate on which form is more original. The PuRuS pattern of Type 2 is the only pattern of basic adjectives that does not show a in the first syllable. Apart from the four adjectives listed above, it also occurs in a few statives of verbs that do not seem to be adjectival: • *puḫrū ‘they are assembled’ from paḫāru (U/u) in pu-ùḫ-ru OIP 27, 62:25 (OA), pu‑uḫ-ru SAA 5, 21:14 and elsewhere in NA • mušul ‘it is similar’ from mašālu (mostly A/u) in mu-šu-ul SAA 10, 382: r.9 and elsewhere in NA A possible explanation is that PuRuS is secondary, resulting from the occasional assimilation of a to u in the next syllable.77 This reminds us of the vowel assimilation rule discussed in §2.4 (pp. 48–49). Although this rule does not regularly affect the first syllable of a word, there are a few similar cases, such as Ass kulū/kilī/kalā ‘all’ and kulūmu ‘lamb’ for Bab kalūmu (see chap. 2, n. 56, p. 48). It is unclear, however, why la/emnu, zakû, and naṭû were not affected. Moreover, this also presupposes the existence of *paḫur and *mašul, which remains speculative.78 16:14 (PN, see CAD R 424b s.v. rūqu 3a); for Neo-Assyian, cf. perhaps ru-qu-ti SAA 10, 58: r.6; but most, if not all, instances may be Standard Babylonian intrusions; cf. § (p. 19). 72.  Attested in the 3fs Stat pulḫat: e-za-at pu-ul-ḫa-at Or. 66, 59:1, an Old Assyrian incantation, corresponding to OB e-ze-et pa-al-ḫa-at YOS 11, 20:1 ‘she is furious and frightful’. The regular stative of palāḫu ‘to fear’ is palVḫ ‘he is afraid’ (pattern unknown), e.g., pá-al-ḫa-ni JEOL 35/36: 103: r.5′ ‘we are afraid’. 73.  Attested in the Fem Sg kuzubtum: awātam ku-zu-ub-tám Or. 36, 410 kt b/k 95:14. 74.  Attested in pa-aq-tú SAA 9, 3: III 8 (NA) and pa-a-qu Diri I 266 (SB), quoted by S. Parpola, SAA 9, p. 25 ad III 8. 75.  Sāq is attested in sa-qa-at Iraq 31, 31:44 (MA) and sa-a-qu-u-ni SAA 10, 364:5′ (NA); for isīaq; see CAD S 170a s.v. sâqu v. 1d. 76.  Of these, la/emnum is atypical because of its e and naṭûm because it is only used predicatively and in Old Assyrian does not agree in gender with the subject (see CAD N/2 131a s.v. naṭû A adj. c 2′). It is further unclear to what extent forms of zakûm belong to the G‑stem or the D‑stem; see the comments in CAD Z 25b s.v. Note that there are also a few instances of zakû with i: za-ki-am BIN 4, 23:4 (OA) and za-ki-a MVAG 41/3, 16:35 (MA), both Masc Sg Acc. 77.  This is also Parpola’s view (1983: 220) about the Neo-Assyrian instances (qurub, rūq, puḫrū, mušul ); he does not mention the Old Assyrian parallels. 78.  Von Soden (1948: 301), followed by Hämeen-Anttila (2000: 26) and Luukko (2004: 85 n. 262), explains qurbu as [qorbu], in which [o] is caused by the surrounding consonants q and r. However, forms such as mušul and pulḫat show that it is unlikely to be an occasional instance of “Vokalfärbung.”

Transitivity  3.4.


Finally, the three II/voc adjectives rāqu, pāqu, and sāqu of Type 3 may well be more original than their Babylonian counterparts rīqu, pīqu, and sīqu, because the latter can easily be explained as remodelled on the basis of the fientive II/ī verbs, such as qâpu (ī) ‘to entrust’ (see §16.5.2, pp. 476–479): Impfv iqīap : Stat qīp § irīaq : x, where x is rīq, replacing rāq.

3.4. Transitivity A second important semantic dividing line between different kinds of G‑stem verbs in Akkadian concerns transitivity. Two kinds of transitivity are currently distinguished, syntactic and semantic. The former represents the traditional concept of transitivity: a binary distinction between transitive verbs, which normally require a direct object, and intransitive verbs, which normally do not. Semantic transitivity, on the other hand, is a gradient feature that is determined by a combination of factors involving not only the meaning and the construction of the verb but also the clause as a whole (Hopper and Thompson 1980: 252). Prominent among them are the degree of agentivity and volition of the subject, the degree of affectedness and individuation of the object (the patient), and the degree of telicness of the verb (Hopper and Thompson 1980: 252; see also Lakoff 1977: 244–45; Givón 1990: 565–66). The more these features are present, the higher the degree of transitivity. If all features of high transitivity appear together in a clause, we can speak of prototypical transitivity, because semantic transitivity is a prototype concept (Givón 1984: 96–97; Croft 2003: 175–78). Since the most important of these criteria depend on the semantic nature of the verb, we can qualify verbs that normally occur in clauses with a high degree of transitivity as high transitivity verbs and verbs that normally occur in clauses with a low degree of transitivity as low transitivity verbs. Syntactic and semantic transitivity are often closely parallel: semantic high transitivity implies syntactic transitivity, because it requires a strongly affected patient. Syntactic intransitivity normally correlates with low transitivity. The most crucial difference is that a verb that normally has a direct object may still have inherent low transitivity—when this object does not meet the important criteria of affectedness and individuation (see Givón 1984: 98–104). Examples of low transitivity verbs with a direct object are expressions such as to sing a song, to cross a street, to pass an exam, to have the flu. It is this kind of verb in particular for which the concept of semantic transitivity proves to be illuminating. This description also applies to Akkadian. Both syntactic and semantic transitivity can be relevant for a description of the Akkadian verb. Generally speaking, if we are dealing with verbs that are prototypically transitive or intransitive in the syntactic sense, we need not bother too much about degrees of transitivity. Syntactic transitivity is relevant to processes such as passivization (only transitive verbs can be passivized; see §, p. 260), transitivization (only intransitive verbs can have a D‑stem with transitivizing force; see §10.8.2, pp. 256–257, and §11.5, p. 279), and the membership of the vowel class A/u (which is only open to transitive verbs; see §, pp. 72–73). It is especially for verbs whose meaning makes them borderline cases between transitive and intransitive that the notion of semantic transitivity can help solve problems of classification and can provide a better understanding of their peculiar behaviour (see also GAV pp. 95–98). The most important group consists of “transitive low-transitivity verbs,” i.e., verbs that are construed with a direct object (or at least a noun in the accusative) without being high-transitivity verbs, because this direct object does not have the semantic status of a patient. In contrast to “normal” transitive verbs, these verbs cannot be passivized: if they occur in the N‑stem at all, the N‑stem form tends to be ingressive, just as N‑stems of intransitive verbs (see §, pp. 297–298); if they have a D‑stem, it has factitive function (i.e., it is the agentive counterpart of the G‑stem; see §11.3.3, p. 274), although this function is normally restricted to D‑stems of intransitive verbs.

3.4.  Transitivity


Moreover, it is typical of such verbs to be construed alternatively with an accusative or with a prepositional phrase. This applies in particular to the following semantic classes:79 • verbs of approaching and addressing (saḫāru + Acc or ana ‘to turn to’, emēdu + Acc or ana ‘to lean on, reach as far as, take refuge with’, and kašādu listed in the next group) • verbs of praying (karābu, s/ṣullû, suppû, sarruru, all + Acc or ana) • some other individual cases including quʾʾû and (w)aqû ‘to wait for’ (+ Acc or ana; cf. GAG §143c), naṭālu ‘to look at’, usually + Acc but + ana ‘to look for support, wait’ (CAD N/2 125b s.v. 3), mekû ‘to be negligent’ (CAD M/2 8–9 s.v. 1b), and kapādu ‘to plan, devise’ (+ Acc or ana, cf. CAD K 172–73 s.v. 1a versus 1b).80 Most importantly, this phenomenon is found in motion verbs: • kašādu + Acc or ana, adi and ana ṣēr ‘to reach, arrive’ (see n. 81) • alāku ‘to go /come’ may express the path as a direct object or as a prepositional phrase (sūqa alāku or ina sūqi alāku ‘to walk along the street’, ṣēra alāku or ina/eli ṣeri alāku ‘to walk in the open country’, ḫarrāna alāku or ana ḫarrāni alāku ‘to set out on a journey or an expedition’) • erēbu ‘to enter’ normally has ana, but an Acc is also found (typically bāba ‘door’, abulla ‘gate’, and bīta ‘house’) • waṣû ‘to go /come out’ mostly has ina, ištu, etc., but occasionally it has an Acc, in particular bāba ‘door’ and abulla ‘gate’; in Mari Old Babylonian, we find ana ḫarrāni waṣû (ARM 2, 20:7) beside ḫarrāna waṣû (2, 138:7), and ana gerri waṣû (FM 2, 34 no. 10:5) alongside gerra waṣû (MARI 7, 45:12′ and 15′); cf. alāku above • wašābu ‘to sit down, settle’ usually has ina, but a few times it has an Acc (OB: AbB 7, 42:13 (ālam); Kisurra no. 153:24 (a place name); OA: EL 7:8 (bētam); 286:1 (eqlam). The two constructions do not always have the same meaning: the transitive construction with an accusative often correlates with a higher degree of affectedness of the patient than the prepositional construction.81 This double construction makes it difficult to classify these verbs as syntactically either transitive or intransitive (cf. Aro 1964: 9–10; Kienast 1967: 67). Their semantic transitivity shows that semantically they belong to the class of intransitive verbs and throughout also behave as intransitive verbs. Finally, both syntactic and semantic transitivity play a role in the characterization of the vowel classes. The large A/u class is only open to verbs that are syntactically transitive, i.e., that normally have a direct object (see §, pp. 72–73). The vowel class A/a, on the other hand, typically comprises low transitivity verbs, regardless of whether they are (syntactically) transitive (e.g., lamādu ‘to learn’), intransitive (e.g., abālu ‘to become dry’), or both (e.g., malû ‘to be(come) full; fill, cover’) (see further §, pp. 74–75).

79.  For references, see in general the dictionaries. 80.  A particularly intriguing case is tamû ‘to swear’, which has an Acc (AHw 1317–18 s.v. G I 2) or ina (ibid., II 1) for the object sworn by, e.g., OA patram or ina patrim ša Aššur tamāʾum ‘to swear by the dagger of Aššur’ (Hirsch 1972: 65a); likewise, we find mamītam tamāʾum ‘to swear an oath’ in Old Assyrian (AHw 1317b s.v. G I 2), but ina mamîtim tamûm in Old Babylonian (ibid., II 1, e.g., AbB 9, 216:10–11). 81.  See also GAV pp. 97–98. A good example from Akkadian is kašādu, which, in addition to the alternation of an accusative and a prepositional phrase in the meaning ‘to reach, arrive’, may also mean ‘to acquire, conquer’, but then only takes an accusative.

The Vowel Classes  3.5.


3.5. The Vowel Classes The prefix conjugations and the imperative of the G‑stem show a variable and unpredictable vowel between R2 and R3, on the basis of which we can divide the G‑stem verbs into five formal types, the vowel classes. The vowel classes properly belong to the G‑stem, although they have been extended to part of the derived stems as well, and correlate in a complex way with certain semantic and syntactic properties of the verb. They owe their existence to the combination of the inherited root vowel (see §2.3.4, pp. 45) and the vowel of the new geminated imperfective, which brought along its own vowel, into a single paradigm. I will discuss the details of this process (insofar as they are recoverable) in chap. 4. In the next sections, I will focus on the vowel classes as they appear and develop in the historical period of Akkadian.

3.5.1.  Form and function The vowels determining the vowel class of a verb appear in the imperfective, perfective, t‑perfect, and imperative. In the G‑stem, the vowel of the t‑perfect is identical to that of the imperfective (see §6.2, pp. 138–139), and the vowel of the imperative is always identical to that of the perfective (see §5.5, p. 133). Therefore, we can define the vowel classes by means of the vowels of imperfective and perfective alone. The three imperfective vowels a, i, and u (of the A-verbs, I-verbs and U-verbs; see §4.2, pp. 88–90) combine with the root vowel of the perfective to form the five possible vowel classes:82 1. the I/i class (e.g., ipaqqid – ipqid ‘he entrusts/entrusted’ 2. the U/u class (e.g., imaqqut – imqut ‘he falls/fell’ 3. the A/a class (e.g., ilammad – ilmad ‘he learns/learned’ 4. the A/u or Ablaut class (e.g., išakkan – iškun ‘he places/placed’ 5. the A/i or weak class (e.g., uššab – ušib ‘he is sitting down/sat down’) The first three are “isovocalic”: they have the same vowel in the imperfective and the perfective. The last two are “anisovocalic” and are also called the “Ablaut classes,” in particular in reference to the very large A/u class. The vowel of the stative is not included in the definition of the vowel classes, since it is predictable in fientive verbs (always i ). This is not the case in adjectival verbs, but here the adjective is outside the verbal paradigm (see §3.3.2, p. 58), and their past participle slot is empty.83 The five vowel classes characterize the strong triradical verbs and all weak verbs in which the weak radical is not in direct contact with the relevant vowel(s)—i.e., the II/gem verbs—and the verbs with a weak R1—i.e., the I/voc, I/w, and I/n verbs. The other types of weak verbs have their own specific system. As I argued in §2.3.4 (pp. 44–45), their weak radical also serves as root vowel and determines the vowel pattern, so that there is no unpredictable variation. In the II/voc verbs, it is the long vowel serving as R2 which plays this role. As a radical, this vowel has no obvious correlation with any semantic or syntactic features, such as transitivity ( pace GAG 82.  See also GAG §73c–d and 87a–d; Kienast 1967 (= 2001: 237–49); Aro 1964; Kuryłowicz 1972: 54–56; Moscati, ed. 1964: 122–23. For lists of verbs, see Aro 1964: 18–43 with Aro’s own additions apud Jucquois 1967: 311. GAG §87a speaks of “Bedeutungsklassen” (but “Wurzelvokalklassen” in §87c), which is a rather unfortunate term, because there is no direct correlation between vowel class and meaning; see below. 83.  Since the vowel of the stative/past participle is not included in the definition of the Akkadian vowel classes, they cannot be directly compared with the vowel classes in West Semitic, which are based on the vowels of the prefix conjugation and the suffix conjugation (e.g., Ar yaqtulu – qatala), especially because the most common type of suffix conjugation, qatala, has no counterpart in Akkadian.

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


§104c–e; see §16.5.1, p. 476). In the III/voc verbs, the long vowel that serves as final radical determines the vowel class (see §2.3.4, p. 45): a III/ī verb is automatically I/i, a III/ū verb U/u, etc.84 Therefore, the III/voc verbs can only belong to the isovocalic vowel classes.85 In these circumstances, it is questionable to what extent we are justified in speaking of vowel classes stricto sensu, but it is still convenient to use the term, if only to retain the parallel with the strong verb. The function of the vowel classes poses a delicate problem. On the one hand, they are primarily formal categories, based on vowels that are unmotivated (at least synchronically) and do not have a grammatical function. Even in the Ablaut classes, the contrast of imperfective versus perfective is primarily conveyed by gemination (see §4.2, pp. 88–89).86 This is particularly clear from the behaviour of the weak verbs, where it is the radical itself rather than a semantic or syntactic feature of the verb that determines the vowel pattern, and from the nature of the A/i class, membership of which is purely determined by the form of the verb (see §, p. 75). It is also shown by the fact that a G‑stem verb can switch from one class to another or can belong to more than one vowel class without any observable consequence for its meaning.87 Such cases will be discussed in greater detail in §3.5.3 (pp. 75–81).88 On the other hand, in the strong verb there are definitely some correlations between vowel class and certain syntactic and semantic features of the verb in terms of Aktionsart and transitivity.89 The main correlations are the following (for the details, see §3.5.2 below): 1. Syntactic transitivity is relevant to the A/u class, almost all members of which are transitive, and the U/u class, which is predominantly intransitive. 2. Semantic transitivity is a prominent feature of the A/a class, which mainly contains lowtransitivity “middle verbs”. 3. Aktionsart is involved in the U/u class, insofar as it contains many atelic (durative) activity verbs, and in the fientive part of the I/i class, insofar as it mainly contains punctual verbs.90 84.  At least in historical Akkadian, see n. 44 to Chapter II. 85.  With the notable exception of MA/NA uṣṣā, uṣī from uṣāʾu ‘to go /come out’, which developed secondarily from earlier uṣṣī, uṣī, see chap. 16 n. 176 (p. 498). 86.  In this respect, the vowel classes can be regarded as conjugations in the sense familiar from Latin, where almost all verbs belong to one of four conjugations on the basis of the final vowel of their stem (there are ā‑stems, ē‑stems, ī‑stems, and consonant‑stems [i.e., with ∅ vowel]; see Aronoff 1994: 45–53), or from Germanic languages with their classes of strong and weak verbs. The weak correlation with certain semantic and syntactic parameters, to be discussed presently, undermines the similarity, however. 87.  Pace GAG §87d and von Soden 1989: 181–82; Kienast 1967: 82 sub 4). 88.  In a very small number of cases, the vowel classes distinguish different verbs with the same radicals, such as šaḫāṭu (A/u) ‘to take off, tear off’ and šaḫāṭu (I/i) ‘to jump, attack’, šaqû (I/i) ‘to give to drink’ and šaqû (U/u) ‘to be(come) high’. This is far too incidental, however, to qualify as a ‘function’. There is no observable tendency in Akkadian to systematically distinguish identical roots in this way: other homonymous verbs also share the same vowel class, e.g., kamāsu (I/i), which means both ‘to kneel, bow down’ and ‘to gather, finish’, and ṣâdu (ū) which means ‘to melt’ (intr.) and ‘to turn about, spin’. 89.  The attempts to assign a specific semantic function to the vowels a, i, and u by themselves, e.g., by Gelb (1969: 209: “a for the neutral action, i for the punctual action, and u for the durative action”) and by Castellino (1962: 48), or to their combination in a specific vowel class (e.g., by von Soden [GAG §87c], Kienast [1967: 69], and Ségéral [2000: 287]) are to be considered unsuccessful. Cf. Kuryłowicz 1972: 43: “The association of a given root-vocalism with a certain fundamental meaning (like trans. intrans. stative) can be rightfully established only for derived verb-forms, whether deverbative or denominative. To look for a constant association between the vocalism of R2 and the fundamental meaning of non-motivated (primary) verbs is a methodological derailment tantamount to the old theory of ‘Lautsymbolik’” (emphasis original). 90.  Sometimes much more precise definitions of the “meaning” of a vowel class are given. For instance, GAG §103b characterizes the I/w verbs with A/i as “Verben der Bewegung mit bestimmtem Ausgangs-


The Vowel Classes  3.5.

These correlations are not rules, but tendencies that may be stronger or weaker. Moreover, they are not symmetrical: a vowel class mostly contains verbs that share certain semantic features, but these features are not specific to that particular vowel class. For instance, almost all A/u verbs are transitive, but not all transitive verbs have A/u; many U/u verbs denote atelic activities, but not all atelic activities are expressed by U/u verbs; the A/a class mainly contains low-transitivity verbs, but there are far more low-transitivity verbs outside the A/a class, etc. On the basis of its vowel class, then, we can infer some semantic and syntactic features of a verb with a reasonable rate of success, but it is more difficult to predict the vowel class of a verb on the basis of these features. Here too, however, there are a few tendencies. For instance, an atelic activity verb has a high probability of being U/u, a transitive verb with a punctual Aktionsart is likely to be I/i, and an intransitive verb is very unlikely to be A/u. In this respect, the vowel classes are not essentially different from vowel patterns in general: as a result of the root-and-pattern system, words with a parallel meaning or function tend to share the same vowel pattern, but this pattern is not necessarily restricted to nouns of that particular semantic class, since it may comprise words of quite diverse origins. For instance, abstract nouns derived from adjectives often have the pattern PuRS in Akkadian (GAG §55d), but not all nouns of this pattern are abstract nouns of adjectives, as is clear from nouns such as ummu ‘mother’, zumru ‘body’, and uznu ‘ear’. The ambivalent nature of the vowel classes is a consequence of the way in which they have emerged: they are an accidental by-product of the combination of the inherited perfective with the new geminated imperfective *yiqattal‑ in a prehistoric stage of Akkadian. Both categories brought along their own vowel: the perfective its root vowel, and the new imperfective presumably a fixed vowel a, at least originally; I will discuss this problem in detail in chap. 4. Once the paradigm based on these two categories was established, the vowel classes gradually acquired their historical form through the mechanism of semantic association: groups of verbs with the same vowel class served as a magnet for attracting existing and new verbs with a similar meaning, so that the similar meaning became more and more dominant and typical of the class in question. Eventually, this led to a situation in which large groups of semantically similar verbs shared the same vowel pattern. On the other hand, since the vowels that determine the vowel classes do not have a meaning of their own, a particular vowel class is not closed to verbs with other meanings, but such verbs are isolated and therefore more vulnerable to undergoing change, such as shifting to another class or being discarded altogether. In sum, we can say that on the level of individual verbs the vowel classes increase the isomorphism of the verbal system, because they make verbs that share a semantic feature also more similar in form. On the level of the verbal paradigm as a whole, they increase its uniformity and coherence, because they constrain the number of possible relationships between the vowels of the basic members of the verbal paradigm to five, although they do not make one form fully predictable from the other one (see further §5.2, p. 126). It is important to note that there is a fundamental difference between the vowel classes of the G‑stem and those of the derived stems. Whereas the former are unmotivated and grammatically non-contrastive, the latter are motivated and usually have a grammatical function. They express, for instance, the contrast between imperfective and perfective (e.g., uparras versus uparris in the D‑stem), between imperative and stative (e.g., pitras versus pitrus in the Gt‑stem), or between oder Zielpunkt”, and Kienast (1967: 72) claims that transitive I/i verbs denote “ein Abtrennen oder Loslösen eines Teiles vom Ganzen bzw. ein Zusammenfügen von Einzelnem, d.h. eine Aktivität, die ein gewisses Richtungsmoment beeinhaltet.” Such characterizations are either too vague to be meaningful or too specific to do justice to the observable variety of meaning.

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


different derived stems (e.g., Gtn Prec liptarras versus Dt(n) Prec liptarris). Therefore, it is methodologically incorrect to treat the vowel patterns of the basic stem in the same way as those of the derived stems as, for instance, Kienast (1967: 76–82) does. Insofar as the derived verbs show variation in their vowel pattern (e.g., in the t‑stems and the tan‑stems and in the imperfective of the N‑stem), it is determined by the imperfective vowel of the corresponding G‑stem (see §4.2, p. 89). This explains the relative stability of the vowel patterns of the derived stems, whereas in the basic stem we observe a considerable fluctuation over time, as I will show in §3.5.3. The quadriradical verbs show a comparable picture: the N‑stem, which is their basic stem, has vowel classes (A/i, I/i, and U/u; see §12.5, pp. 307–310), but the derived Š‑stem has the fixed A/i pattern of all Š‑stems (see §13.4.1, p. 338).91 Finally, unlike West Semitic, Akkadian has never exploited the possibilities of vowel alternation for expressing differences in grammatical voice. In Arabic, for instance, we find contrastive pairs such as malaʾa (yamluʾu) ‘to fill’ versus maliʾa (yamlaʾu) ‘to be full’ and ḥazana (yaḥzunu) ‘to sadden’ versus ḥazina (yaḥzanu) ‘to be sad’ (Kuryłowicz 1972: 67–68). This is virtually unknown in Akkadian.92 It is hard to say whether the West Semitic cases are a secondary development in which Akkadian took no part or the remains of a Proto-Semitic system that was discarded in Akkadian. The former option seems more likely, because they can hardly be separated from the rise of apophonic voice distinctions in general in West Semitic, which in particular resulted in a class of “middle verbs” of the pattern qatila/yiqtalu and the “internal” passive forms of the type of Arabic qutila/yuqtalu.

3.5.2.  The individual vowel classes  The vowel class I/i The appendix of §3.6 sub 1 contains 359 verbs of the I/i class, which makes it by far the most numerous class.93 There does not seem to be any restriction on the range of meanings expressed 91.  The vowel classes in the derived stems are an Akkadian innovation, see §14.2.1 (pp. 356–357) for the Gt‑stem, §14.7.2 (p. 417) for the Gtn‑stem, §12.2.1 (pp. 288–290) for the N‑stem, and §12.5 (pp. 307–310) for the quadriradical verbs (so already Knudsen 1984/86: 232–33). See also the statement of Kuryłowicz quoted in n. 89. 92.  Possible candidates, all extremely rare and marginal, are: (1) tarāṣu A/u ‘to stretch’ (trans.) versus U/u ‘to be right, correct’, which can perhaps be derived from a single underlying root √trṣ‘to be straight’; (2) qarāru U/u ‘to flow, overflow’ versus A/u ‘to pour’ (only once: i-qar-ra-ru quoted by CAD Q 127b s.v. qarāru 2 (MB legal), which may be a mistake for a D form uqarrarū); (3) zaqāpu A/u ‘to plant, erect’ versus zaqāpu (U/u) ‘to appear in court, take up a position’, which might be a middle or reflexive derivation of zaqāpu A/u (‘to erect oneself’), but it only appears in Neo-Assyrian and is clearly late and secondary; (4) a remarkable but also indecisive case concerns the two verbs raḫāṣu: raḫāṣu (I/i) ‘to flood, inundate’ (also ‘to run quickly’, cf. AHw 943a s.v. raḫāṣu I G 3; same verb?), often with Adad as subject, and raḫāṣu (A/u) ‘to wash, rinse’. If they have a common origin, which seems semantically plausible, they have doubtless been differentiated secondarily. For W. von Soden’s speculations on the different vowels of this verb, see von Soden 1947: 456–57. The alleged transitive verb ašāšu A/u ‘to worry (sb.), disturb’, alongside ašāšu U/u ‘to be worried’ (Kuryłowicz 1972: 57) is to be cancelled: the transitive verb is actually ʾašāšu ‘to catch in a net’ with a strong ʾ (see §17.4, pp. 520–521), cf. the Impfv iʾaššaš and in particular the Inf ḫa a-ša-šu quoted in CAD A/2 423a s.v. ašāšu A lex. sect. and 425a s.v. ašāšu B lex. sect. The fact that the Sumerian version of the two instances clearly points to ašāšu ‘to worry’ suggests some confusion on the part of the Babylonian scribes. 93.  This includes all strong verbs and the III/ī verbs, but not the II/ī verbs, for which see §3.6 sub 7 (40 verbs). According to §3.3.3, there are 51 adjectival I/i verbs (listed in A1, B2, C1, and D1) and thus 308 fientive I/i verbs.

The Vowel Classes  3.5.


by it, but two specific groups of verbs stand out: on the one hand, high transitivity verbs denoting punctual actions (GAG §87c), such as nakāsu ‘to cut, slaughter’, pašāṭu ‘to erase’ and ṣamādu ‘to harness, yoke’ and, on the other hand, adjectival verbs. These groups are semantically each other’s opposite, occupying the two ends of the transitivity continuum. Intermediate between them, we find a host of verbs with other meanings, such as transitive durative verbs (e.g., malāku ‘to advise, deliberate’ and zabālu ‘to carry’), telic motion verbs (e.g., ḫalāqu ‘to run away, dis­appear’, rabāṣu ‘to lie down’, kamāsu ‘to kneel’), punctual event verbs (barāqu ‘to flash’, ganāḫu ‘to cough’ and šaḫāṭu ‘to jump’), and even some durative activity verbs (which we would rather expect to find in the U/u class): nazāqu ‘to squeak, worry’, pasālu ‘to turn around’, pašālu ‘to crawl’, sapādu ‘to mourn’, ṣarāmu ‘to exert oneself’, and šadāḫu ‘to move in procession’. For purely formal reasons, all III/ī verbs belong to this class regardless of their meaning (see §2.3.4, p. 45); for the very few II/gem verbs of the I/i class, see §16.6.1 (p. 491). The size of the I/i class and the virtually unlimited range of meanings it can accommodate make it the productive default vowel class. In Babylonian in particular, there is a widespread drift from other classes towards the I/i class, which especially affects the weak verbs of the III/voc class and most verbs with E‑colouring (see §17.5, pp. 525–537), but also many strong verbs. I will discuss this phenomenon in §3.5.3 below.  The A/u or Ablaut class The A/u or Ablaut class is the second largest vowel class after the I/i class; it contains 219 verbs according to the Appendix of §3.6 sub 2. Its major feature is syntactic transitivity: almost all members are basically construed with a direct object (Kienast 1967: 69–70). It has no connection with a specific degree of semantic transitivity: it contains many typical high-transitivity verbs, such as ḫanāqu ‘to strangle’, parāsu ‘to separate’, sapāḫu ‘to scatter’ and ṭabāḫu ‘to slaughter’, but also many transitive verbs that do not meet all criteria for high transitivity, such as amāru ‘to see’, šakānu ‘to place’, šapāru ‘to send’, etc. Nor has it any association with a specific Aktionsart: although most A/u verbs are punctual, we also find some typically durative verbs, such as akālu ‘to eat’, dagālu ‘to watch’, naṣāru ‘to guard’, naṭālu ‘to see, look at’, ḫasāsu ‘to think, mention’, karābu ‘to pray, bless’, šaṭāru ‘to write’, and zakāru ‘to speak, swear’. Intransitive A/u verbs are exceptional; apart from some uncertain and problematic instances, they include:94 • abātu ‘to flee’ in Old Assyrian, cf. CAD A/1 45 s.v. abātu B 1; it corresponds to an N‑stem nābutu in Babylonian, which remarkably is I/i. 94.  Other A/u verbs reported to be intransitive (e.g., in Aro 1964: 23, 31–32) are not to be considered as part of this class: adāru ‘to fear’, magāru ‘to do a favour to’, qanānu ‘to nest’, and ṣanāḫu ‘to void (excrement)’ are not really intransitive. Of ṣapāru ‘to squint’ and kamāmu ‘to grind one’s teeth’ no perfective is attested, so that the vowel class remains unknown (A/u or A/a). Of ḫabātu ‘to move across’, only a Pfv iḫbut is attested with certainty; all imperfective forms with a are either N‑stems or belong to one of the other ḫabātu verbs; see especially Kraus 1975: 31–40. This also applies to several verbs in AHw that are characterized as A/u: ḫalālu ‘to creep, steal’ (A/u) is only found in the Pfv iḫlul; the single instance of iḫallal (TBP 22: III 6 i-ḫal-la-la) is obscure; palāsu ‘to look at’ (+ Dat) is normally N; the only certain G forms attested are statives; cf. AHw 814a s.v. G 2; note that a-pa-al-la-ás-ku-um St. Reiner p. 192:61 (OB) may also be N, and that ip-ta-la-ás ARM 1, 109:41 (OB) stands for iptaras, see Durand 1997/2000: I 198 note c. Maṣāru ‘to move in a circle/etwa ‘umschreiten’ is A/u according to AHw and CAD s.v.; however, the single imperfective instance quoted in the dictionaries (a-ma-aṣ-ṣa-ar ARM 2, 120:21) does not exist; see Durand 1997/2000: II 262 note b. For darāru ‘to add an intercalary month’, the NA Impfv idarrar (SAA 10, 42: r.20 ni-da-ra-ru-ni ) alongside Pfv idrur (SAA 13, 60: r.1 ni-id-ru-ur) may be explained from the Neo-Assyrian change u > a before stressed u (see Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 31).

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


• agāgu ‘to become angry’: SB Impfv īggag and īggug (e.g., ig-ga-gu NBNippur p. 272 no. 128:59 // i-gu-gu BWL 114:58), suggesting a fluctuation between A/u and U/u; Pfv īgug OB/SB passim. • nagāgu ‘to bray’: OB/SB Impfv inaggag, SB also inaggug; Pfv ingug (1x SB: in-gu-ug CT 40, 36:56); semantically, nagāgu typically belongs to the large U/u class of atelic activity verbs, which may may explain the rise of inaggug. The deviant Impfv inaggag may have an onomatopoeic background. • erēbu ‘to enter’ in Assyrian; it has switched to U/u in Babylonian (like epēšu, see §3.5.3, p. 76); for erēbu + Acc, see §3.4 (p. 67) • mašālu ‘to resemble, be half’ • ragāmu ‘to call out to, complain against’ (mostly + Dat): SAk, OA, and OB Impfv iraggam, OB and later both iraggam and iraggum, Pfv always irgum, see CAD R 63–64 s.v. 4b and GKT §81b. Iraggam is attested earlier but the meaning (an intransitive verb of sound) suggests that it is originally an U/u verb. Remarkably, the typically legal terms baqāru ‘to claim’, magāru ‘to agree’, and šabāšu ‘to collect’ show the same interchange of a and u in the imperfective; see also §3.5.3. With regard to the weak verbs, the A/u class contains I/voc verbs (e.g., amāru ‘to see’) and I/n verbs (e.g., naṣāru ‘to guard’, but no I/w verbs (which are A/i, unless their third radical is also weak). It does not contain III/voc verbs, which are all isovocalic, for the reason expounded in §3.5.1 above, nor II/  ʾ verbs, which all have A/a or I/i (GAG §98e; see §17.7.1, pp. 554 –556).95 The II/ū verbs have developed their own variant of A/u: Babylonian Impfv idâk < idūak, Pfv idūk, which is doubtless modelled on iparras—iprus (see §16.5.2, pp. 476–478). Diachronically, the A/u class loses a substantial number of verbs to the I/i class, in particular in Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian, and a few to the U/u class. Also in Babylonian, original A/u verbs shift to an isovocalic class, as soon as they acquire E-colouring, mostly I/i, sometimes U/u (see §3.5.3 sub 5 for details).  The vowel class U/u The U/u class is the third largest vowel class after the I/i and the A/u classes and contains 160 verbs according to §3.6 sub 3.96 Their semantic range is wide, but two semantic types are dominant. The first one comprises atelic activity verbs, especially verbs of sound (šagāmu ‘to roar’, saʾālu ‘to cough (up)’, zamāru ‘to sing’, and dabābu ‘to speak’), and verbs of non-directional motion (rapādu ‘to roam about’, lasāmu ‘to run’, saḫāru ‘to turn around’). They are basically intransitive, and if they can have a direct object, they tend to be low-transitivity verbs.97 The second semantic type consists of adjectival verbs associated with PaRuS adjectives, which were enumerated in §3.3.3 sub B1 (p. 62).98 95.  Except for MB laʾātu ‘to swallow’ (secondary form of ʾalātu) and naʾādu ‘to praise’ (Pfv i-ud AfO 18, 50:19 = Tn-Ep. I 19), which is doubtless secondary, remade on the basis of Impfv inaʾʾad and a shift to the A/u class. 96.  This includes the 34 adjectival verbs listed in §§3.3.3–3.3.4 under A3, B1, D2, and E and the Assyrian Types 1 and 2. It does not include, however, the 51 II/ū verbs of Section §3.6 sub 6. 97.  E.g., zamāru and dabābu can have words for ‘song’ and ‘utterance’ as direct object, and saḫāru can have a direct object in the meaning ‘to look for’. 98.  The borderline between atelic activity verbs and adjectival verbs is not always easy to draw, especially for verbs that denote emotions: it is difficult to distinguish emotional activities from emotional states. A verb that—according to the dictionaries—can indicate both is raʾābu (U/u) ‘to tremble’ (from fear or anger) and ‘to be angry, furious’. It seems plausible that various verbs for emotions originally denoted some kind of bodily activity that accompanies the emotion and gradually acquired a more neutral, adjectival


The Vowel Classes  3.5.

A smaller group of U/u verbs comprises telic motion verbs, such as maqātu ‘to fall’, namāšu ‘to depart’, and paḫāru ‘to come together’. In addition, the U/u class contains a fair number of other verbs that cannot easily be brought under a general heading, such as kapādu ‘to plan, devise’ and parāru ‘to dissolve’. Some of them are even transitive: nasāku ‘to throw’, samādu ‘to grind’, and the variants laʾātu/  ʾalātu ‘to swallow’. The U/u class also contains a large number of weak (III/voc) verbs, which show a much wider semantic variation. They comprise a relatively large number of transitive verbs, such as kamû and kasû ‘to bind’, naṭû ‘to hit’, qalû ‘to burn, roast, qamû ‘to burn’, ṣapû ‘to irrigate’, šatû ‘to weave’, warû ‘to lead’, and tarû ‘to lead, take along’. It seems plausible to assume that these verbs originally belonged to the large transitive A/u class, e.g., *yikassaw – *yiksū from kasû. As a result of the change aw > ū, this regularly became ikassū – iksū in historical Akkadian. Their membership of the U/u class is therefore secondary, at least for part of these verbs. The U/u verbs show a marked tendency to switch to the I/i class, especially the III/ū verbs among them. Moreover, as already stated above with regard to the A/u class, there is some fluctuation between U/u and A/u; see §3.5.3 (pp. 75–81) for these developments.  The vowel class A/a (including E/e) The relatively small A/a class comprises 43 verbs according to §3.6 sub 4. Historically, however, the 54 II/ā and II/ē verbs of §3.6 sub 8 should be added to this number, since virtually all of them were A/a verbs before they lost their guttural R2. The A/a verbs consist of two different groups. One comprises verbs with a guttural as R2 or R3 and is therefore primarily based on a formal criterion, although most of the verbs in question also fit in quite well semantically with the rest of the A/a class. The guttural causes a strong predilection for the root vowel a, which becomes e if it causes E‑colouring (see §17.5, pp. 535–537).99 Generally speaking, these verbs have preserved their original paradigm much better in Assyrian than in Babylonian; the details will be discussed in chap. 17. The other group is based on a semantic criterion: it mostly contains verbs that are semantically homogeneous and can be characterized as “middle verbs” (see §, pp. 265–267). They denote concepts that are typically stative and are often expressed by stative verbs in languages that do not have a grammaticalized opposition between fientive and stative, e.g., lamādu ‘to know’, labāšu ‘to wear’, ḫabālu ‘to owe’, palāḫu ‘to fear’, etc. They may be transitive or intransitive, but if transitive, they are of low transitivity.100 They have an exact counterpart in West Semitic, especially in Arabic, Hebrew, and Geʿez—namely, the verbs with the vowel pattern A/i (yaqtalu–qatila). For instance, Ar yalbasu–labisa ‘to wear’ is completely parallel to Akk ilabbaš–ilbaš, stative labiš). According to Kuryłowicz (1972: 67–68), they are a residue of ancient medio­passives (see further §18.3.1, pp. 588–589). A few A/a verbs, however, do not share this low-transitivity character: maḫāṣu ‘to hit’ and ṣabātu ‘to seize’. They also differ from the rest of this class in the form of their imperative, which has the pattern PaRaS (maḫaṣ ‘hit!’, ṣabat ‘seize!’), whereas most other A/a verbs have PiRaS (e.g., limad ‘learn!’, rikab ‘ride!’; see §5.5, p. 134). Moreover, the verb tabālu ‘to take/ meaning through bleaching, such as galātu (U/u) ‘to quiver, shake’ > ‘to fear’, and nakādu (U/u) ‘to palpitate’ (of the heart) > ‘to worry’. 99.  However, there also are verbs that originally had a guttural as R2 or R3 but i as root vowel, e.g., našû (I/i) ‘to carry’ and waṣû (I/i) ‘to go /come out’, and a few with u, e.g., ṣamû (U/u) ‘to be(come) thirsty’, ṭebû (U/u) ‘to sink’. See further §16.7.1 (pp. 497–498). 100.  This is eloquently shown by their behaviour in the N‑stem and the D‑stem: if they have an N‑stem, it is usually ingressive rather than passive (see § sub 4, p. 296), and if they have a D‑stem, it is mostly factitive, just as with intransitive verbs (see §11.3.3, p. 274).

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


bring along’ (Imp tabal) is also atypical, but this may be related to the fact that it originates as a Gt‑stem of wabālu ‘to carry, bring’ (see §16.2.3, p. 454). There are indications that the A/a class was much more numerous in the earlier stages of Akkadian, not only because the loss of the guttural consonants and the concomitant change a > e caused it to fall apart into several subgroups but also as a result of the reorganization of original III/*y verbs. This is suggested by the Mari Old Akkadian form ti-iš-da-u MARI 1, 81:23 ‘they drank’, i.e., /tištayū/, which shows that this verb had the root vowel a, as in other Semitic languages, and also by the final ‑ē forms of the doubly weak verbs leʾû ‘to be able’, šeʾû ‘to look for’, and reʾû ‘to tend (sheep)’, which may originally go back to perfective forms *yilʾay, *yiṯʿay and *yirʿay (see further §16.7.1, pp. 496–497). In historical Akkadian, there is a drift from A/a towards I/i: many A/a verbs show occasional I/i forms, especially the III/ā verbs; this is part of the general trend for III/voc verbs to shift to the I/i class (see further §3.5.3).  The vowel class A/i The vowel class A/i differs from the previous ones in that it only contains weak and irregular verbs: the fientive verbs of the I/w class, insofar as they do not have a weak R3 (in which case they are isovocalic; see §3.5.1 above and §16.2.1, pp. 448–449), and the two irregular verbs alāku ‘to go’ (īllak–illik; see §17.6.2, pp. 545–546) and Ass tadānu ‘to give’ (iddan–iddin; see §16.4.3, pp. 472–474).101 Accordingly, only 10 verbs can be assigned to it with certainty; see §3.6 sub 5. The A/i class constitutes a purely formal category without any obvious semantic uniformity. A far more prominent use of the contrast A/i is found in the derived stems, where it is one of the means of distinguishing imperfective from perfective in the D‑stem, the Š‑stem, and their derivatives, and in part of the N‑stems (see §4.5.2, pp. 112–115).

3.5.3.  Changes in vowel class The system of the vowel classes remains stable during the entire history of Akkadian. There are no signs that additional combinations of vowels become possible in the course of time, nor do existing ones disappear completely. Moreover, there are no instances of verbs that do not conform to one of the five licensed classes.102 The only type of change we observe is the shift of a verb from one class to another. Differences in vowel class between Babylonian and Assyrian show that this already occurred in the prehistoric period of Akkadian. Well-known instances are: • • • •

balāṭu ‘to live, recover’ (A/a in Ass, U/u in Bab) parādu ‘to be(come) worried’ (I/i in OA, U/u in OB, later also I/i) ḫašāḫu ‘to need, want’ (A/a in OA, I/i and A/u in Bab) šalāšu ‘to do (for the) third (time)’ (I/i in OA, U/u, A/u or I/i in Bab, see n. 106)103

101.  The verb i/uzuzzu ‘to stand (up)’ (izzāz—izzīz), which is sometimes included in this class, e.g., by Tropper (1998a: 20 n. 41) and Kienast (2001: 239), does not belong here, since it is a (fossilized) N‑stem; see § (pp. 488–490). 102.  If we find an illicit pattern, e.g., a Neo-Assyrian Pfv ilbur to an Impfv ilabbir from labāru ‘to be(come) old’ (cf. AHw 522–23 s.v. G 1) or iṣruḫ versus iṣarriḫ (cf. CAD Ṣ 100a s.v. ṣarāḫu C ‘to flare up’), the most likely explanation is that the verb fluctuates between two vowel classes, mostly as an intermediate stage in a transfer from one to the other. A vowel class I/u, as assumed by Castellino (1962: 45), does not exist. Pairs such as iblaṭ–iballuṭ adduced by Kuryłowicz (1972: 56) belong either to different dialects (in this case, Assyrian versus Babylonian) or to different periods of the same dialect. 103.  I/i only in the PN I-ša-li-iš-ilum CT 8, 34a:11 ‘the god will do (give) for the third time’.


The Vowel Classes  3.5. • qerēbu (Ass *qarābu) ‘to come near’ (U/u in OA, A/a, later I/i in OB) • rêqu (Ass ruāqu) ‘to be/go far away’ (ē in Bab, ū in Ass).104

In the historical period, we can distinguish various types of changes: 1.  In particular in the older dialects, there is some variation between the imperfective forms iparras of the A/u class and iparrus of the U/u class.105 It is usually difficult to establish which form is more original; possible criteria are the period of attestation and whether the verb is transitive or not, but often the evidence is conflicting. A shift from iparras to iparrus may be posited for the following verbs: • epēšu ‘to make, do’: originally ēppaš (still in Assyrian), early OB īppeš through E‑colouring, later īppuš; see Whiting 1987: 45 • erēbu ‘to enter’: originally ērrab (still in Assyrian), Bab īrrub • magāru ‘to agree’: imaggar passim, imaggur MB and later • baqāru ‘to claim’: ibaqqar passim, ibaqqur rarely OB, later also I/i; see below sub 2 • šabāšu ‘to collect (taxes)’: išabbaš OB and SB, išabbuš MB and SB • qanānu ‘to nest’: iqannan OB (ta-qa-an-na-nu ARM 1, 18:23), SB also iqannun The following instances of fluctuation are indeterminate, mainly because of conflicting evidence (i.e., A/u is attested earlier but the verb is intransitive): • ragāmu ‘to call out to, complain against’ (+ Dat); see § above • nagāgu ‘to bray’: inaggag OB, SB also inaggug (see §; same comment as ragāmu) • zanānu ‘to rain’: normally U/u, except i-za-an-na-an YOS 10, 36:I 9 and MIO 12/2, 50:11 (both OB), and i-za-an-na-nu Gilg. p. 708:91 var. (SB) • zamāru ‘to sing’: normally U/u, except a-za-ma-ar WO 4, 12:I 1 (OB) • nasāku ‘to throw, pile up’: normally U/u, except i‑na-as-sà-ka ARM 27, 4:11 (OB) • qadādu ‘to bow’: normally U/u, except i-qàd-da-ad CT 51, 124:I 23 (SB); i-qà-adda‑a[d ] KUB 4, 35:5 (Bo) Insofar as the instances attested make inferences about the direction of the shift feasible, it seems that the iparras forms are generally older than the iparrus forms—i.e., the direction of change is from A/u to U/u (Kienast 1967: 71). This would be in line with the general drift from anisovocalic to isovocalic, which is manifest in later periods (see below). In the same vein, the relatively early date of most of the exceptional iparras imperfectives of the second group suggests that they might be archaisms. If this is true, it lends support to the claim I will make in §4.5.1 (pp. 109–112) that the geminated imperfective originally had a fixed vowel pattern with a in the place of the root vowel (iparras).106 104.  See § (p. 565) on the vowel patterns of qerēbu and its antonym rêqu. 105.  For Neo-Assyrian forms such as ilaqqut (instead of ilaqqat) from laqātu ‘to glean’ (see AHw 537b s.v. G 2a) and inaṣṣur (instead of inaṣṣar, e.g., i-na-ṣur SAA 1, 93:9) from naṣāru ‘to guard’, see HämeenAnttila 2000: 33. 106.  Problematic cases are napāḫu and šalāšu. Napāḫu ‘to blow, become visible, rise, set fire to’, which is normally A/u but once shows an Impfv ina-pu-uḫ KAR 384:20 (SB) ‘it hisses’ (of a snake). It may come from a different verb. Šalāšu ‘to do for the third time’ has a Pfv išluš and once an Impfv išallaš (eqla i-šalla-áš MSL 1, 53:38 (SB) ‘he will break the field for the third time’) in Babylonian, apart from išalliš in a proper name (see n. 103); in Assyrian, it is an I/i verb. On the basis of other verbs derived from numerals, such as rebû ‘to do for the fourth time’ and ḫamāšu ‘to do for the fifth time’ (see in particular OBTI 24:8, 11, 15, and 20), we would expect it to be U/u in Babylonian. Is the imperfective išallaš here because it has a direct object (cf. n. 92)?

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


2.  Far more important in terms of quantity is the shift from A/u to I/i. Mostly, the A/u forms can be argued to be older, because of greater frequency and/or earlier attestation; in the case of gamālu, kašāru, and parāku, the A/u forms are restricted to texts of the third millennium, showing that for some verbs the shift started quite early. The following A/u verbs shifted to I/i at some stage of Akkadian (see also Kienast 1967: 71): • baqāru ‘to claim’ (I/i in MB and later, see also above) • barāmu ‘to seal’ (I/i in NA) • gamālu ‘to be obliging, spare’ (I/i in OB and later)107 • ḫabālu ‘to oppress, wrong’ (A/u only OB, I/i OB and later) • ḫabātu ‘to rob, plunder’ (rarely I/i in NB) • ḫamāṭu ‘to burn’ (rarely I/i in SB)108 • kamāru ‘to pile up’ (I/i in NA) • kasāmu ‘to cut, chop’ (I/i in SB) • kašāru ‘to repair’ (I/i in OB and later [kešēru])109 • kašāšu ‘to master’ (I/i only in EA) • magāgu ‘to stretch out’ (I/i in SB, if i-man-g[i-ga] Gilg. p. 600:231 is restored correctly) • mašāʾu ‘to rob, plunder’ (also I/i in SB am-ta-ši-iʾ AnSt. 11, 152:50) • nakāmu ‘to store, pile up’ (also I/i in MB/SB) • našāku ‘to bite’ (rarely I/i in SB) • nazāru ‘to insult’ (also I/i in SB and NA) • parāku ‘to block’ (I/i in OB and later)110 • sadāru ‘to set in a row’ (I/i in SB and later), • saḫālu ‘to pierce’ (I/i in SB lis-ḫi-il-šú STT 179:48) • saḫāpu ‘to cover, overwhelm’ (I/i already OB: is-ḫi-ip-šu ARM 14, 4:11) • šakāku ‘to harrow, string’ (I/i already OB: li-iš-ki-ik OBHorn 2, 261:10) • šalāpu ‘to draw, pull out’ (I/i in SB i-šal-lip ZA 16, 180:34) • šalāṭu ‘to rule, dispose of’ (I/i in SB and NA) • šaqālu ‘to weigh, pay’ (I/i already in OB: i-ša-qí-il OBRED 5, 588:10 ‘he will pay’)111 • šarāku ‘to grant, bestow (I/i in SB liš-rik KB 6/2, 44:19 • šarāpu ‘to burn’ (I/i in EA: VAB 2, 53:39 and 55:41 i-šar-ri-ip-) • zaqātu ‘to sting’ (I/i in SB i-zaq-qit!-su TU 6:I 17 • zarāqu ‘to sprinkle’ (I/i SB and later). To these verbs should be added the A/u verbs that became I/i in later Babylonian after adopting E‑colouring; they are listed below sub 5. According to Kienast (1967: 72), just under (“knapp”) 20% of the original A/u verbs were transferred to the I/i class at one time or another. Kienast explains the coexistence of A/u and I/i forms from the archaizing tendency of the literary language. He also claims (ibid., 75–76) that the shift occurred in stages from A/u to U/u and then to I/i. This is hard to verify. There are 107.  A/u only in Sargonic Akkadian: Impfv a-ga-ma-lu-su4 /  ʾagammalūsu/ SAB p. 117: r.6ʹ (Girsu); Pfv igmul in PNs, see MAD 3, 118 s.v.; similarly in Ebla (Krebernik 1988b: 45). 108.  In i-ḫa-me-ṭa LKA 94: II 11 according to CAD G 151b s.v. ḫamāṭu B. 109.  A/u in Sargonic Akkadian: Impfv a-ga-sa-ar /akassar/ SAB p. 183: 15 (Gasur); Pfv ik-sur OAIC 36: 2, see Gelb 1984b: 274–76. 110.  A/u in Ur III Babylonian: áp-ru-uk-šu NATN 917:2 ‘I blocked his way’, and perhaps in literary Old Babylonian: ip-ru-ku-[. . .] Ištar p. 81: VII 21. 111.  Cf. also the N‑stem Impfv iššaqqil quoted in CAD Š/2 12 s.v. 9.

The Vowel Classes  3.5.


indeed two verbs for which this can be documented: baqāru ‘to claim’ (OB ibaqqar–ibqur, rarely ibaqqur–ibqur (see above sub 1), from Middle Babylonian onwards ibaqqir–ibqir) and erēšu ‘to cultivate’ (originally A/u as in Assyrian, OB īrruš (1x: i-ru-uš BDHP 37: r.5)–īruš (˹i ˺-ru-šu OBTA p. 78 no. 25:3), elsewhere īrriš–īriš). In general, however, the shift A/u to I/i only affected transitive verbs (see the preceding list), and the shift U/u to I/i mainly intransitive ones; see the lists below sub 2. It seems more likely, therefore, that the two processes developed in relative independence. Generally speaking, it would be extremely interesting to know more details about these shifts, in particular, which form—the imperfective or the perfective—is the first to change, but the available material does not allow a firm conclusion about this. On the basis of the same criteria of frequency and earlier occurrence, a very small number of I/i verbs may have undergone the opposite shift from I/i to A/u:112 • karāṣu ‘to pinch off’ (normally I/i, but A/u rarely in SB) • palāq/ku ‘to slaughter’ (normally I/i, but A/u rarely in SB) • ḫašāḫu ‘to need, want’ (I/i in OB and later, A/u in SB, but A/a in Ass). 3.  The vowel class U/u is also affected by a shift towards I/i, especially in Babylonian (Kienast 1967: 74).113 This is demonstrated by the numerous U/u verbs that have occasional forms with i. Among the strong U/u verbs, this applies to: galātu ‘to be frightened’ (rarely I/i in SB) ḫarābu ‘to become waste’ (I/i in LB iḫ-ri-ib TCL 9, 138:17) kanāšu ‘to bow’ (rarely I/i in SB) kapādu ‘to plan, care for’ (rarely I/i in OB [ta-ka-ap-pí-da-˹šu-um˹ AbB 14, 31:23], MB and SB) • nasāku ‘to shoot, throw, pile up’ (rarely I/i in SB) • parādu ‘to be frightened’ (OB U/u, except ta-pa-ri-dam! Kisurra no. 177:25,114 SB also I/i [as in OA, see CAD P 142 s.v. 1a]) • rabābu ‘to be(come) soft, weak, to relax’ (rarely I/i in OB [i-ra-ab-bi-ib/bu ARM 14, 74:9, 12] and SB [ta-ra-ab-bi-ib ZA 64, 146:49]) • raḫāṣu ‘to trust’ (I/i in SB and NA) • ṣarātu ‘to break wind’ (both U/u and I/i in OB and SB) • tarāṣu ‘to be(come) straight, in order’ (I/i only in EA) • • • •

In the III/voc verbs with U/u, the shift took on massive proportions (GAG §105d): • • • • • • •

atwû ‘to speak’ (only Gt) (also I/i in SB) baḫû ‘to be(come) thin’ (U/u and I/i in SB, not attested in OB) egû ‘to be(come) negligent’ (also I/i from OB onwards) eṭû ‘to be(come) dark’ (U/u perhaps once in OB; see n. 46 (p. 62); elsewhere I/i) kamû ‘to capture, bind’ (also I/i already in SAk and from OB onwards) karû ‘to be(come) short’ (U/u and I/i from OB onwards) kasû ‘to bind’ (also I/i from OB onwards, OA only I/i)

112.  For malās/šu ‘to pluck out’ and salātu ‘to split, cut’, not enough data are available for conclusions about the direction of change. 113.  Interchange of I/i and U/u without clues as to the original vowel class occurs in the adjectival verbs daʾāmu ‘to be(come) dark’ (see n. 37, p. 61) and lapānu ‘to be(come) poor’ (see n. 53, p. 62). 114.  For U/u in Old Babylonian, cf. also i-pa-ar-ru-ud ARM 26/1, 171 no. 37: r.17′ and p. 573 no. 275:21, 24; ip-ru-ud MARI 8, 349:13.

3.5.  The Vowel Classes


labû ‘to growl, groan, cry out’ (U/u and I/i in SB, not attested in OB) manû ‘to count, recite’ (rarely also I/i in SB/LB) naṭû ‘to hit, beat’ (U/u, except [i ]ṭ-ṭi MSL 1, 10:38 (SB))115 panû ‘to turn to, precede’ (U/u, esp. OA, later also I/i) qalû ‘to burn, roast’ (also I/i in SB and later) qamû ‘to burn’ (also I/i from OB onwards) segû ‘to move about’ (I/i in LB) ṣapû ‘to irrigate, moisten’ (rarely I/i in SB) šalû ‘to throw, shoot’ (occasionally I/i in SB, see CAD Š/1 272 s.v. šalû A 1b) šapû ‘to be(come) loud, dense’ (rarely I/i in SB) šaqû ‘to be(come) high’ (rarely I/i in SB; I/i in Ass; see §3.3.4, pp. 64–65) šarû ‘to be(come) rich’ (rarely I/i in MB (Elam) and SB) šegû ‘to be(come) rabid’ (also I/i in SB, N‑stem only; see §, p. 297) šelû ‘to be(come) negligent’ (also I/i in LB) warû ‘to lead, bring’ (I/i exceptional; see chap. 16, p. 453, n. 21; more often i in the Gtn‑stem) • zakû ‘to be(come) clean, free’ (rarely I/i in SB) • zarû ‘to scatter, sow’ (I/i in SB i-zar-ri LKU 33:21–22).

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

The same shift is observable in quadriradical verbs, such as naparkû ‘to cease, leave’ (U/u in OB, U/u and I/i in SB), and neqelpû ‘to drift down, glide along’ (with U/u and I/i coexisting from OB onwards); see §12.5, pp. 309–310. 4.  Parallel to the shift U/u > I/i is the shift from A/a to I/i. Early instances are: • qerēbu ‘to come near’ (early OB Pfv iqrab [see n. 57, p. 62], later iqrib [but OA iqrub, see §, p. 565]) • salāmu ‘to make peace’ (Pfv islam in OB Mari [see n. 31, p. 60], later islim) • šalāmu ‘to be(come) sound, in good condition’ (Pfv išlam in PSAk, SAk, and OB PNs, see n. 34, p. 60), later always išlim) Later instances of A/a shifting to I/i are found in the following verbs:116 anāḫu ‘to sing, lament, moan’ (I/i in SB in-ni-iḫ Racc. 44b:5) kalû ‘to detain, withhold’ (also I/i in SB and LB) kaṣû ‘to be(come) cold’ (also I/i in SB ) pašāḫu ‘to cool, calm down’ (I/i already in OB, also in SB, but cf. also lip-šu-ḫa-am-ma JAOS 103, 206:47) • malû ‘to be(come) full, to fill’ (also I/i in SB) • takālu ‘to trust’ (also I/i in SB and NA) • tamû ‘ to swear’ (NB/LB t‑Pf ittemē) • • • •

5.  In Babylonian, adoption of E-colouring (see §17.5, pp. 525–537) led to membership of an iso­vocalic class, mostly I/i. Comparison with Assyrian and some archaic forms in Sargonic Akkadian and Babylonian shows that in some cases I/i was the original vowel class (e.g., in ekēmu 115.  According to CAD N/2 132b s.v. naṭû v. (in one section with im-ḫa-aṣ, i-du-uk and iḫ-pi [Sumerian broken]). 116.  For the I/i forms of labāšu ‘to put on, wear’ in the Gt and N forms (such as iltabiš and illabiš), see chap. 14, p. 357 n. 5.


The Vowel Classes  3.5.

‘to take away’, erēšu ‘to ask’, and eṣēdu ‘to harvest’), whereas in other cases I/i replaced another class: A/u in emēdu ‘to lean against, reach’, erēšu ‘to cultivate’ (but see above for an Impfv īrruš in Old Babylonian), and perhaps in ezēbu ‘to leave’. I/i may have replaced U/u in etēqu ‘to pass through’.117 The cause of the shift is the introduction of global E‑colouring in Babylonian (see §17.5.1, pp. 525–534), which changed the imperfective vowel to e (e.g., 3ms *yīmmed instead of *yiʿammad  ); since e can be an allophone of i, this form was assimilated to the many I/voc imperfective forms with i (ēkkim, ērriš, ēṣṣid, etc.) and became ēmmid, which caused the Pfv ēmud to be replaced with ēmid. A few E‑verbs, however, do not partake in this change: epēšu ‘to make/do’ and erēbu ‘to enter’ joined the U/u class instead (see above), and ṭebû ‘to sink’, an original U/u verb, stayed in this class.118 Finally, the verb eṣēru ‘to draw, design’ shows interchange of u and i in Old Assyrian, which is unique in that dialect, as far as I know.119 In the course of Babylonian history, the number of E-verbs continually increased (see §17.5.1, pp. 528–529), especially through the influx of verbs that have r or ḫ among their radicals. This also led to adoption of I/i instead of their original vowels. So, in Middle Babylonian or later the following A/u verbs joined the I/i class: • ḫarāṣu ‘to cut off, clarify’ (in NB ḫerēṣu I/i: i-ḫe-ri-iṣ-ṣu SAA 18, 152: r.4) • kaṣāru ‘to join, bind’ (in SB also keṣēru I/i: i-ke-ṣí-ir Izbu 185:3 acc. to CAD K 260a s.v. 2c) • makāru ‘to irrigate’ (in MB also mekēru I/i) • mašālu ‘to resemble, be half’ (in MB mešēlu I/i) • rasānu ‘to moisten’ (in NB resēnu I/i)) • samāḫu ‘to unite, join’ (in Nuzi semēḫu I/i)) • ṣapāru ‘to press, inlay’ (in SB also ṣepēru I/i) • šarāmu ‘to break, cut’ (I/i in LB šerēmu (only i-ši-ri-ma TMH 2, 140:8)). It is not always easy to establish the direction of the shift for each individual verb on independent grounds, but the overall picture seems to be beyond doubt and allows the following conclusions. First, there is a tendency to generalize the vowel class I/i at the cost of all other classes (except A/i). Second, there is also a tendency to abolish rather than to introduce vowel alternation (Kie­ nast 1967: 70–73), undoubtedly with the motive of discarding a contrast that has no grammatical function. Third, these changes do not entail a semantic change. Fourth, only a minority of the 117.  For emēdu, cf. Ass emādu A/u, and OB Pfv i-mu-du-šu AbB 9, 267:16 (no imperfective attested); for erēšu, cf. Ass arāšu A/u, and OB Pfv ˹i  ˺-ru-šu OBTA p. 78 no. 25:3; for ezēbu, original A/u is suggested by the particle ezub (also ezib) ‘apart from’, a frozen imperative (but Assyrian also has I/i); for etēqu, cf. Impfv i-tu-uq, i-tu-qú ARM 18, 7:7; Pfv i-tu-qú ARM 27, 80:46 (but i-ti-qú ibid., 18, 37); t‑Pf e-te-tu-uq AbB 12, 56: 8 (but OA etāqum is I/i, so U/u may be secondary). 118.  Forms with u are also found in the E‑verbs edēdu ‘to be(come) sharp’ (uncertain, see p. 64, n. 64), emēṣu ‘to be(come) hungry’ (Impfv im-mu-ṣa(-a) BWL 40:44 [SB]), erēpu ‘to be(come) cloudy’, erēru ‘to be(come) dry’ (see p. 63, n. 63) [OB]), ezēzu ‘to be(come) angry’ (li-zux(su)-uz Ištar p. 78: V 13 (OB); i‑zu-uz Ee I 42; VAB 4, 218:11 [both SB]), lemēnu ‘to be(come) bad’ (il-mu-un SAA 10, 79: r.17 [SB omen quotation]), and qerēbu ‘to come near’ (often in Standard and Neo-Babylonian, interchanging with i; cf. AHw 915b s.v. G). Another possible exception is enēnu ‘to do a favour’ (A/u in Assyrian), but it is very rare (mainly in proper names) and suspect, because there seem to be several homonymous enēnu verbs; cf. AHw 217 ss. vv. (three verbs) and CAD E 162–65 (four verbs). 119.  See Veenhof 1995: 331; i is the most common vowel; u occurs in the Pfvs né-ṣú-ur DTCFD 34, 261:10; le-ṣú-ra-kum C 43:7 (1s Prec, unpublished, quoted in Veenhof 1995: 330); and té-ṣú-ra-ni ICK 2, 296:3.

3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class


Akkadian verbs are involved in these changes: most verbs hold on to the vowel class they have in the earliest sources.

3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class This section contains lists of verbs arranged according to vowel class. Only verbs that can reliably be assigned to a specific vowel class are included. If a verb shows fluctuation between classes, I have included it in the class that I regard as the most original. Variant forms are ignored. However, if Babylonian and Assyrian disagree, I have included the verb in its Babylonian form, with the Assyrian vowels between parentheses. As a result, each verb appears only in one class. 1. Vowel class I/i *abātu apāru arāku awāʾum baʾālu baʾāšu bakû balāmu balāṣu banû banû barāqu barû bašāmu bašû baṭālu bedû beḫāšu belû daʾāpu dalāpu damāqu danānu danû darāsu ebēbu ebēḫu ebēlu ebēru ebēṭu ebēṭu ebû edēlu edēpu edēqu edēru

flee (only N; Bab; Ass A/u) wear (on the head) become long calculate (OA) become large smell bad cry tie up stare build become beautiful flash see build be, exist stop, end cheat(?) stir (Ass) become extinguished push be/keep awake become good become strong be of inferior quality(?) trample become pure gird catch cross swell(?) gird become thick close, lock blow away put on, don embrace

edēšu eʾēlu egēgu egēru ekēb/pu ekēku ekēlu ekēmu ekēku elēḫu elēlu elēpu elēṣu elû emārum emēmu emēru emēšu enēnu enēqu enēšu enû epēqu epēru epû eqēqu eqû erēḫu erēru erēšu erû esēḫ/ku esēlu esēpu esēqu esēru esēru eṣēdu

become new bind moan, cry become twisted come near scratch become dark take away scratch sprinkle become pure, free sprout swell, rejoice become high, go up pile up (OA) become hot become swollen try punish suck become weak change embrace, overgrow provide with food bake become paralyzed(?) anoint act aggressively become dry ask become pregnant assign inflate collect carve lock up put under pressure harvest

eṣēlu eṣēnu eṣēpu eṣēru eṣû ešēbu ešēru ešû etēqu etēqu eṭēlu eṭēru eṭēru eṭû ewû ezēbu ezēhu ezēru gadāmu galû ganāḫu garāmu gašāru gerû ḫadālu ḫakāmu ḫakāru ḫalābu ḫalāpu ḫalāqu ḫamādu ḫamālu ḫamāšu ḫamû ḫanāmu ḫanāpu ḫanāṣu ḫanû

paralyze smell twine, double draw, design slit grow profusely go straight, prosper confuse cross bend, twist become a man save, take away pay become dark turn into leave gird insult cut off banish cough orbit (planet) become powerful quarrel, sue go back(?) understand reduce(?) milk wear, be dessed disappear hide plan break in two paralyze bloom flatter bare one’s teeth put under pressure(?)


Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class   3.6.

ḫapātu triumph, prevail ḫarādu wake up, guard (ḫ)arāmu cover ḫarāpu cut ḫarāšu be in labour ḫarāṭu graze ḫasāpu pluck out ḫasāru blunt, chip ḫaṣānu shelter ḫašāḫu need, want (Ass A/a) become dark ḫašû ḫatānu protect ḫatāpu slaughter ḫatāru wag (tail), flutter ḫatû smite ḫaṭāmu muzzle, block ḫaṭû sin, neglect ḫaz/ṣûm object ḫepēru dig ḫepû break ḫerû dig ḫesû cover kabāru become thick kabātu become heavy kadāru become arrogant kadāru establish a border kalāṣu shrivel, roll up kamālu become angry kamāsu gather, finish kamāsu squat, kneel k/qapālu roll up kap/bās/ṣu  curl, droop karāku block, collect karāmu hinder k/garāṣu pinch off karātu cut off kasāpu perform a kispu sacrifice kasāru dam kaṣāpu think, wish kašāpu bewitch kašāru be successful kašāṭu cut off kašû cover kašû increase (intr.) katāru call to aid katāru wait kazābu tell lies kezēru curl the hair(?) laʾābu infect labāku become soft labānu beg humbly labānu make bricks labāru become old

laḫābu laḫāmu lakādu lakû lawû lemēnu lemû lezēnu madādu madālu maʾādu malāku marāru marāsu marû maṣû mašādu mašû matāqu maṭû mazāʾu mekû menû naʾādu naʾālu naʾāmu naʾāsu naʾāšu nabû nadādu nadānu nadû naḫālu naḫātu naḫāsu naḫāsu naḫāšu nakālu nakāpu nakāru nakāsu nakāšu napû naqû naṣû našāqu našāšu našû naṭ/tāpu nawāru nazāqu nebû nezû padû

growl consume run become weak surround become bad eat slander escape salt, pickle become numerous advise become bitter squash fatten, become slow become sufficient strike, comb (OA A/u) forget become sweet become insufficient squeeze become negligent love attend, be worried make wet advance boldly chew gasp for breath(?) name, invoke cede(?) give (Bab) throw, leave hand over become small go back lament prosper act cleverly gore, butt become hostile cut set aside sift sacrifice tear, scrape kiss sniff(?) lift, carry tear out be(come) bright squeak, worry shine void excrement spare

paḫāzu be arrogant pakāru chain palālu guard palāq/ku slaughter panāgu mount, cap paqādu entrust insult parû pasālu turn around pasāmu veil pasāqu choke, strangle(?) paṣādu carve paṣānu veil (Ass) pašālu crawl pašāṭu erase patālu turn, wrap patānu become strong patāqu form, build patāqu drink peḫû close, plug peṣû become white qabû speak, say qadāpu ? qadû hoot qalālu become light qanû acquire qatānu become thin qatû end qebēru bury qemû grind qerû invite, take away rabāqu ? rabāṣu lie down rabû become big rabû go down, set radāpu pursue ragāgu become bad raḫāṣu trample, destroy ramû set in place rapāqu hoe rapāqu fasten rapāsu beat, thrash rapāšu become wide raqāqu become thin, fine raqû hide rasāb/pu slay, destroy raṣāpu pile up, build rašû get, acquire rašû itch reḫû beget, impregnate retû fix saʾāb/pu ? sabāku bring into contact(?) sabû brew beer saḫāmu be under pressure(?)

3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class sakālu appropriate sakālu get stuck or loose sakāpu push away salāḫu tremble salālu flutter, flap salāmu make peace salāqu go up salātu split, cut salāʾu deceive(?) s/zamārum  establish (OA) sanāp/bu tie sanāqu check, arrive s/šanāšu insert sapādu mourn sapāqu be sufficient, able sarādu load, pack sarāmu cut, incise satālu plant sekēru dam sepēru write alphabetically seʾû press down ṣabû wish ṣalāmu become dark, black ṣalāpu cross out, cancel ṣalāʾu put down ṣamādu harness, yoke ṣamāru strive for, plot ṣapāru trim, strip ṣarāmu apply oneself

ṣeḫēru šabāṭu šadāḫu šadālu šagālu šagāšu šaḫāṭu šaḫāṭu šakāru šalāmu šalû šamādu šamātu šanāṣu šanû šanû šanû šapālu šapāṣu šapāṭ/tu šapû šaqāru šaqātu šaqû šarāqu šasû šatānu šatāpu šatû

become small strike, sweep march, proceed become spacious appropriate ? kill jump, attack become angry become drunk become well submerge oneself apply mark sneer do again; change run flood, wet become low, deep grip exercise authority wrap, fasten pierce ? give to drink steal call, summon urinate groove drink

šawû šebēru šeʾēru šeḫēqu šepû šerû šerû šerû šeṭû takāpu tarû temēru teṣ/zû ṭapāru ṭawû ṭepû ṭerû wabāʾu wamālu wapû waqāru warāqu wasāmu wašāṭu watāru waṣû zabālu zarāpu

dagālu dakāšu dalāḫu dalālu darāku emādu

watch press in disturb glorify pack lean on, impose (Bab I/i) do a favour (OA) make, do (Bab U/u) enter (Bab U/u) chop, cut shave be obliging, spare complete, use up confine shave oppress, wrong borrow rob, plunder borrow incise

ḫadālu ḫalālu ḫalālu ḫalāṣu ḫalāšu ḫamāmu ḫamāṣu ḫamāṭu ḫanāqu ḫapāpu ḫarāru ḫarāṣu ḫarāṭu ḫasāsu ḫaṣābu ḫaṣāṣu

roast break pass, cross sneeze(?) ask take refuge lay down redeem(?) spread out speckle lift bury defecate press towards spin, twine add, register penetrate weed become veiled, misted become clear become rare, precious become green become appropriate become stiff exceed go out carry buy

2. Vowel class A/u: abāku abāku ʾabātu adāru agāgu agāru aḫāzu akālu ʾalālu amāru apālu arāḫu arāru arāšu ašāru ʾašāšu balālu baqāmu baqāru barāmu batāqu

send, lead overturn destroy fear become angry hire take, marry eat hang see answer destroy curse cultivate (Bab I/i) muster catch in a net mix pluck (wool) claim seal cut

enānum epāšu erābu gadādu galābu gamālu gamāru ganānu gazāzu ḫabālu ḫabālu ḫabātu ḫabātu ḫadādu


tie up, knot detain creep, slink squeeze out scrape off collect tear off burn strangle break up, smash dig, groove cut off, clarify graze think, mention break off break, build (a reed hut) ḫašālu crush ḫašāšu hurry(?) ḫaṭāṭu excavate kabābu burn


Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class   3.6.

kadādu rub in, anoint kabāsu step upon kamāru pile up kanāku seal kanānu twist, coil kapāpu bend, curve kapāru wipe off, rub kapāru trim, uproot karābu pray, bless karāru put, place kasāmu cut, chop kasāpu chip, break off kasāsu gnaw kaṣābu reduce kaṣāru join, bind kaṣāṣu grind one’s teeth kaṣāṣu trim, mutilate kašādu reach, acquire kašāru repair kašāšu master katāmu cover labābu rage lamāmu chew lapāpu wrap lapātu touch, affect, write laqātu glean latāku test, question madādu measure magāgu stretch out magāru favour, comply with maḫāḫu soak, soften maḫāru receive, confront makāku spread makāru irrigate malāḫu tear out malālu consume, plunder malāš/su pluck out marāqu crush, grind marāru break (a field) marāsu stir marāṭu rub, scratch mašāḫu measure, compute mašālu resemble mašāru drag mašāšu wipe mašāʾu rob, plunder matāḫu lift, carry mazāqu suck maz/sāru block, withhold mazāʾu squeeze (Ass I/i) naʾādu praise nagāgu bray naḫālu sift nakāmu store, pile up

napāḫu blow, light napālu dig out, demolish napālu compensate napāṣu kick, smash napāšu pluck, comb naqābu deflower naqāru tear down, scrape nasāḫu tear out nasāqu choose naṣābu suck naṣāru guard, watch našāku bite našāru cut off, deduct naṭālu see, look at nazālu pour out nazāru insult paʾāṣu strike, crush parāku block palāku delimit palāšu drill parāsu cut, sever parāṣu break parāṭu clear away parāʾu cut off pasāsu erase pašāru loosen pašāšu anoint patāḫu pierce patānu dine paṭāru loosen qalāpu peel qanānu nest q/garādu tear out, pluck (wool) q/garānu pile up qarāšu trim, carve qatālu kill qatāpu pluck, cut off rabāku distill, stir rabāšum substantiate a claim (OA) radādu pursue ragāmu shout, complain raḫāṣu rinse, bathe rakāsu bind rasānu moisten sadāru set in a row saḫālu pierce saḫāpu cover, overwhelm salāḫu sprinkle salāqu boil salāʾu sprinkle, infect samāḫu mix, unite samāku cover, remove(?) sapāḫu scatter

sapānu level, destroy saqālu take away sarāqu strew, sprinkle ṣabāru bend, twist? ṣaḫātu extract ṣanāhu have diarrhea ṣapāru press, inlay ṣarāḫu lament, cry ṣarāḫu heat ṣarāḫu dispatch quickly ṣarāpu refine, fire šabāšu collect (also u/u) šadādu pull, carry šaḫālu sift šaḫātu wash, clear šaḫāṭu take off, pull off šakāku harrow, string šakānu place šalāḫu tear off šalālu kidnap, plunder šalāpu draw, pull out šalāqu cut open, split šalāṭu rule, dispose of šamāmu paralyze šamāṭu strip off šanānu rival šanāʾu obstruct šap/bāḫu sprinkle šapāku heap up, pour šapāru send, write šaqālu weigh, pay šarāḫu pick, tear out šarāku grant, bestow šarāmu break, cut šarāpu burn šarāṭu tear šatāqu split šaṭāru write šaṭāṭu slit open tabāku pile up, pour talālu stretch, span tamāḫu seize tarāḫu dig tarāku beat, palpitate tarāṣu stretch (out) ṭabāḫu slaughter ṭapālu insult, slander ṭarādu send, drive away zakāru declare, invoke zanānu provide (food) zaqāpu erect, plant zaqātu sting zarāqu sprinkle

3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class


3. Vowel class U/u ʾalātu arāru ʾarû ašāšu *awû ʾazû baḫû balāṭu barāru barāṣu daʾāmu dabābu dakāku dalû damāmu damāṣu daqāšu edēdu egû emēṣu erēpu galātu ganāṣu gapāšu gešû ḫabābu ḫabāru ḫabāṣu ḫabû ḫadādu ḫadû ḫaḫû ḫalālu ḫalāpu ḫamāšu ḫamāṭu ḫamû ḫanābu ḫarābu ḫarāpu ḫašāšu ḫawû kamû kanāšu kapādu karû kasû kašāšu laʾātu labû lapānu lasāmu

swallow tremble vomit worry speak (only Gt) hiss become thin live (Ass A/a) glow, shine shine brightly become dark speak gambol draw (water) mourn humble oneself bend down become sharp become negligent become hungry become cloudy quiver, fear lift (lip or nose) become massive, swell belch murmur, chirp make noise be swollen, elated draw (water) rumble, rustle rejoice cough pipe, wheeze slip in/through be/do fifth hurry rely, be confident grow abundantly lie waste be early swell, rejoice growl bind bend, submit plan become short bind become dizzy(?) swallow howl, groan become poor run

lezû continue maḫû become frenzied makāsu collect taxes manû count maqātu fall marāru leave naʾāpu wither nabābu play the flute(?) nabāḫu bark nabāṭu shine brightly nabāʾu rise (flood) nabāzu bleat nagû sing joyously naḫāru snort nakādu palpitate, worry nalāšu dew namāšu depart napāšu relax, expand narāṭu tremble nasāku throw nasāsu complain našāpu blow away, winnow natāku drip naṭû beat nazāmu complain nazāzu grunt, rustle paḫādu be in terror paḫāru come together panû go to, go in front parādu start, fear (Ass I/i) parāru dissolve parāʾu sprout parû vomit pašāqu become narrow qadādu bow qalû burn, roast burn qamû qanānu nest qanû acquire qarāḫu freeze q/garāru fear q/garāru wind, roll, flow qatāru rise (smoke) raʾābu tremble rabābu become soft, relax raḫādu become viscous raḫāṣu trust, entrust raḫāšu mobilize ? ramāku bathe ramāmu roar ramû become loose rapādu run around, traverse

raqādu rasābu raṣanu raṣāṣu rašāšu ratātu raṭāpu redû saʾālu sabāʾu sagû saḫāḫu saḫāru sakāpu sakātu samādu samû segû se/ahû ṣabābu ṣabāru ṣamû ṣapû ṣarāḫu ṣarāru ṣarātu šabābu šabāḫu šagāmu šaḫāḫu šaḫānu šaḫātu šalāšu šalû A šamāḫu šamāru šapû A šapû B šaqû šarāru šarû šatû šegû šelû taqānu tarāru tarāṣu tarû ṭaḫādu ṭanāpu ṭebû warû

dance err become loud ring (ears) glow tremble start be appropriate cough toss, churn trouble tremble turn, seek lie down be silent grind vacillate move about become disturbed spread (wings) flit, prattle become thirsty irrigate flare up flow, sparkle break wind glow settle (dust) roar, buzz crumble, dissolve become warm fear, respect do third (Ass I/i) shoot, throw thrive, flourish surge, rage be silent flicker, billow become high, rise go ahead become rich weave become rabid (only N) become negligent become secure tremble become correct take along become abundant become dirty sink lead


Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class   3.6.

zakû become clean, free zamāru sing

zanānu rain



reʾû ṣabātu ṣalālu šaʾāru šebû šemû šeʾû tabālu takālu w/tamû tebû ṭeḫû watû zenû

tend, look after seize sleep win, vanquish become sated hear look for, search take away trust swear rise come near find become angry

4. Vowel class A/a (including E/e) abālu anāḫu arāḫu bašālu berû dekû idû kalû kaṣû katāʾu labāšu lamādu lazāzu leqû letû

dry out be(come) tired hurry boil, ripen become hungry summon know detain, withhold be(come) cold take as security put on, wear learn continue, persist take, receive split

leʾû maḫāṣu malû marāṣu mesû nepû nesû palāḫu pašāḫu petû qerēbu raḫāṣu rakābu redû

be able, win hit, weave become full, cover become ill wash abduct move away fear, respect cool, calm open come near (OA U/u) run ride, sail follow, accompany

5. Vowel class A/i alāku tadānu wabālu wadādu

go, come give (Ass) carry, bring love

walādu give birth wapāšu abuse warādu descend

waṣābu add wašābu sit down, settle wašāpu exorcise

6. Vowel class II/ū of the II/voc verbs


stay firm bâʾum come dâku kill dâlu walk around *duārum surround (SAk) gâšu hurry ḫâb/pu purify ḫâlu dissolve ḫâqu go ḫâšu give kânu become firm, true kâru become depressed kâṣu flay, skin kâšu be late lâdu bend, kneel lâšu knead lâṭu keep in check

luāmum mâḫu mânu mâtu mâʾu muāšu muāʾum nâḫu nâpu nâqu nâqu nâšu puāgu puāšu qâdu qâlu qâpu

put pressure on (OA) set out ? supply with food die vomit check (NA) be willing (OA) rest, become still pay in addition cry run, go quake, shake take away (Ass) agree (Ass) set afire pay attention buckle

râbu râdu râʾu s/zâku sâru ṣâdu ṣâdu šâbu šâṭu šâṭu šâʾu tâpu târu ṭâpu zâbu zâru zâzu

tremble tremble become friends pound, crush whirl, dance prowl, spin melt sway, tremble pull, drag be negligent fly be attentive return ? dissolve twist divide

3.6.  Appendix: List of G‑stem Verbs Arranged according to Vowel Class


7. Vowel class II/ī of the II/voc verbs *bâšu stamp bâtu spend the night judge dânu dâšu thresh challenge? gâru ḫâsu install ḫâlu scream mix ḫâqu ḫâru choose hurry ḫâšu kâšu help k/qiāšum seal in a case (OA) lâp/bu ? mâru buy?

nâku nâlu pâqu qâlu qâpu qâšu râmu râbu râḫu râqu râšu s/šâtu sâmu

have intercourse lie down (also II/ā) become narrow fall trust give bestow replace remain become empty jubilate be left over become red

sâqu ṣâḫu šâṣu šâbu šâḫu šâlu šâmu šânu šâṭu ṭâbu wâru wâṣu zâqu

become narrow laugh decline become gray, old grow coat, smear decree urinate be negligent become good go become small, few blow (wind)

sêru ṣâlu ṣênu ṣêʾu šâlu šâmu šêlu šênu šêqu šêru šêṭu têb/pu têʾu têlu têlu ṭêmu ṭênu zêru

plaster fight, quarrel load immobilize ask buy whet, sharpen put on shoes measure level rise early disdain, be negligent ? cover, hide pronounce dock, moor? inform grind hate

8. Vowel class II/ā and II/ē of the II/H verbs ʾâdu bâlu bâru bâšu bâʾu bêlu bêru bêšu dâṣu êru gêsu gêšu ḫâšu kâdu kêsu lêku lêmu mêsu mêšu

notice pray catch become ashamed pass rule, possess select move away harass, dupe become awake bestow rumple worry be distressed? ? lick consume crush, destroy despise, disregard

nâdu nâṣu nêru nêšu nêtu nêʾu pâdu pâru râmu râṭu rêmu rêqu rêṣu rêtu sâbu sâdu sêdu

praise scorn kill recover surround loosen, turn imprison search love ? have mercy be far, go away (Ass II/ū) help spit out draw (water) slay support

Chapter 4

The impact of gemination I:  the imperfective iparrVs

4.1. Introduction In this chapter and those following, I will describe the form and function of the members of the verbal paradigm individually and in relation to one another. The functional description that follows—which is summary, unless there is a specific reason to elaborate on a particular point— is valid for all types of verbs. For the form, on the other hand, I will concentrate on the standard paradigm, that of the G‑stem of the strong triradical verb. The formal aspects of the other types of verbs will be dealt with later in the relevant chapters. The description is twofold: it starts with an account of the category under discussion in Akkadian itself, distinguishing according to dialect whenever doing so is relevant to the presentation. The findings will be compared with what we know from other Semitic and sometimes also Afroasiatic languages to get an idea about the state of affairs in Proto-Semitic and the prehistoric development of Akkadian. The first of these chapters deals with the imperfective (also called present or durative), not only because it is the most basic category of the verbal paradigm but also because a large part of the prehistoric developments that took place in the Akkadian verb can only be understood from the emergence of the G‑stem imperfective iparrVs instead of an earlier imperfective form without gemination.

4.2. The Imperfective: Form The inflectional stem of the G‑stem imperfective of the strong triradical verb has the form PaRRvS, with gemination of R2 and a variable vowel between R2 and R3. Gemination of R2 is the hallmark of the Akkadian imperfective.1 The variable stem vowel a, i, or u (iparras, iparris, or iparrus), which I will call the “imperfective vowel,” has no grammatical function (perhaps with the partial exception of a; see below) but belongs in the sphere of the vowel classes.2 On the 1.  In the early days of Assyriology, there was uncertainty about the presence of gemination in iparrVs, since it is often not indicated in the script. This gave rise to interpretations such as ipar(r)as or ipa(r)ras. Goetze established that the correct form is iparras (explicitly so in 1942: 4 n. 43), and this was canonized by W. von Soden’s GAG of 1952; see also Greenberg 1952: 1–2 and Kienast 2001: 293–94. Rössler (1958: 115 n. 19) aptly stated that ipar(r)as is not “akkadisch” but “überholt-assyriologisch.” Surprisingly, it turns up again in a recent handbook (Malbran-Labat 2001). For the claim that the basic contrast between imperfective and perfective is the vowel a after the first radical, see n. 51 below (p. 103). Finally, it should be noted that there is no evidence at all for the existence of verb forms which have a long vowel instead of a geminate R2, like the Arabic Stem III and Geʿez Stem I/3 qātala, as is claimed by Zaborski (2003). W. von Soden (GAG 3 §88f*) mentions this possibility, only to reject it with good reason. 2.  For e instead of a as imperfective vowel in Babylonian as a result of E‑colouring, see §17.5.1 (p. 526).


4.2.  The Imperfective: Form


basis of the imperfective vowel, we can distinguish A-verbs, I-verbs, and U-verbs (for E-verbs, see §17.5, pp. 525–537). The combination of the imperfective vowel with the root vowel of the perfective and the imperative gave rise to the vowel classes discussed in the previous chapter. In the anisovocalic vowel classes A/u and A/i, we can observe their respective roles, especially to what extent they recur in derived categories. It is the imperfective vowel that recurs elsewhere, whereas the root vowel is never used outside the perfective and the imperative of the G‑stem. In Table 4.1, the positions where the imperfective vowel occurs are shown in capitals; the forms that preserve the root vowel are printed in bold. As a contrasting example of an iso­ vocalic verb, the I/i verb paqādu ‘to entrust, provide’ has been added; it has i in all forms:3








Impfv t‑Pf Pret Imp

iparrAs iptarAs iprus purus

iptanarrAs — (see §14.7.2) iptarrAs pitarrAs

iptarrAs — iptarAs pitrAs

ipparrAs ittaprAs (ipparis)4 (napris)

ittanaprAs — ittaprAs itaprAs


Impfv t‑Pf Pret Imp

uššAb ittašAb ušib šib

ittanaššAb — ittaššAb *itaššAb


Impfv t‑Pf Pret Imp

ipaqqId iptaqId ipqid piqid

iptanaqqId — iptaqqId pitaqqId

*iptaqqId — *iptaqId *pitqId

ippaqqId ittapqId ippaqid napqid

ittanapqId — ittapqId itapqId

Table 4.1: The distribution of the imperfective vowel and the root vowel.

As the table shows, the imperfective vowel recurs in the t‑perfect of the G‑stem (iparras § iptaras, ipaqqid § iptaqid) and in most finite forms of the derived stems that adopt the vowel pattern of the G‑stem: the Gtn‑stem (iparras § iptanarras, ipaqqid § iptanaqqid ), the Gt‑stem (iparras § iptarras, ipaqqid § iptaqqid), the imperfective of the N‑stem (iparras § ipparras, ipaqqid § ippaqqid), and the Ntn‑stem (iparras § ittanapras, ipaqqid § ittanapqid). Therefore, the imperfective vowel is the characteristic or defining vowel of a specific verb. Among the three imperfective vowels a, i, and u, a has a special status, since it occurs not only in the G imperfective of all A‑verbs but also in several imperfective forms of the derived verbal stems. Only the Gt‑, Gtn‑, N‑, and Ntn‑stems have another present vowel, if they come from an I‑verb or an U‑verb. This makes a an important secondary imperfective marker in addition to gemination. The respective spheres of use of the imperfective vowel and the root vowel reflect both the hier­archical relationship between the imperfective and the perfective as defined in §2.2.1 (p. 30), and their historical relationship, with the imperfective as the innovative and expanding category, 3.  The D‑stem and the Š‑stem are omitted because they have a fixed vowel pattern independent of vowel class. 4.  The N perfective normally has a fixed i independent of vowel class; see §12.2.1 (pp. 289–290) for the complexities in the vowel pattern of the N-stem. The rare instances of the N imperative all seem to have this vowel, too, perhaps on the model of the D and Š imperatives (Ass parris/šapris); see chap. 12, p. 290, n. 8.


The Imperfective: Form  4.2.

and the perfective (or rather the inflectional stem on which it is based) as the receding category that is gradually being replaced (cf. also the replacement of iprVs by iptarVs). As stated in §1.2.3 (p. 5), there are good reasons to assume that the imperfective is generally the most basic form of a verbal paradigm. That this also applies to Akkadian is demonstrated by at least three features of the G‑stem imperfective: 1. It is formally differentiated from other categories with more consistency than any other member of the verbal paradigm. With very few exceptions, imperfective forms are recognizable as such without any context,5 whereas all other categories show varying degrees of syncretism. For instance, there is syncretism of the infinitive and the past participle of all derived stems, and of the perfective of the t‑stems and the t‑perfect of the corresponding primary stems. In the tan‑stems, except for the Gtn‑stem, the imperfective is the only category that has a form of its own, whereas all other forms are identical to those of the corresponding t‑stems. In these cases, we need the context to identify a particular form. 2. The G‑stem imperfective imposes its vowel on the t‑perfect of the G‑stem and on the imperfective of the derived verbal stems that take part in the vowel classes, as shown above. 3. The G‑stem imperfective also exerted such a strong formal influence on the imperfective forms of the derived verbal stems that most of them introduced gemination where this is formally possible, in addition to the more original imperfective marking by means of the stem vowel a between R2 and R3. This accounts for doubly-marked imperfective forms such as the N Impfv ipparras, the Št2 Impfv uštaparras, and the Š and Št imperfectives of the I/voc verbs (ušakkal and uštakkal ). The details will be discussed in §4.5.2 (pp. 112–115). In one respect, the relationship between the imperfective and the rest of the verbal paradigm is atypical: the imperfective is basic, but not unmarked; on the other hand, in Akkadian it is the perfective that is formally unmarked.6 In this respect, Akkadian agrees with many other Semitic and Afroasiatic languages.

5.  The exceptions are the Gt imperfective, which is identical to the Gtn perfective, and the Babylonian G imperfective forms of the II/ā and II/ē verbs without ending, such as išâm and ibêl, which we conventionally and conveniently distinguish in our transcriptions from the perfectives išām and ibēl. Of course, this claim is only valid for the actual forms of Akkadian, not for the way they are spelled, so it does not allow for defective spellings such as i-pa-qí-id from paqādu, which may be G Impfv ipaqqid, N Impfv ippaqqid, and N Pfv ippaqid, or i-ri-iš from erēšu ‘to ask’, which may be G Impfv īrriš and G Pfv īriš. 6.  Generally speaking, the verbal category referring to the present is semantically unmarked vis-à-vis the category referring to the past (Jakobson 1990: 138). Therefore, the former tends to be formally unmarked as well (see chap. 1, p. 5, n. 6). However, the common renewal of present categories by stronger marked formations is responsible for the widespread occurrence of marked presents, such as the English progressive form (for the rise of the progressive in English, see Bybee et al. 1994: 132–37 and the literature mentioned in Lass 1997: 318–19). This process is also responsible for the situation in Akkadian. Comrie (1976: 111) notes that “in general, the morphological criteria [of markedness—NJCK] are the least telling, since the morphology often reflects systematic correspondences of an earlier period in the history of a language.” He mentions an exact parallel from the history of Persian, where a marked imperfective with the prefix mi- has been generalized except in a few stative verbs (ibid., 121). With regard to aspect, Aikhenvald and Dixon (1998: 62) state that “[c]oncerning aspect, there is often no markedness in the system and when there is there seems to be no cross-language consistency as to which term is unmarked” (also referring to Comrie 1976: 111–22). This can be ascribed to the same process, since in languages where aspect is dominant the new form tends to become an imperfective, as in many branches of Afroasiatic.

4.3.  The Imperfective: Form


4.3. The Imperfective: Function  7 The Akkadian imperfective combines temporal, aspectual, and modal functions, but its aspectual function is marginal. In a context that is unspecified for its location in time, the imperfective refers to the future or to activities (usually habitual ones) taking place at the moment of speech, as opposed to the perfective and the t‑perfect, which refer to the past. The imperfective is the only form available for referring to present and future events and therefore covers all possible modalities, such as the actual present, habitual present, generic present, immediate future, and more remote future (GAG §78c/d). Since this use is well-known, I will refrain from giving examples.8 The stative, however, can also refer to the present and indicate simultaneity, but it differs from the imperfective in that it can only refer to a state (see §7.3, pp. 163–165), e.g., Impfv adabbub ‘I am talking’ versus Stat šalmāku ‘I am well’.9 An example is the interchange of the stative and imperfective in the following passage, from a description of a (figure of a) goddess:

7.  For other descriptions of the use of the imperfective, see GAG §78; Streck 1995a: 190–94; Leong 1994: 31–32, 292–360; Huehnergard 2005a: 98–99; Metzler 2002: 886–92; Loesov 2004b: 416–17, 2005; E. Cohen 2006. 8.  Loesov (2005: 105–6) argues that the Akkadian imperfective is not used to refer to telic events taking place at speech time and that Akkadian codes such situations in different ways according to the inherent temporal properties of the situation, but in particular by the use of the stative. It is true that imperfectives referring to telic events taking place at speech time are very hard to find. The question is: is this caused by the function of the imperfective itself, or by the nature of our sources? For the time being, I prefer the latter option. The nature of the extant Akkadian texts is not very favourable to the occurrence of this kind of situations: they are typically found in natural conversation, and apart from occasional instances of dialogue in literary texts, the closest thing that we have to natural conversation are letters. However, the problem with letters is that we usually do not know enough of the correspondents and their background to distinguish between references to the present and to the immediate future. Take, for instance, ARM 6, 5:12–13, in which the writer communicates to his lord that a boulder has fallen into a canal and has blocked it (see Durand 1997/2000: II 597). He continues: inanna abnam šâti ú-ḫa-ap-pa: nothing in the context nor in our knowledge of the background of this letter allows us to decide whether the writer intends to say ‘now I am breaking down this boulder’ or ‘now I am going to break down this boulder’. This applies to dozens of other cases as well (cf. Loesov 2005: 114–15 for a discussion of some of them). Moreover, Loesov’s instances of statives referring to telic events ongoing at speech time are all in some respect problematic and are certainly insufficient to prove such a far-going claim. Actually, the Mari letters contain several good candidates for this kind of imperfectives, such as ARM 28, 134:7 ištu 3 u4 PN ina GN wašib [u] ālam ú-da-an-na-an ‘since three days PN is staying in GN and he is fortifying the town’; perhaps also ARM 3, 1:9, 14 and ARM 6, 58:18. 9.  This contrast is clear enough as long as prototypical fientive and prototypical adjectival verbs are concerned, but in the case of peripheral members of these categories, the distinction may be blurred and speakers may fluctuate in their use of either form. This applies to the stative verbs discussed in §3.3.1 (pp. 55–57), whose imperfective can have stative meaning, and to verbs such as wašābu ‘to sit down, stay’, ṣalālu ‘to sleep’, and rakābu ‘to ride’, e.g., uššab and wašib ‘he stays, lives’ from wašābu and iṣallal and ṣalil ‘he sleeps, is asleep’ from ṣalālu. In their fientive forms, these verbs are basically ingressive and telic, but in the imperfective they may drop their telicity and indicate a state or an activity: uššab ‘I am seated’, arakkab ‘I am riding’ (although the imperfective of most of these verbs more often has future or irrealis meaning: iṣallal ‘he can/will sleep’). This is caused by the convergence of two semantic/pragmatic factors: first, the meaning we expect it to have theoretically (‘I am sitting down [but not yet seated]’, etc.) is hardly used at all, since it is appropriate in very few contexts. Second, the imperfective aspect of uššab, etc., with its typical open-endedness clashes with the basically telic meaning of wašābu itself; this neutralizes the telic meaning and allows the verb to take on the meaning of ‘to sit’ rather than ‘to sit down’. For the same reason, these verbs show an overlap in use between their past and present participles (see §8.3.1 end, p. 202).

The Imperfective: Form  4.3.


(01) MIO 1, 70/72: III 41′–45′ (SB) ‘the goddess is girt (rak-sa-at: Stat) with a girdle (. . .), in her left (hand) she has/carries (na-šat: Stat) a child, it feeds from (lit., eats) (ik-kal: Impfv) her breast, with her right (hand) she prays (i-kar-rab: Impfv) (i.e., is in a praying posture)’ The imperfective also has an important irrealis use, which is related to its future meaning (Leong 1994: 31–32, 402–3; Gianto 1998: 187–88): it can express intention, obligation, injunction, prescription, etc. In affirmative clauses, the choice between indicative and irrealis use usually depends on the context; in an omen apodosis, for instance, iddâk will indicate a prediction ‘he will be killed’; elsewhere it may also indicate an injunction ‘he must be killed’.10 However, the particle lū can be used to convey the notion of an emphatic statement, especially in a promissory oath; see the final part of §9.3.3 (pp. 231–232).11 In negative clauses, the contrast between future tense and irrealis is at least partly indicated by means of the use of a special negation lā for the irrealis use, the prohibitive (see §9.2.3, pp. 219–220). In Babylonian, there is a clear distinction, since the non-irrealis use normally has ulā or ul; for example: (02) AbB 5, 210:9–10 (OB) libba ⟨ki  ⟩ lā i-ma-ra-aṣ u libbī ul i-ma-ra-aṣ ‘do not be cross, and I won’t be cross either’ In Assyrian, the distinction is less pronounced, since lā may also be used in indicative clauses (GKT §105c and GAG §122a/b). The aspectual function of the imperfective is only activated when the temporal location is specified as past by the context or the situation in general.12 In this case, it expresses incompleted action, simultaneity with a past event (non-anteriority), and verbal plurality and serves to exclude the completed or anterior function and the implication of a once-only event entailed by the perfective (see §5.3, pp. 127–128).13 Apart from literary narrative, this use is rare, especially in main clauses, and when it occurs, it usually concerns the stative verbs discussed in §3.3.1 (pp. 55–57), such as bašû ‘to be present, available’, izuzzu ‘to stand’, and kullu ‘to hold’, and the verb alāku ‘to go /come’ in its atelic meaning ‘to go /walk around’ (without a specific goal), e.g., (02) quoted on p. 56, and:14 (03) AbB 4, 132:8–9 (OB) pāna inūma ana rēdîka a-al-la-ku ‘formerly, when I served as one of (lit., went to) your rēdûs’ (04) AbB 6, 1:26 (OB) inūma ina pīḫāti az-za-az-zu ‘when I was (lit., was standing) still in service’.15 Instances with other verbs are:

10.  See GAG §78d δ; Streck 1995a: 94–99; Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 112. 11.  See GAG §152b and 185b–d, Edzard 1973: 129–30; E. Cohen 2005: 17–68. 12.  Many Old Babylonian instances of this use contain the adverb pānānum ‘formerly’; with a perfective, it refers to a once-only event (e.g., Sumer 14, 48 no. 24:5–6), with an imperfective to a repeated event, a habit, etc. (e.g., AbB 10, 1:13–16). 13.  For the use of the imperfective in past contexts, see also GAG §78e–f; Leong 1994: 343–46 and 349–50; Streck 1995a: 111–12 and 116–19; 1995b; Metzler 2002: 147–49, 493–95, and 888–91. 14.  More examples in Leong 1994 and Metzler 2002. 15.  In these “stative” verbs, the perfective often has ingressive function (see §3.3.1, p. 56): azzīz ‘I stood up’, allik ‘I went’ (in the sense of ‘I started moving’). An important reason for the use of the imperfective is presumably to exclude this interpretation.

4.3.  The Imperfective: Form


(05) ARM 27, 133:8–9 (OB) ina muḫḫi eperī ša i-ša-ap-pa-ku izziz ‘it (the army) took position on top of the ramp it was building’ (06) AbB 11, 7:13–14 (OB) alpum ipṭurma šammī i-ka-al [imq]utma imtūt ‘the ox strayed away, and while it was grazing (lit. eating grass), it dropped dead’. In (05), the perfective would be a kind of pluperfect (see §5.3, p. 128), implying that the ramp was already finished (‘which it had built’), and in (06) it would make the events sequential: ‘the ox strayed away, ate grass, and dropped dead’. The use of the imperfective excludes these interpretations. The remarkable use of the imperfective to introduce direct speech in narrative contexts may have a similar background, e.g.: (07) HSAO [1], 186:7 (OB) DN pāšu īpušamma ippuḫri kala ilī is-sà-aq-qá-ar ‘Enlil opened his mouth and spoke in the assembly of all gods’ (followed by Enlil’s words).16 The use of the imperfective issaqqar may also be aimed at avoiding the implications of the perfective, which might be interpreted by the hearer as referring to a previous utterance instead of the actual quotation that is still to come. This explanation is essentially the same as Jacobsen’s (1988: 191) explanation of the same phenomenon in Sumerian.17 In punctual and telic verbs, the imperfective in past contexts can be frequentative (08) or habitual (09) and perhaps emphasizes that an intended event was not realized or completed (10); with the negation ul, it can denote a refusal (GAG §151c), as also in (10): (08) ARM 28, 104:34–35 (OB) bēlī [š]aḫtākūma ana GN ul a-ša-ap-pa-ar inanna anumma ana GN a-ša-ap-pa-ar ‘for fear of my lord I never wrote to GN; but now I am going to write to GN’ (09) ARM 27, 1:38–39 (OB) aššum 1 gur.àm ša pānānum i-ka-lu PN imḫurū ‘concerning the one kor each, which they formerly enjoyed, they turned to PN’ (10) ARM 27, 1:36–37 (OB) pānānum 1 gur.àm a-na-ad-di-in-šu-nu-ši-im-ma ul i-ma-ḫa-ru ‘in the past, I wanted to give them one kor each, but they did not accept (it) (so how should they now accept 100 qa?)’.18 Cases such as (10) and perhaps also (15B) quoted below may be related to the irrealis use of the imperfective. Finally, the imperfective with past reference is also used in narrative passages in literary texts, as described in detail by Streck (1995b), E. Cohen (2006), and W. R. Mayer (2007). In main clauses, this especially concerns backgrounded events and processes that are durative or iterative (Streck 1995b: 37–50); in subordinate clauses, it often occurs in circumstantial, final, and consecutive clauses (1995b: 53–73). Streck (1995b: 75–77) explains this use from its function of non-anteriority, which is related to imperfective, but the fact that it often has a durative or itera-

16.  For more instances, see Sonnek 1940; Streck 1995a: 106–11; Metzler 2002: 520–39. 17.  See Streck 1995a: 109–11 and 193 for a discussion and more literature. In Indo-European languages, too, the use of the (historical) present or the imperfective of verbs of speech is widespread to introduce direct speech in narrative; see Kiparsky 1968: 32 n. 3 and Fleischman 1990: 82–83. 18.  For similar cases in Old Assyrian, see GKT §74c; for Middle Babylonian, see Aro 1955: 80; for Neo-Assyrian, see Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 111–12.


The Imperfective: Form  4.3.

tive nuance, or rather that of verbal plurality in general (cf. in particular Metzler 2002: 495–517, 888–91) may be a residue of its original pluractional function (see §4.4, p. 95–97).19 In the protasis of conditional clauses, the use of the imperfective is determined by its temporal relationship to the main clause, just as in the subordinate clauses quoted so far. The imperfective indicates that the event of the protasis either has not yet taken place or has started but is not yet completed. In the former case, the protasis often indicates an intention, usually in punctual verbs: (11) KH §138: 14–17 (OB) šumma awīlum ḫīrtašu ša mārī lā uldūšum i-iz-zi-ib ‘if a man wants/intends to leave his first wife who has not born him children’.20 In the latter case, the meaning of the verb is usually durative or iterative and denotes ongoing or repeated processes or activities, which are not temporally bounded by the realization of the apodosis. This occurs only rarely in legal texts, as in (12), but is ubiquitous in all kinds of omen texts; for example, (13): (12) KH §141:33–42 (OB) šumma aššat awīlim (. . .) bīssa ú-sà-ap-pa-aḫ mussa ú-ša-am-ṭa ‘if the wife of a man (. . .) squanders her estate and treats her husband badly’21 (13) CT 40, 34: r.8 (SB) (if a horse has become rabid and) lū tappâšu lū amēlī ú-na-šak ‘bites all the time/wants to bite/tries to bite/is prone to biting its companion or people’. The perfective and the t‑perfect would indicate that the event is completed at the moment referred to in the apodosis; see §5.3 (pp. 127–128), §6.3.1 (p. 148), and GAV pp. 154–57, and compare (13) with (14): (14) CT 40, 34: r.16 (SB) šumma sīsû ana bīt amēli īrubma lū imēra lū amēla iš-šuk ‘if a horse has entered a man’s house and has bitten a donkey or a person’. A striking example of an imperfective indicating uncompleted action in a šumma-clause occurs in the following pair of protases: (15A) HUCA 41/2, 90: II 27–32 (OB) šumma erûm lū nūnam lū iṣṣūram iṣbatma ipparšamma ina mu-uḫ-ḫu-ur awīlim i-ku-ul ‘if an eagle has caught a fish or a bird, has flown away and has eaten (īkul: Pfv) it on a man’s roof’22 (that man will experience a loss) (15B) ibid., 91: III 14–17 šum[ma] erû[m] ina ūr awīlim summata i-ka-al-ma uš-ta-ad-du-ú-šu

19.  As Bybee et al. (1994: 15–17) have shown, the synchronic use of a grammatical category may still bear traces of the earlier stages it went through during its grammaticalization. In that case, it is an instance of what Hopper (1991: 28–30) calls “persistence.” See also the comments by Metzler (2002: 891) and Loesov (2004b: 413). 20.  See GAG §161i; other cases are i-ig-ga-ar KH §274:22 ‘he wants to hire’ (discussion in Metzler 2002: 146–47) and i-na-ad-di-in KH §122:36 ‘he wants/intends to give’; ú-pa-ṣa-an KAV 1: VI §41:1 ‘he intends to veil’ in the Middle Assyrian laws; also passim in the recipes of YOS 11, 24/26 (see Metzler 2002: 283–84 and Loesov 2004a: 141). 21.  Also KH §142:72 and §143:8 (same verbs), §172:18 (ú-sà-aḫ-ḫa-mu-ši ‘they put her under pressure’), and §186:46 (i-ḫi-a-aṭ ‘he searches’). 22.  I interpret ina mu-uḫ-ḫu-ur awīlim as ina muḫḫ(i) ūr awīlim with crasis (GAG §17b).

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


‘if an eagle wants to eat/starts to eat (īkkal: Impfv) a dove on a man’s roof, but people have forced it to drop it (that man will increase in wealth)’ (similarly, ibid., 92: IV 4 versus 12) In (15A), the perfective is used as it normally is in conditional protases; in (15B) its use is avoided because it would mislead the hearer into thinking that the act of eating was completed successfully, and the imperfective is used instead. The imperfective excludes the implication of a single, completed event that adheres to the use of the perfective. This explains why in šumma clauses we often find the imperfective of the Gtn‑stem contrasting with the perfective of the G‑stem, as in (16):23 (16) Dreams 330:56–57 (SB) šumma nāra iš-la-a (. . .) šumma nāra iš-ta-na-lu ‘if he has dipped (Pfv G) into a river’ (. . .); ‘if he dips (Impfv Gtn) into a river time and again’ The various uses of the imperfective suggest that it may be described as an aspect (denoting incompleted action) and as a relative tense (denoting non-anteriority).24 This conclusion would also be in line with the corresponding categories in other Semitic languages, in particular the imperfective (yaqtVlu) of Classical Arabic, which is part of a basic opposition between simultaneity (yaqtVlu) and anteriority (qatVla) (Kuryłowicz 1973). However, the temporal use of the Akkadian imperfective is so dominant in terms of frequency that it is best regarded basically as a tense,25 the more so because the contrasting categories, the perfective iprVs and the t‑Pf iptarVs, are clearly temporal in function as well. It is possible that the more temporal nature of the Akkadian imperfective as compared to Ar yaqtVlu is a consequence of the rise of iparrVs instead of the Proto-Semitic imperfective *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV: one might argue that the development from a pluractional to a progressive focusing on the actual moment of speech (see §, pp. 107–109, below) has enhanced the temporal nature of the imperfective and that its marginal use in past contexts is a residue of its older, more aspectual function.

4.4. The Historical Background of iparrVs The G‑stem imperfective iparrVs is firmly established from the earliest attested period onward: it shows no significant differences between Babylonian and Assyrian, nor do the very few reliable data about the imperfective in Eblaite reveal any.26 This shows that it had already fully developed in Proto-East Semitic. The few changes that occur during the historical period of Akkadian are instantiations of general phonological processes not specific to the imperfective, such as the spread of E‑colouring (see §17.5, pp. 525–537) and vowel contraction, or shifts from one vowel class to another in individual verbs (see §3.5.3, pp. 75–81). None of these affect the essence of the category. A type of development that is conspicuously absent in Akkadian is the re23.  The Gtn perfective is hardly found at all in such contexts. Most alleged instances recorded as such in the dictionaries are undoubtedly t‑perfects of the G‑stem. 24.  For the Akkadian verb as basically aspectual, see Tropper 1998b: 157–59 and Stempel 1999: 127; for descriptions as a relative tense system, see, for instance, Kuryłowicz 1973 and Streck 1995a: 190–94. See also Kouwenberg 1998: 815–16 and in particular the discussion in Loesov 2004b: 401–9. 25.  See the section on terminology (pp. xxi–xxii) for an explanation of why I continue to call it “imperfective” in the present study. 26.  For the G imperfective in Eblaite, see Gelb 1992: 190; Krebernik 1988a: 59 with n. 37; 1996: 245; Edzard 2006: 79–80; and Rubio 2006: 122; e.g., i-da-ḫa-ú /yiṭaḫḫaʿū/ ‘they come near’, cf. Bab ṭeḫû (see chap. 2 n. 63, p. 51), and i-na-É-áš ARET 5, 1: VI 8 ‘he lives’ (/yinaḥḥaš/), cf. Bab nêšu ‘to live, to recover’.


The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.

newal of the imperfective by means of periphrastic forms or grammaticalized participles—which is such a prominent feature of almost all other Semitic languages.27 Consequently, there is little direct evidence from Akkadian itself to clarify the prehistory of iparrVs by means of internal reconstruction. There are, however, some “soft” indications that point in a certain direction. First, gemination, especially of the second radical, has a clear iconic background in Akkadian (GAV pp. 24–26): it reflects an increase in expressivity, intensity, and in particular plurality, both nominal and verbal. Several grammatical and lexical categories in Akkadian combine gemination with some type of expressive, intensive, or pluractional meaning (see §10.8.1, p. 256, for this term): • Nominal plurality underlined by gemination of R2—in addition to the normal plural endings—is found in a few individual nouns: abbû ‘fathers’ (Ass abbāʾū) from abu, aḫḫū ‘brothers’ from aḫu, aḫḫâtu ‘sisters’ (Ass aḫḫuātum) from aḫātu, and iṣṣū ‘trees’ from iṣu; in a group of adjectives of the pattern PaRRaS (rarely PaRRiS) denoting dimensions, e.g., arraku ‘long’, seḫḫeru (Ass *ṣaḫḫaru > ṣaḫḫuru) ‘small, young’, and rabbû ‘big’ < *rabbium (GAV pp. 52–57); and in adjectives of the pattern PuRRuS (Ass PaRRuS), which is often used as the plural of simple adjectives and statives (GAV pp. 359–71). • Verbal plurality underlined by gemination of R2 is found in the D‑stem of transitive verbs, which are often pluractional and sometimes intensive (see §11.3.4, pp. 274–277, and GAV pp. 117–75); in the pluractional Gtn‑stem (see §14.7.2, p. 417); and in the agent nouns of the patterns PaRRāS and PaRRiS, which denote habitual activities, often professions (GAV pp. 58–66). • Expressivity and intensity underlined by gemination of R2 is found in the group of PuRRuS (Ass PaRRuS) adjectives that denote highly expressive and stable qualities, often salient bodily characteristics (GAV pp. 371–78).28 It also occurs in a small number of (substantivized) adjectives with unusual patterns, most of which are exceedingly rare (GAV p. 34): e.g., šakkūru ‘drunkard’ from šakāru ‘to be(come) drunk’), muttāqu ‘sweetmeats’ from matqu ‘sweet’, and kussimtu ‘cut wood’ from kasāmu ‘to cut’ (giškuus-sí-im-tam ARM 28, 152:8). The use of gemination in these categories is completely conventionalized, i.e., a speaker of Akkadian could not replace a single consonant by a geminate ad libitum,29 and is the result of a long 27.  It is not a foregone conclusion that such replacements were completely absent; if they existed, they must have concerned (at least initially) the imperfective in its function of referring to the moment of speech. However, as Loesov (2004a: 131–32 n. 107; 2004b: 416–17; 2005) has aptly observed, this function of the imperfective is very poorly represented in our sources, which because of their nature contain far more imperfective forms with other meanings, such as future, prescriptive, general imperfective, and prohibitive. The concomitant use of the imperfective is typical of dialogue, which is heavily underrepresented. Moreover, this kind of renewal typically starts in everyday speech and does not penetrate into the written language until much later (or perhaps not at all, if this language is conservative and/or highly stereotyped, as most forms of late Akkadian are). 28.  These instances of the pattern PuRRuS must be distinguished from the far more numerous PuRRuS forms that serve as stative/past participle to the corresponding D‑stem. In GAV pp. 342–44, I call these two functions of PuRRuS the lexical and the inflectional function, respectively. The inflectional PuRRuS forms cannot be used as evidence for the (erstwhile) existence and the meaning of adjectives with gemination since their meaning is derived from that of the D‑stem. 29.  There are several expressions attested in Akkadian showing that a “living” iconic effect could be achieved by repeating an entire word, e.g., (têrētum) laptā laptā ‘they (the omens) are unfavourable each time’ from an OB Mari letter quoted by D. Charpin and J.-M. Durand, NABU 1988/17 no. [34]. An inter-

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


process of grammaticalization. Even though the Impfv iparrVs has little or no relationship with plurality, it seems reasonable to assume that its gemination has the same background but that grammaticalization replaced plurality with the more abstract aspectual function of imperfectivity, a kind of process for which there are ample parallels in Afroasiatic, as I will argue in the next sections.30 This also implies that iparrVs has a very long history: its genesis as a form (whatever its function) must date back to a remote period, a fact that is confirmed by the Afroasiatic parallels I discuss below. Second, the inflectional stem of iparrVs is an intruder within the paradigm of the G‑stem: with the exception of the t‑perfect, which is generally agreed to be an intruder as well, all other members are based on the simple triradical root without consonantal additions.31 This ties in with the fact that there is no predictable formal relationship between imperfective and perfective (see §5.2, pp. 126–127). Since the latter is of unsuspected Proto-Semitic extraction, it is likely that it already existed when iparrVs emerged as its imperfective counterpart. All these facts point to iparrVs having a different background from the rest of the verbal paradigm and therefore also being a relative newcomer.32 Third, in comparative perspective, this is further supported by the fact that the imperfective has no exact cognates in other Semitic languages: the corresponding forms in Central Semitic, such as Ar yaqtVlu, have no gemination, and South Semitic has an imperfective that does have gemination but differs from Akkadian in some important respects (see §4.6.1, pp. 117–121). These facts suggest that the Impfv iparrVs represents a renewal of an older imperfective.

4.4.1.  The controversy about the Proto-Semitic imperfective The historical background of the Akkadian imperfective with gemination and its relationship to the imperfective forms of West Semitic is one of the most controversial issues of comparative Semitics.33 The Semitic languages generally show two kinds of forms to express the imperfective: East Semitic and South Semitic use a prefixed stem that either has gemination (Akk iparrVs and Geʿez yəqattəl  ) or had it originally (Modern South Arabian, e.g., Mehri yərūkəz); Central Semitic uses a simple prefixed stem without gemination but (at least originally) with a suffix ‑u/mediate stage must have been the use of reduplication, and there are indeed a few instances of the use of reduplication for repetition in the Akkadian verb; see chap. 15. 30.  The same happened in the D‑stem of intransitive verbs, where the original association with expressivity and intensity was grammaticalized as the factitive function, also a shift from lexical (more concrete) to grammatical (more abstract) (see §11.6.2, pp. 282–287). 31.  If we consider the forms of the verbal categories alone, it looks as if all forms are derived from the perfective (iprVs), which does have the expected simple stem. This also applies to those of the derived stems that have different inflectional stems, such as the Gt‑stem and the N‑stem. The Gt PrPartc muptar(i)sum, for instance, looks as if it derives from the Pfv iptaras rather than from the Impfv iptarras, and the N PrPartc muppar(i)sum seems to come from ipparis rather than from ipparras. In view of the dominant position of the imperfective, this is an anomaly, which may be explained on the basis of a scenario in which the form with gemination is a replacement of an earlier form with the simple stem. 32.  This is also argued by Rundgren 1955: 323–25. The situation of a single inflectional stem for the whole G‑stem paradigm (and mutatis mutandis also for all individual derived verbal stems) still exists in Central Semitic (Gensler 1997: 230–31). Gensler points to the curious exception of the maṣdar of Stem II in Arabic (taqtīl from qattala), for which see §14.6.1 (pp. 400–402). 33.  I will not repeat here the full history of the debate. It has been described by many others: see, in particular, Rundgren 1959a: 129–40; Moscati, ed. 1964: 133–34; Hodge, ed. 1971: 17–19; Fleisch 1979: 207–24; Kienast 2001: 293–95. For a bibliography, see also Knudsen 1982: 9 n. 24 with additions in Knudsen 1984/86: 238 n. 1 and 1998: 5 n. 8. An important more recent contribution is T. D. Anderson (2000).

The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.


ūnV to distinguish it from another form with the same stem without suffix, which serves as a past tense and/or an irrealis category. The fundamental issue is whether the similarity between the East Semitic and the South Semitic imperfectives justifies the reconstruction of a geminated imperfective in Proto-Semitic, or whether Proto-Semitic instead had an imperfective based on the “simple” prefix conjugation, like Ar yaqtulu, -ūna. The former option originates with P. Haupt (1878), who proposed associating Akk ikašad with Geʿez yəqatəl (in his notation). Those who follow him ascribe a tense/aspect system with (at least) three different inflectional stems to Proto-Semitic: a long prefix stem with gemination and imperfective function (*yiqattVl‑); a short prefix stem without gemination, which has both perfective (or preterite) and irrealis functions (*yiqtVl); and a suffix stem (the stative in Akkadian, the perfect in West Semitic). Those who opt for the latter possibility reconstruct a tense/aspect system with two inflectional stems: a simple prefix stem that performs multiple functions by means of different suffixes, at least the imperfective (*yiqtulu, -ūnV) and the perfective/jussive (*yiqtul, -ū), and the suffix stem for the stative/perfect. If we call the former view the “three-stem system” and the latter the “two-stem system,” we can summarize this as in Table 4.2: Impfv

Pfv/ Juss


three-stem (Akk/SSem)




two-stem (CSem)



Table 4.2: The inflectional stems of the basic verb in Semitic.

Neither the three-stem nor the two-stem system as they are currently described offers a plausible explanation for the development of the Semitic verbal system. The three-stem system is unsatisfactory for three reasons. (1) The first concerns the status of the simple prefix form with the suffix ‑u, ‑ūnV, which survives in the Arabic Impfv yaqtulu, ‑ūna. The similarity in form between this form and the Akkadian subjunctive in its Assyrian form iprusu, -ūni compels us to reconstruct *yiqtulu, ‑ūnV in Proto-Semitic, as I will argue in §9.3.3 (pp. 228–231). However, which function did it have? Was it an imperfective as in Arabic, a subjunctive as in Akkadian, or something else? Actually, it cannot have been the Proto-Semitic imperfective, if one claims that this function was performed by *yiqattVl-. The usual explanation is, therefore, that the suffix -u, -ūnV was a marker of subordination but spread to main clauses in Central Semitic and developed into an imperfective marker. This is typologically unlikely, since the usual development goes in the opposite direction: verb forms restricted to subordinate clauses are typically residual categories that were once in general use but were ousted from main clauses by a competing form (see in particular Haspelmath 1998 and §9.3.3, pp. 229–231).34 (2) Second, in all attested instances of the renewal of present categories as described by various authors,35 the innovating form is more contrasting, more voluminous, and—at least origi-

34.  The purely theoretical nature of the “Szenarium” that Voigt (2004: 49–50) proposes to explain the spread of *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV from subordinate to main clauses eloquently shows the lack of any substantial evidence for such a process. The development proposed by Hamori (1973) and adopted by Rubin (2005: 147–48) is implausible for the same reason: it requires that a subordinate form *yiqtVlu in relative clauses was powerful and frequent enough to spread to main clauses and oust a better marked and doubtless far more frequently used imperfective with gemination. 35.  E.g., Bybee et al. 1994:125–75; D. Cohen 1984; Haspelmath 1998.

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


nally—more transparent than the old one.36 This is what we would expect, since the renewal is motivated by the desire to encode the category in question in a more expressive and/or more “user-friendly” way. According to these criteria, it is unlikely that *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV is a replacement of *yiqattVl‑. Quite to the contrary, they suggest that *yiqattVl‑ replaced *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV, since it has a stronger marking, is more transparent because of its gemination, and is more clearly differentiated from the (original) perfective *yiqtVl, -ū. (3) The third major deficiency of the three-stem system is that there is no trace of *yiqattVl‑ in Central Semitic.37 It is of course quite normal for grammatical categories to drop out of use, but this particular case is inconsistent with everything we know about the evolution of verbal categories. If *yiqattVl‑ was indeed the Proto-Semitic imperfective, it was the basic form of the verbal paradigm and therefore a very unlikely candidate for vanishing without a trace. The usual fate of similar categories in other languages is that they are replaced by more expressive ones in a gradual process that tends to leave a residue of older forms, often in secondary functions (Haspelmath 1998). This is the picture that clearly arises from D. Cohen’s (1984) investigation into the verbal systems of other Semitic languages. There are no such phenomena relating to a geminated imperfective in Central Semitic.38 This is even more surprising, since the development of the Akkadian imperfective outside the G‑stem shows that the introduction of a new imperfective in the G‑stem has a strong influence on imperfective forms of other categories, as we will see in §4.5.2 (pp. 112–115), and that the same seems to have happened with the geminated imperfective in Geʿez (but in a different way; see §4.6.1, pp. 120–121). There is no trace of such an influence in any of the Central Semitic imperfective forms. So much for the main objections against the three-stem system. The two-stem system also has a major defect, insofar as it implies that Proto-Semitic did not have a form *yiqattVl‑. This is inconceivable for at least three reasons. (1) First, *yiqattVl‑ has parallels in Afroasiatic— namely, the Berber imperfective with gemination and the Beja imperfective with infixed nasal, which suggest that *yiqattVl- has an Afroasiatic background; see further § (pp. 104–107). (2) Second, although Akkadian iparrVs may arguably be younger than *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV as an imperfective, it does not look like a recent formation, as Voigt (1990a; 2004: 35–38) rightly points out, and it is hard to envisage how it could have developed in the relatively short period between Proto-Semitic and Proto-East-Semitic.39 (3) Third, in reconstructing the prehistory of a language, it is generally more plausible to assume a process of simplification than the emergence of a totally

36.  Opaque forms are generally older than transparent forms, as emphasized by Voigt in the context of the Proto-Semitic verb (1990a: 87–89; 2004: 35–36). 37.  There is a long discussion about this issue; see the earlier literature collected by Knudsen (1982: 9 n. 25), but a broad consensus seems to have grown that there are no reliable traces of *yiqattVl‑ in Central Semitic, as may appear from recent contributions, such as T. D. Anderson 2000: 25 and Kerr 2001. It is significant that Rainey (1996: II 227–34) does not find traces of it in Amarna Akkadian, nor does Tropper (2000: 460–61) in Ugaritic. However, some dissenting voices remain: Lipiński 1997: 339; Kottsieper 2000; Voigt 2004: 50–51 (see Kerr 2001: 145–47 for a criticism of Kottsieper). For Amorite, an imperfective with gemination is sometimes assumed on the basis of a handful of proper names (Kerr 2001: 136), but others find the evidence inconclusive (von Soden 1985; Knudsen 1991: 879 with n. 14). 38.  See, however, n. 50 (below, p. 102) on possible traces of *yiqattal‑ as a derived verbal stem. 39.  Because of the (probable) amount of time separating Proto-Semitic from Akkadian, we should regard all Akkadian verb forms as Proto-Semitic, since however long this period may have lasted, it was certainly too short to allow for the rise of the relatively opaque verbal categories of Akkadian; relatively young categories are generally more transparent in form, such as the periphrastic categories of West Semitic (Voigt 2004: 37–43).


The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.

new category (Voigt 1990a: 93).40 It is therefore more likely that the two-stem system of Central Semitic is a reduction of an older, more comprehensive system than that the three-stem system is a relatively recent extension of the two-stem system (Voigt 2004: 36).

4.4.2.  The emergence of   iparrVs The circumstantial evidence discussed in §4.4 suggests a solution that obviates the shortcomings of both the three-stem and the two-stem systems—namely, to reconstruct both imperfective forms in Proto-Semitic: a basic imperfective *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV and a derived imperfective *yiqattal‑, which gemination reveals to have originally been the imperfective of a derived stem with pluractional function. This leads to the following hypothetical account of what happened after the proto-language split up into the historically attested branches. (1) The basic stem of the Proto-Semitic verb had an Impfv *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV, which is reconstructible on the basis of the correspondence between the Ar yaqtulu, ‑ūna and the Akkadian Subj iprusu, ‑ūni (see §9.3.3, pp. 228–231).41 (2) In addition, Proto-Semitic had a derived verbal stem serving for the expression of verbal plurality, similar in function to the later Gtn‑stem of Akkadian: a “pluractional G‑stem,” or “GPL‑stem.” Its imperfective can be reconstructed as *yiqattal‑, with gemination of R2. It is different from the D‑stem, which had an Impfv *yuqattilu, ‑ūnV (see below).42 (3) After the Proto-Semitic stage, East Semitic substituted its basic imperfective with that of the GPL‑stem. The ultimate motive for this change was the need to increase the formal contrast between the Impfv *yiqtVlu, -ūnV and the Pfv *yiqtVl, -ū, which was apparently felt to be insufficient since they only differed in the presence or absence of the suffix ‑u/‑ūnV; this issue will further be discussed in §18.3.1 (p. 591). Therefore, it was only the imperfective and not the entire 40.  Hetzron (1976a) calls this the principle of “archaic heterogeneity” and invokes it (1976a: 104) to argue for the primacy of the Akkadian and South Semitic systems, with their geminated imperfectives, over the Central Semitic system, with the imperfective *yiqtVlu. This principle says that, if cognate languages share a specific (sub)system that is similar enough to be related but more heterogeneous in one language than in another, the relatively most heterogeneous system may be regarded as the most archaic, and the more homogeneous ones are more likely to result from simplification (1976a: 93). Accordingly, Hetzron (1976a: 104) argues that the three-stem system of Akkadian and South Semitic is more archaic than the two-stem system of Central Semitic and closer to Proto-Semitic. The same reasoning is implicit in Voigt 1990a: 93. I accept the general usefulness of Hetzron’s principle for morphological developments and I agree with his conclusion insofar as the Akkadian imperfective is concerned, but for the evolution of verbal categories in general the principle can easily be shown to be invalid, if we compare the expression of the present tense in other languages, e.g., in modern English and standard German: English has two present categories, a simple present (I write) and a compound present, the progressive (I am writing), whereas standard German only has one (ich schreibe). According to the principle of archaic heterogeneity, the English situation would be more original and the German one would result from a simplification. However, we actually know that the reverse is true: German has preserved the Proto-Germanic situation with a single (reconstructible) present, and English has innovated (see also Bybee et al. 1994: 144). The same applies to the rise of past tense forms, which tend to be enriched by old resultatives or completives (Kuryłowicz 1975: 106, 128; Bybee et al. 1994: 51–105). In an earlier article (1975: 127), Hetzron still adds a reservation to the validity of his principle: “unless we find obvious motivation for the enrichment of the richer system.” This is clearly the case where the renewal of verbal categories is concerned. 41.  Everything points to Ar yaqtVlu, ‑ūna not being an innovation but an ancient form (Voigt 2004: 36–37), the great antiquity of which is further demonstrated by parallels of the -u/-nV suffix in Cushitic (Hetzron 1974) and Chadic (Voigt 1988a: 121); see further §18.3.1 (p. 589). 42.  For the time being, I will write this derived form as *yiqattal-. In §4.5.3 below (pp. 115–117), I will discuss whether or not it also had the ending -u/-ūnV of the basic Impfv *yiqtVlu.

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


conjugation of the G‑stem that was replaced. In this respect, the emergence of iparrVs from the GPL‑stem is parallel to that of the t‑Pf iptarVs from the Gt‑stem, which is also an individual form taken from a complete conjugation (with the important difference that in the case of the t‑perfect we know this for certain, since this conjugation continued to be used in its original function).43 The extension of the use of yaqattal‑ was accompanied by a corresponding weakening of its association with plurality: from a pluractional ‘he kills all the time, repeatedly’, etc., it developed into a progressive ‘he is killing’ and took over the hic-et-nunc function of the basic Impfv *yiqtVlu and later also most of its other functions (Kuryłowicz 1962: 59–60; see below for parallels). This was a specifically Akkadian innovation in which West Semitic took no part: Central Semitic continued to use the Proto-Semitic basic Impfv *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV, and South Semitic initially did the same, but followed the example of Akkadian in a later stage and replaced it with a form with gemination of R2 (Geʿez yəqattəl; see §4.6.1, pp. 117–121). In Akkadian, the ancient basic imperfective was relegated to subordinate clauses, where its ending was reanalyzed as a marker of subordination (Kuryłowicz 1972: 60; see §9.3.3, pp. 228–231). The view that Proto-Semitic had two coexisting imperfective forms has also been proposed by other scholars, but it does not seem to have been elaborated systematically.44 In particular, it was advocated by Rössler (1950: 466 and elsewhere) and Kuryłowicz (1962: 53, 59–60; cf. also 1972: 53–54).45 Prima facie, this view may seem no more than a weak compromise between conflicting viewpoints. Moreover, we should generally avoid multiplying the number of morphosyntactic categories that we reconstruct, not only for the sake of simplicity, but also because the more categories we posit, the weaker the explanatory power of our model becomes.46 In this case, however, the reconstruction of two imperfective forms in Proto-Semitic is fully justified, since it offers a relatively straightforward explanation of the state of affairs attested in the diverse languages and a plausible account of the processes that have led to it, supported by some evidence from cognate languages (see § and abundant typological evidence (see § The scenario outlined above accounts for most of the problems raised by both the three-stem and the two-stem systems: 1. It gives due credit to the high antiquity of iparrVs: iparrVs is an innovation, but only insofar as it has a new function, as Kuryłowicz (1973: 120 n. 5) emphasizes: “The renewal did not consist in the creation of a new form, but in the shift derivative > inflectional form, i.e., in the incorporation of a derivative into the system of conjugation.” 2. It explains the different functions of *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV in Akkadian and Central Semitic as the typologically common restriction of an old form to secondary contexts: *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV

43.  Faced with the same problem, West Semitic chose to renew the perfective *yiqtVl by replacing it with the suffix conjugation qatala; see §18.3.1 (pp. 591). 44.  In several publications, W. von Soden suggested the existence of a contrast between a durative and a punctual imperfective, of which the former has gemination (1957: 207a; 1991b: 469). Similar views were expressed by Blau (1971: 144), T. D. Anderson (2000: 24–25), and Kerr (2001: 154). 45.  The scenario proposed here notably differs from Rössler’s in that Rössler regards the geminated imperfective as part of the basic stem rather than as an (originally) derived stem. This leads to the difficulties inherent in the three-stem system discussed above. 46.  This is perhaps more evident in historical phonology: in reconstructing the phoneme inventory of a proto-language, we can easily achieve complete regularity if we posit a different phoneme for each individual sound correspondence we find. However, apart from leading to a an atypical number of phonemes for the proto-language, the resulting system will obscure important generalizations and so conceal rather than clarify what actually happened in the course of its development.


The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.

preserves its original function in Central Semitic but was relegated to subordinate clauses in Akkadian. 3. It reduces the absence of *yiqattal‑ in Central Semitic to a problem of more manageable proportions. As I argued above, this is a major problem for the three-stem system as it is usually formulated. It remains an explanandum, of course, but if *yiqattal‑ is a derived imperfective with pluractional meaning, most of the reasons why its disappearance is so unlikely are no longer valid. A derived pluractional is interchangeable with an analytical (lexical) construction and can therefore easily be replaced by it, a process that is crosslinguistically very common.47 In this particular case, one could plausibly argue that the disappearance of *yiqattal‑ is related to competition with the D‑stem:48 two derived stems with the same basic marker, even though they have a different origin, may easily influence each other. 4. It clarifies the relationship between iparrVs and the D‑stem. In spite of the fact that both categories share gemination of R2, they have a different origin: the D‑stem is originally a denominal category derived from adjectives (see §11.6.2, pp. 283–284), whereas the Impfv *yiqattal- originates in the category of fientive verbs (see below for details). Neither of them is derived from the other.49 However, if we assume that *yiqattal‑ had a complete conjugation, their conjugations must have been rather similar, especially in the forms without prefixes; see §4.5.3 below.50 47.  See van Loon 2005: 43, 81–83 about the loss of marked categories. 48.  The loss of the imperfective with gemination in Central Semitic is often ascribed to its formal similarity to the D‑stem (e.g., Brockelmann 1951: 143; Polotsky 1964: 110–11; Hetzron 1975: 127; 1976a: 105; Voigt 2004: 49). Their view crucially differs from the one proposed here in that they regard *yiqattal‑ as the basic imperfective of Proto-Semitic. Ratcliffe (1998b: 123) claims that gemination became redundant once the suffix conjugation had become established as the usual indicator of the perfective tense/aspect in West Semitic). However, these are post factum arguments that are only relevant if we have first established the existence of such an imperfective on other grounds. Note that in Akkadian the G‑stem Impfv iparrVs and the D‑stem forms uparras and uparris have coexisted for several millennia without observable problems. 49.  The relationship between iparrVs and the D‑stem has played a prominent role in the discussion. Rundgren, in particular, argued (1959a: 126–27, 267, and elsewhere) that iparrVs arose from prefixation of the stative patterns qata/i/ul under the influence of the D‑stem, in order to renew the cursive (i.e., imperfective) aspect, his famous “réemploi de l’intensif.” However, there is no good reason to posit any formal connection between the stative and the imperfective; see the next note (n. 50). For similar objections, see, for instance, Kienast 2001: 294. 50.  It is not impossible that remnants of *yiqattalu as a derived stem are found in a few Hebrew D‑stems, such as dibbẹr ‘to speak’, zimmẹr ‘to make music’, riqqẹd ‘to dance’, and hillẹk ‘to go’. They are atypical because of their meaning (durative activities of low transitivity) and/or the absence of a corresponding basic stem, as was already observed by Landsberger (1926b: 972) and several other scholars after him, e.g., Goetze (1942: 7–8), von Soden (1957: 206–7), Kuryłowicz (1962: 53), Aro (1964: 193–94), Kerr (2001: 147–48), and H.‑P. Müller (2003: 439). As durative verbs, they were relatively often used in the derived pluractional *yiqattal‑ and may therefore have survived the decline and ultimate disappearance of this form, to be incorporated in the very similar D conjugation, in spite of their aberrant meaning. The atypical nature of these verbs may also have a different background—they may be denominal, for instance—but the present explanation is supported by a few atypical Hithpael forms in Hebrew and perhaps by the vowel pattern of the Arabic Stem V (yataqattalu), as I will argue in §14.5.5 (p. 394). It is also possible that the existence of agent noun patterns with gemination in West Semitic that—just as their Akkadian counterparts PaRRāS and PaRRiS—semantically do not belong to the D‑stem (Loretz 1960; Kerr 2001: 150–54) also testifies to the erstwhile existence of a verbal category with gemination different from the D‑stem. Finally, it is conceivable that the well-known alternation of II/gem and II/voc roots in Arabic and Hebrew discussed by Kuryłowicz

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


5. It decides the controversy about whether gemination is the actual imperfective marker or whether it is a secondary phenomenon—for instance, a consequence of a stress shift, to preclude syncope of the vowel between R1 and R2, etc. The original pluractional function indicates that gemination is the essential and defining feature of *yiqattal‑.51 An important consequence of this scenario is that Central Semitic preserves the Proto-Semitic paradigm of the basic stem most faithfully, in particular the Impfv *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV, which has become Arabic yaqtulu, ‑ūna, and the Pfv *yiqtVl, ‑ū, which is preserved in Arabic as a past tense after the negation lam and in the Hebrew imperfective with waw consecutive wayyiqṭol. With regard to South Semitic, we might argue that it replaced its original imperfective with that of the derived pluractional in the same way as Akkadian. There are good reasons, however, to separate iparrVs from yəqattəl and regard their emergence as parallel but independent processes. I will discuss this issue in detail in §4.6.1 (pp. 117–123).

4.4.3.  Evidence There are three kinds of evidence in favour of the reconstruction proposed in the preceding section: internal historical evidence from Akkadian itself (§, comparative evidence from Afroasiatic (§, and typological evidence, especially from other Semitic and Afroasiatic languages, to be discussed in §  Historical evidence from Akkadian The Akkadian evidence in support of the scenario proposed above concerns two phenomena, the Assyrian form of the subjunctive and the tan‑stems. The endings of the Akkadian subjunctive in the form in which they may be reconstructed for (Pre‑)Assyrian are so similar to those of the imperfective of Classical Arabic that the two categories must have a common origin. The (1972: 10–11), e.g., Ar dakka (u) and dāka (ī ) ‘to grind’, He zrr ‘to squeeze’ and zwr ‘to press, wring’, goes back to a reinterpretation of pluractional forms as basic verbs; see §16.6.2 (pp. 495–496). 51.  This controversy was mainly sparked by the initial uncertainty about the exact form of the Akkadian imperfective, iparVs or iparrVs. The defective spelling of geminates and the reluctance to accept the existence of gemination as a grammatical marker in the basic stem led scholars to claim that iparVs is the primary imperfective form (usually explained as a derivation of iprVs by means of vowel insertion and a shift of stress) and that gemination is secondary and only served to safeguard this a from being syncopated (e.g., Sayce [1877: 39–40], Klingenheben [1956: 218–19], Gelb [1969: 205], Janssens [1972], Diakonoff [1988: 86], H.-P. Müller [1998: 149], Kropp [1999: 100] and Rubio [2006: 124, 131]). Other Semitists, inspired by the identity of the vowel in the final syllable of Akk iparras and the West Semitic active/transitive perfect qatala, have maintained that there is a genetic relationship between them and that iparras arose from prefixation of a stative pattern PaRaS and secondary insertion of gemination for the same reason. This was first proposed by Barth (1887) and followed by many illustrious others, such as Delitzsch (1889: 235–36), Brockelmann (1908: 569), Bauer (1910: 44), Rundgren (1959a: 126–27; 1963b: 106), and Kuryłowicz (1962: 55). However, it is only based on the superficial similarity of the shared a-vowel in the final syllable of both forms. Aro (1964: 18) rightly calls it “ein Spiel des Zufalls.” There are no other reasons to suppose that there is a connection between qatala (which is undoubtedly a secondary development specific to West Semitic) and iparras. At least since the publication of W. von Soden’s GAG in 1952 (and even earlier, from A. Goetze’s studies; see n. 1 in this chapter, p. 88), it has been established wisdom that the Akkadian G‑stem imperfective always has gemination. This means that all these speculations are irrelevant (so also Kienast 1982: 19; 1995: 126; 2001: 294). The argument that the vowel a after the first radical is the actual imperfective marker becomes invalid if we regard gemination as original: this a is the default vowel in all verbal forms in which R2 consists of a geminate or a cluster (and in many others as well), so that an intervening vowel is necessary. It is purely morphological and does not have a morphosyntactic function (see also Buccellati 1996: 88).

The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.


hypothesis that the subjunctive is a residual form that in its core function was replaced by the new imperfective with gemination offers a plausible explanation for their difference in function. I will come back to this issue in §9.3.3 (pp. 228–231). Furthermore, the tan‑stems provide indirect proof of the original pluractional function of iparrVs. Since their historical development can best be treated in the context of the development of the t‑infix in Akkadian in chap. 14, I will only give a brief summary here. The tan‑stems are an Akkadian innovation, but the oldest forms of their conjugation are rooted in Proto-Semitic, specifically in the Pfv iptarrVs. IptarrVs goes back to a form with gemination of R2 and the marker t, which was originally prefixed: *yi-t(a)-qattal-. In some prehistoric stage of Akkadian, this form became *yiqtattal, the direct ancestor of iptarrVs. The double marking shows it to be the pluractional of the Gt‑stem *yiqtatVl‑. However, after iparrVs had ousted *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV as the basic imperfective, iptarrVs was re-employed to provide the new imperfective with a new pluractional counterpart, thus restoring the old contrast between a neutral and a pluractional form, see Table 4.3. Proto-Semitic


basic Impfv

*yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV


plur. Impfv



Table 4.3:  Basic and pluractional imperfectives in Proto-Semitic and Akkadian.

Thus the form iptarrVs testifies to the former existence of a derived pluractional imperfective in the Gt‑stem. The principle that a marked category will not show distinctions that the corresponding unmarked category does not have entails that the G‑stem must have had a derived pluractional as well.52 It is not difficult to guess what it must have looked like: gemination but no t-infix, in other words, *yiqattal‑. As I will argue in chap. 14, this process was ultimately made possible by the previous decline of the Gt‑stem, which already started in Proto-Semitic. The Gtn‑stem is only one of several categories that owe their emergence to this decline and the ensuing reemployment of some of its forms for different purposes. The historically attested conjugation of the Gtn‑stem with the Impfv iptanarrVs as its most salient member is based on iptarrVs, and the other tan‑stems are based on the Gtn‑stem; see further §14.7.6 (pp. 431–437).  Comparative evidence from Afroasiatic Outside Semitic, there are imperfective forms in Afroasiatic languages that show a striking resemblance to the Akkadian imperfective iparrVs. The forms most widely discussed come from the Berber languages and the Cushitic language Beja (Beḍauye).53 In spite of considerable differences among the Berber languages, their verbal paradigm can generally be described as comprising three categories for the expression of affirmative predicates (we will not be concerned with the additional categories used in negative clauses): an aorist, a perfective, and a third form that is basically a kind of imperfective, usually construed with 52.  For this principle, see, for instance, Greenberg 1966: 27–28. 53.  The main protagonists of the relevance of these forms for Proto-Semitic are Rössler (1950, 1951, 1952, and elsewhere), Greenberg (1952), Voigt (e.g., 2002: 281–86); see also Rubio 2003a: 172–76; 2006: 123–32. Others have denied a direct relation between these forms, e.g., Klingenheben (1956: 226–27); D. Cohen (1984: 78–81).

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


particles. It is known under various names, in particular “intensive aorist,” but I will simply call it imperfective (see D. Cohen 1984: 80; Chaker 1995: 55; Kossmann 2002: 354 n. 2). It basically has two markers: either gemination of a consonant or a prefixed t- or tt-, but both procedures may be accompanied by vowel alternation (D. Cohen 1984: 79–80; Kossmann 2002: 354–56); see the following instances of aorist versus imperfective from Tashelhit (examples from Aspinion 1953: 269–73): gemination:

kərz – kərrəz ‘to plough’


kkəs – ttəkkəs ‘to take away’

gemination + apophony

dəl – ddal ‘to cover’

tt-prefixing + apophony

ḫdəm – ttəḫdam ‘to work’

In Tuareg, where the reflex of a has remained distinct (ă) from that of i and u (ə), the earlier vowel pattern of these forms is still visible (the examples come from Prasse 1972/4: III 86 and 92; see also Heath 2005: 341–42): gemination:

əkrəz – əkârrăz ‘to plough’


əkkəs – ətâkkăs ‘to take away’

Which of the two basic imperfective markers applies to a given verb largely depends on the form of the basic stem (that of the aorist): gemination is particularly frequent in stems of the form CCC and CCV; prefixing is typical of longer stems, but also of monoconsonantal stems. A combination of gemination and prefixing is very unusual (Kossmann 2002: 355–56). It has not gone unnoticed that the imperfective with gemination is very similar to the Akkadian imperfective.54 Rössler (1950: 467, 483–84; 1951: 366–69; 1952: 150) has equated it directly with iparrVs, arguing that these forms are genetically related and go back to an Afroasiatic imperfective. However, there is a wide consensus among berberologists that the imperfective is a diachronically secondary formation and that at an earlier stage the basic opposition was between the aorist and the perfective (D. Cohen 1984: 80–81; Chaker 1995: 55–57, 230–31; Kossmann 2002: 356–58, with earlier literature). This suggests that the Berber imperfective is originally a derived verbal stem that has penetrated into the tense/aspect system. Rössler (1951: 106) claims that this is not possible, because it is formed from all stems and has definite syntactic uses. However, this argument is only valid synchronically and does not say anything about its historical background, the more so because there is no doubt that the other marker, the prefix t(t)‑, also goes back to a derived stem, which is well attested over the entire Afroasiatic area (Kossmann 2002: 358–59). There is no reason, therefore, why the form with gemination should not have a similar origin. The Akkadian t‑Pf iptarVs and, as I am arguing here, iparrVs itself show that derived stems can become inflectional members of the basic stem. The historical background of the Berber imperfective with gemination cannot be determined on the basis of Berber evidence alone but can only be studied in a wider Afroasiatic context (Kossmann 2002: 364). It is, more specifically, unclear whether we should associate it with the Akkadian imperfective iparrVs (i.e., in my account with the derived pluractional stem *yiqattal‑) 54.  Kossmann (2001: 71–72) reconstructs the 3rd p. sg. masc. of the triradical verb in Proto-Berber as ̄ ăC (where v stands for a high vowel ĭ or ŭ). *yv-CăC


The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.

or with the D‑stem (assuming that we recognize any relationship at all). Two observations should be made in this context. First, there are no clear indications of the existence of the D‑stem in Afro­asiatic outside Semitic (see §11.6.1, pp. 280–282). If it did exist originally, the Berber languages have either lost it completely or they have conflated it with the Berber counterpart of the Proto-Semitic pluractional *yiqattal‑.55 Perhaps a detailed study of the history of the Berber verb will shed more light on this matter. Second, there is one important argument in favour of associating the Berber imperfective with gemination with *yiqattal‑: verbs denoting typical adjectival properties rather consistently form their imperfective by means of the prefix t(t)‑ rather than by gemination (see Prasse et al. 1998: 434–39, 448 for Tuareg, about the verb classes IV and XIII, which comprise stative verbs; Aspinion 1953: 272 for Tashelhit, and also Lumsden 2000: 202). If the Berber imperfective is in some way related to the D‑stem, we would expect these verbs to have a particular preference for using gemination, since in Semitic the D‑stem is typically associated with adjectives (see §11.6.2, pp. 282–287). In sum, if we assume that both the Berber imperfective with gemination and Akk iparrVs go back to the derived pluractional *yiqattal‑, which thereby proves its Afroasiatic ancestry, we can plausibly account for the origin of the former as a derived stem as well as for its similarity to the Akkadian imperfective. In that case, they have both undergone a parallel process of being incorporated into the basic system as an imperfective. Among the Cushitic languages, there is one that has an imperfective reported to be genetically related to iparrVs, Beja. Here, too, the issue is controversial.56 Beja has five imperfective categories that are markedly different from each other (Voigt 1988c: 395–98). One of these is characterized by an infixed -n- which in biliteral verbs comes before the first consonant, e.g., Pret áḍah, Impfv ánḍīh ‘to be fat’ (1st p. sg.), and in triliteral verbs before the second one, e.g., Pret ášbib, Impfv ášambīb ‘to look’ (1st p. sg.) (the examples come from Voigt 1988c: 396). There are two competing explanations of the imperfective forms. The first one takes them to be the reflex of an originally periphrastic construction consisting of an auxiliary verb containing n—which is also preserved independently—preceding a nominal form of the verb. This n became a prefix in the biliteral imperfective forms, but by an analogical process got incorporated before the middle consonant in the triliteral ones (Voigt 1988c: 381–82, with earlier literature). The second one, which was promoted by Rössler (1950) and Greenberg (1952: 6), explains the n‑infix as secondary nasalization of an original geminate and equates this imperfective type directly with the geminated imperfective of Akkadian and the imperfective of Berber (Voigt 1988c: 382–86). If this is correct, we must add Beja to the Berber languages and Akkadian as a third source providing evidence for the existence of a geminated imperfective in Afroasiatic. After discussing in detail the pros and cons of both theories, Voigt (1988b, 1988c) rejects the former and forcefully pleads for the latter, giving some strong arguments against the auxiliary verb hypothesis. I am not in a position to judge the issue and must leave a final judgement—if possible—to the 55.  The closest parallel to the Semitic D‑stem in Berber is presumably to be found in the Tuareg class IV verbs with adjectival meaning, many of which have gemination of the second consonant in the perfect (“parfait”), e.g., izwaġ ‘to be red’, perfect zăggaġ, imġar ‘to be big’, perfect măqqăr/măqqor ; see Prasse et al. 1998: 422; Heath 2005: 387–93; and Rössler 1952: 146–47. These forms may be parallel to adjectives with gemination in Semitic, which are the starting point of the development of the D‑stem (which is a denominal category of such adjectives; see §11.6.2, pp. 282–285). Of course, they do not directly point to the existence of a derived verbal stem parallel to the Semitic D‑stem; on the contrary, in Tuareg they have been incorporated into the paradigm of the basic stem as perfects, with a kind of resultative meaning (Prasse 1972/4: III 181–84, 193–96 [type c]). 56.  A detailed history of research can be found in Voigt 1988c. See also Zaborski 1994a: 236–37.

4.4.  The Historical Background of iparrVs


specialists of Beja. However, the important point is that the model advocated above with a basic and a pluractional imperfective in Proto-Semitic enables us to recognize a genetic relation between the Akkadian, Berber, and Beja imperfectives, while at the same time maintaining that Akk iparrVs is an innovation replacing an older Proto-Semitic Impfv *yiqtVlu. The only problem we face is that we have to assume that the development from derived pluractional imperfective to basic imperfective occurred independently in Akkadian, Berber, and Beja. I will elaborate on this in a wider context in the next section.  Typological evidence There is abundant typological evidence for the frequent occurrence of present renewal—as I will henceforth call the phenomenon for the sake of convenience—across languages. In §1.2.2 (p. 4), I have quoted Kuryłowicz’s (1975: 104) classic formulation of this process. It is investigated from a historical and typological perspective by Bybee et al. (1994: 125–75), who discuss numerous examples of what they call progressives; in many languages from their sample that have a progressive, it has a transparent etymological background and thus a relatively recent origin. This is an indirect indication that renewal is a fairly common phenomenon. For the Semitic languages, D. Cohen (1984) collected a wealth of evidence for the continuous renewal of the West Semitic imperfective *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV by various formal devices.57 In this section, I will adduce typological evidence to answer three more specific questions: (1) What can we say about the cause of the process and the source of the new category? (2) How likely is the occurrence of the Akkadian development from pluractional to present/imperfective? (3) Most importantly, how likely is it that this process occurred independently in several related languages rather than once in the proto-language? D. Cohen’s (1984) detailed account of present renewal in West Semitic demonstrates that it tends to have the same cause and very similar consequences. The cause is the tendency to introduce a form with the specific function of explicitly expressing what D. Cohen calls “concomitance,” i.e., that the event is taking place at the actual moment of speech (1984: 586–91 and passim). Initially, the new form is an optional, expressive alternative, but it has a tendency to replace the neutral form, until it becomes obligatory. This reduces the old form to secondary functions, such as the generic, the habitual and the historical present, and the future, if the old present also had future meaning (see also Kuryłowicz 1975: 104; Bybee et al. 1994: 140–44, 153–60; Haspelmath 1998: 36–41, 56). Subsequently, the new category may extend further to the secondary functions of the old form. The old form may then disappear altogether or may be preserved as a special verb form for even more secondary clause types, such as subordinate, nonindicative, and negative clauses. This is a classic instance of a grammaticalization process: the function of the new form develops from highly specific to more and more general, increases in frequency, and at the same time undergoes the pertinent formal changes of “morphologization” (Hopper and Traugott 2003: 140–59). The tendency to create more expressive modes of expression is a universal feature of language, and this particular manifestation of it is so common that it is questionable whether any particular reason is required for the present renewal to be set in motion.58 It is plausible, however, 57.  Later contributions include Gzella 2004: 201–3; 2006, and Rubin 2005: 129–52. For the same process in other branches of Afroasiatic, see Sasse 1981: 207 for Cushitic and Wolff 1979 (see the quotation at the end of this section) and 2001 for Chadic. 58.  See also Hopper and Traugott 2003: 124: “Rather than replace a lost or almost lost distinction, newly innovated forms compete with older ones because they are felt to be more expressive than what was available before. This competition allows, even encourages, the recession or loss of older forms.”


The Historical Background of iparrVs  4.4.

that a more concrete cause may be the fact that at a particular stage of a language the formal contrast between the present/imperfective and its main contrasting category (the past or the perfective) was felt to be marked insufficiently, for instance as a result of phonological changes, such as the loss of final vowels. A case in point is the Berber imperfective discussed in the previous section. Chaker (1995: 230) argues that its penetration into the tense/aspect system of Berber alongside the aorist and the perfective is caused not only by “la tendance naturelle à l’insistance et à l’emphase,” but also by the loss of the distinctiveness of aorist and perfective in an important class of verbs after the partial or complete merger of short vowels. A second instance of a similar cause is the Geʿez imperfective yəqattəl, as I will argue in §4.6.1 (pp. 117–123). This may also have played a role in Akkadian, as I suggested in §4.4.2, especially because the original pluractional *yiqattal‑ only replaced the G‑stem *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV in the imperfective. The second question concerns the likelihood of a basic present/imperfective developing out of a category that originally expressed notions such as verbal plurality and intensity. There seems to be a fair amount of typological support for such a development. Bybee et al. (1994: 166–74) adduce instances of a development from iterative/frequentative to habitual, from there to progressive and ultimately to imperfective;59 most of their instances concern forms with reduplication. In the Semitic languages, this type of development is not very well represented. Apart from Akkadian iparrVs, it is only Ethiopian Semitic that shows something comparable: the Geʿez imperfective yəqattəl—but it is questionable whether this is a good parallel (see §4.6.1 on the Geʿez form). In other branches of Afroasiatic, however, we find important parallels, apart from the forms in Berber and Beja mentioned in the previous section. Wolff (1977, 1979, 2001) argues that in Chadic languages there is widespread use of original pluractional categories to renew the basic imperfective. He demonstrates that gemination and infixation of a, which are primarily used as plural markers both in the noun and in the verb, have further developed into aspect markers in some individual languages, basically for the expression of a kind of imperfective. To what extent similar phenomena also occur in Cushitic (apart from Beja) is not quite clear to me. Zaborski (1975: 165) regards it as dubious whether intensive and plural verb forms are used for the renewal of the imperfective in Cushitic, but Sasse (1981: 173) reports that the Cushitic language Dasenech has used a frequentative stem for the creation of a new present category. In conclusion, then, the mechanism that Akkadian used to renew its imperfective has typological parallels in other branches of Afroasiatic and beyond, even though it may be more or less unique in Semitic and perhaps generally less common than other means of present renewal.60 The third question is by far the most important. The development I have argued for Akkadian in the preceding part of this chapter presupposes the occurrence of the same process in at least two and possibly three languages separately: Akkadian, Berber, and Beja, and not in their common ancestor, since it had not yet occurred in Proto-Semitic, as is clear from the situation in Central Semitic (and also in South Semitic, as I will argue below). Is it not much simpler to assume that it happened only once in the proto-language? This is a classic problem in historical linguistics.61 The likelihood of the first option crucially depends on the probability of the process—in 59.  See also Retsö 1989: 162; Givón 1991: 305. 60.  It is interesting to speculate on the background of its geographical distribution. Within Afroasiatic, this means of present renewal may have been more typical of the languages located (at the present moment) in Africa than in the Asiatic Near East, especially if we assume that its use in the Semitic languages of Ethiopia is due to areal influence of neighbouring Chadic (and perhaps Cushitic) languages. If this is correct, Akkadian is of course a glaring exception. Does this point to a very early period of contiguity between Akkadian and the African branches of Afroasiatic? 61.  See, among others, Meillet 1948a: 43; D. Cohen 1984: 106; and Harrison 2003: 232–39.

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs


other words, on the extent to which it is a natural development in the history of a language. In the light of the ubiquity of present renewal in Semitic, as demonstrated by D. Cohen (1984), and in other branches of Afroasiatic, there can be no doubt about its naturalness. Another question is to what extent these processes are independent of each other. On the one hand, the entire range of the Semitic languages (or at least West Semitic) can safely be regarded as a single linguistic area. To this extent, the parallel developments are doubtless not quite independent of each other. This is fairly obvious, for instance, for the parallels between Hebrew and Aramaic in the predicative use of the present participle and among modern Arabic dialects in the use of particles to renew the imperfective. Outside Semitic, this also applies to the strengthening of the imperfective by means of particles in almost all Berber languages (Chaker 1995: 55–62) and to the use of pluractional forms in Chadic for the same purpose. On the other hand, the large variety in the formal means of renewal shows that the inspiration may have come from areal influence but that the actual realization was independent in different languages and that the process started afresh in many different places.62 The process in question is attested or can be reconstructed independently for so many Afroasiatic languages that we may speak of a genuine drift, as Wolff (1979: 169) does with regard to the Chadic development mentioned above: [W]e could very tentatively assume that the Proto-Afroasiatic dialect cluster shared a “drift” towards integrating verbal plurals, which all of the dialects seem to have possessed, into their AUX-systems – based on the fact, that verbal plurals when they are used to indicate frequentative/repetitive/ habitual action have strong imperfective connotations (“Iterativity”).

In sum, a definitive answer to the question “how likely is it that the rise of a geminated basic imperfective *yiqattal‑ has taken place independently in Akkadian, Berber, and Beja?” can obviously not be given, but there is no good reason to reject the possibility that it is the result of parallel innovations.

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs So far, I have referred to the derived Proto-Semitic imperfective as *yiqattal-, a form that is meant to be non-committal in several respects but that in fact conceals a number of problems. If we try to reconstruct the details of the prehistoric development from *yiqattal- to iparrVs, some difficulties arise that are not easily explained, although they do not seem serious enough to invalidate the scenario proposed here. In the next sections, I will give a more detailed account of this process and discuss the problems it raises. The main issues are, first, how *yiqattal- developed a variable vowel (§4.5.1); second, what the specific form was of the derived verbal stems of ProtoSemitic that corresponded to the G‑stem pluractional *yiqattal- (if they had any) (§4.5.2); third, to what extent the pluractional imperfective originally had a complete conjugation (§4.5.3).

4.5.1.  The development of a variable imperfective vowel The reconstruction of the Proto-Semitic pluractional *yiqattal‑ with a fixed stem vowel a is based on the fact that derived verbal stems tend to have a fixed vowel pattern63 and that a is 62.  Generally speaking, the kind of grammaticalization process discussed here is often subject to areal influence. A parallel may be the emergence of the have-perfects in European languages. Heine (1994: 56) observes that have-perfects are quite common in Europe but virtually absent in all other parts of the world, which clearly points to areal influence: the have-perfect in one language arose as a calque of that in a neighbouring language. 63.  The variable vowel in the Akkadian Gt‑, Gtn‑, N‑, and Ntn‑stems is likely to be an innovation; see §4.2 (p. 89).


From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs  4.5.

widespread in Afroasiatic as a marker of the imperfective and of plurality (Greenberg 1952: 7–8; Voigt 1987b: 343). Both functions coincide in *yiqattal‑. A concrete parallel to *yiqattal‑ may be found in the Berber imperfective, which is often characterized by a in addition to gemination or a prefixed t(t)‑ (see §, pp. 105–106). In Cushitic, the basic aspectual opposition was also based on the contrast of imperfective a versus perfective i, but the imperfective forms reconstructed by Sasse (1980: 169–71) do not have gemination.64 For a as the imperfective marker of the Akkadian derived verbal stems, see §4.5.2. This suggests that the variable vowel of iparrVs is an innovation, caused by the gradual incorporation of *yiqattal‑ into the paradigm of the G‑stem. In this respect, the development of iparrVs is parallel to that of the t‑Pf iptarVs: as a Gt perfective, it doubtless had a fixed vowel (presumably i; see §14.4.1, p. 376), but as a t‑perfect it adopted the imperfective vowel: iparras § iptaras, ipaqqid § iptaqid, imaqqut § imtaqut (see §6.2, pp. 138–139). This implies that the vowel classes A/a, A/u, and A/i preserve the original situation, whereas the vowel classes I/i and U/u have replaced a in the imperfective with i and u, respectively. This presupposes a massive shift from iparras to iparris or iparrus in the preliterary period of Akkadian, since the latter two patterns comprise about two-thirds of all verbs. The occurrence of such a shift has indeed been proposed by several scholars, such as Kienast (1967: 71–72), Kuryłowicz (1972: 57–60), Voigt (1988a: 108), and Tropper (1998a: 19–20 with n. 41)), but the available evidence is rather scanty and mostly speculative.65 The following arguments can be adduced in favour of the replacement of *iparras by iparris or iparrus: 1. The changes in vowel class observable in the historical period (discussed in §3.5.3, pp. 75–81), especially the rather common shift from A/u to I/i and the incidental shift from A/u to U/u, point to a gradual expansion of isovocalic verbs at the cost of the originally anisovocalic ones and a concomitant reduction in the number of iparras imperfectives. This process may have started already in prehistoric times and be responsible for at least part of the iparris and iparrus imperfectives we already find in our earliest sources. 2. A few I/i verbs actually show an imperfective with a in Sargonic Akkadian, which in later dialects is replaced by i : • nadānu ‘to give’: SAk Impfv inaddan, Pfv iddin, Bab inaddin, iddin (see §16.4.3, pp. 472–474, for details) • bašû ‘to exist, be present’: SAk Impfv yibaθθē < *yibaθθay, Pfv yibθī, Bab ibaššī, ibšī

64.  See also Zaborski 1975: 164; Hetzron 1980: 39; D. Cohen 1984: 88–102; Voigt 1985. 65.  Kuryłowicz (1972: 57–60) has argued that iparras was specific to transitive verbs and that intransitive verbs had iparris or iparrus from the outset. This would greatly reduce the number of verbs that must have shifted (mainly the transitive I/i verbs). However, vowel alternation on the basis of transitivity (or any other semantic or syntactic factor) is typical of basic categories and does not seem to occur anywhere in derived verbal stems in Semitic. Kuryłowicz’s reconstruction is related to his claim that iparrVs arose through the verbalization of the agent nouns PaRRă/āS and PaRRiS by means of prefixing a person marker: zabbilum ‘always carrying’ > *yi-zabbil ‘he always carries’ (1972: 57). This has also been argued by others, e.g., Klingenheben (1956: 249–50). It is true that agent nouns with gemination of R2 are as old as the pluractional imperfective, since at least QaTTāL can be reconstructed to Afroasiatic on the basis of Semitic and Berber (Kienast 2001: 551). It seems not very likely, however, that the pluractional imperfective was derived from them: first, because agent nouns are typically deverbal, so that it is far more plausible that the PaRRă/āS and PaRRiS forms are derived from a verbal form with gemination than vice versa (so also Rössler 1950: 477); second, there are no agent nouns with the pattern PaRRuS—which only comprises (verbal) adjectives—so that the numerous iparrus imperfectives are still to be explained as secondary.

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs


• qabû ‘to say, tell’: SAk Impfv yiqabbē ‘he says’ < *yiqabbay, Pfv yibqī, Bab iqabbī – iqbī (see §, pp. 499–500, for the latter two verbs) Note that ibaššī and iqabbī also occur as such in Assyrian, where ay becomes ē. This rules out a purely phonological change of ay to ī. To what extent these verbs are representative of the III/voc verbs of the I/i class or even the I/i class as a whole is impossible to say. 3. The quadriradical verbs of the nabalkutu group also replaced a by i in the imperfective during the historical period: they tend to have A/i apophony in Old Babylonian (Impfv ibbalakkat, Pfv ibbalkit ), but I/i in Standard Babylonian (Impfv ibbalakkit, Pfv ibbalkit ); see §12.5 (pp. 307–311) for details. The question is whether this is an aftermath of the same shift in the triradical verb in prehistoric times or whether it is a completely independent development specific to the quadriradical verbs. 4. As noted in § (p. 74), the III/voc verbs of the U/u class that are atypical because they are transitive can plausibly be explained as original A/u verbs that have become U/u as a result of the change aw > ī, e.g., from kasû ‘to bind’: Impfv ikassū < *yikassaw alongside Pfv iksū. 5. More speculative is the possibility that several Akkadian A/u verbs that correspond to Arabic verbs with i in the imperfective may go back to original A/i verbs, in which i has become u under the influence of a neighbouring labial (Frolova 2003: 85–86; see also Kuryłowicz 1972: 59). Such verbs include, apart from some less reliable instances: • • • • • • • • • • • •

ḫabābu ‘to caress’ (Akk iḫbub, but Ar yaḥibbu ‘to love’) kabāsu ‘to trample’ (Akk ikbus, but Ar yakbisu ‘to make even, fill’) kasāpu ‘to break into pieces’ (iksup vs. yaksifu) lapātu ‘to touch’ (ilput vs. yalfitu) napālu ‘to make a supplementary payment’ (ippul vs. yanfilu) našāpu ‘to winnow’ (iššup vs. yansifu) parāsu ‘to sever, decide’ (iprus vs. yafrisu) qalāpu ‘to peel, skin’ (iqlup vs. yaqlifu) qatāpu ‘to pluck’ (iqtup vs. yaqṭifu) sapānu ‘to level, devastate’ (ispun vs. yasfinu) ṣarāpu ‘to refine (metal)’ (iṣrup vs. yaṣrifu) šapāru ‘to send, order’ (išpur vs. yasfiru ‘to chase, remove’).66

The scale of the required shift of iparras to iparri/us may perhaps be reduced by assuming that in adjectival verbs, which almost all have I/i or U/u (see §§3.3.2–3.3.3, pp. 58–66), the iparri/ us imperfectives do not go back to *yiqattal‑ directly but only emerged when the geminated imperfective was fully established as an inflectional member of the verbal paradigm in fientive verbs.67 Typological evidence suggests that if a new imperfective develops from an originally pluractional category, this process will start in verbs for which plurality of action is most relevant, i.e., in punctual telic verbs to express frequentativity and in atelic activity verbs to express durativity (Sasse 1991: 43). It is therefore plausible that originally PSem *yiqattal‑ was typically associated with fientive verbs.68 In adjectival verbs, the new imperfective may have appeared 66.  In several of these verbs, Hebrew sides with Akkadian in having o (< u) as root vowel (e.g., yikboš ≈ ikbus, yilpot ≈ ilput, yiqṭop̄ ≈ iqtup, yiṣrop̄ ≈ iṣrup, yišpor ≈ išpur), but since there is a large-scale shift toward o in Hebrew transitive verbs, this says little or nothing about the original root vowel. 67.  So Voigt 1988a: 115–16. 68.  Also in historical Akkadian, pluractional (Gtn) forms of adjectival verbs are rather uncommon.


From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs  4.5.

in a later stage and simply have adopted the root vowel, e.g., from kabātu (I/i): *yikbit(u) ‘he/it becomes/became heavy’ § *yikabbit. The new imperfective vowel in iparris and iparrus is always identical to the inherited root vowel and thus to the vowel of the original imperfective *yiqtilu, ‑ūnV in the I/i class and *yiqtulu, ‑ūnV in the U/u class. This suggests that in verbs that did have *yiqattal‑ initially, the original imperfective imposed its vowel on the pluractional imperfective during the transitional period in which the two forms competed: *yiprisu § *yiparras became *yiprisu § *yiparris and *yiprusu § *yiparras became *yiprusu § *yiparrus (mainly in intransitive verbs).69 After the new imperfective had established itself as the basic form of the verbal paradigm and had relegated *yiprVsu to subordinate clauses, the derivational relationship was reversed and the historical relationship imperfective § perfective with the five vowel classes came into being. The existence of such a transitional period is also presupposed by the historical paradigm of the I/voc verbs, which will be discussed in detail in §§17.6.1–17.6.2 (pp. 537–546). Let it suffice to state here that the long vowel in the imperfective of these verbs (āmmar ‘I see’ from amāru, ērrab ‘he enters’ [Ass] from erābu), which cannot be explained from a regular vowel contraction rule (see Kouwenberg 2003–4a: 94–98), is introduced by analogy with forms where the guttural had been dropped much earlier since it was syllable-final, especially older imperfective forms such as *yīmuru. The presence of a long vowel in the basic forms triggered the same process in the derived pluractional forms, giving rise to the historical form īmmar. This illustrates how the old imperfective may have influenced the form of *yiqattal‑ pluractionals during the process of their incorporation in the basic stem.

4.5.2.  The pluractional of the derived verbal stems and the quadriradical verbs In principle, the formal aspects of verb types other than the strong triradical verb are discussed in later chapters together with the rest of their paradigm, but an exception has to be made for the imperfective forms of the derived verbal stems and the quadriradical verbs. The rise of the historical imperfective forms of these verb types is the outcome of a single process under the influence of the geminated imperfective of the G‑stem. Therefore, they can best be discussed together in the context of this process. Just as in the G‑stem, the imperfective is always the marked member of the imperfective– perfective opposition. The derived stems have three different markers: gemination of R2, a/i apophony, and infixing of -na-. They may occur alone or in various combinations, and some weak verbs have all three—e.g., uštanakkal ‘he repeatedly causes to eat’, the Štn imperfective of akālu ‘to eat’ (Pfv uštakkil; see §, pp. 549–550). Table 4.4 shows the imperfective of the derived verbal stems of the strong verb with the corresponding perfective in smaller print; Table 4.5 shows that of the quadriradical verbs, exemplified by nabalkutu ‘to cross’. It is precisely the complexity of imperfective marking in these verb types—caused by the competition of different markers and by the tendency to create an unambiguous distinction between imperfective and perfective—that gives us the clues necessary to reconstruct their historical background. Gemination and apophony are the oldest markers, dating at least from the Proto-Semitic period, whereas ‑na‑ is an Akkadian innovation. There are good reasons to assume that gemination was initially specific to the G‑stem and the Gt‑stem and a/i apophony to the other derived verbal stems and the quadriradical verbs (see below). However, as the marker of the basic stem, gemination spread secondarily to all imperfective forms where it was phonologically possible without

69.  For this kind of “overlap,” see Heine 1993: 48–53.

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs


primary stems (∅)

secondary stems (-t-)

tertiary stems (‑tan-)






ipparrVs    ipparis






(see §14.5.4, pp. 391–392)


uštap(ar)ras    ušapris




uštanapras    uštapris


uptarras    uparris

uptanarras    uptarris


Table 4.4: The imperfective of the derived verbal stems.




ittanablakkat ibbalkit




uštanablakkat ušbalkit


Table 4.5: The imperfective of the quadriradical verbs.

disrupting important associations between paradigms (Knudsen 1984/86: 237; Goldenberg 1994: 46), in addition to a/i apophony. Secondary introduction of gemination was phonologically possible if the position of R2 was occupied by a simple consonant or a cluster of two consonants. A simple consonant was geminated, e.g., in the Š imperfective of the I/voc and the I/w verbs: ušakkal ‘I cause to eat’ from akālu Š and ušabbal (Bab) ‘I cause to bring’ from wabālu Š. The corresponding strong form does not have gemination (ušapras), nor does the Š perfective (ušākil, ušābil, strong ušapris).70 This means that gemination can only be caused by the corresponding G Impfv iparrVs, which caused an original *ušākal (< *ušaʾkal ) and *ušābal (replacing *ušūbal < *ušawbal ) to adopt gemination, presumably with shortening of the long vowel: ušakkal, ušabbal.71 For a similar process in the corresponding Štn imperfective forms uštanakkal and uštanabbal (Bab), see § (pp. 549–550). Gemination also penetrated into the N Impfv ipparras, which later adopted the imperfective vowel, replacing a with i or u in the I‑verbs and the U-verbs (see §12.2.1, pp. 289–290). If a cluster occupied the position of the second radical, the cluster was dissolved by an epenthetic vowel to allow its second member to be geminated: e.g., uštapras § *uštapVras § uštaparras in the Št2‑stem, and *ibbalkat § *ibbalVkat § ibbalakkat in the quadriradical verbs. 70.  This shows that Edzard’s proposal (1996: 24) to regard these forms as influenced by the Š‑stem of I/n verbs (Impfv ušaddan, Pret ušaddin, etc.) is incorrect; see also Tropper 1998a: 16. 71.  This explanation was also proposed by Knudsen (1984/86: 233–34). Other accounts of these forms were given by Steiner (1981), Voigt (1987a), and Tropper (1997a: 190–93); they will be discussed in the context of the tan-stems (§14.7.6, pp. 431–433). As Knudsen (1984/86: 234) points out, this process presupposes the previous loss of syllable-final ʾ in *ušaʾkal.


From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs  4.5.

This process is based on the model of the G‑stem, where the same happens (although it has a quite different historical background): uštapras § uštaparras ≈ iprVs § iparrVs, where the relevant part of the word is underlined (cf. §4.6.1 below for the same process in Geʿez).72 There is one major area in which gemination did not penetrate: the D‑stem, the Š‑stem, and their detransitive derivations Dt and Št1. This is only one of the numerous features by which these stems stand apart from the rest of the verbal stems and constitute a separate system of their own (see §10.3, p. 247). For D and Dt, the reason is phonological: gemination does not penetrate into forms that already have gemination. This is most clearly shown by the quadriradical verbs, where the nabalkutu type shows imperfective gemination (ibbalakkat ), but the naparruru type does not (ipparrar, not **ippararrar) (see §12.3, p. 302, and §12.5, p. 309, respectively). Therefore, gemination could not penetrate into the D Impfv uparras and the Dt Impfv uptarras. This does not apply, however, to the Š and Št1 imperfectives ušapras and uštapras. Here, gemination is phonologically possible by dissolving the cluster: ušapras § **ušaparras > ušparras after vowel syncope,73 and uštapras § uštaparras. Both forms actually exist, but with a different function: ušparras is known as the imperfective of the ŠD‑stem, which will be discussed in §13.3 (pp. 334–337), and uštaparras is the imperfective of the Št2‑stem. The reason that ušapras and uštapras did not get gemination is that this would disrupt the parallelism with the D‑stem and the Dt‑stem, on which the Š‑stem and the Št1‑stem are strongly dependent in form and in function (see §13.2.1, pp. 324–325, and §14.5.2, p. 386).74 This can be graphically represented as follows: D uparras


Dt uptarras

Š ušapras


Št1 uštapras

This is confirmed by the fact that the Št2‑stem, which is not dependent on any other derived stem (see §, pp. 404–407), did introduce gemination and so acquired the imperfective uštaparras.75 The third imperfective marker, the infix ‑na‑, is restricted to the tan‑stems. It is the only marker in the Gtn‑ and the Ntn‑stem and was added to a/i apophony in the Dtn‑ and the Štn‑stems. It is an Akkadian innovation connected with the rise of the tan‑stems and will be discussed in detail in that context (§14.7.6, pp. 431–437). In historical Akkadian, all primary stems have a corresponding tan‑stem with pluractional function. This is a consequence of the tendency in the Semitic verbal system to extend formal distinctions in the basic stem to the derived stems, although the resulting stems often have an 72.  Note that the inversion of the correct analogical formula (which would be imperfective § perfective) is only apparent: strictly speaking, the rise of the new imperfective forms is not by analogy with the perfective but by analogy with the older imperfective category, which had the same inflectional stem as the perfective (the Proto-Semitic imperfective *yiqtVlu). It is actually this form that is historically the first member of the analogical proportion, as shown in §4.5.1 (p. 112). 73.  The development *ušapárras > *ušáparras > ušapras proposed by Tropper (1997a: 189) is phonologically impossible: the first form is subject to the vowel syncope rule and can only be realized as ušparras. Moreover, there is no evidence at all that in Akkadian a shift of accent can be made responsible for changes in the form of a word, apart from the vowel syncope rule itself. 74.  Similarly Goldenberg 1994: 46. 75.  Another reason why the Št2‑stem uštaparras developed gemination is that it is derived from a quadri­ literal base, namely, the deverbal noun taPRvS(t) (Voigt 1988a: 152), as I will argue in § (pp. 404– 411), and is thus associated with the imperfectives ibbalakkat and ušbalakkat of the quadriradical verbs.

4.5.  From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs


incomplete paradigm.76 The existence of *yiqattal‑ as derived pluractional of the basic stem, therefore, suggests that the derived stems that can be reconstructed for Proto-Semitic (see §18.3.2, pp. 591–593) also had a secondary derived stem with pluractional function. Its marker may have been the stem vowel a, contrasting with the stem vowel i in the (relatively) basic stem, as presented in Table 4.6 with the relevant forms of the Gt‑stem, the D‑stem, and the Š‑stem: Impfv















Table 4.6: The original pluractional imperfective of the derived stems

The basic imperfective with the vowel i is preserved as such in the derived stems of Arabic; it differed from the perfective only in its ending, just as in the G‑stem: D Impfv *yuqattilu vs. Pfv *yuqattil ≈ G *yiqtVlu vs. *yiqtVl. In Akkadian, after the basic Impfv *yiqtVlu was replaced by the pluractional imperfective in the basic stem, the same happened in the derived stems, e.g., in the D‑stem: *yuqattal‑ instead of *yuqattilu. West Semitic has discarded the secondary derived forms with the stem vowel a together with the basic form *yiqattal‑, since just as new distinctions in the basic stem tend to be copied in the derived stems, the loss of such distinctions also tends to lead to their loss in the derived stems.77 It is possible, however, that Modern South Arabian preserves traces of an original a in the imperfective of the causative stem (see §4.6.2, p. 125). The reconstructed forms *yuqattal-, *yušaqtal-, etc., are obviously inspired by the historical forms of the D and Š imperfective uparras and ušapras, which in this way find their natural (but circular) explanation, even though they are ultimately based on the Afroasiatic a as a marker of imperfective and plurality. The closest parallels are found in Berber, where the derived stems, such as the causative, show imperfective forms with a contrasting with aorist forms with ə, presumably from i, such as Tashelhit ssaγ   wad – ssaγ   wd (i.e., [ssaγ   wəd ]) ‘to stand (sth.) upright’ (Kossmann 2002: 358–59), and Tuareg sâkrâs – səkrəs ‘to cause to build’ (Prasse 1972/4: III 87; Heath 2005: 447; cf. also Rössler 1950: 485 and Willms 1972: 127–29). Rössler (1951: 106) cites Tuareg isăfras versus isəfrəs (his transcription) ‘he causes/caused to cut’ as a striking commonality with Akk ušapras/ušapris.

4.5.3.  The ending(s) of Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ If we reconstruct *yiqattal- as a derived verbal stem in Proto-Semitic on the model of the derived stems in the historical languages, we should deck it out with a complete paradigm 76.  Apart from Akkadian, the system of the verbal stems in Geʿez is a good example of this: after the verbal stems with geminated R2 (Stem I/2) and with a long vowel (Stem I/3) had become independent from the simple stem (I/1), they acquired the same range of derived stems as the latter; see, for instance, D. Cohen 1984: 61–62. For incomplete paradigms in derived categories, see also Edzard 1996: 17–18. 77.  The homonymous passive imperfective/jussive forms of Arabic, such as Stem II yuqattal(u) and Stem IV yuqtal(u) have nothing to do with these pluractional forms. They represent an independent development that accidentally had the same outcome as the new Akkadian imperfective. The Arabic forms are analogical extensions of the passive imperfective yuqtalu of the basic stem and can only have emerged after the development of the apophonic passive at some stage of Central Semitic or perhaps West Semitic (Huehnergard 2005b: 182). However, these Arabic forms are a good illustration of the principle invoked here— that in Semitic languages morphosyntactic distinctions in the basic stem tend to spread to the derived stems.

From Proto-Semitic *yiqattal‑ to Akkadian iparrVs  4.5.


comprising more or less the same forms as the basic stem *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV. Because derived stems tend to have a predictable vowel pattern, it is not difficult to envisage what such a paradigm (if it existed) may have looked like for the pluractional *yiqattal‑, see Table 4.7:78 G‑stem












*qatāl- (e.g.)








Table 4.7: The Proto-Semitic G and GPL stems.

It is questionable, however, whether this is a plausible reconstruction. There is only one direct parallel to a pluractional derived stem in the Semitic languages, namely, the Akkadian tan‑stems, which are the direct successors of *yiqattal‑ and the secondary pluractional stems derived from it. In several respects, the paradigm of the tan‑stems is significantly different from that of the other derived stems. First, except for the Gtn‑stem, only the imperfective is different in form from the corresponding t‑stems. Second, the imperfective of the tan‑stems is by far the most frequent form; the other forms are significantly less common or even hardly exist at all. Third, there are good reasons to assume that the formal distinction between the imperfective and the perfective of the tan‑stems (e.g., Gtn iptanarrVs vs. iptarrVs) is secondary and that the imperfective form is an innovation; see further §14.7.6 (pp. 431–437). A similar state of affairs may apply to the Proto-Semitic GPL‑stem. First of all, it may have lacked (part of) the non-finite forms. Second, the non-prefix forms and the present participle may have been identical to those of the D‑stem, because the only consistent difference between GPL and D concerns the prefix vowel and the stem vowel, and the latter may safely be assumed to conform to the overall vowel pattern of the derived stems. The same applies a fortiori to the pluractional of the D‑stem. Table 4.8 shows my reconstruction of these two stems; see §11.6.1 (pp. 280–282) for more details. D‑stem










*qattil ?



*qattVl‑ ?



*qattVl‑ ?



*muqattil‑ ?

Table 4.8: The Proto-Semitic D and DPL stems.

78.  The reconstruction of the basic stem paradigm will be motivated in greater detail in chap. 18.

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective


The partial overlap in form between the GPL‑stem and the D‑stem is not a serious drawback, however, in view of the functional similarity between them (in particular in transitive verbs; see §11.5, p. 279), and even less serious when we recall that in historical Akkadian the paradigm of the tan‑stems is on many points identical to that of the t‑stems (see §14.7.6, p. 431). The greatest problem is created by the differentiation of imperfective and perfective. There is no direct reflex of *yiqattalu, -ūnV in Akkadian: the historical imperfective is simply iparrVs, and iparrVsu, -ūni only occurs as a subjunctive. The disappearance of the suffix ‑u, ‑ūnV in the indicative must be a consequence of its reanalysis as a marker of subordination. However, it is also conceivable that *yiqattal, ‑ū—i.e., the form corresponding to the perfective in other verbal stems—was unspecified for tense/aspect in the pluractional stems. This has the advantage of associating *yiqattal, ‑ū directly with iparrVs, whereas the existence of an imperfective *yiqattalu, ‑ūnV makes the restructuring of ‑u, ‑ūnV as a marker of subordination a more complex process. These issues will be discussed in §9.3.3 (pp. 227–231). It does not seem possible to take a definitive position on this issue. As a working hypothesis for the rest of this study, I will assume that the pluractional stems were distinct in the imperfective and the perfective only, with the opposition Impfv *yiqattalu, ‑ūnV versus Pfv *yiqattal, ‑ū, as elsewhere in the verbal paradigm, while expressly leaving open the possibility that they were not formally distinct.79 Accordingly, I will henceforth speak of the GPL‑stem *yiqattalu.80

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective 4.6.1.  iparrVs and yəqattəl A final issue to be discussed is the background of the South Semitic imperfective with gemination and its relationship to the Akkadian Impfv iparrVs, because it was the similarity between iparrVs and Geʿez yəqattəl that led Haupt (1878) to contest the Proto-Semitic status of the Arabic Impf yaqtVlu, ‑ūna and to advocate its replacement with the alleged common ancestor of iparrVs and yəqattəl. Two of the three branches of South Semitic have a G‑stem imperfective with gemination or one that is likely to have had gemination at some stage in the past: Ethiopian Semitic (represented here by Geʿez) and the Modern South Arabian (henceforth: MSA) languages (represented by Mehri).81 79.  The consequences of the historical development proposed here for the subgrouping of the older stages of Semitic will be discussed in §18.4 (pp. 595–598). 80.  The existence of this form is also assumed by Hetzron (1972: 452), who states that “there is good reason to believe that proto-Semitic once possessed a non-past (present-future, imperfect) conjugation of the following pattern. . . .” [followed by a paradigm of verb forms with gemination and the endings ‑u, ‑ūnV]. Since Hetzron assumes a basic conjugation of the type non-past *yaqattalu versus a past yaqtVl (translated into my notation), he is at a loss to explain the function of this ending: “It does not seem to have fulfilled any clear-cut function in proto-Semitic. It was a redundant element confined to an indicative nonpast stem. It may have been more functional in the derived verbal forms (. . .) where no stem-difference can be reconstructed with certainty for the different tenses and moods” (1972: 453 n. 2). The problem is solved if we regard *yaqattalu as a derived stem, with ‑u, ‑ūnV as the imperfective marker contrasting with ∅ in the perfective. 81.  The third branch of South Semitic, Epigraphic South Arabian (ESA), has a purely consonantal alphabet, which makes it difficult to reach definitive conclusions about anything related to vowel patterns, but specialists on ESA seem to agree with Nebes (1994a) and Stein (2003: 16–61) that ESA does not have an imperfective with gemination, even though this makes the subgrouping of the South Semitic languages rather problematic (Appleyard 1996: 209, 225).


Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective   4.6.

Geʿez has an Impfv yəqattəl,82 and Mehri has yərūkəz ‘he puts upright’ (also spelled with ō), the long vowel of which can be equated with the geminate of yəqattəl, because as a rule the MSA languages have lost gemination of the second radical, both in the imperfective and in what used to be the D‑stem.83 The scenario with the double imperfective of Proto-Semitic advocated here seems to provide an easy solution for the South Semitic imperfective as well: we might simply argue that South Semitic replaced its original imperfective with the imperfective of the derived pluractional *yiqattalu, just as Akkadian did. Although this is not impossible, it is unlikely because of the systematic differences that exist between the Akkadian and the South Semitic forms in the stem vowel of the imperfective in the G‑stem and in the derived verbal stems. They become apparent if we consider the verbal paradigm of the South Semitic languages as a whole rather than the imperfective forms in isolation. I will argue, therefore, that we can achieve a more satisfactory account of the Geʿez forms if we assume that they have developed parallel to but independently from Akkadian. First of all, the Geʿez Impfv yəqattəl does not formally correspond to the historical form of Akk iparrVs with its variable vowel, nor to its prehistoric ancestor *yiqattalu. To start with the latter, since in Geʿez i and u have merged into ə but a remains unchanged, *yiqattalu would give **yəqattal.84 We can of course discard this as an unimportant detail, but in all verb forms that can safely be regarded as inherited from Proto-West Semitic or even Proto-Semitic, there is a fairly exact correspondence between the vowels of Geʿez and those of other (West) Semitic languages, in particular Arabic.85 The G‑stem jussive is either yəqtəl or yəqtal, forms that are equivalent to Ar yaqtu/il and yaqtal, respectively. In spite of some fluctuation between yəqtəl and yəqtal, most verbs with yəqtəl can be matched with Arabic yaqtulu or yaqtilu verbs, and most verbs with yəqtal with Arabic yaqtalu verbs. The same correspondence holds in the G‑stem imperative, which has the same vowel as the jussive. There is a similar correspondence between the Geʿez perfect qatala and Ar qatala on the one hand and Geʿez qatla < *qatəla and Ar qati/ula, on the other.

82.  The presence of gemination in this form is based on the traditional pronunciation of Geʿez; cf. Goldenberg 1977: 484–87, 1994: 47; Voigt 1990b. The debate about whether it is original or a secondary phenomenon seems to be decided in favour of the first option; see in particular Voigt 1990b. 83.  Cf. Greenberg 1952: 5; Voigt 1994: 297–301; Lonnet 1993: 70; and Appleyard 1996: 213. Leslau (1953: 166), however, argues that the original presence of gemination in these forms is not evident. D. Cohen (1984: 68–75) also explains the long vowel in a different way (but cf. Goldenberg’s [1977: 475–77; 1979] criticism). An important difference between Geʿez and the Modern South Arabian languages is that in the latter not all verbs have two prefix conjugations with different inflectional stems for the imperfective and the jussive. Transitive verbs have an apophonic passive/intransitive form, which uses the same form for both: the Mehri verb ṯəbūr ‘to break’, for instance has a passive/intransitive ṯībər, with yəṯbōr as imperfective and jussive (doubtless from qatila, yVqtal-; cf. Voigt 1994: 297–99). The same pattern occurs in some basically intransitive verbs, e.g., wīṣəl ‘to arrive, reach’, imperfective and jussive yəwṣōl, and in some weak verb patterns (1994: 298), but the exact state of affairs is difficult to extract from the available reference works on Mehri. It is unclear whether in this language group gemination was introduced in transitive verbs only and never penetrated to all verbs, as it did in Geʿez, or whether the absence of gemination in intransitive verbs is secondary. Appleyard (1996: 210–13) prefers the latter option. 84.  The fact that the prefix vowel has become ə is irrelevant, since Geʿez has generalized ə, except in the causative stems, presumably from i (whereas Arabic has generalized a); see Hasselbach 2004. 85.  For the Geʿez verb, see in particular Dillmann and Bezold 1907: 140–212; Tropper 2002: 87–136; and Rubio 2006: 124–26.

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective


Second, there is also an exact correspondence in the stem vowel of the prefix conjugation(s) of the derived verbal stems: where Arabic has i, Geʿez has ə, but where Arabic has a, Geʿez also has a; cf. Table 4.9:86 Geʿez Impfv/Juss



Arabic Impfv/Juss

Stem I/2


≈ Stem II


Stem I/3


≈ Stem III


Stem II/1


≈ Stem IV


Stem IV/1


≈ Stem X


Stem III/2


≈ Stem III


Stem III/3


≈ Stem VI


Table 4.9: The stem vowels of derived stems in Geʿez and Arabic.

These instances illustrate the overall stability of the vowel patterns in the Geʿez verb: categories that are inherited from an earlier period usually preserve their original vowels. This is broadly confirmed by the MSA languages, although drastic phonological changes have obscured the original situation.87 The important thing is that the imperfective, such as Mehri yərū/ōkəz ‘he puts upright’, also has a fixed vowel ə, whereas the jussive has a variable vowel that tallies rather well with the corresponding vowel in Geʿez and Arabic, and this also applies to the variable vowel of the perfect. In transitive verbs, the Arabic pattern of jussive u or i versus perfect a (Ar yaqtu/ilu – qatala) can be reconstructed as the dominant pattern for the whole of South Semitic, and the same applies to jussive a versus perfect i (Ar yaqtalu – qatila) for intransitive verbs (Voigt 1994: 293–99). The stability of the vowels in inherited categories makes it difficult to equate yəqattəl with reconstructed *yiqattalu. If we prefer to compare it with the imperfective iparrVs in its historical form, the problem becomes even bigger: there is no conceivable reason why Geʿez would abandon the alternating stem vowel of a PSem **yiqattVlu, whereas it faithfully preserves all other inherited vowel alternations.88 Therefore, rather than assuming an idiosyncratic behaviour that is 86.  An exception is the Geʿez Stem III/1 yətqattal/yətqatal versus the Arabic Stem VIII yaqtatil(u). This is an additional indication that these stems have a different background, as I will argue in §14.4.2 (pp. 380–382). 87.  For (basically synchronic) descriptions of the MSA verb, see Bittner 1911, Johnstone 1975, 1987, and Simeone-Senelle 1997, 1998; for diachronic analyses, see Wagner 1993, Voigt 1994, and Appleyard 1996, 2002. In general, the verbal paradigm of the MSA languages stems from the same source as that of the languages of Ethiopia; cf. the pertinent remarks of Bittner (1911: 4–5), W. W. Müller (1964), Kienast (2001: 306–7), and Appleyard (2002: 405–6). 88.  Those who follow Haupt’s thesis about the genetic relationship between iparrVs and yəqattəl tend to dismiss this difference as unimportant. Landsberger (1926b: 970) calls it “unwesentlich”; Gensler (1997) and Voigt (2004: 49–50) ignore it; Rössler (1950: 504–5) and Kienast (2001: 228) attribute it to secondary levelling. This is unsatisfactory: why would levelling only affect the imperfective and not the jussive, imperative, and perfect? On the basis of the hierarchy in the verbal paradigm, we would rather expect the latter categories to be levelled. Aro (1964: 194 n. 1), on the other hand, correctly observes that the Geʿez state of affairs presupposes “eine etwas gewaltsame Umvokalisierung und Vereinheitlichung der Form.” In addition, M. Cohen (1953: 89–90) rejects the connection between iparrVs and yəqattəl because of the difference in vowel pattern.


Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective   4.6.

hard to motivate on independent grounds, it seems far more plausible to regard the invariable ə in yəqattəl as an original feature and thereby dissociate it from both *yiqattalu and iparrVs. Fixed vowel patterns are typical of motivated forms, such as the derived stems, which do not distinguish vowel classes outside Akkadian. Of particular importance is the fact that the Geʿez imperfective is immune to the influence of neighbouring gutturals (Kuryłowicz 1972: 59): it has ə even if R2 and/or R3 are gutturals, although the other finite verb forms are sensitive to gutturals and take the vowel a (Tropper 2002: 110–14). This is a strong indication that yəqattəl is originally a derived verbal stem, and several authors have indeed claimed that it goes back to the D‑stem form *yuqattilu, which we may reconstruct for Proto-West Semitic on the basis of the Arabic Stem II Impfv yuqattilu.89 F. Rundgren, in particular, has argued for such a development in many publications, the “réemploi de l’intensif.”90 He relates it to another innovation of the Semitic languages of Ethiopia, namely, the loss of a grammatical relationship between the basic stem and the derived stems with gemination (Stem I/2) and with vowel lengthening (Stem I/3): their relationship is completely lexicalized, i.e., the two are used as variants of the basic stem or as separate lexemes.91 This made it possible to use the D imperfective *yuqattilu > yəqattəl for renewing the G‑stem imperfective after the latter had coincided in form with the jussive as a result of the loss of word-final ‑u. So this is one more instance of the penetration of a derived stem into the paradigm of the basic stem. The adherents of Haupt’s thesis have ignored rather than refuted Rundgren’s arguments,92 without offering a more convincing account of the fixed vowel of yəqattəl.93 The difference in background between iparrVs and yəqattəl is confirmed by the derived verbal stems.94 As we saw above, Akkadian primarily marks the imperfective by means of a/i apophony, sometimes secondarily strengthened by gemination. Geʿez, on the other hand, distinguishes the imperfective from the jussive only by means of gemination, and where a form already has gemination, it introduces a vowel ē in the first syllable of the imperfective stem.95 The stem vowel of imperfective and jussive is always the same; see by way of illustration the Geʿez column in Table 4.9 above. Only one of these procedures can go back to Proto-Semitic, and it is fairly clear 89.  And also to Proto-Semitic as a whole; see §11.6.1, pp. 280–282. 90.  For instance, in Rundgren 1955: 328–29, 1959a: 292–94, and 1963b: 64–68. I do not agree with Rundgren that the rise of iparrVs is a case of réemploi de l’intensif, but the term is fully appropriate for what happened in Geʿez. 91.  The réemploi did not lead to the loss of the D‑stem: it coexisted with the Impfv yəqattəl, and the D imperfective was differentiated by introducing ē (yəqēttəl). Sasse (1980: 173) mentions the case of the Cushitic language Dasenech as parallel to Akkadian: “auch im Dasenech ist der Frequentativstamm zur Bildung einer neuen Präsenskategorie verwendet worden und besteht trotzdem—wie im Akkadischen—als abgeleiteter Stamm weiter”. 92.  There was criticism by Voigt, however (1990b: 10–11; 2004: 39–40). His main objections are obviated by the scenario proposed here. Rundgren’s proposal is endorsed by Stempel (1999: 133). 93.  Recently, Hudson (2005) has argued that the geminate of yəqattəl in A-type verbs (i.e., Stem I/1, the basic verb) results from an analogical extension from B-type (i.e., I/2) verbs, which have gemination of R2 in their entire paradigm (2005: 201–2). Since the class of I/2 verbs goes back to the Proto-Semitic D‑stem, this is very similar to the development assumed here on the basis of Rundgren’s ideas. The difference is that Rundgren posits a réemploi of the corresponding D form *yuqattil(u) of the same verb, whereas Hudson assumes that *yiqtVlu is renewed by analogy with the geminated imperfectives of I/2 verbs in general. Especially significant is the fact that Hudson also assumes that the geminate of yəqattəl in the basic stem is secondary (2005: 204). 94.  Testen (1998a: 132 n. 10) also doubts the equation iparrVs – yəqattəl because of the discrepancies in the imperfective formation of the derived stems, such as uparras versus yəqēttəl. 95.  The source of ē is a matter of debate that need not concern us here; see Voigt 1990b: 6–11, with the comments of Gensler 1997: 236–37 n. 11.

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective


that it is the Akkadian a/i apophony that does so96 because it has Afroasiatic backing, is difficult to explain as secondary, and may have survived in MSA, as I will argue in the next section. The Geʿez procedure can easily be explained as an innovation: when imperfective and jussive had coincided after the loss of word-final ‑u, the formal contrast was renewed by introducing gemination of R2 from the G‑stem, where it had emerged for the same reason through the replacement of the original imperfective by the former D‑stem imperfective. If the consonant that is to be geminated is part of a cluster, as in Stems II/1 (yāqtəl ) and IV/1 (yāstaqtəl ), the cluster is first dissolved by the insertion of a, in the same way as in the Akkadian Št2‑stem (uštaparras) and the quadriradical verbs (ibbalakkat); see §4.5.2 above (pp. 113–114). Furthermore, in Geʿez, it is the G‑stem (I/1) which provides the model: § yəqattəl



(§ yəq–tVl)



(§ yāq–tVl)



(§ yāstaq–tVl)

§ yāqattəl

§ yāstaqattəl

So in spite of the superficial similarity of these imperfectives to their Akkadian counterparts, they can be explained more plausibly as inner-Ethiopic innovations triggered by the introduction of gemination in the basic stem than as retentions from Proto-Semitic. This conclusion is important for the explanation of another type of Geʿez imperfective, which has been claimed to offer incontrovertible evidence for the three-stem system discussed in §4.4.1 (pp. 97–100). Gensler (1997) points to the striking similarity between the quadriradical Impfv yədanaggəḍ in Geʿez and the corresponding Akkadian Impfv ibbalakkat  97 and claims that it provides “a new argument against those who may still hesitate to accept the Geez/Akkadian tripartite tense/aspect system as representing the Proto-Semitic one” (1997: 255).98 Therefore, we have to discuss Gensler’s argument in some detail. The forms involved are shown in Table 4.10. For reasons that will be become clear later on, it includes not only the quadriradical verbs of the dangaḍa type but also the quadriradical verb type of Arabic that follows the paradigm of the D‑stem, the quinqueradical verbs of Geʿez, and both types of verbs from MSA, represented by Mehri. The categories involved are the imperfective, perfective/jussive, and stative/perfect: root IV-rad


Juss ≈ Pfv


Perf ≈ Stat

























Table 4.10:  Quadri-   and quinqueradical verbs in Akkadian and South Semitic. 96.  So also Greenberg 1952: 5–6. 97.  For the quadriradical verbs, Geʿez dangaḍa ‘to be upset’, Ar tarjama ‘to translate’, Mehri kárbəl ‘to crawl on the knees’ (Johnstone 1987: 213), and Akk nabalkutu ‘to cross over’ (see §12.5, pp. 307–314) will serve as examples. For the quinqueradical verbs (cf. Tropper 2002: 134–36), I will use Geʿez ʾangargara ‘to wallow, roll’ and Mehri ənqərbōṭ ‘to be curled, wrinkled’ (Johnstone 1987: 234). 98.  For an earlier discussion, see von Soden 1987: 564.


Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective   4.6.

First, I will focus on the similarity between yədanaggəḍ and ibbalakkat. Gensler describes these forms as “a near-exact match (ignoring derivational prefixes)” (1997: 246) and specifies four points of detail: the added vowel of the imperfective is specifically a, it serves to enable gemination, gemination comes at the same place, and in most relevant verbs R2 is a sonorant (n, l, r ) (1997: 246–47).99 He concludes that this “suggests the straightforward reconstruction to ProtoSemitic of this shared Geez/Akkadian pattern” and “rejects the opposite possibility: that the Geez and Akkadian patterns represent independent secondary innovations vis-à-vis some hypothetical earlier pattern” (1997: 247). However, none of these four points is specific enough to justify such a conclusion. The first three actually form a single phenomenon that follows from the procedure of imperfective formation on the model of the basic stem that I have described above. In other words, we can add yədangəḍ (§ yədangəḍ ) § yədanaggəḍ to the three categories included, just as I have included ibbalakkat in the account of the parallel forms in Akkadian in §4.5.2 (pp. 113–114). The fourth point, that R2 is usually a sonorant, indicates that this type of quadriradical verb is a common legacy from Proto-Semitic (which is not at issue, see below), but it does not say anything about the historical background of its actual conjugation. Gensler isolates the quadriradical verbs from the II/1 and IV/1 Stems and only mentions the latter in passing (1997: 231). However, these categories constitute a natural formal class of verbs whose antepenultimate and penultimate radicals form a cluster, which is of crucial importance for the formation of the imperfective.100 I argued above that the way the II/1 and IV/1 Stems form their imperfective does not go back to Proto-Semitic but is an innovation following the introduction of gemination in the basic stem. This implies that the Impfv yədanaggəḍ is an innovation as well. The strikingly similar Akkadian Impfv ibbalakkat—but note the vowel contrast in the final syllable, which Gensler ignores, parallel to that between yəqattəl and iparras—is the result of a parallel development: originally it contrasted with the perfective by means of a/i apophony (Impfv *yibbalkat vs. Pfv *yibbalkit ), but secondarily acquired gemination together with most of the other non-basic imperfective forms. As a result of the introduction of gemination to mark the imperfective, both Akkadian and Geʿez faced the “contradictory desideratum” (Gensler 1997: 233) that they had to include gemination but also conform to the dominant triradical pattern. Both achieved this in the same way— by sacrificing conformity to the triradical pattern, but not at a high price: a new conformity is obtained, namely to the patterns of (part of) the derived stems. As Gensler elegantly demonstrates (1997: 233–35), this is the most efficient way of solving the dilemma. It is quite possible that two languages, faced with the same challenge, independently come up with the same solution, if this solution is the most efficient one. Against the view that yədanaggəḍ and ibbalakkat represent a parallel development, Gensler argues that the “dominant structural principle” responsible for the rise of these forms cannot have worked independently in Akkadian and Geʿez, because it was already present in Proto-Semitic itself (1997: 249). This, however, is a perfect case of circularity. It leads directly to another point: Gensler’s claim is crucially dependent on the existence in Proto-Semitic of a geminated tri­radical (basic) imperfective: if it does not exist, there is no point in reconstructing a quadriradical im99.  Gensler does not discuss the difference in stem vowel, but see 1997: 247 n. 28 (where his remark that “this same position [i.e., the vowel of the final syllable of the stem—NJCK] is often variable in the triliteral inflection as well” is unjustified; see the beginning of this section. 100.  Therefore, it does not apply to the Gt‑stem (Stem III/1) and the stem with vowel lengthening (Stem I/3), where the penultimate consonant is intervocalic, nor to Stem I/2, where it is a geminate.

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective


perfective of the same type. He offers no arguments for this claim, however; he simply takes the tripartite tense system as represented by Akkadian and Geʿez as given.101 Even by Gensler’s own methodological principles, the Geʿez and Akkadian imperfective forms are parallel developments. He states that “independent parallel genesis based on a triliteral model would be plausible only if it served somehow to create a more regular verb system (. . .), either (1) generalizing some dominant structural principle of the triliteral verbal system, and/or (2) conforming to some pre-existing triliteral inflectional pattern” (1997: 248). I have argued that the quadriradical imperfective does indeed do (1)—i.e., it generalizes gemination of the penultimate radical. It does not do (2), since that is impossible, but instead it conforms to the quadriradical pattern of the derived stems. This leads to the conclusion that the similarity between yədanaggəḍ and ibbalakkat is not the compelling kind of evidence Gensler argues it to be. Rather than providing a new argument for the tripartite tense/aspect system of Proto-Semitic, it does exactly the opposite: it suggests that Geʿez and Akkadian represent independent developments as an answer to the same challenge.102 This is not to say that the alternative option—that yədanaggəḍ is a survival of Proto-Semitic as a quadriradical counterpart to *yiqattalu—is impossible: one could argue that even though *yiqattalu was discarded, the corresponding quadriradical category remained in use and adopted ə as stem vowel by analogy with the triradical verb. This is an ad hoc explanation, however, which does not do justice to the systematic nature of the developments that have taken place both in Akkadian and in Geʿez as a consequence of the introduction of gemination in the basic imperfective.

4.6.2.  The quadriradical and quinqueradical verbs in South Semitic A more detailed study of the paradigm of the quadriradical and quinqueradical verbs in South Semitic supports the conclusion of the preceding section (see Table 4.10 for the relevant forms). The closest Geʿez counterpart to the Akkadian verbs of the nabalkutu type is not the dangaəḍa type but the small group of quinqueradicals with n as first radical, most of which consist of reduplicated biliteral elements, e.g., ʾangargara ‘to wallow, roll’ and ʾansōsawa ‘to walk about’ (Tropper 2002: 134–36). They are defined as quadriradical in Akkadian because the nasal has the status of a prefix (e.g., it is replaced by š in the Š‑stem; see §13.4.1, pp. 338–340). In Geʿez it is a stable part of the conjugation, although several of the verbs in question have variants without n (2002: 134).103 This should not detract us from the fact they are obviously related; there is even at least one cognate pair among them, which is exceptional for this kind of verb—namely, the abovementioned ʾangargara and Akk nagarruru with about the same meaning (see §12.6.1, pp. 319–320).104 Their imperfective is parallel to that of dangaəḍa—yāngaraggər—and can be explained in the same way. Its Akkadian counterpart, the imperfective iggarrar, cannot be directly compared, since it results from an inner-Akkadian development (see §12.3, p. 302). There 101.  He states, for instance, that “I will take it for granted that the Akkadian/Ethiopic three-way pattern, with gemination of the Present/Imperfect, is archaic and reconstructible to Proto-Semitic” (1997: 232; cf. also 249), and that it “is now generally accepted as reflecting a pattern reconstructible to Proto-Semitic” (1997: 230). I agree, but with the small change I have proposed above, that the form in question is not the basic imperfective, which makes a big difference. 102.  The same conclusion was drawn by D. Cohen (1984: 106–7) and T. D. Anderson (2000: 25). 103.  Several dictionaries, such as CDG, do not list them under n but under the second radical: e.g., ʾangaragara under grgr (CDG 202a). 104.  I will argue in §12.6.1 (pp. 319–320) that this type of quadriradical verb forms the Akkadian counterpart to the quadri­radical verbs of the structure C1C2C1C2 elsewhere in Semitic.


Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective   4.6.

can be no doubt that the Akkadian quadriradical verbs and the Geʿez quinqueradicals with n as first radical are both inherited from the common proto-language, one of the many highly archaic shared retentions of these two branches of Semitic.105 With very few exceptions, Akkadian does not have quadriradical verbs without the prefix n‑.106 In Geʿez, the quinqueradical verbs of the ʾangargara type are a marginal group, numerically dwarfed by the mass of quadriradical verbs of the dangaḍa type. This suggests that the ʾangargara type is a residual group and that dangaḍa represents the productive way of conjugating quadriradicals.107 We can glimpse the contours of a historical development here. Originally, quadriradical elements needed a “conjugational prefix” n‑ to be conjugated as verbs. This stage is attested by the Akkadian nabalkutu group. In West Semitic, an alternative arose in which the two middle radicals were treated as a cluster equivalent to the geminate of the D‑stem. Hence, new quadriradical verbs were regularly conjugated on the model of the D‑stem (Gensler 1997: 229–30): Arabic tarjama – yutarjimu ≈ qattala – yuqattilu, Hebrew gilgẹl ‘to roll’, conjugated as a Piel verb, and Geʿez dangaḍa – *yədangəḍ (which survives as a jussive).108 This conjugation, which had the great advantages of being transparent and having a high type-frequency, gradually replaced the older one with the prefix n‑. The process has reached its completion in Central Semitic, where no traces of quinqueradical verbs with n as R1 survive, and is almost completed in Geʿez. Accordingly, the conjugation of quadriradical verbs on the model of the D‑stem is a West Semitic innovation. This is in keeping with the data from Geʿez: in Geʿez, the forms of the dangaḍa type closely correspond to those of Ar tarjama (see Tropper 2002: 131), except the imperfective yədanaggəḍ. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the original conjugation of the quadriradical verbs of the dangaḍa type was exactly like in Central Semitic and that the deviating imperfective is a secondary form that arose after the introduction of gemination in the basic stem. This is supported by the fact that the closest relatives of Geʿez, the other North Ethiopian languages Tigre and Tigrigna, have a quadriradical imperfective without gemination (see Hudson 2005: 201, 207 Table 5). Moreover, this also applies to the corresponding verb types in MSA. The Mehri imperfective forms, as presented in Table 4.10, show that Mehri did not take part in the introduction of gemination: the quadriradical yəkərbōl ‘he crawls’ and the quinqueradical yənqərbōṭ ‘it is curled, wrinkled’ may be derived from *yVkarbál(u) and *yVnqarbáṭ(u), respectively, on the model of similar forms discussed by Voigt (1994: 305–6). Even though the vowels of this reconstruction may be wrong, the important thing is that these forms clearly lack the geminate penultimate radical of yədanaggəḍ. So Mehri has also preserved the West Semitic conjugation in the imperfective. In conclusion, there is plentiful evidence indicating that the quadriradical imperfective forms of Geʿez and Akkadian result from parallel but independent developments, triggered by the introduction of gemination as the basic feature of the imperfective. This happened in Geʿez more 105.  See Cantineau 1932; von Soden 1987. 106.  An exception is paršumu ‘to let live to old age’ (NA); see chap. 12, n. 69 (p. 307). A partial exception is mēlulu ‘to play’ (see §12.4, pp. 305–307). 107.  In Modern South Arabian, the number of quinqueradicals with the prefix n‑ seems to be somewhat larger: Johnstone’s Mehri lexicon contains about 45 instances. 108.  With the exception of the infinitive (the maṣdar): the triradical verb has taqtīl and the quadriradical verb has tarjamah (Fleisch 1979: 448), doubtless because the secondary formation taqtīl (see §14.6.1, pp. 397–402) could not easily be adapted to a quadriradical root. There are also a few quadriradical verbs of a quite different type that are not relevant to the issue at hand; see Fleisch 1979: 453–63 and Larcher 2003: 132–33.

4.6.  Akkadian iparrVs and the South Semitic Imperfective


consistently than in Akkadian, since Akkadian also disposed of a/i apophony to differentiate between imperfective and perfective. This option was apparently not open to Geʿez, which suggests that the Proto-Semitic pluractional forms of the derived verbal stems had already fallen into disuse. However, there is a possible trace in some MSA forms. The causative stem of the strong verb in Mehri, for instance, has an imperfective yəhənsūm and a jussive yəhánsəm (Johnstone 1987: xxxvii–xxxviii; Voigt 1994: 301). The most straightforward way to account for these forms is to derive them from *yuhaqtal(u?) and *yuhaqtil, respectively, parallel to Akkadian ušapras – ušapris (Rössler 1951: 106; Voigt 1994: 301). If this analysis is correct, MSA uses an imperfective that goes back to the Proto-Semitic ŠPL‑stem *yušaqtalu. It is possible that a different analysis will present itself as we learn more about the historical background of MSA morphology, but for the time being these forms provide an additional argument for the ProtoSemitic nature of the Akkadian system rather than the South Semitic one and for the survival of the Proto-Semitic system in at least one class of MSA forms. Moreover, they show that the corresponding Geʿez form, the II/1 Stem Impfv yāqattəl, is an Ethiopic innovation (Voigt 1994: 301), as we already concluded above on the basis of comparison with Akkadian. The same applies to the reconstructed quadriradical and quinqueradical forms I have mentioned above: if the stem vowel a that I have posited above in *yVkarbál(u) and *yVnqarbáṭ(u) is correct, it provides a parallel with the corresponding reconstructed Akkadian imperfective *yinbalkat, which is the predecessor of the historical form ibbalakkat (see §12.5, pp. 309–310). It is conceivable that Proto-Semitic had a basic quadriradical imperfective *yi-n-balkitu and a derived pluractional imperfective *yi-n-balkatu, but in view of the overall semantic nature of the verbs involved, it is also possible that only the latter form existed. In that case, the ə in the final syllable of yədanaggəḍ arose by analogy as a result of the joint pressure from all other derived categories.

Chapter 5

The Perfective and the Imperative

5.1. Introduction The form and the function of the perfective (which is usually called preterite; see pp. xxi–​ xxii) and the imperative are straightforward and require little comment. Therefore, the main topic of this short chapter will be their historical background (little as we know about it) and the relationship between the past tense function of the perfective and its irrealis use in the precative and the vetitive.

5.2. The Perfective: Form The perfective and the imperative are the simplest forms of the Akkadian verbal paradigm: their inflectional stem consists only of the prefix base PRvS (see §2.2.1, pp. 31–32). The perfective is the unmarked prefix conjugation, and in the G‑stem its basic feature is a negative one—the absence of gemination. The additional contrast between the root vowel and the imperfective vowel in the anisovocalic vowel classes does not seem to play a significant role. The relationship between the two is not arbitrary, since only five out of the nine possible combinations actually occur, which represent the five vowel classes discussed in §3.5 (pp. 68–75); see Table 5.1: A/u

















Table 5.1: The imperfective vowel and the root vowel of the five vowel classes.

Nor is the relationship between imperfective and perfective predictable in either direction:1 an imperfective with u and i entails a perfective with the same vowel, but an imperfective with a allows any vowel in the perfective. Conversely, a perfective with a entails an imperfective with a, but a perfective with u allows both u and a in the imperfective. A perfective with i entails i in the imperfective, except in the small group of I/w verbs and irregular verbs of the A/i class. Only by including semantic factors can we obtain a higher rate of predictability. For instance, only if the verb is transitive do we expect an imperfective with a to have a perfective with u and a perfective with u to have an imperfective with a (see §3.5.2, pp. 71–75). As a past tense, the perfective is functionally subordinate to the imperfective, but since it is unmarked, not predictable in form, and highly frequent (at least until it was ousted from most 1.  In the derived stems, the perfective is usually predictable on the basis of the imperfective.


5.3.  The Perfective: Function


environments by the t‑perfect), it has a relatively independent status. Hence, the Akkadian verbal paradigm can best be described as built on two basic forms rather than one.2 Their relationship is understandable from a diachronic point of view: the prefix base PRvS represents the basic form of the verb in the period before the introduction of iparrVs, when the root vowel was still the basic vowel. Where the new imperfective *yiqattalu held onto its original stem vowel a,3 the root vowel lost its status as dominant vowel and remained restricted to the forms in which it was historically present, the perfective and the imperative, whereas the new imperfective vowel expanded to derived categories dependent on the G imperfective, as was shown in §4.2 (pp. 88–90).

5.3. The Perfective: Function   4 In the older dialects, the basic functional opposition among the finite fientive categories is between imperfective and perfective. As opposed to the imperfective, the perfective indicates past tense, perfective aspect, and realis mood, but in practice it has the value of a simple past tense: it presents the event as real, anterior to a temporal reference point and completed (in telic verbs) or terminated (in atelic verbs). A series of perfectives, therefore, denotes a succession of events, which makes it the main form for narrative (E. Cohen 2006: 54–60). The perfective has no correlation whatsoever with the durative or punctual nature of the event, pace Landsberger (1926a: 359–60) and W. von Soden (GAG §79a). Therefore, it is freely compatible with durative qualifications, e.g.:5 (01) ArAn. 1, 48 n. 23 kt 88/k 507b:11–12 (OA) ištu mūtānī 10 šanātim abī ib-lá-aṭ ‘after the plague, my father was (still) alive for ten years’ (02) ARM 27, 2:10 (OB) šamûm kayyāniš iz-nu-un ‘(from the 3rd(?) to the 14th day of the month) it rained continuously’ (also MARI 8, 327:7–8); (03) YOS 3, 140:8–9 (NB) 20àm maṣṣarta (. . .) kī aṣ-ṣu-ru ‘after I had kept watch for 20 years’. Whatever the objective duration of the event, by using the perfective the speaker presents it as completed.6 If an event or an activity is not completed at the moment of reference, the perfective is normally avoided, as in examples (05) and (06) of chap. 4 (p. 93).

2.  In this respect, Akkadian agrees typologically with a great number of languages that have a verbal paradigm with a basic distinction between present and past or perfective and imperfective in such a way that these categories are not formally predictable from each other (cf. the strong verbs in Germanic, the imperfective stem versus the aorist stem in Greek, and the infectum versus the perfectum in Latin, etc.). The West Semitic contrast between prefix and suffix conjugation is another example. 3.  This only happened in a minority of all verbs: in most verbs, the root vowel was strong enough to impose itself on the new imperfective and oust its original a, as we saw in §4.5.1 (pp. 109–112). 4.  For definitions of the function of the perfective, see also GAG §79; Streck 1995a: 195–96; Buccellati 1996: 101; Huehnerguard 2005a: 19; Leong 1994: 30–31, 62–136; Metzler 2002: 873–74. These works also deal with some secondary uses of the perfective that I will not discuss, such as the “Koinzidenzfall” and the “gnomic” perfective; see GAG3 §79b* with literature. 5.  See also Loesov 2005: 111; more examples with discussion can be found in Leong 1994: 134–36. 6.  When the actual length of the period in the past is unspecified, as with adverbs such as pānānum ‘formerly’ (OB) or kayyāntam (and variant forms) ‘regularly, constantly’, there is a strong tendency to use the imperfective (see §4.3, pp. 92–95), because an indefinite period of time lacks the “boundedness” that


The Perfective: Function  5.3.

In subordinate clauses, the perfective is anterior because of its function of denoting completed action (versus the non-anterior function of the imperfective); this makes it into a kind of pluperfect in past contexts: (04) AbB 11, 116:13′–14′ (OB) x a.šà še.giš.ì ša am-ḫu-ru itbalma alpī ša ina maḫrīya il-qú-ú ana libbu x eqlim šuāti [iš ]talal ‘he appropriated the 2 bur of sesame field that I had received and dragged the oxen which he had taken from me to that 2 bur field’. In conditional clauses, the perfective indicates that the protasis is completed at the moment the apodosis is realized; see (14) and (15A) in §4.3 (p. 94). This is especially common in legal texts, where the condition normally has to be fulfilled—i.e., the unlawful act must have been committed—before the specified sanction can apply (cf. GAG §161d–f; Hirsch 1969: 125). The most noteworthy functional aspect of the perfective is its competition with the t‑perfect (iptarVs). As a neutral past tense that does not say anything about the attitude of the speaker toward the event in terms of his own involvement in it, its current relevance, or its actuality, the perfective was exposed to competition from a more expressive form that enables a speaker to include this kind of nuance. This is a typologically common process.7 Akkadian opted for an unorthodox solution to fill this need: it pressed the perfective of the Gt‑stem into service; the details of this process are problematic and will be dealt with in chap. 6, which deals with the t‑perfect. The tendency to replace the perfective with the t‑perfect is already observable in the oldest period. Instances of the perfective in contexts where speaker involvement, actuality, and recentness are likely to be present—as far as we can judge—are mostly restricted to very early texts, such as Sargonic Akkadian and Archaic Babylonian letters, which have relatively few t‑perfects; see §6.3.2 (pp. 149–150).8 As the t‑perfect became more common, the perfective came to be associated with the absence of the nuances expressed by the t‑perfect and was restricted to the function of a neutral (narrative) past tense. From Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian onward, there was a syntactic distinction between the t‑perfect and the perfective: the former was the regular past tense in affirmative main clauses and “Satzfragen,” whereas the latter was relegated to negative and subordinate clauses and “Wortfragen.” This process will further be discussed in §6.3.4 (pp. 153–155). The equivalents of the Akkadian perfective in other Semitic languages also have an irrealis function. In Akkadian, this is only possible with an explicit marker—namely, in the precative and the vetitive, which will be discussed in chap. 9. However, in Late Babylonian the perfective is attested with a volitive function and without the precative markers l- and i (GAG §81g; Streck 1995a: 127–41). In the first-person plural of the precative—the cohortative—this also occurs in Neo-Assyrian (Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 93; Streck 1995a: 139–41), and sporadic instances can even be quoted from Old Babylonian Mari (Finet 1956: 216 §78g–h) and Standard Babylonian (GAG3 §81g*).9 It is difficult to determine whether this process is related to the fact that in Late is inherent in the meaning of the perfective (see Langacker 1987: 80–84 and Smith 1997: 65–66 for the bounded nature of perfective aspect). 7.  See Kuryłowicz 1975: 106, quoted in §1.2.2 (p. 4); D. Cohen 1984 passim; Bybee et al. 1994: 51–105. 8.  However, after the “asseverative” particle lū, the perfective held its ground: although semantically lū would agree very well with the t‑perfect, it occurs with the perfective to denote an emphatic statement in the past tense (GAG §81f, 152b). Instances with the t‑perfect are extremely rare (AbB 2, 47:8, 115:15 [OB]); cf. also E. Cohen 2005: 49–50, 69–71. This may be an indication of its relatively recent origin (Loesov 2004a: 123). 9.  Additional instances include ni-iš-ḫi-iṭ ARM 28, 113:14 ‘let us attack’; NI-sa-aš-ḫi-ir (sic!) ibid. 16 ‘let us turn around’ (trans.); ni-iṣ-ṣa-bi-it ibid. 155:19 ‘let us compete with each other’. In ShA 1, 109

5.4.  The Historical Background of the Perfective


Babylonian the perfective is no longer used in affirmative main clauses, so that no ambiguity can arise from the omission of the precative marker, or whether it is an independent development related to the widespread use of past tense forms in irrealis function, an issue I will address in the next section. It is possible that Aramaic influence is also involved, as argued by Streck (1995a: 245–47) and Lipiński (1997: 513–14).

5.4. The Historical Background of the Perfective The Proto-Semitic ancestry of the perfective iprVs is beyond doubt. Both its form and its function demonstrate that it is a very old formation. Formally, it has exact correspondences in West Semitic, not only in the basic stem of the strong triradical verb, for which we can reconstruct PSem *yiqtVl, but also in most other verb types, e.g., the N‑stem *yinqatil (see §12.6.2, pp. 322–323), and the D‑stem *yuqattil (see §11.6.1, p. 280), the quadriradical perfective *yinbalkit (see §12.5, p. 309), and the weak perfective of the II/voc verbs *yimūt (see §16.5.2, p. 476).10 Parallels in Berber and Cushitic show that *yiqtVl already existed in Afroasiatic. For Berber, Kossmann (2001: 72) reconstructs a 3ms aorist y-ăC1C2vC3, contrasting with a preterite y-vC1C2ăC3 (where v stands for ĭ or ŭ). Sasse (1980: 170) reconstructs a prefixed perfective *yu/iqtu/il for the strong triradical verb in Proto-Cushitic, and Beja also has a prefixed perfective with a stem CCvC (G. Gragg apud Kienast 2001: 603–4). It is therefore futile to explain the constituent parts of *yiqtVl on the basis of (Proto‑)Semitic formations, as, for instance, Bauer (1910: 8) does when he claims that *yiqtul arose from the combination of a pronominal subject with a verbal stem qutul, which was at the same time imperative and infinitive.11 In principle, this kind of development is plausible, but it ignores the fact that *yiqtVl must have emerged long before the Proto-Semitic period. The use of iprVs and its counterparts in West Semitic also suggest a high antiquity. As a past tense, it has been or is being marginalized in the historical period. In Akkadian, it is gradually replaced by the t‑perfect, a process that will be investigated in detail in the next chapter. In the rest of Semitic, it only occurs in the oldest stages of several early Central Semitic languages and survives there as a residual past tense (T. D. Anderson 2000: 13–14, 17–20). In Ugaritic, it is restricted to poetic texts as a narrative form in competition with the suffix conjugation, whereas prose texts only use the latter (Tropper 2000: 695–97). In Aramaic, too, it is only found in some of the oldest inscriptions (Muraoka 1995: 19–20). In Biblical Hebrew, it occurs as a narrative past in the “consecutive imperfect” wayyiqṭol (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 139–41; T. D. Anderson 2000: 20) and occasionally elsewhere (2000: 51–52). In Arabic, it is also restricted to a few specific environments: e.g., after the negations lam ‘not’ and lammā ‘not yet’ and in conditional clauses (Wright 1967: II 41; Fischer 1972: 96). We may conclude that *yiqtVl was the standard perfective formation in Proto-Semitic but that it was replaced by other formations after the no. 39:16–17 (OB Shemshara), a 1p Prec i ni-il-wi ‘let us lay siege to’ is followed by ni-ir-ši ‘let us obtain’ without i, which is also attested in Mari (Finet 1956: 216 §78g). For Standard Babylonian, see also W. R. Mayer 1987: 58. 10.  For a selection of individual verbs in the basic stem that we can reconstruct for Proto-Semitic on the basis of an exact correspondence in the root vowel, see §18.3.1 (p. 588). 11.  Similar ideas were expressed by Bauer and Leander (1922: 176), Kienast (2001: 196 and elsewhere), and Cook (2001: 130). Cook identifies the verbal stem involved with “the Common Semitic *q(u)tul infinitive form” (like Bauer and Leander). The infinitive seems a less likely candidate from which to derive a resultative; see Bybee et al. 1994: 67–68. Moreover, Cook’s example *ya-qrub ‘he is drawn near’ is unfortunate, since all evidence points to *yVqrab as the correct Proto-Semitic perfective of the verb in question; see § (p. 565).


The Historical Background of the Perfective  5.4.

break‑up of the parent language: by the t‑perfect in East Semitic and by the suffix conjugation qatVla in West Semitic.12 However, typological parallels can give us an idea about the historical background of *yiqtVl. Grammatical categories denoting a simple past tense usually represent a very late stage in a grammaticalization process. As Bybee et al. (1994: 51–105) have shown, they arise either from an earlier completive, or from a resultative, or from a perfect (which itself often comes from a resultative).13 Since *yiqtVl does not contain a marker that could have had completive function (completives are often grammaticalizations of a verb ‘to finish’; 1994: 56–61), it is most likely an ancient resultative that has developed into a perfect, a past, or a perfective, just as the West Semitic suffix conjugation qatVla must have done at a later point in time. Resultatives often come from a combination of a copula (which may be zero) with a past participle (1994: 67–68); so nothing prevents us from speculating that *yiqtVl goes back to the univerbation of a pronominal subject (+ copula) + participle in a very early stage of Afroasiatic.14 A small piece of evidence in favour of this is formed by the defective “stative” verbs idû ‘to know’ and išû ‘to have’: they are iprVs forms, yet they can refer to the present (GAG §106q/r). This suggests that they are a remnant of the original resultative meaning of *yiqtVl, since it is a typical feature of resultatives of stative verbs to denote a present state.15 A major problem concerning *yiqtVl is the historical and functional relationship between its use as a past tense and its irrealis function to express wishes, exhortations, injunctions, etc. The two coexist in Central Semitic, although, as stated above, the past-tense function is mostly dependent on a specific syntactic environment; see Gai 2000 for a survey. In Akkadian, this dual nature was abandoned, since the irrealis function is obligatorily marked by a prefix or a particle. Hetzron (1969) proposed solving the problem by assuming that the two functions were differentiated by stress: he reconstructs an irrealis form *yaqtV´l with final stress and a past tense *yáqtVl with penultimate stress.16 There are, however, serious difficulties with this proposal. First, it is widely held that in early Semitic stress was automatically assigned according to syllable structure and was therefore not contrastive. Second, the actual evidence Hetzron adduces (from Akkadian, Geʿez, and Hebrew) is unconvincing and open to a different interpretation.17 The only Akkadian evidence is the opposition between lū as the marker of the precative and lū as an asseverative particle: the former contracts with a following iprVs form (if it starts with a vowel): liprus, etc. (see §, p. 213), whereas the latter remains separate: lū iprus. Hetzron explains this difference from an original contrast between *lū iprús > liprus and *lū íprus, which 12.  The very early date of the rise of *yiqtVl is indirectly confirmed by the incompatibility rules for Semitic roots, which were discussed in §2.3.3 (pp. 43–44). The strictest rules concern the first two radicals, which can be explained from the fact that these radicals were most often contiguous. This also pleads for a verbal paradigm based on both *yiqtVlu and *yiqtVl as posited above, where the first two radicals are adjacent in all basic forms. 13.  See also Givón 1991: 305: “[  p]ast tense morphemes seldom arise directly, but rather as reanalysis of either the perfect or perfective aspects.” 14.  Regarding the personal prefixes, the most we can say is that it is typologically plausible that they ultimately have a pronominal background (personal pronouns in the first and second persons, perhaps demonstrative pronouns in the third person), as already stated in §2.5 (p. 52). 15.  See Bybee et al. 1994: 74–78, 92. The perfect of stative verbs in West Semitic languages shows the same feature (Tropper 1995a: 510). 16.  Hetzron’s views are also found in Lipiński 1997: 336 (without reference to Hetzron; Lipiński cites examples from Modern Colloquial Arabic and Modern South Arabian); Buccellati 1996: 183; and Voigt 2004: 44. 17.  For Arabic, Hetzron (1969: 18) himself admits that “[t]here is no indication whatsoever of an earlier formal opposition between them [i.e., the yaqtVl forms for past tense and jussive—NJCK].”

5.4.  The Historical Background of the Perfective


remains unchanged. This is ad hoc and unlikely: the difference between asseverative and precative can more plausibly be explained as a difference in degree of grammaticalization, as I will argue in § (pp. 214–216). Hetzron’s evidence from Geʿez concerns a single form: yəbē ‘he said’, which is the only trace of a *yiqtVl perfective in Ethiopic. In all other words it was replaced by the suffix conjugation. The corresponding jussive is yəbal. Hetzron traces this contrast back to a difference in stress: *yVb(h)ál versus *yV´b(h)al. In the latter form the final l was weakened and palatalized to y: *yV´b(h)al > *yəbay > yəbē. He admits, however, that this explanation is “strongly hypothetical and highly questionable” (1969: 8). And indeed, the interpretation of yəbē is so controversial (see Tropper 2002: 125–27) that it can hardly be regarded as serious evidence for such a far-reaching hypothesis. It is far simpler to assume that the idiosyncratic behaviour of this verb—also in other forms, in particular the loss of its middle radical h—is related to its high frequency. The Hebrew evidence consists of the difference between the jussive and the “consecutive imperfect” wayyiqṭol in some types of weak verbs: yāqūm ‘may he stand up’ and yibnē ‘may he build’, with final stress, versus wayyāqom ‘he stood up’ and wayyiben ‘he built’, with penultimate stress. However, there is no reason to question the more common explanation that these forms reflect an original endingless perfective and jussive *yáqtVl and an imperfective *yaqtV´lu (see Huehnergard 1983: 587–88 n. 165).18 This leads to the conclusion that none of Hetzron’s arguments is compelling and that there is no reason to doubt the unitary nature of PSem *yiqtVl. So we have to look for a functional or developmental explanation for its double function. A functional explanation usually consists of a proposal to assume an original function that either encompasses the actual functions to be reconciled or is in some way intermediate between them. In order to account for the apparent contradiction between the past tense function of *yiqtVl and its irrealis function, which in temporal terms refers to the future, W. von Soden (GAG §79a) supposes an original “Zeitlosigkeit,” and Tropper (1998b: 158–59) argues that it is purely aspectual (perfective). This does not solve the problem of the irrealis use, however. It is true that the imperfective iparrVs includes an irrealis use in addition to its basic indicative function (see §4.3, p. 92), but this is based on its temporal function of referring to the future. IprVs does not normally refer to the future, since perfective is closely associated with past tense, which means that there is no path leading from perfective to “volitive,” as Tropper calls its irrealis use. The fact that the future may be aspectually represented as perfective plays no role here.19 A more likely explanation can be given if we consider the special association between past tense and irrealis (Kuryłowicz 1972: 64; Muraoka 1975: 66–67). Kuryłowicz points to the widespread use of past tense forms with non-realis function in modern languages, such as English if he wrote. . . , French s’il écrivait, Russian esli by (na)pisal. A well-known Semitic parallel is the use of the suffix conjugation for wishes, e.g., Arabic raḥimahū llāhu ‘may God have mercy on him!’ (Fischer 1972: 92), and for the prophetic perfect in Hebrew (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 363). Fleischman (1989) offers a cognitive explanation: tense is basically used to locate an event chronologically in relation to a reference point, usually the “now” of the utterance. What is happening here and now (what is proximate) can usually be vouched for by the speaker, who experiences it as actual and real. An event that takes place “not-here” and “not-now” (which is distant) cannot be vouched for by the speaker in the same way: it is not experienced as actual and real. Therefore, there is a move from spatial and temporal proximity to a broader conceptual and cognitive proximity of actuality/reality, and a move from spatial and temporal distance to 18.  Objections to Hetzron’s thesis have also been raised by Streck (1997/8: 319–20) and Gai (2000: 25). 19.  Kienast’s explanation (2001: 336) is incomprehensible to me.


The Historical Background of the Perfective  5.4.

conceptual and cognitive distance (non-actuality/non-reality) (Fleischman 1989: 2–3). In this way, temporal distance in the direction of past is pressed into service to express modal distance, in particular to signal the speaker’s assessment of the “‘certainty-/reality-/actuality-status’ of a predicated situation” (1989: 4). Synchronically, this use of past tense forms is simply an extension of their basic meaning (1989: 38), but over time it may give rise to purely irrealis categories—for instance, when the past tense function is taken over by a new form.20 According to Kuryłowicz (1972: 64), this happened in West Semitic when yaqtVl was replaced by qatVla. This started in its primary past tense function, leaving yaqtVl mainly with its secondary, irrealis use as jussive, prohibitive (with lā), and a potentialis or irrealis in conditional clauses; afterward, qatVla tended also to oust yaqtVl from other functions, such as conditional clauses (where yaqtVl and qatVla interchange: ʾin yaqtul ‘if he killed’ is equivalent to ʾin qatala) and in wishes. The use of qatVla in wishes represents Fleischman’s (1989: 2) synchronic extension toward irrealis contexts.21 This explanation seems to be better founded than the one usually encountered in literature on Semitic grammar—that the perfective in wishes results from a tendency to represent the desired state of affairs as already realized (e.g., Streck 1995a: 195–96, with other literature).22 In Akkadian, the irrealis use of iprVs is restricted to the fixed environment of the precative and the vetitive. In an earlier stage, it must also have been a secondary synchronic extension of its temporal use. Already in Proto-Semitic, *yiqtVl had a strong association with a particle with initial l- (Testen 1993b: 3). In the historical period, the irrealis use was not grammaticalized as a result of the loss of the past tense function, as in West Semitic, but because the particle became obligatory. From that moment, the irrealis function resided in the particle. (See further §9.2.1, pp. 212–217, for the precative and §9.2.2, pp. 217–219, for the vetitive.) In historical perspective, iprVs is a residual form that in the course of time cedes more and more of its original function(s) to other categories with a more explicit and therefore more expressive marking. In this respect, it shows a striking similarity to the injunctive in Indo-European, as pointed out by Rundgren (1960). The injunctive is a verbal form with the secondary (i.e., basically past tense) endings of the aorist and the imperfect but without the augment (*e‑) that marks these forms. It survived precariously in Indo-Iranian and Ancient Greek before being replaced by forms that have a more overt marking. In itself, it is neutral toward tense and mood, but in contrast to a marked present or imperfective, it has past or perfective (including narrative) function, and in contrast to marked indicative forms, it can have non-indicative function.23 This is very similar to the way *yiqtVl is used in Semitic. However, it is not directly useful to clarify the problems raised by *yiqtVl, since it raises the same kind of questions. 20.  According to Bybee et al. (1994: 230), renewal of an old form typically starts in “main asserted clauses,” and it takes over all its functions only gradually. Non-assertive clauses are not used for the expression of focus or topic and tend to be conservative. So the old form continues to be used in such non-assertive contexts and adopts irrealis semantic aspects from it. Subsequently, it can again be used in main clauses, bringing their irrealis use with them. For the same process in the domain of the imperfective, see §9.3.3 (pp. 229–231). 21.  According to Kuryłowicz (1964: 136), the subjunctive and the optative of Indo-European languages also go back to old indicatives. Imperfective-future categories give rise to the subjunctive (eventuality), whereas past-tense categories give rise to the optative (wish). These represent secondary functions that were formally renewed in their fundamental function; cf. the irrealis use of the future in French and similar phenomena in other Romance languages. 22.  A general account of the relationship between past tense and irrealis forms is found in Palmer 2001: 203–16. He discusses various solutions that have been proposed (in particular on the polite use of past tense auxiliaries in English) without coming to a definitive conclusion. 23.  For the Indo-European injunctive, see, for instance, Szemerényi 1996: 263–66.

5.5.  The Imperative: Form and Function


5.5. The Imperative: Form and Function The function of the imperative is straightforward and needs no further comment. It is restricted to the second person and is not normally combined with a negation.24 Commands or exhortations in other persons are expressed by the precative (for which see §9.2.1, pp. 212–213), and negative commands by the prohibitive, i.e., lā + imperfective: alik ‘go!’, but lā tāllak ‘do not go!’ (see §9.2.3, pp. 219–220). The imperative can take the usual dative and accusative suffixes and the ventive endings. For obvious reasons, it does not take the subjunctive endings. The imperative has the same inflectional stem as the perfective, namely, the prefix base (see §2.2.1, p. 32), i.e., in the G‑stem PRvS. Synchronically, it is derived from the perfective in its secondary irrealis function by subtraction of the personal prefix, e.g., ‑prus from ta-prus.25 In historical perspective, however, the relationship is different, as I will argue at the end of this section. The resulting forms have an illicit initial cluster, which is resolved by an epenthetic vowel: Sg Masc purus ‘decide!’ The other two forms of the imperative, the singular feminine with the ending ‑ī and the plural (communis generis) with -ā (the same endings as in the second person of the prefix conjugations), are based on the singular masculine form but lose their second vowel through the vowel syncope rule: 2ms ta-prus § *‑prus, realized as purus 2fs ta-prusī § *‑prusī, remodelled on the Sg Masc purus as *purusī > pursī 2p ta-prusā § *‑prusā, remodelled on the Sg Masc as *purusā > pursā.26 The G‑stem imperative has four different vowel patterns correlating with the three root vowels (the root vowel a includes two patterns), as in Table 5.2 (see also GAG Verbalpar. 7): vowel class

A/u + U/u

I/i + A/i








2ms 2fs














Table 5.2: The four vowel patterns of the G‑stem imperative.

Generally speaking, in the derived verbal stems and most types of weak verbs, the same subtraction rule applies, although historical changes and phonological rules sometimes obscure 24.  See GAG §81a. The fact that the imperative does not take a negation is also found in other Semitic languages (Edzard 1973: 131) and typical of many other Afro-Asiatic languages (Greenberg 1952: 8b). 25.  So also Gai 2000: 26; Kienast 2001: 200; Bravmann 1977: 197–99, with earlier literature. A good illustration is found in modern colloquial Hebrew, where a new imperative has emerged that is derived from the second person of the prefix conjugation by truncating the prefix t- and the following vowel or only the vowel: ftax, Fem ftexi ‘open!’ < tiftax/tiftexi, and tmale, Fem tmali ‘fill!’ < temale/temali, instead of the older imperative patax, pitxi and male, malʾi (Bolozky 1979; Bat-El 2002). Other parallels are He qaḥ and Ugar qḥ ‘take!’ from lāqaḥ, where the absence of the first radical depends on its absence in the prefix forms yiqqaḥ, etc., in which l is assimilated to q (see §12.6.1, p. 319). For Arabic, Benmamoun (1996; 1999: 192–95) argues that the imperative is derived morphologically from the imperfective. Here the mechanism is even clearer, since the initial cluster is preserved if the preceding word ends in a vowel: ta-qtul > qtul (uqtul if there is no preceding vowel); see Fleisch 1961: 161–62 and 198–99. 26.  Alternative forms of the type purussī/ā turn up occasionally in most dialects; see GAG §87f. They may point to a different stress pattern related to the specific function of the imperative.


The Imperative: Form and Function  5.5.

the pattern. The connection between the perfective and the imperative is apparent from the fact that they always have the same stem vowel: in the Gt‑stem iptaras § pitras, iptaqid § pitqid (  paqādu Gt ‘to be cautious’) and īterub § etrub (erēbu G = Gt ‘to enter’), in the Gtn‑stem iptarras § pitarras, etc., in the N‑stem ipparis § napris; in the D‑stem uparris § purris (Bab), etc. See the respective types of verbs for more details. In comparison to other members of the verbal paradigm, the imperative shows an unusual amount of formal variation and instability over time. The first type of variation concerns the epenthetic vowel that dissolves the initial cluster. As Table 5.2 shows, it is sensible to the root vowel: it is identical to the root vowel in purus and piqid, but if the root vowel is a, the epenthetic vowel may be i (limad  ) or a (ṣabat ). The distribution of i and a is complex and unstable. A few A/a verbs always have a: • ṣabat from ṣabātu ‘to seize’ • maḫaṣ from maḫāṣu ‘to hit’ • tabal from tabālu ‘to bring/take along’27 The first two differ from most A/a verbs in being high-transitivity verbs (see §3.4, pp. 66–67), so there is a semantic correlate to their deviating form.28 The a of tabal may be related to the fact that tabālu is a secondary verb derived from wabālu ‘to bring/take’ and therefore belongs to the second type to be discussed presently. Moreover, PaRaS is also the normal pattern for the imperative of II/  ʾ verbs of the A/a vowel class (OA šaʾam ‘buy!’, raʾam ‘love!’, etc.); see § (p. 560) and § (p. 567). A larger number of A/a verbs always has i; it includes a few III/voc verbs with E-colouring that originally belonged to the A/a class (see Kouwenberg 2001: 240 n. 39): • limad from lamādu ‘to (get to) know’ • pilaḫ from palāḫu ‘to fear, respect’ • rikab from rakābu ‘to ride’ • ṣilal from ṣalālu ‘to sleep’ • kilā from kalû ‘to hold, detain’ • kitā from katāʾu ‘to take as security’ (OA). • liqē from leqû ‘to take, receive’29 • pitē from petû ‘to open’ • ridē from redû ‘to follow, accompany’ • šimē from šemû ‘to hear’ (see GAG 3 §105f*) • tibē from tebû ‘to stand up’ • ṭiḫē from ṭeḫû ‘to approach’30 27.  An additional instance may be *raḫaṣ, attested with a ventive in ra-aḫ-ṣa-am ShA 1, 110 no. 40:8 and 114 no. 43:12 (OB) ‘come here quickly’; it presupposes a Pfv irḫaṣ ‘he ran’, although only irḫiṣ is attested (1x): awātka li-ir-ḫi-ṣa-am AbB 11, 1:14–15 ‘let your word hurry to me’ (tr. M. Stol, ArBab), and thus a verb *raḫāṣum or perhaps raʾāṣu (see §17.4, pp. 520–525), which may be a by-form of rêṣu ‘to come to aid’ (see §17.2, pp. 512–513). Note, however, that CAD R 75 s.v. raḫāṣu D ‘to gather(?)’ lists another verb raḫāṣu, which also has both irḫiṣ and irḫaṣ as perfectives. 28.  However, the A/a verb kalû ‘to detain’ is from the same semantic sphere as ṣabātu but still has an imperative with i: kilā. 29.  E.g., li-i-qé Kisurra 157:12 (OB) and Iraq 58, 162:8 (SB). 30.  In verbs with E‑colouring, it is mainly the Assyrian form that shows that the first syllable has i. If these verbs had a PaRaS imperative, they would show a in the first syllable in Assyrian, because Assyrian has “local E‑colouring”; see §17.5.1 (pp. 525–527). Alternatively, they might be PiRiS forms, but it is fairly clear from numerous plene spellings with final e that these verbs do not belong to the I/i class.

5.5.  The Imperative: Form and Function


A third group occurs with i or a, usually according to dialect: • • • •

tikal/takal from takālu ‘to trust’ pišaḫ/pašaḫ from pašāḫu ‘to calm down’ tišab/tašab from wašābu ‘to sit down’ timā/tamā from tamû ‘to swear’ (perhaps ultimately from SAk wamāʾum ‘to swear’)

The verbs takālu and pašāḫu mostly have tikal and pišaḫ (in PNs, e.g., pi-ša-aḫ-dingir AbB 13, 131:3), but in third-millennium proper names we find takal and pašaḫ.31 The other two instances come from an I/w verb and from a verb starting with t‑, which can plausibly be explained as a secondary verb derived from the Gt‑stem of a I/w verb (see §16.2.3, p. 454). In the older dialects, a predominates and most i forms are from later periods.32 This suggests that the form with a is older and that i is expanding, and that at least part of the limad imperatives are secondary substitutes for an earlier form with a.33 It seems unlikely, however, that all PiRaS imperatives are secondary, since they have a close parallel in Arabic, which has (u)qtul and (i)qtil but (i)qtal parallel to purus, piqid, and limad. This suggests that the use of i before the root vowel a goes back to Proto-Semitic and is related to the parallel use of i in the prefix conjugations, where according to the Barth-Ginsberg Law we may perhaps reconstruct 1s *ʾiqtal(u), 2ms *tiqtal(u), and 3ms *yiqtal(u), etc., versus 1s *ʾaqtu/ 31.  Pašaḫ is only found in Sargonic Akkadian PNs (MAD 3, 218; Hilgert 2002: 198 n. 91) and not later; takal, on the other hand, has a wider distribution: it is the usual form in Sargonic Akkadian (cf. MAD 3, 295, e.g., Ilis-da-gal and Sunīs-da-gal ); just once, tikal occurs (ti-ga-a[l ] SAB p. 72:5′, Girsu). Moreover, it is still used a few times in Ur III Babylonian alongside the more common form tikal (Hilgert 2002: 202–3). In Old Assyrian PNs, it may be in use alongside tikal (Hirsch 1972: 11b, 42b), but it is also possible that OA takal is a stative, just like ḫalaq, wašab, and balaṭ (see §7.2, p. 162). However, the coexistence of Aššuriš-takil and Aššuriš-tikal in CCT 5, 19b:3, 8, and 13, which obviously refer to the same person, should warn us against taking these forms too seriously. One could argue that the Sargonic Akkadian instances also represent PaRaS statives, but Sargonic Akkadian has no other instances of PaRaS statives where other dialects have PaRiS. 32.  Tašab and tamā are the usual forms in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian; there are no reliable instances of tišab in these dialects; see AHw 1337–38 s.v. *tašābu (the reading ti ! ?-iš-ba-am(-ma) in Sumer 14, 73 no. 47:25 [OB] is implausible), but tišab occurs passim in Standard Babylonian (AHw loc. cit.). However, there is one possible instance of timā in Old Babylonian: ti-ma-a ARM 26/1, 437 no. 208: r.19 (reading according to AHw 1317b s.v. tamû II G 4). J.‑M. Durand’s objections against ti-ma-a in MARI 3, 153 n. 26 are only partially valid; for ša introducing an oath ‘that not’, cf. VAB 5, 13:28–30 nīš DN u RN ša awāt tuppim annîm ú-na-ka-ru ‘oath by DN and RN that they will not change the words of this tablet’; cf. CAD N/1 168b s.v. nakāru 10a). Timā also occurs in Neo-Babylonian: ti-ma-an-na-a-šú SAA 13, 185:25′ ‘swear to us’. 33.  This conclusion is somewhat unexpected in view of the fact that in general the default epenthetic vowel in the first syllable of verb forms is i, as may be inferred from numerous verbal categories, such as the non-prefixed forms of the Gt‑ and Gtn‑stems (PitRvS and PitaRRvS, respectively). Without the PaRaS imperatives, we could even argue that the imperative also uses i in principle (**PiRuS, PiRiS, PiRaS) but that **PiRuS was realized as PuRuS, because Akkadian tends to avoid i and u in the same word by means of assimilation. There are several indications for this. First, there are no nominal patterns of the types **PiRuS and **PuRiS. Second, the infinitives izuzzu ‘to stand (up)’ and itūlu ‘to lie down’ (a fossilized N‑stem and a fossilized Gt‑stem, respectively; see Huehnergard 2002b) have both developed by-forms uzuzzu (Bab) or izizzu (OA) and utūlu as a result of assimilation (GAG §107d, j; Huehnergard 2002b: 173), and another lexicalized Gt‑stem, pitqudu ‘to be cautious’, also appears as putqudu in Neo-Babylonian (CAD P 441–42 s.v.). This tendency may also have been responsible for changing an original **pirus to purus, which caused u to spread to the Fem pursī and the Pl pursā. In regular (i.e., non-lexicalized) verb forms of the pattern PitRuS, the sequence i – u was protected against assimilation by the pressure of the verbal paradigm.


The Imperative: Form and Function  5.5.

il(u), 2ms *taqtu/il(u), and 3ms *yiqtu/il(u), etc., when the root vowel is not a.34 Since the pattern *yiqtal (corresponding to the A/a vowel class in Akkadian) is typical of low-transitivity verbs, this suggestion is supported by the fact that ṣabātu and maḫāṣu, which are high-transitivity verbs, do not have a PiRaS imperative. The second type of variation concerns the I/w verbs. They show a tendency to replace their monosyllabic imperatives with bisyllabic ones: tašab ‘sit down!’, taṣī ‘go out!’, tarū ‘take/ bring!’, and perhaps the above-mentioned tabal ‘take/bring along!’, instead of monosyllabic šib, ṣī, rū, and bil.35 These forms will be discussed in greater detail in §16.2.2 (p. 453). There is also variation in the imperative of nadānu (Ass tadānu) ‘to give’: Bab idin versus Ass din ‘give!’, the background of which is not quite clear; see §16.4.3 (p. 474). Noteworthy later developments in the imperative concern Middle and Neo-Assyrian. From Middle Assyrian onward, II/gem verbs show an ending -u in the singular masculine imperative: du-ub-bu KAV 201:24 and MARV 1, 13:15 ‘speak!’ from dabābu, mu-ud-du MARV 1, 15:7 ‘measure!’ from madādu. This form also appears in Neo-Assyrian, not only in II/gem verbs, e.g., du-ub-bu SAA 15, 95:10′ and ku-ur-ru SAA 1, 235: edge 1 ‘put down!’ from karāru, but also in strong verbs, e.g., šu-up-ru SAA 5, 115:12 ‘send!’ and mu-ut-ḫu SAA 15, 123: r.2’ ‘raise!’ from matāḫu. In this dialect, it is part of a wider tendency to copy the vowel of the first syllable after a cluster of R2 and R3; cf. the imperatives šá-ʾ-la SAA 16, 63: r.1 ‘ask!’ (Sg) from šaʾālu, and it-zi SAA 5, 63: r.5 ‘stand!’ from izuzzu.36 The nature of this phenomenon is unclear to me.37 A highly interesting development in Neo-Assyrian is the tendency to strengthen the imperative of alāku (without ventive) by reduplicating it (Parpola 1984: 185–92): likalka ‘go!’ (Pl) < (a)lik-alkā, e.g., li-kal-ka CTN 5 p. 44:8. The usual plural Imp alkā is preceded by the singular Imp alik, of which the initial syllable is dropped. According to Parpola, the reason for this renewal was the confusion between alkā and the singular imperative with ventive alka (< alkam), which obscured the crucial contrast between ‘come!’ and ‘go!’ (Parpola 1984: 191–92). Other imperatives of motion verbs, too, are sometimes strengthened by alkā, e.g., et-qa al-ka StAT 2, 163: r.14 ‘come here!’, and especially i-ṣal-ka SAA 5, 14:13 ‘come and bring (them)’ (< iṣṣā alkā, with iṣṣā < išʾā from našû; cf. §17.8.3, p. 581), where it has coalesced with the preceding imperative. Generally speaking, the form of the imperative is firmly grounded in Proto-Semitic: other Semitic languages show the same procedure of subtraction and vowel epenthesis (Moscati, ed. 1964: 136–37; Kienast 2001: 200–202). Arabic, however, resolves the cluster by introducing a vowel before the cluster, as we saw above (unless the preceding word ends in a vowel). This is 34.  Needless to say, this reconstruction of two contrasting prefix conjugations (see also chap. 2, n. 72, p. 52) is highly speculative and is largely meant to be a working hypothesis. See §16.3.1 (pp. 463–464) for the Barth-Ginsberg Law in Akkadian. 35.  There are some other verbs, mostly doubly weak, that show occasional imperatives extended by means of t‑: in Old Babylonian, teqī from eqû ‘to daub, paint’ and tapul from apālum ‘to pay’ (normally apul ): te-qì-i-šu MSL 4, 114:16 (OB) ‘paint it!’, which is undoubtedly an imperative, because it is parallel to zu-ÚḪ-ḪI-in /zuʾʾin/ (ibid., 15) and equated with the Sumerian imperative [š] and ta-puul-šu AbB 4, 57:16 ‘pay him!’ In Old Assyrian, we find tenī from enû ‘to change’ in qātka té-ni TC 3, 101:7 ‘change your attitude’ alongside qātkunu e-ni-a TC 3, 63:8. The problem with many forms of this type is that they can also stand for a defectively spelled imperfective, which can also express an injunction (although this is not very common). A different case is tisī from šasû (OB, e.g., ti-si AbB 7, 134:30), a variant of the regular form šisī caused by dissimilation of the two sibilants. 36.  See S. Parpola, Iraq 34 (1972) 24–25 with n. 11 and Luukko 2004: 129–30. 37.  It cannot be explained as a ventive ending assimilated to the vowel of the preceding syllable, as GAG §101f claims; cf. Parpola, loc. cit.

5.5.  The Imperative: Form and Function


also the standard procedure in other contexts in Arabic (Fleisch 1961: 161–62, 198–200; Fischer 1967: 40–44). Since other West Semitic languages agree with Akkadian in this respect (e.g., He qəṭol ‘kill!’, šəxab ‘lie down!’; Geʿez nəgər ‘speak!’, gəbar ‘make!’), this seems to be an Arabic innovation. According to Fischer (1967: 42–44), this applies at least to Arabic nouns starting with a cluster, such as ismun ‘name’, and ibnun ‘son’.38 The relationship between the imperative and the other members of the verbal paradigm is complex and can only be understood from a historical perspective. Before the emergence of the imperfective iparrVs, all finite fientive verb forms of the G‑stem used the prefix base PRvS as their inflectional stem. This created a tight unity between imperfective (*yiqtVlu), perfective (*yiqtVl ), and imperative (*q(V)tVl ), especially between the imperfective and the imperative because of their semantic relationship in the temporal sphere (incompleted, non-past events). In Akkadian, this relationship was disrupted by the rise of iparrVs, which isolated the imperative from its natural partner and associated it secondarily with the perfective, to which it is most similar in form, although the precative may have played a role in establishing a kind of functional connection as well. So the subtraction rule represents the synchronic way to describe the derivation of the imperative. Historically, however, the imperative is prior to the perfective and all other finite forms in the sense that it represents the pristine form of the verb in the period before the other finite categories developed their specific grammatical markers by means of the grammaticalization of independent words or clitics. It did not take part in most of these developments, because an imperative is always second person, refers to the moment of speech, and is by definition irrealis, so that it can dispense with person, tense, and mood markers.39 Once the other categories had acquired their own markers, this pristine form became an imperative by default. It is unlikely that it already had specifically imperative function, since this would make it unfit to serve as basis for the development of verbal forms with other functions. Cross-linguistically, therefore, the imperative is often the stem in isolation and the shortest member of the paradigm.40 This agrees perfectly with its function, since commands are more urgent and efficient when they are shorter. 38.  For a recent discussion of imperative forms in Afroasiatic, see Banti 2005: 65–66. 39.  The only kind of marker we regularly find on imperatives are gender and number markers agreeing with the addressee(s) and markers of degrees of urgency (e.g., the energic endings (u)qtulan(na) on Arabic imperatives). Some kinds of voice markers are also possible, e.g., middle voice markers, but not normally passives, since passive imperatives are highly marked. Akkadian can also add the ventive to the imperative to denote the direction of the motion or as a first-person singular dative; see §9.4.1 (pp. 232–233). 40.  Cross-linguistically, this is the most common way to express a command (Martin 1957).

Chapter 6

The t‑Perfect

6.1. Introduction The third prefix conjugation of Akkadian is the t‑perfect. It has drawn more attention than most verbal categories in the scholarly literature on Akkadian grammar because of two controversial issues: (1) the nature of its opposition to the perfective and (2) its relationship to the Gt‑stem, whose perfective is formally identical to the t‑perfect of the G‑stem.1 Moreover, the use of the t‑perfect shows a clear diachronic development from a semantic opposition to the perfective in the older dialects to a syntactic one in the later dialects. Because of the principally diachronic aim of the present study, I will focus on the earlier dialects and on Old Babylonian in particular, which provides the most copious sources and has been studied most extensively (see below), and on the diachronic development of the t‑perfect. In this chapter, I will only discuss the t‑perfect itself and its historical background. The process that already in Proto-Semitic affected the use of verb forms with a t-infix in such a way that they could develop the function of a perfect tense will be discussed in chap. 14.

6.2. The t‑Perfect: Form The basic marker of all t‑perfects is an infixed -t- or -ta-, but further details differ according to verb type. In the G‑stem of the strong triradical verb, -ta- is inserted after R1 and the root vowel is replaced by the imperfective vowel: iparras (root vowel u: iprus) § iptaras, ipaqqid § iptaqid, imaqqut § imtaqut (see below for the Assyrian forms). In many other verb types, however, it is not the imperfective vowel that appears between R2 and R3 but the vowel of the corresponding perfective, i.e., the root vowel or the stem vowel (see §2.1, p. 28, for definitions of these terms). Obviously, this only applies to verbs in which these vowels are not identical, i.e., the G‑stem verbs of the anisovocalic vowel classes, several types of weak and irregular verbs, and a part of the derived verbal stems. Table 6.1 shows the relationship of the vowels in the imperfective, the t‑perfect, and the perfective; the arrow indicates the direction of the dependency: 1.  I will not go into the problem of how to distinguish it from the homonymous perfective of the corresponding t‑stem. Since the t‑perfect is more frequent than any of the t‑stems and becomes more and more frequent in later texts, whereas the t‑stems gradually drop out of use (see chap. 14), an ambiguous form should be interpreted as a t‑perfect unless there is positive reason to assume otherwise. Actually, it is only in the very small number of cases where there is no clear difference in meaning between the t‑stem and the corresponding primary stem that any confusion may arise; examples include ittalak from alāku G ‘to go / come’ or Gt ‘to start going, set out’ (see §14.3.4, pp. 371–372) and uttazzim ‘he (has) complained’ from nazāmu D = Dt (see §14.5.1, p. 385).


6.2.  The t‑Perfect: Form

139 Impfv


G A/u


G A/i






II/voc Ass











tadānum Ass



II/voc. Bab




§ §



t‑Pf iptaras










∞ ∞

∞ ∞

uparris ušapris izzīz iddin imūt

Table 6.1: The relationship between the vowels of imperfective, t‑perfect, and perfective.

The question is how this situation arose and which of the two directions is the most original. There is one class of verbs in which we can establish with certainty that the identity between the t‑perfect vowel and the perfective vowel is the original situation—namely, the II/voc verbs, where Assyrian has imtuat, iqtiap, whereas Babylonian has imtūt, iqtīp (GAG Verbalpar. 26–27).2 Since an original imtuat would give **imtât in Babylonian, the Babylonian form is original and Assyrian has innovated by introducing the imperfective vowel: iparras : iptaras § imūat : imtuat. This agrees with the D and Š forms (uptarris, uštapris), where the t‑perfect preserves the perfective vowel i of the corresponding t‑stem. These forms are originally the perfectives of the Dt‑stem and the Št‑stem, which were introduced into the paradigm of D and Š by analogy with the introduction of iptarVs into the G‑stem. This leads to the conclusion that the forms in the upper half of Table 6.1 are innovations: they have introduced the imperfective vowel in the t‑perfect, first in the G‑stem itself, and from there in the categories whose vowel pattern is based on that of the G‑stem (see §4.2, pp. 88–90).3 Since the Gt‑stem has also adopted the imperfective vowel of the G‑stem and has further extended it to the Gt perfective and t‑perfect (see §14.2.1, pp. 356–357), the identity of the t‑perfect of the G‑stem and the perfective of the Gt‑stem was maintained. The vowel change in iptarVs is a consequence of its change in status from derivational to inflectional (Kuryłowicz 1972: 62). As long as it was the perfective of the Gt‑stem, iptarVs doubtless had a fixed vowel pattern, like other derived stems, presumably *yiptaris, as suggested by the comparison with Ar yaqtatil(u) (see further §14.4.1, p. 376). Another consequence is that it became necessary to create a t‑perfect for all verbs, including the existing t‑ and tan‑stems. The obvious solution would be to double the t‑infix. However, for a very long period this method was avoided, doubtless because it meant breaking out of the extremely stable and isomorphic matrix of the derived stems (see §§10.3–10.4, pp. 246–250). In Old Babylonian, forms with a double t‑infix are very unusual; in Old Assyrian, they do not seem to occur at all; only in later dialects do they start appearing on a somewhat larger scale. I will come back to this issue in the description of the individual t‑ and tan‑stems in chap. 14. 2.  See §16.5.2 (p. 478) for a more detailed account of these forms. 3.  The t‑perfect forms of izuzzu and Ass tadānu are problematic. See § (p. 489) for ittazīz and §16.4.3 (p. 472) for ittadin.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

The Assyrian conjugation of the G‑stem t‑perfect iptarVs offers yet another interesting innovation. IptarVs is subject to the vowel assimilation rule, so we find, for instance, iptiqid < iptaqid and imtuqut < imtaqut, if the imperfective vowel is i or u, respectively. If a vocalic ending is attached, the vowel does not change, e.g., 3mp iptaqdū, imtaqtū in Old Assyrian (GKT §10b). In Middle Assyrian, however, the vowel of the endingless forms is extended to the rest of the paradigm if it is u but not if it is i; cf. the following t‑perfect forms of namāšu U/u ‘to depart, move’ as opposed to those of qarābu I/i ‘to come near’ and tadānu A/i ‘to give’: • ta-tu-mu-uš St. Pettinato p. 131:9 vs. it-tu-um-šu-né MATSH 118 no. 6:25′, 28′ ‘she/they departed’ • aq-ṭì-ri-ib MATSH 96 no. 2:29 vs. iq-ṭar-bu KAV 159:4 ‘I/they came near’ • ittidin vs. ittannū (passim) ‘he/they gave’ (< ittadnū, see chap. 16, n. 90, p. 472) In weak verbs of the III/voc class, however, both ū and ī show this phenomenon, e.g., iqtibī, iqtibiū ‘he/they said’ from qabû (I/i), and *izzukū, izzukû ‘he/they became available’ from zakû U/u (see further §, pp. 502–503). In Neo-Assyrian, the penetration of i and u into the forms with an ending also extended to the strong I/i verbs, but not consistently; cf. the following t‑perfect forms of namāšu U/u, saḫāru U/u ‘to turn’, labānu I/i ‘to make bricks’, and ḫaṭāʾu I/i ‘to sin’: • at-tu-muš RIMA I/2, 197:54 vs. at-tum4-šá RIMA 2/I, 174:54 ‘I set out’ (Ass forms in a SB RI) • i-su-ḫur SAA 5, 129:3′ vs. is-suḫ-ra SAA 5, 204: r.7 ‘he returned’ • *issibin vs. i-si-ib-nu /issibnū/ SAA 15, 156: r.5 and r.7 ‘they made bricks’, with ‑ss‑ < ‑lt‑ (Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 31) • aḫ-ti-ṭi SAA 16, 36:3′ ‘I have sinned’ vs. iḫ-ti-iṭ-ṭu-ú-nik-ka /iḫtit’t’ūnikka/ ABL 879:4 ‘they have sinned against you’4 Other I/i verbs preserve the ancient scheme of iptiqid – iptaqdū, e.g.: • e-ti-bir CTN 5 p. 41:5 vs. e-tab-ru ibid. 12 ‘he/they crossed’ from ebēru • ni-iq-ṭi-[r]i-ib CTN 5 p. 45:8 versus iq-ṭar-b[a] p. 77:7 ‘we/he approached’ from qerēbu • ittidin vs. ittannū passim from tadānu, fossilized as a result of its frequency

6.3. The t‑Perfect: Function 5 The overall function of the t‑perfect, as it appears in Old Babylonian, is that of referring to a past event, not as a neutral past, but with a specific nuance. Starting with Goetze (1936), most authors agree that this nuance is actuality: the speaker represents the past event as still actual to the moment of speech.6 Following Loesov (2004a), we might define the basic function of the 4.  For the spelling with ‑ṭṭ‑ rendering original ‑ṭ ʾ‑, see §17.8.3 (pp. 577–578). III/  ʾ verbs such as ḫaṭāʾu are generally conjugated as strong verbs in Neo-Assyrian; the situation with the III/voc verbs is the same as in Middle Assyrian. 5.  Earlier literature includes Oppenheim 1935; Goetze 1936; von Soden (GAG §80); Maloney 1981; Leong 1994: 151–225; Streck 1995a and 1999; Metzler 2002: 875–86; Loesov 2004a. 6.  The formulations used are slightly different. Goetze (1936: 312) states that the t‑perfect serves “to link the past to the present; (. . .) it denotes the action which has just been performed and still affects the situation.” This is translated almost literally by W. von Soden in GAG §80b: “vor allem soeben erst vollendete bzw. als solche gedachte und noch wirksame Handlungen.” Maloney (1981: 33 and elsewhere) chooses the term “current relevance.” Most recently, Loesov (2004a: 172) defines the t‑perfect as expressing “now

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


t‑perfect as follows: by using the t‑perfect in reporting a past event, the speaker relates it to the present situation and includes it in his (subjective) perception of the present (the time of utterance). The reasons for doing so are manifold: he may be personally interested or involved in it, the event may be very recent and/or still unknown to the addressee (the “hot news perfect”), or he may wish to highlight (foreground) it vis-à-vis other events. At least in origin, the t‑perfect typically belongs to the deictic register of discourse rather than to the narrative register (Loesov 2004a: 108–9). It is therefore very common in letters, the genre most closely related to spoken language that we have.7 In its function of referring to past events, the t‑perfect contrasts with both the perfective, which denotes a simple past event and is neutral as to the speaker’s attitude towards it, and the stative, which denotes a (usually present) state resulting from a preceding event.8

6.3.1.  The t‑perfect in Old Babylonian A major feature of the t‑perfect in Old Babylonian is that it is mostly restricted to a small number of syntactic environments. The great majority of Old Babylonian t‑perfects occur in three fixed syntagms: 1. In a sequence of a perfective or a string of perfectives + -ma + t‑perfect, the so-called consecutio temporum, which will be discussed below; 2. In temporal and conditional clauses dependent on a main clause with future reference; 3. In letters as an epistolary t‑perfect, i.e., after inanna and/or anumma. For the sake of convenience, I will call such t‑perfects “bound t‑perfects” and t‑perfects outside these syntagms “free t‑perfects.” In spite of their relative rarity, the free t‑perfects are a better guide for establishing the specific value of the t‑perfect than the bound ones, since the use of the latter may not only be determined by the value of the t‑perfect itself but also by the syntagm in

extended past-wise,” i.e., “a past fact possessing a resultative component that is temporalized at the moment of observation coinciding with the coding time.” In other words, it is a “present perfect” (cf. also 2004a: 107–8), which grammaticalizes the notion of “speaker’s time,” i.e., the time-span that the speaker perceives as extending from the event itself up to the present moment (2004a: 107). 7.  There are also, however, some rather different—and in my view untenable—views on the function of the t‑perfect, in particular, those of Buccellati (1996: 87, 108–12), Streck (1995a: 219–34; 1999) and Metz­ler (2002: 384, 875–76). I will not discuss them in detail here, apart from a specific point of criticism in n. 22 (p. 145) below. For Buccellati’s claim that the temporal function of the t‑infix is no more than a specific realization of its alleged separative function, see Kouwenberg 2005 and 1998: 177–78. For further criticism of Buccellati’s and Streck’s views on the t‑perfect, see also Sallaberger 1999: 138 n. 194 and Loesov 2004a: 87–90. 8.  In contrast to Loesov, I prefer not to use the term resultative in the definition of the t‑perfect. In the first place, it is not the result of the event that stays prominent in the mind of the speaker but the event itself. Therefore, the t‑perfect is not, like the stative, restricted to telic verbs: prototypically atelic verbs, such as to dance and to walk around, are also used in the t‑perfect. Second, it might obscure the basic difference between t‑perfect and stative: the stative of a fientive verb denotes the state resulting from a previous event. It is therefore in principle restricted to verbs denoting events that can result in a state, usually telic verbs. This is the kind of misunderstanding to which Leong (1994: 32–33) has fallen victim when he defines the t‑perfect as “a semantic fusion of a perfective event and a stative situation. It describes both the anterior event as well as a stative situation that resulted from it. (. . .) [the perfect] also expresses the current relevance of that anterior perfective event, i.e., the event resulted in a state that has sustained validity.” It is also prominent in Rowton’s description of the function of the stative, e.g., Rowton 1962: 290–91. For the difference between stative and perfect, see also Maslov 1988: 64–65.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

which it occurs. The bound t‑perfects have developed from the fixation of patterns of free use that were frequent enough to become stereotyped. Free t‑perfects in main clauses can be found in letters and in dialogue passages of literary texts. They convey notions such as involvement of the speaker/writer, urgency, and actuality; the events in question arouse strong feelings in the speaker, are recent or relevant to the present situation and/or the people involved, and often as yet unknown to the addressee.9 Here are three examples from Old Babylonian letters and two from literary texts:10 (01) MARI 5, 178:5 PN im-tu-ut ‘PN has died’ (beginning of a letter) (02) AbB 14, 135:4–6 aḫātka im-tu-ut ummaka marṣatti u PN mārī im-tu-ut ‘your sister has just passed away, your mother is ill and PN my son has (also) passed away’11 (03) AbB 14, 18:6–12 tu-uš-ta-am-ri-iṣ libbī  12 u muruṣ libbi rabiam ana pānīya ta-aš-taka-an kīma lā aturrūma ina puḫur aḫḫīya šumi bīt abi lā azakkaru te-te-ep-ša-an-ni ‘you have hurt me and caused me great chagrin, and you have made it impossible for me to mention the name of (my) family ever again in the company of my relatives!’13 (04) Gilg. p. 234:33 ibrī a-ta-mar šanītam ‘my friend, I have seen a second (dream)’14 (05) Atr. p. 52:162 š [upšikku] ˹atru id ˺-du-uk-ni-a-ti ‘excessive toil has killed us’15 9.  For the letters, see Oppenheim 1935: 12–13; Goetze 1936: 308–21; Maloney 1981: 33–38, 77–85; Leong 1994: 160–64; Sallaberger 1999: 144–47; E. Cohen 2006: 52. For the “hot news perfect,” see McCawley 1971: 104. For literary texts, see Metzler 2002, in particular pp. 384–492; E. Cohen 2006: 50–52. A full study of the use of the t‑perfect in Old Babylonian narrative passages in literary texts still has to be done. Metzler’s discussion is marred by the fact that he does not distinguish adequately between narrative and dialogue (see in particular his discussion (2002: 422–23) of Gilg. p. 172:24 ītamar and 26 ātamar, the first of which is narrative in the consecutio temporum and the second of which is a free t‑perfect (see also Loesov 2004a: 118 n. 77) and by his assumption of a “Perfekt des Fortschreitens,” which in my view does not exist (see n. 22 below, p. 145). Even so, the Old Babylonian epic texts, especially Gilgamesh and Atraḫasis, contain many t‑perfects that are not easy to explain. 10.  Cf. also the (rare) use of the t‑perfect in proper names, where it expresses “das unmittelbar Erlebte” according to Stamm 1939: 94–95 (  pace Streck 2002a: 112 n. 5), in names such as Ātanaḫ-ilī ‘I have had enough, my God’ (but perhaps a Gt perfective; see §6.3.2, p. 150), Ātamar-DN ‘I have seen DN’ and Ittabši-dēn-Aššur ‘the verdict of Assur has (just) come about’ (MA). Streck (2002a: 112) observes that the earliest instances are first persons (if Imtīda(m) also belongs here, it is not a counterexample, since it has a first-person dative). For the use of T-forms in Eblaite proper names (as abbreviations of perfective + DN?), see Krebernik 1988a: 57–59. 11.  Perhaps the emotional involvement is also indicated by the “i-Modus” marṣatti; see Kraus 1973a, especially p. 264, and chap. 9, n. 3 (p. 211). 12.  Note the very unusual inversion of verb and direct object: is this also a sign of strong emotions? 13.  Further examples from letters include Sumer 23, pl. 5/6:11 i-te-ep-ša-ni, versus 28 i-pu-ša-ni (in a question); AbB 14, 88:4–5; ARM 1, 4:5–8; ARM 28, 145: r.8–9. 14.  The t‑perfect also occurs elsewhere in this phrase, e.g., Gilg. p. 172: 26; 232: 4; 238: 84; 242: 9. However, another Old Babylonian version of Gilgamesh uses a perfective in this phrase, but with the verb naṭālu instead of amāru: Gilg. p. 248: 3 ibrī šuttam a-ṭú-ul, since the perfective can always replace the t‑perfect. 15.  Other likely instances include Gilg. p. 242:1; 278: II 12′; 280: IV 12; Atr. p. 72:7.

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


The use of the t‑perfect is optional. However, when a t‑perfect is available, the speaker will tend to use it, since an explicit indication of actuality heightens the interest of the hearer and by not using it he runs the risk that his words will be misinterpreted as purely historical information.16 If there is no t‑perfect available, as in the case of t‑stems—since in Old Babylonian a double t‑infix is avoided (see §14.2.1, pp. 357–358, for details)—the perfective can be used (Loesov 2004a: 110–11), e.g., in (06A), where we expect a t‑perfect on the basis of similar contexts, such as (06B), an example pointed out by Sallaberger 1999: 145 n. 202: (06A) AbB 2, 3:6–7 kaparrū ša qātīni ana rēdî um-ta-al-lu-ú ‘the shepherds under my command have been assigned (Pfv Dt) to the rēdûs’ (06B) AbB 2, 26:6–11 kartappī ša qātīya (. . .) PN ana rēdî u ilkim aḫîm um-ta-al-li-šu-nu-ti ‘PN has assigned (t‑Pf D) the grooms under my command to the rēdûs and a different ilku-task’ Generally speaking, free t‑perfects are not very common, since often more than one event is reported, especially in letters. In this case, the existence of the “actual” t‑perfect alongside the neutral perfective offered a ready opportunity to create a semantic ranking between successive past events, e.g., in reporting personal experiences. A fairly complex instance from an Old Babylonian letter is: (07) AbB 2, 87:7–11 (as soon as I had entered GN) šamallê imērī il-qé-ma iḫ-ta-li-iq u anāku am-ta-ra-aṣ ina napištim e-li-i u am-tam(sic) ša ana šūbulim ana ṣērīka im-tu-ta-an-ni ‘my assistant has run off (t‑Pf), taking (Pfv) the donkeys with him; in addition, I have fallen ill (t‑Pf) to the point of (almost) losing (Pfv) my life, and the slave girl who was destined to be sent to you has died (t‑Pf) on me’. Here, at least amtaraṣ and imtūtanni are free t‑perfects, highlighting the main events that involve the sender of this letter; iḫtaliq is semantically on a par with them, but since it is preceded by ilqēma, it is formally bound; as I will argue below, the event denoted by ilqē is subordinated to iḫtaliq; the perfective ēlī modifies the preceding amtaraṣ (cf. the unusual asyndeton and the fact that ina napištim ēlī is obviously metaphorical; it is not in the t‑perfect because it is not a major reported event).17 In this way, the t‑perfect came to express “the central event in a sequence of events, the event on which the action in subsequent clauses is based” (Huehnergard 2005a: 157). An example is (08), in which all events are situated in a rather remote past, but by means of a t‑perfect the writer singles out the last one as the event that is most crucial to the present situation: (08) AbB 9, 50:5–12 ‘my mother, a nadītum-priestess, adopted (il-qé-e-ma: Pfv) a youth, but that youth ran away (ṣīta[m i ]r-ši-ma: Pfv), and I brought together (ú-pa-aḫ-ḫiir-šum-ma: Pfv) 20 elders of the town with regard to him, I put (aš-ku-un-ma: Pfv) his case before them. Because that youth has run away (ṣītam ir-šu-ú: Pfv Subj) ištu mu.3.kam ina aḫḫūtim at-ta-sa-aḫ-šu ‘I removed him (t‑Pf) from (his) position as my brother three years ago’ 16.  For a few instances of perfectives where the context would lead us to expect a t‑perfect, see Loesov 2004a: 110–11. 17.  For this passage, again see Loesov 2004a: 118–19. He interprets iḫtaliq and amtaraṣ as Gt perfectives, which is purely pour besoin de la cause and very unlikely, if not impossible, in view of the general use of the Gt‑stem in Old Babylonian letters.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

In accordance with its foregrounding function, the t‑perfect tends to be avoided in negative, relative, and interrogative clauses (apart from rhetorical questions and “Satzfragen”—i.e., questions without an interrogative word) (Maloney 1981: 37–38; Loesov 2004a: 124–25). The latter kind of clause typically contains information that is not asserted but presupposed, which leads to a backgrounded status (Maloney 1981: 84–85). There are numerous instances of t‑perfects in affirmative main clauses contrasting with perfectives in a corresponding negative (09), relative (10), or interrogative (11) clause:18 (09) AbB 3, 77:14–20 2 wardī ana GN ana ekallim uš-ta-ri (. . .) ana GN wardam šuāti ul ú-ša-ri ‘I have had two slaves brought (t‑Pf) to GN (. . .) that slave I have not had brought (Pfv) to GN’ (10) AbB 12, 177:9–10 ina pāšim šēp alpim iš-te-bi-ir alpum ša šēpšu iš-bi-ru (. . .) ‘with an axe he broke (t‑Pf) the foot of an ox; the ox whose foot he had broken (Pfv) (. . .) (11) ARM 10, 38:12–17 ana mīnim 2 amātim limdātīya [t]a-ap-ru-ús (. . .) 1 amtam ta-ap-ta-ra-as ‘why have you withheld (Pfv) the two slave girls promised to me? (. . .); you have withheld (t‑Pf) one slave girl!’ In the course of time, the difference between foregrounding t‑perfect and backgrounding perfective was interpreted as a contrast between main event and subordinate event, respectively. Accordingly, a perfective or a series of perfectives followed by a t‑perfect can often best be translated by means of a subordinate clause. Illustrative examples include ilqēma in (07), āmuršūma in (12), and especially imīdūma in (13), where the contrast between the t‑perfect as main verb and the perfective plus ‑ma as semantically subordinate is especially clear, since they come from the same verb: (12) Gilg. p. 174:32 āmuršūma aḫ-ta-du anāku ‘(when) I saw it (Pfv), I rejoiced (t‑Pf)’. (13) Sumer 14, 23 no. 5:4–7 ina libbu gab.du munnabtū i-mi-du-ú-ma šitūlam kīam aṣbat umma anakūma anna munnabtū im-ti-du ‘(since) among the … the number of fugitives has become large (Pfv), I have deliberated as follows: “surely, the number of fugitives has become large (t‑Pf)”’19 Sporadic instances in third-millennium Akkadian (see (25) and (27)) and perhaps in Old Assyrian (see §6.3.3 below, pp. 152–153) show that this process was already under way in the earliest period attested. The perfective(s) and the t‑perfect are usually connected by ‑ma. This confirms their respective roles, since the basic function of ‑ma is to establish a logical connection between the surrounding 18.  Additional examples of affirmative versus negative clause: VS 7, 149:8–10 (elû); ARM 4, 74:6–11 (erēbu); ARM 1, 1: r.4′–9′ (ḫalāqu); ARM 26/2, 183 no. 373:32, 46 (lapātu); OBTR 101: 20–25 (nadānu); AbB 10, 145:15–18 (nadānu); ARM 1, 4:9–16 (ṣabātu); MARI 6, 263:5–8 (šarāqu); ARM 10, 160:23–25 (wuššuru); of main clause versus subordinate clause: AbB 9, 42:21–22 (batāqu); KH §267 (bašû Š); AbB 12, 102:23–24 (leqû); AbB 4, 119:9–10 (nadû); AbB 1, 127:17–18 (sekēru); ShA 1, 84 no. 12:6–11 (ṣabātu N); ARM 2, 22:19–20 (ṭarādu); LE p. 46 §5:25–26 (ṭebû D); of affirmative versus interrogative clause: AbB 4, 43:5′–12′ (baqāru). For a similar alternation in šumma-clauses, see the end of this section. 19.  For this passage, see also Loesov 2004a: 112–15 (with a different interpretation).

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


predicates (GAG §123a: ‘und dann, und daher, und demgemäss’). In the words of Maloney (1981: 92), ‑ma “indicates (. . .) that the whole thrust of the construction is towards the final clause which represents the culmination of the -ma chain.”20 If, on the other hand, t‑perfects are used in succession in coordinated structures, they represent independent clauses of equal rank.21 In a series of one or more subordinated perfectives and a t‑perfect, the t‑perfect always comes at the end. This fixed order is known as consecutio temporum (henceforth: CT), which is an in­ accurate term, insofar as the essential difference between perfective and t‑perfect in the CT is not one of temporal order or sequentiality (which is iconically expressed by the order of the predicates and does not require further marking),22 but of rank, namely “virtual subordination”—in other words, it is a consecutio ordinum. Actually, it is an automatic consequence of the strictly verb-final word order of Akkadian, which entails that most types of subordinate clauses precede the main clause. For this reason, the foregrounded (main) event with the t‑perfect regularly landed in final position and became fixed there, so that it could also be interpreted as signaling the end and the culmination of the clause.23 The use of the perfective as “virtually subordinate” to the t‑perfect foreshadows the situation in the later dialects of Akkadian, where the contrast between them has developed into a purely syntactic opposition in which the t‑perfect is restricted to affirmative main clauses and the perfective mainly to subordinate clauses. I will return to this process below. A past tense with an additional nuance of actuality has a natural propensity to extend its domain, since it enables the speaker to heighten the interest of the addressee. Accordingly, the t‑perfect came to be used in narrative contexts as well (Loesov 2004a: 117–19). Various factors contributed to this: first, the fact that there is no clear-cut boundary between the relating of personal experiences, experiences of others, and historical events; second, the rise of the CT, which provided a convenient means of foregrounding and backgrounding events in an unobtrusive way, which is vital to narrative; and third, the development of the t‑perfect toward the standard past tense in affirmative main clauses. Yet, free t‑perfects in narrative texts are rather uncommon; they usually seem to indicate momentous events that have consequences of crucial importance for the rest of the story (see also von Soden 1965: 106). Examples are: (14) Atr. p. 72:5 DN iš-te-me rigimšin ‘Enlil heard their (the people’s) noise’ (15) Atr. p. 100:5 makurra i-ta-ma-ar q[urādu DN] ‘the hero Enlil saw the vessel’ 20.  Cf. also Patterson 1970: 113–14. The subordination of a predicate without conjunction is not peculiar to this construction: the imperfective with -ma is used as a virtual conditional clause (see GAG 3 §160a–b) and the stative with -ma often serves as a circumstantial clause (GAG3 §159a* with lit.), as in AbB 6, 64:10–11 gerrum pa-ri-is-ma adi inanna ul ašpurakki ‘because the road was blocked, I have so far not written to you’. 21.  Loesov (2004a: 152–53) argues that the succession of perfective and t‑perfect represents a shift from the narrative to the deictic register, which in laws and in letters is irreversible. This does not seem incompatible with the formulation adopted here. 22.  There is therefore no reason to assume that the t‑perfect has the function of indicating “Nach­zei­tig­ keit,” pace GAG §80d, GKT §76c, and Streck 1995a: 219–34; 1999, nor that there is a “Perfekt des Fort­ schrei­tens,” pace Metzler 2002: 384, 875–76. 23.  Maloney (1981: 127) explains the fixed position of perfective and t‑perfect in “Koppelungen” by claiming that “a mechanical rule of Old Babylonian syntax is restraining a perfect from appearing in penultimate position.” There may indeed be such a rule, but it is completely grounded in the actual use of the t‑perfect as a “superordinate” category.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

(16) Anzu RA 46, 88:1 Enlilūtam i-te-ki-im ‘He (Anzu) took away the Enlilship’ (first line of a new tablet) In contrast, instances of the CT in Old Babylonian narrative texts are quite common (Metzler 2002: 384–492; E. Cohen 2006: 60–62). The t‑perfect usually comes after a string of perfectives at the end of a passage; its impact often seems to be to recapitulate the previous events and highlight their meaning for the sequel of the story (as in the instances from Atra-ḫasis discussed by Metzler [2002: 387–91] and the two texts he quotes on pp. 394–95 [ibtanī in Agušaya and īterub in the merḫum-incantation]). The t‑perfect also automatically downplays the preceding event(s); an illustrative example from a hymnal context is: (17) JRAS Cspl. 68: II 1–4 ta-am-gu-ur-ma šarram u kalūšunu im-ta-ag-ru / ta-ab-bi šīmassu u kalūšunu it-ta-bi-i-ú ‘you (DN) have shown (Pfv) your favour to the king and they have all (i.e., all other gods) done (t‑Pf) the same; you have ordained (Pfv) his destiny, they have all done (t‑Pf) the same’. However, it seems more accurate to translate the perfectives as subordinate: ‘because/after you had shown your favour to the king, they have all done the same’, etc. Other t‑perfects in literary texts seem no more than mechanical instances of the CT in which its foregrounding nature can still be detected, but is hard to isolate from the natural emphasis that lies on the last-mentioned item of a series of events, e.g.: (18) Atr. p. 48:89–90 DN1 i-di-il bābšu kakkīšu il-qé it-ta-zi-iz maḫar DN2 ‘DN1, after having closed (Pfv) his gate and taken (Pfv) his weapons, appeared (t‑Pf) before DN2’. The interchange of perfective and t‑perfect may also serve a stylistic purpose, as in (19) and especially (20), where the stylistic sophistication is underlined by the chiastic arrangement of the two final constituents:24 (19) Gilg. p. 200:165–66 pāšī iš-pu-ku rabûtim / ḫaṣṣīnī 3 bilā iš-tap-ku ‘they cast (Pfv) big hatches, they cast (t‑Pf) axes of three talents each’ (20) Atr. St. Garelli p. 399:15, 18 arkūtum ik-ru-ú lāmšin / arkūtum mazzāzūšina ik-ta-ru-ú ‘the tall became short (Pfv) in stature (. . .); the tall, their stature became short (t‑Pf)’ Significantly, the t‑perfect is virtually absent from the narrative of Old Babylonian royal inscriptions. This is doubtless related to their generally stereotyped, solemn, and sometimes archaizing style, which did not promote the use of an innovating form.25 24.  Other instances include Bab. 12:16–17:6–7 (Etana) (ulid – ittalad ); Atr. p. 42:17–18 (īlû – [it]tardū). 25.  Instances from RIME 4 are it-ta-aš-ka-an-šum p. 376:32 and ú-tá-di p. 669:9. A reason for these t‑perfects (discussed by Metzler 2002: 458–59) may be that they are the first main verb after a rather intricate temporal clause (as is typical for these texts): the t‑perfect may signal that the main clause has started. A third instance, in the recurring phrase ge-ra-am i-ta-BA-al RIME 4, 708:11 // 710:11 // 711:11 in Archaic Babylonian inscriptions should instead be interpreted as Gtn perfective ittabbal (from wabālu ‘to carry’) or ītappal (from apālu ‘to answer’). Note that W. Farber (NABU 1998/129) reads the preceding word as zi‑ra‑am, with a variant zi-ra-tim ‘hostile actions/words’ (for the expression zērēti apālu; cf. ze-re-tim u parkātim i/ta-ta-na-ap-pa-la-an-ni Syria 33, 67:21, 26 (OB Mari) ‘he/you keep(s) answering me with hostile words and lies’ (tr. CAD P 185b s.v. pariktu B).

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


The second type of bound t‑perfect in main clauses is the epistolary t‑perfect of verbs of sending and writing in letters, usually underlined by anumma, inanna, or both, as in (21):26 (21) AbB 7, 155:14–17 inanna PN ana maḫrīka aṭ-ṭar-dam šeʾam kaspam i-di-iš-šum-ma ana GN li-ib-lam ‘herewith I am sending you PN: give him barley and silver so that he can bring it to me in GN’ This type represents a conventionalized use of the regular function of the t‑perfect. The writer of the letter transfers the event of writing or sending from his own temporal perspective (present or future) to the speaker’s time of the addressee, when this event is in the addressee’s (actual) past (Loesov 2004a: 130–31). The actuality is often made explicit by means of a following injunction, in the form of an imperative or a precative, as in (21) (Leong 1994: 157; Huehnergard 2005a: 157–58). In Late Babylonian, the epistolary t‑perfect is often introduced by amur or enna amur (also enna alone) (Streck 1995a: 155–56) instead of OB anumma and/or inanna, e.g.: (22) CT 22, 52: 21–22 a-mur PN al-tap-rak-ka ‘see, I am sending PN to you’. The Imp amur ‘see!’ underlines even more clearly than anumma and/or inanna that the writer visualizes the moment at which the recipient takes note of the contents of the letter and takes it as his reference point. Therefore, he expresses the act of writing or sending as a recent past event, the result of which the addressee has before his eyes.27 The use of a perfective instead of an epistolary t‑perfect does not seem to be impossible (pace Loesov 2004a: 130), although it is very rare: (23) AbB 4, 54:12 ina qabê bēlīa aš-pu-ra-ak-kum ‘I am writing to you by order of my lord’28 The third “bound” use of the t‑perfect concerns temporal clauses that refer to the future, where the t‑perfect serves as a future perfect (   futurum exactum): it indicates an event that is anterior to the main clause (in accordance with its regular past function) but posterior to the moment of speaking (GAG §170f, 171h, 172f, 174a–f; Maloney 1981: 196–99; Loesov 2004a: 134–40), e.g.: (24) AbB 2, 5:17–19 ištu nāram šuāti te-eḫ-te-ru-ú šipram ša ašpurakkum [e] puš ‘after you have dug (t‑Pf) the canal, do the work I wrote you about!’ In this context, the t‑perfect is regular whereas the perfective is very unusual, if it occurs at all. The reason for preferring the t‑perfect here may be that it relates the event to the moment of speaking because of its nuance of actuality, whereas the perfective would suggest that the event 26.  For the epistolary t‑perfect, see Maloney 1981: 59–76; Pardee and Whiting 1987; Leong 1994: 191–202; Loesov 2004a: 101–2, 130–34. 27.  Therefore, the epistolary t‑perfect is not a future perfect, as contended by Wilcke (1978: 208–09 n. 6) and Streck (1995a: 155–59; 1999: 103–5)—cf. the comments by Maloney (1981: 67–75) and Metzler (2002: 484–86)—nor is it a “Koinzidenzfall,” as claimed by Heimpel and Guidi (1969), nor does it refer to “an event he [the speaker] is doing at the moment of speech” (Leong 1994: 191). This kind of t‑perfect indicates precisely what the t‑perfect indicates elsewhere. The fact that we can conveniently translate it by means of an English progressive form (‘I am sending you this letter . . .’) is simply a matter of idiomatic expression in English, not a feature of the Akkadian t‑perfect itself. 28.  Other cases are ARM 10, 19:5–11; FM 2, 104 no. 62:11–14, 63:21–22. The instance quoted by Streck (1999: 119): ARM 6, 55:10–12 inanna anumma tuppam ana ṣēr šarrim ú-ša-bi-lam, is not an “epistolary perfective,” since the king is not the addressee of the letter containing this message.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

already belongs to the past. It is arguably a secondary development, because earlier texts, e.g., in Old Assyrian (see §6.3.3 below, pp. 151–152) use either the perfective or the imperfective in the same circumstances, and at least the imperfective is still possible in Old Babylonian.29 It is a symptom of the gradual “syntacticization” of the t‑perfect, the shift from a semantic or pragmatic motivation toward a syntactic one. It is significant that in Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian, where the t‑perfect is generally not used in subordinate clauses, it is still used in temporal clauses with a future main clause (see §6.3.4 below, p. 155). The t‑perfect also occurs in conditional clauses as a future perfect, since the apodosis of a conditional clause is typically situated in the future.30 It alternates with the perfective (see §5.3, p. 128); both indicate that the event of the protasis is completed at the moment the apodosis is realized. If all finite verbs of a conditional clause are in the t‑perfect or in the perfective, it is hard to observe a clear difference between them (Maloney 1981: 270). It is much more common, however, to find a t‑perfect preceded by one or more perfectives in the CT (Maloney 1981: 271–99; Hirsch 1969), especially in the complex protases of the Old Babylonian law collections—the Codes of Hammurapi and of Eshnunna. In this case, the t‑perfect typically expresses the most important condition for the sanction expressed in the apodosis to apply (Maloney 1981: 277–78; Huehnergard 2005a: 157), whereas the conditions expressed by means of a perfective are typically backgrounded: they are circumstantial or qualifications of the main condition.31 So the use of the t‑perfect in šumma-clauses is syntactically parallel to that in main clauses (Loesov 2004a: 147).32 This is further demonstrated by the fact that it is often avoided if there is a negation.33 29.  In particular after ištu; see GAG §171i; in the instances presented in GAG §171g, the context suggests that ištu has shifted here toward a causal meaning, parallel to English since. An instance after inūma is AbB 6, 126:18 inūma i-il-la-ka-ku-nu-ši-im ‘when he comes to you’ (followed by an imperative in the main clause); see GAG §170g; 30.  For the t‑perfect in conditional clauses, see Hirsch 1969; Maloney 1981: 231–48; Streck 1999: 112–13; Metzler 2002: 38–50; Loesov 2004a: 140–47. Von Soden’s claim (GAG §161f) about the t‑perfect in šumma clauses as “potential oder hypothetisch” is generally rejected; see Loesov 2004a: 146 n. 137 with earlier literature. 31.  A counter-example to this claim seems to be KH §22:22–25 šumma awīlum ḫubtam iḫbutma it-taaṣ-ba-at, with the crime in the perfective and the legally superfluous statement that he has been caught in the t‑perfect. However, the correct interpretation is doubtless ‘if a man has been caught in the act of committing a robbery’, with the two verbs in a kind of hendiadys, and the core statement is that the seizure occurred flagrante delicto, as Loesov (2004a: 154) has observed. 32.  In Akkadian, conditional clauses are main clauses, since they have the verb in the indicative. According to Loesov (2004a: 144–45), this is due to the fact that the realization of the main clause depends on the realization of the condition, which makes a conditional clause more foregrounded than other types of subordinate clauses. The fact that conditional clauses employ the negation lā is due to the association of lā with modality (cf. the prohibitive) rather than to its use in subordinate clauses. For the non-factual status of conditional clauses, compare the use of the precative and the prohibitive with the function of a conditional clause. 33.  See, for instance, it-ta-la-ad KH §146:47 ‘she has given birth’ versus lā ú-li-id §147:61, and cf. also §146:52 aššum mārī ul-du ‘because she has given birth (Pfv) to sons’ in a relative clause. Other instances include AbB 4, 80:4 and 11 and AbB 9, 196:7, 14. However, from time to time the t‑perfect is carried over to the negated alternative, as in: AbB 9, 16:11–14 šumma i-te-er-ba-ak-ki (. . .) šumma lā i-te-er-ba-ak-ki ‘if he has entered into your (Fem) presence, (. . .); if he has not entered into your presence, (. . .)’. For details, see Maloney 1981: 344–52, with a summary on p. 344: sometimes the t‑perfect is replaced by perfective in the negated clause, and sometimes it is not; the conditioning factor is unknown. Yet, according to Maloney (1981: 232–33), the šumma-clause is the only place in Old Babylonian where t‑perfects regularly occur with a negation.

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


6.3.2.  The t‑perfect in third-millennium Akkadian Among the four third-millennium dialects distinguished in § (pp. 11–12), only Sargonic Akkadian and Ur III Babylonian offer reliable instances of t‑perfects.34 Although they are very few in number, they suggest that there are no substantial differences from what we find in Old Babylonian as regards the use of the t‑perfect. Sargonic Akkadian shows two instances from a single letter and one from a royal inscription: (25) SAB p. 116:3 (Girsu) áš-má-ma aḫ-da-tu /  ʾasmaʿma(?) ʾaḫtadū/ ‘when I heard (it), I rejoiced’ (26) SAB p. 116:6–7 e-ni awātsu i-ti-iš i-da-ḫa-az /yītaḫaz/ ‘now he has taken his affair into his own hands’. (27) AKI p. 304:37–39 ip-la-aḫ-su-ma e-da-ra-ab /(y)iplaḫsūma (y)ētarab/ sadūsum ‘(the enemy leader,) having got frightened of him, fled into the mountain(s)’ All of them represent usages that are familiar from Old Babylonian: (25) and (27) are model instances of the CT, (26) contains a prototypical t‑perfect, underlined by e-ni, which (perhaps) means ‘now’. It is remarkable that other Sargonic Akkadian letters do not contain any t‑perfects.35 In a few cases, we find a perfective in a context where later texts would doubtless have a t‑perfect, which perhaps indicates that its use was less common in the third millennium than in later periods, e.g.: (28) SAB p. 170:4–8 (Eshnunna) x kù.babbar PN1 íl-gi-ma /yilqēma/ ana PN2 i-ti-in /yiddin/ ‘PN1 has received x silver and has given it to PN2’ (29) SAB p. 167:13′–15′ (Diyala) epinnī i-zu-ḫa-ma /yissuḫāma/ eqlī ana errāšē i-ti-na /yiddinā/ ‘(two persons?) have taken away my plough and have given my field to (the?) farmers’36

34.  The occurrence of the t‑perfect in Eblaite remains uncertain. There are several verb forms with infixed t that seem to be t‑perfects rather than t‑stems, in particular ni-da-za-an ARET 13, 9: r.VI 19 ‘we have weighed’ from wazānum (see §16.2.4, p. 458). Other forms of the same type are doubtless Gt‑stems, since they occur as such in Akkadian or elsewhere (e.g., iš-da-al /yištaʾal/ ‘he deliberated’ or the like, and iš11-da-mar in proper names [for the controversial meaning of the latter, see Pagan 1998: 24]), or their interpretation is uncertain (e.g., the forms mentioned in Rubio 2006: 122). A remarkable phenomenon pointed out by Krebernik (1988a: 57–59) is the use of perfective forms with infixed t (i.e., t‑perfects?) in abbreviated names where the subject (a god) has been omitted, whereas the corresponding full name uses the perfective; see also Pagan 1998: 22–23. 35.  Three other instances quoted by Hasselbach (2005: 198–99) are no doubt Gt perfectives: yittalkū in ana GN lū it-tal-ku SAB p. 116: r.3′ ‘they have indeed gone to / set out for GN’ comes from atluku ‘to start going, set out’ (see §14.3.4, pp. 371–372), since lū is hardly ever followed by a t‑perfect; see chap. 5, n. 8, p. 128; da-áš-da-˹bu˺ /taštapū/ SAB p. 186:9 (Gasur) ‘you were silent’ is from a verb that is regularly used in the Gt‑stem (G: šapû); see §14.3.4 (pp. 371–372), and Streck 2003a: 70 no. 186; and id-ba-lu /yitbalu/ OAIC 7:24 (Diyala) ‘he took along’ (Subj) is a perfective of tabālu ‘to take along’; see Kouwenberg 2005: 89–90. 36.  For errāšē instead of Inf erāši, as interpreted by Kienast and Volk (SAB p. 167), see Sommerfeld 1999: 19.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

In the narrative style of the Sargonic Akkadian royal inscriptions, we would not expect to find t‑perfects at all, so (27) is highly remarkable; it comes from a rather late (slightly post-Sargonic) inscription of Erridu-pizir of the Gutian dynasty.37 In Ur III Babylonian, the t‑perfect is attested a few times in letters and legal documents and does not seem different from its later use. An example is: (30) TMH NF 1/2, 7:7–9 nadānam iqbīšumma i-ta-dì-in ‘he promised to give him (the amount due), and he has indeed given (it)’38 Finally, third-millennium Akkadian offers a few proper names containing a verb form with infixed -t-, some of which may be t‑perfects (although this is hard to prove for lack of context). The most likely examples are: • Imtīda(m) ‘it has become (too) much for me’ in Ur III Babylonian (Hilgert 2002: 380– 82), apparently a t‑perfect of mâdu (ī) ‘to be(come) much, numerous’39 • Ātanaḫ ‘I have had enough!’ from anāḫu in Sargonic Akkadian (A-da-na-aḫ ELTS p. 130 no. 40 side C: IV 6 (Maništušu Obelisk) and in Ur III Babylonian (in various spellings, see Hilgert 2002: 238, 234–35 n. 22). This name is still common in later periods (Stamm 1939: 163)40

6.3.3.  The t‑perfect in Old Assyrian   41 In some respects, the use of the t‑perfect in Old Assyrian is markedly different from the use in Old Babylonian, although there are also some striking similarities. The main differences are that Old Assyrian makes a more sparing use of the t‑perfect (GKT §76h) and that there is little reason to distinguish between free and bound t‑perfects as defined in §6.3.1 (p. 141). Most t‑perfects are basically free, and their use is largely parallel to the use of the “free” t‑perfects of Old Babylonian: they typically express recent events that have an effect on the persons involved. We often find the t‑perfect when the speaker relates an event that concerns him personally and has aroused his anger, impatience, disappointment, or any other emotion. Referring to the speaker, it often expresses a personal experience, as in (31); elsewhere, the speaker often expresses his feelings 37.  The verb form in g ì r . n i t a2 g ì r . n i t a2 ˹iš ˺-da-ga-an AKI p. 292:15 ‘he has appointed governors everywhere’ is doubtless a Gtn perfective /yistakkan/. 38.  Similar instances are i-ta-dì-˹in˺ ZA 82, 184a:12 ‘he has given’; uš-te-li ASJ 12, 52:8 ‘he has dispossesssed’; and ir-tá-ši-ì FAOS 17, 127:13 ‘she has got’. 39.  Instances of third-millennium t‑perfects that are uncertain but still worth mentioning are: ú-DA-bibu-si(-ma) Or. 46, 201:30 (incant. from Kish), which is interpreted as a t‑perfect of ebēbu by AHw 181a s.v. D 4 but for which a derivation from dabābu D, as proposed by J. and A. Westenholz 1977: 210, seems more likely, precisely because of the rarity of the t‑perfect in this period; ti-ib-da-ad-ga in line 11 of the same text (according to Lambert 1992: 53–54 /tibtatqā/, a t‑perfect of batāqu ‘to cut off’ but perhaps also an indirect reflexive Gt‑stem (‘they(?) cut off for themselves’); ir11-ti-ab MAD 3, 229 s.v. Rʾ3B in a broken context; and the PN Dar-ti-bu (MAD 3, 229) ‘she has replaced’ (Gasur), perhaps an abbreviation of Tartīb-DN, both from râbu (ī) ‘to replace’ (which, however, more often shows the form raʾābu in Sargonic Akkadian PNs (Yirʾib-DN, etc.; see §17.7.2, p. 558). 40.  However, since t‑perfects in proper names remain very unusual until the Neo-Babylonian period (Stamm 1939: 38, 94), it may also be a lexicalized Gt‑stem; see §14.3.4 (pp. 371–372), and cf. perhaps the taPRīS noun tānī/ēḫu (see §14.6.1, p. 409). 41.  An earlier and thorough treatment was presented by K. Hecker in GKT §76. However, some of his instances are to be explained as t‑ or tan‑stems, especially the putative instances of future meaning in §76d (the t‑Pf áš-ta-ḫa-aṭ BIN 6, 113:5 mentioned there is not very clear but presumably refers to the past) and the Štn Pfv uš-té-bi4-lá-ku-ni TC 1, 2:19 (= OAA 1, 47:19) mentioned in §76g.

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


about negative behaviour of the addressee or a third person who has failed to do something he promised or something he has a moral obligation to do, as in (32)–(34): (31) BIN 4, 35:9–10 lā libbi ilimma eršum i-ṣa-áb-ta-ni ‘unfortunately, I have been confined to bed’ (lit., the bed has seized me) (32) ICK 1, 187:7, 19 ūmūšu e-ta-at-qú ‘his term has already finished!’42 (33) AKT 1, 27:20–23 umma šūtma āllak kaspam ubbalakkum isliʾannīma kaspam lā i-ta-áb-lá-am ‘he said to me ‘I will bring you the silver’, but he has cheated me and has not brought me the silver’ (similarly TPAK 1, 3:15–18) (34) CCT 4, 45b:16–19 miššum kīma sinništim ištu itu.10.kam iqqerab ālim ta-áp-ta-aḫ-a-ni-i ‘why have you held me locked up in the town like a woman for 10 months?’ When a t‑perfect and a perfective of the same verb are used side by side, the contrast is one of recent past versus more remote past, as in (35) and (36), and/or personal involvement versus a more neutral attitude, as in (37) and (38): (35) TPAK 1, 191:5–6, 14–19 adi šinīšu ina dittim tù-ša-i-lá-ni-[m]a (. . .) e-ša-ni-ma yāti (. . .) ina dittim tù-uš-ta-i-lá-ni ‘twice you questioned (Pfv) me in court (. . .); now you have questioned (t‑Pf) me again in court’ (also CCT 1, 49b:14–17 with ūmam, quoted in GKT §76e)43 (36) BIN 6, 104:3–9 abūki (. . .) iš-pu-ra-am u anāku ṣuḫārēa u našpertī aṣṣēr abīki áš-ta-áp-ra-am ‘your father wrote (Pfv) to me and (now) I have sent (t‑Pf) my servants and my message to your father (. . .)’ (37) TC 2, 3:7–11 etalluttam ēpušma šuqlī ipṭur annikī il5-qé appūḫ awīlim sarrim šūt annakam yāʾam il5-té-qé ‘he acted high-handedly, opened my container and took (Pfv) my tin: instead of a criminal, he himself has taken (t‑Pf) the tin which is mine!’ (38) OAA 1, 126:22–25 šūt iṣṣērīa awīlma mā šuāti ta-qí-ip-ma yāti ulā ta-aq-tí-pá-ni ‘he is (apparently) a better man than I am: you have put (Pfv) your confidence in him, but you have not put (t‑Pf) your confidence in me’ Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian also differ in their use of the t‑perfect in the following ways. First, the epistolary t‑perfect is very rare in Old Assyrian letters.44 Second, the use of the t‑perfect 42.  This t‑perfect contrasts with the perfective in the same text (ICK 1, 187), line 49 ūmūšu e-tí-qú, which means the same but lacks the urgency of the first two times the writer uses this expression. In Old Assyrian, the t‑perfect occurs passim in similar contexts with etēqu, alāku, and mâdu (ī) ‘to be(come) (too) much’. 43.  However, recentness alone is not a sufficient condition for using the t‑perfect: a trivial recent event is often expressed by a perfective, e.g., CCT 2, 29:9–11 10 mana ūmam kunukkīa ak-nu-uk-ma našʾākkum ‘today, I have sealed (Pfv) 10 minas of silver with my seal and I am bringing it to you’, where aknuk is doubtless too colourless a verb to deserve a t‑perfect (cf. also ICK 1, 51:7–8 and the two examples of ūmam + perfective quoted in GKT §76h). 44.  Only OIP 27, 5:3 // 6:4. The instance mentioned by Pardee and Whiting (1987: 23)—TC 1, 2:19, quoted in n. 41 above—is without any doubt a Štn perfective.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

as a future perfect in temporal clauses is exceptional (GAG §172h and GKT §76f).45 In temporal clauses situated posterior to the moment of speech, Old Assyrian normally uses the perfective or the imperfective, e.g.: (39) TPAK 1, 42:r.9′ kīma kaspam ta-áš-qú-lu-šu-ni ‘as soon as you have paid (Pfv) him the silver (send your message to me and my representative)’ (40) CCT 2, 1:8–9 ina ūmim ša tuppī ta-ša-me-ú ‘as soon as (lit., on the day when) you hear (Impfv) my tablet (, buy tin for our joint property)’ Third, the Babylonian tendency to avoid the t‑perfect in negative, interrogative, and subordinate clauses is not very conspicuous in Old Assyrian, although there are some examples suggesting the contrary.46 A difficult point is the existence of the CT in Old Assyrian. From time to time we encounter phrases that are strongly reminiscent of it, such as: (41) RA 58, 120:11–13 né-gu5-ur-ma aṣṣērīšu ni-iš-ta-pá-ar ‘we (have) rented (Pfv) (a messenger) and have sent (t‑Pf) (him) to him’ (42) TC 1, 34:6–10 anāku u PN né-ru-ub-ma taḫsisātum (. . .) né-ta-mar ‘PN and I entered (Pfv) and we looked (t‑Pf) for the memoranda’ (cf. also GKT §76c and 134b) (43) OAA 1, 127:8–11 ḫuzīrum e-gi5-ri-ma am-qú-ut-ma šēpī áš-tí-bi4-ir-ma ak-ta-lá ‘a pig crossed (Pfv) my path and I fell (Pfv); (now) I have broken (t‑Pf) my foot and have become delayed (t‑Pf)’ The perfectives in these clauses precede one or two t‑perfects and may be interpreted as semantically subordinate and thus as instantiations of the CT. The question is, however, whether this sequence has a special syntactic status in Old Assyrian—as it undoubtedly has in Old Babylonian—or whether it is only one out of many possible sequences. These clauses may simply result from the general tendency in Akkadian to save the most salient information for the end. Actually, there is wide variation: apart from the rather common perfective – t‑perfect order, we also find the reverse order (44) and a succession of t‑perfects, as in (45) and (46): (44) OAA 1, 12:15–17 annakam abbāʾūšu im-tí-du-ma aḫḫēni nu-šé-ší-ib ‘here his “fathers” have become (t‑Pf) numerous, so we convened (Pfv) our colleagues’ (45) BIN 6, 114:14–16 kuṣṣum i-sí-ni-iq-ni-a-tí-ma ellutum i-ib-té-re ‘winter has reached (t‑Pf) us and the caravan has become (t‑Pf) hungry’47 (46) CCT 4, 14b:8–9 DN u ilka qātī i-ṣa-áb-tù-ma áš-tí-lim ‘Assur and your (personal) god have seized (t‑Pf) my hand and I have become (t‑Pf) well (again)’ 45.  A good example is BIN 4, 63:6–7 kīma awātim anniātim ni-iš-ta-am-ú-ni ‘although we have heard (about) these matters (we do not intend to leave)’; also CCT 2, 48:25 (i-ṣa-áb-tù-ú) and Prag I 715:26 tù‑ku‑ta-i-na-ni (both after ištumma) 46.  E.g., TC 3, 252 case: 21/3 šumma . . . i-tab-lu-nim versus TC 3, 252 case: 25 šumma lā ub-lu-nim. 47.  Cf. OAA 1, 50:8–9 kuṣṣum is-ni-iq-ni-a-tí, where the same event is expressed neutrally with a perfective.

6.3.  The t‑Perfect: Function


It seems most likely that the order perfective + -ma + t‑perfect is not (yet) syntacticized but that each constituent still has its own specific function. Finally, a major problem is the use of the t‑perfect in conditional clauses with šumma (GKT §137d). In šumma clauses that are anterior to the moment of speech, the perfective is used (GKT §137c); if the condition is posterior to the moment of speech, both perfective and t‑perfect may be used (cf. GKT §137d). The difference between them is unclear; in some contexts, the t‑perfect seems to be used if a previously affirmed future event is negated in a šumma clause, or vice versa,48 as in: (47) Prag I 491:11–13 (PN will send [ušebbalam] silver to me) šumma in miqit nigallim lā uš-té-bi4-lam ‘if he has not sent it by the time of the “falling of the sickle” (i.e., harvest time) (he will pay a fine)’ (48) AKT 1, 76:6–7 (PN has married PNF and he will not marry [ulā ēḫḫaz] a second wife) šumma e-ta-ḫa-az u e-tí-zi-ib-ší ‘if he (nevertheless) has married (another woman) and has left her (i.e., the first woman)’ (he will pay (a fine of) 5 minas of silver) (and often in similar contexts) Comparing the use of the t‑perfect in Old Assyrian and in Old Babylonian, we can provisionally conclude that its development is basically parallel in the two dialects but that Old Assyrian represents an earlier stage than Old Babylonian. This is also suggested by the remarkable fact that the differences between them no longer seem to exist in later periods: the use of the t‑perfect in Middle Assyrian is virtually identical to its use in Middle Babylonian (see below). A more detailed study of the Old Assyrian t‑perfect is required to obtain more clarity regarding how this came about.

6.3.4.  The t‑perfect in the later dialects From Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian onward, the perfective and the t‑perfect have the same temporal function of referring to a past event, but they differ syntactically in the fact that they occur in different types of clauses: the t‑perfect is the regular past tense in affirmative main clauses and “Satzfragen” (i.e., without a question word), and the perfective is used elsewhere— i.e., in subordinate and negative clauses and in “Wortfragen” (which include a question word).49 The roots of this differentiation are already observable in the CT of Old Babylonian, in which the perfective denotes “virtual subordination,” as we saw in §6.3.1 (pp. 144–146). The (partial) replacement of the perfective by the t‑perfect is an instance of a typologically common process, caused by the fact that the t‑perfect with its nuances of involvement, actuality, and recentness is more expressive than the perfective and therefore tends to be overused and gradually generalized at the cost of the neutral form, at the same time losing its expressiveness (Bybee et al. 1994: 86–87). In this particular case, we can establish the course of this process in some detail. The use of the t‑perfect in Old Babylonian shows that the replacement started in 48.  This is presumably what J. Lewy (MVAeG 35/3 (1935) 169 n. 1) intends with his proposal to translate the t‑perfect in Old Assyrian with ‘wirklich’, ‘tatsächlich’, ‘jetzt wirklich’, or ‘nunmehr’. It is also reminiscent of the use of the negated t‑perfect in šumma clauses of Hammurapi’s Laws, of which Loesov (2004a: 156–57) states that it indicates “behaviour that is contrary to the normal (expected) course of events, most typically penalized omissions.” 49.  From this period onward, the term (t‑)perfect is strictly speaking inappropriate (as it is in the West Semitic suffix conjugation): it should rather be called “simple past” or “preterite,” but this would cause confusion; see also Streck 1995a: 212 n. 487.


The t‑Perfect: Function  6.3.

affirmative main clauses. This is due to the fact that such clauses are typically foregrounded: they are used for the most important and most salient part of the message, to convey new information, and to refer to highly focalized events. Consequently, it is in affirmative main clauses that new and more expressive words and constructions tend to be introduced first. Other clause types are more likely to contain information that is presupposed (“non-challengeable”), already known to the interlocutors, and therefore backgrounded. After the rise of innovative forms in affirmative main clauses, they will be formally different in that they preserve older forms (Bybee et al. 1994: 230–36; Haspelmath 1998; Loesov 2004a: 123 n. 93)). In a later stage, the new forms may spread to all environments and thus completely replace the older ones, but in Akkadian this did not happen with the perfective: it was not given up but was restricted to secondary environments. The details of the process are, however, fairly complex. Generally speaking, conservative types of language use, especially literary and legal texts, lag behind in completing the strict syntactic division between the two tenses. The literary dialect of Standard Babylonian never adopted it at all and continued using perfectives in main clauses, just as in Old Babylonian, side by side with t‑perfects. For Middle Babylonian, Aro (1955: 81) distinguishes between letters on the one hand and legal texts (“Urkunden”) and kudurru-inscriptions on the other. In letters, the t‑perfect is the usual past tense in affirmative main clauses, whereas the perfective is found in questions and negative clauses. However, in the legal texts and the kudurru-inscriptions, the perfective is also used in affirmative main clauses. Aro ascribes this to the difference between Behauptung (for the t‑perfect) and Feststellung (for the perfective) defined by W. von Soden (GAG §80f). It should instead be ascribed to a difference between contemporary usage on the one hand and archaizing or formulaic style on the other (Streck 1995a: 153–54).50 This is confirmed by the fact that the t‑perfect does appear in legal texts but only in verbatim quotations of the persons involved (Aro 1955: 82–83). However, Aro (1955: 83–86) also points to a fair number of perfectives in main clauses of letters, and among these are the perfective of qabû ‘to say’ and šapāru ‘to write’. These examples indicate that the replacement of the perfective in main clauses by the t‑perfect was not yet quite completed and that these frequent and colourless verbs preserved their old form longer than other verbs. As Aro states (1955: 86), a more detailed study on a wider basis is required. Finally, in conditional clauses, the t‑perfect has largely replaced the perfective (1955: 144–45), and in temporal clauses it is used as a future perfect (1955: 148–49), continuing Old Babylonian usage. Neo-Babylonian and Late Babylonian essentially show the same picture (Woodington 1982: 87–88; Streck 1995a: 120–26). Interestingly, in Late Babylonian legal documents, the perfective still continues to be used in affirmative main clauses alongside the t‑perfect (1995a: 122–24). Streck plausibly explains this as due to their stereotyped and traditional style (1995a: 153–54). It shows that the advance of the t‑perfect was gradual and took place first in passages that are closest to everyday language. The details for Middle Assyrian are unclear, since W. Mayer’s representation of the facts (W. Mayer 1971: 58 and elsewhere) is too laconic to be of much use. In Middle Assyrian letters, 50.  W. von Soden’s (GAG §79b, 80f) distinction between the t‑perfect as a “Behauptungsform” and the perfective as “Form der blossen Feststellung” in later dialects has no basis in the actual use of these tenses and is directly refuted by the syntactic distribution that I have described above: if two categories differ in that one mainly occurs in affirmative main clauses and the other one in other kinds of clauses, they cannot also differ in that one expresses “Behauptungen” and the other “Feststellungen.” Moreover, the use of the t‑perfect in “Satzfragen” directly contradicts the claim that it is a “Behauptungsform,” as Streck (1995a: 208) points out.

6.4.  The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect


the situation seems to be parallel to Middle Babylonian, with the t‑perfect in affirmative main clauses and the perfective in subordinate clauses, negated clauses and questions (CancikKirschbaum 1996: 63), e.g.:51 (52) MATSH p. 96 no. 2:54–56 ana īne mullāʾē ša ṣābe u imārē ḫalqūte ša GN lā tu-ma-al-li imārē um-ta-al-li why have you not provided (Pfv) compensation for the lost workers and donkeys of GN?’ – ‘I have provided (t‑Pf) donkeys’ Other kinds of Middle Assyrian texts show a less consistent picture. In the legal texts of the Harem Edicts, the past tense in main clauses may still be expressed by the perfective (e.g., riksa irkus AfO 17, 280:60 ‘he [the king] issued a binding regulation’ in the introductory formula), and this is also found in contracts. However, W. Mayer (1971: 58) claims that in “younger texts,” such as the economic texts from the time of Ninurta-tukulti-Assur (ca. 1130 b.c.), the t‑perfect has replaced the perfective as the past tense in main clauses. So here, too, we witness a gradual replacement, with the Harem Edicts and the contracts doubtless representing a more archaic stage. In the conditional clauses of the Middle Assyrian laws (which doubtless also represent an older stage), the CT is used as it was in the Old Babylonian law collections (W. Mayer 1971: 110–11), but the t‑perfect tends to become more frequent (Hirsch 1965: 131). In subordinate clauses the t‑perfect is used if the main clause refers to the future (W. Mayer 1971: 112, 115), an interesting Babylonian-style innovation versus Old Assyrian. In relative clauses, only perfectives are used for past tense (W. Mayer 1971: 58). All instances of “Wortfragen” referring to the past quoted by W. Mayer (1971: 108) have the perfective rather than the t‑perfect. He makes no mention of “Satzfragen.” The situation in Neo-Assyrian, as described by Hämeen-Anttila (2000: 110), seems a close continuation of the tendencies observable in Middle Assyrian: the t‑perfect is the usual form in affirmative main clauses and “Satzfragen,” the perfective is used in subordinate clauses, negative clauses and “Wortfragen.” Hämeen-Anttila (2000: 110) also reports the use of the epistolary t‑perfect in the formula ūmâ annuri(g) assapra or assaprakka ‘herewith I am writing to you’. This is remarkable, since it does not seem to be attested in earlier Assyrian.52

6.4. The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect There is a broad consensus among Semitic scholars that the t‑perfect of the G‑stem goes back to the Gt‑stem and that it represents a specific development of the originally detransitive function of the t-infix. However, this seems largely based on the lack of an alternative explanation (Loesov 2004a: 167): apart from the well-known and widespread T-forms in Semitic (including Akkadian), there does not seem to be any plausible source for the t‑perfect. There are, however, a few positive arguments for this derivation. First, there is no distinction in form whatsoever between the t‑perfect forms of the primary stems and the perfective of the corresponding t‑stem. Second, infixes do not easily emerge: they are by far the least common type of affix (Greenberg 1963: 73; Ultan 1975; Mayerthaler 1988: 78). Therefore, a unitary origin of t‑perfect and t‑stem 51.  According to Cancik-Kirschbaum (1996: 63), the perfective is also found in “Aussagesätze (. . .) für die Vorvergangenheit”—i.e., in main clauses. However, this cannot be substantiated from the texts, as demonstrated by Streck (1997: 272). 52.  The rare use of the t‑perfect as a future perfect is mainly attested in the legal formula ša (. . .) dēnu dabābu ubtaʾʾûni ‘who (. . .) lodges a complaint’, which according to Hämeen-Anttila (2000: 111) is a “petrified formula” dating from the Middle Assyrian period.


The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect  6.4.

is a priori much more likely than the assumption of two homonymous infixes emerging through different historical processes. Obviously, this presupposes the existence of a plausible development from a detransitive voice marker in the perfective to a tense marker with the function of a perfect. Given this point of departure, there are two major problems regarding the historical background of iptarVs. First, how did it acquire its function as perfect of the basic stem? and second, is the t‑perfect an Akkadian innovation, or did it already exist in Proto-Semitic or even Afroasiatic? The second question seems to be relatively easy to answer. Other Semitic languages do not have a perfect characterized by a t-infix among their tense/aspect categories, and it is therefore generally assumed that the perfect function of iptarVs is an Akkadian innovation. There are, however, at least three dissenting voices. First, Zaborski (2004) claims, on the basis of Berber evidence (see below), that already in Afroasiatic the t-infix was used as a perfect and that the existence of numerous Arabic Stem VIII (iqtatala) verbs that do not have the regular detransitive meaning of this stem (reflexive, etc.; see §14.4.2, pp. 380–381) but have the same meaning as Stem I or are isolated are a residue of this perfect. This line of reasoning is questionable, however. What these verbs demonstrate is that the t-infix of Stem VIII has lost part of its original force and has largely become a variant to the basic stem, in accordance with the development that will be described in chap. 14. They do not provide any evidence for the existence of a perfect with infixed t. In order to prove that these T‑forms were once a perfect, we also need to show that this perfect was an inflectional part of the basic stem with a paradigmatic relationship to the other finite categories, the imperfective and the perfective (see, for instance, Loesov 2004a: 164). This was not really proved by Zaborski. Second, Voigt (1987c: 93–97; 2002: 284–85) adduces T‑forms in Berber and Beja as evidence for the fact that parallels to iptarVs already existed in Afroasiatic. This is unconvincing, since in Berber the T‑forms have imperfective function (see § above, pp. 104–106). In Beja, they characterize what Voigt (2002: 284–85) calls the present and the perfect of a specific class of verbs but are lacking in the corresponding aorist. So their function is sufficiently different from that of iptarVs to raise serious doubts about this parallel. The forms in question instead show that iptarVs is not the only instance of the penetration of t as prefix or infix into the paradigm of the basic stem: in Berber and Beja, this also happened but in tense/aspect categories different from Akkadian. The general explanation behind these parallel developments is the fact that at a very early moment the detransitive function of t started to weaken so that it lost its function or was reused for a different function. In Semitic, this happened on a large scale, as I will argue in chap. 14.53 Third, Loprieno (1986: 123–41) has also argued in favour of the Proto-Semitic provenance of the t‑perfect iptarVs. His view is intimately connected with his reconstruction of the functional evolution of the t-infix and with his claim that the Semitic t-infix is cognate with the suffix t of the Egyptian sḏm.t=f form. He argues that the t-infix originally had perfective function, which is preserved as such in Akkadian but was replaced in West Semitic by the suffix conjugation qatVla, and that the reflexive, reciprocal, and passive functions are secondary developments. This is very unlikely, however. It is contradicted by massive typological evidence, which strongly suggests that exactly the opposite has happened—namely, that the reflexive function is original and the 53.  Lipiński (1997: 338) quotes two Ugaritic Gt forms construed with a direct object in support of a Proto-Semitic origin of the Gt‑stem used as a perfect. However, Tropper classifies both of them as unclear (2000: 521 s.v. √mḫṣ and 525 s.v. √šbm), and D. Testen (IOS 20 [2002] 517) rightly observes that more evidence is needed for such a far-reaching claim.

6.4.  The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect


other functions are successive stages in a continuing grammaticali­zation process, of which the temporal function of t in Akkadian is undoubtedly the last. Loprieno’s claim that the Semitic t-infix (which was originally a prefix; see §14.4.1, pp. 375–​ 380) and the suffix t of the Egyptian sḏm.t=f form are genetically related remains to be proven. It is true that the derivational prefixes of Semitic occur as suffixes in other Afroasiatic languages, especially in Cushitic and Chadic, but Egyptian sides with Semitic, at least in the case of the causative sibilant and the detransitive n (or m), both of which are prefixed in Egyptian.54 This raises the question why t would appear as a suffix, if it is indeed related to the Semitic t. Moreover, it is far from clear how the sḏm.t=f form should be analyzed. In view of its three main functions (after prepositions, after the negation n with the meaning ‘not yet’ or ‘before . . .’, and as a complement after verbs of seeing, speaking, etc.), Edel (1955/64: 368 §732) deems it most likely that it is actually a nomen actionis rather than a finite category. Others regard it as a finite form, however: Loprieno (1995: 78) describes it as “a subordinate negative perfective form,” Zonhoven (1998: 600, 612–13) as a “verbal verb form” (as opposed to a “substantival verb form”) indicating “a relative future tense,” and Schenkel (2005: 205–7) as a tense with two temporal reference points, one in the past and one in the future. This is strikingly similar to Streck’s (1995a: 196–209; 1999) definition of the Akkadian t‑perfect iptarVs, and Schenkel explicitly mentions the possibility that the two categories are etymologically related (Streck 1995a: 207). However, Streck’s account of the t‑perfect has not found general acceptance among Assyriologists (see n. 7 above, p. 141). According to the description of its function given here, which is based on earlier studies by authors such as Goetze, Maloney, and Loesov, there is very little similarity with the sḏm.t=f form. Consequently, since neither the function nor the form of sḏm.t=f provides a sufficient basis for treating it as cognate with Akkadian iptarVs, I will not include Egyptian in the discussion of the next sections nor in the reconstruction of the evolution of the t‑infix in chap. 14. In sum, there are no compelling reasons to assume that the verb forms with infixed t were used as a perfect anywhere but in Akkadian. This means that the perfect function of the t‑infix is an Akkadian innovation and the t‑perfect itself a relative newcomer in the Akkadian verbal paradigm.55 The second and more difficult question is how the original perfective of a t‑stem acquired the function of perfect of the corresponding primary stem in a paradigmatic relationship with its imperfective and perfective. This implies a double change: from a simple past tense—or perhaps, more accurately, a perfective—to a perfect, which is a typologically bizarre development, since it is the opposite of the common development from perfect to perfective or preterite (Kuryłowicz 1975: 106, 128; Bybee et al. 1994: 81, 104), and from detransitive to active, which seems to be unusual as well. Essentially, two kinds of developments have been proposed for this change, one based on the well-attested development from resultative to perfect, the other based on the original indirect reflexive function of the t-infix.56 54.  See §13.6 (pp. 351–352) on the causative sibilant and §12.6.1 (p. 315) on the prefix n in Egyptian and their relationship to the Semitic forms. 55.  This is also claimed by Loesov (2004a: 123) on functional grounds. 56.  I will not discuss other views that I think lack any plausibility, such as the claim that the t‑perfect arose from a specific use of t in its separative function, as was proposed by Goetze (1936: 332–33), Gelb (1955b: 110), von Soden (1965: 104b; 1991b: 472), and Buccellati (1996: 87, 108–12); see my arguments (Kouwenberg 2005) against this alleged separative function. A striking piece of verbal acrobatics (entirely fanciful in my view) deriving the t‑perfect from the reflexive function of t (which in itself is quite plausible; see presently) can be found in Lieberman 1986: 627. For possible Sumerian influence on the rise of iptarVs, see the end of this section. Loesov (2004a: 162–72) presents a brief discussion of the most important proposals.


The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect  6.4.

The claim that the Akkadian t‑perfect goes back to a resultative use of the t-infix originates with Kuryłowicz (1962: 64–65; 1972: 61; 1975: 110) and was taken up—with minor variations—by various others, such as Voigt (1987c: 88–89), Stempel (1995), and the present author (GAV pp. 72–75).57 It is based on the observation that, cross-linguistically, many perfects come from a resultative, a common verbal category indicating the state which is the result of a preceding event.58 Resultatives often become passives as well, as is shown by the widespread use of the same marker for both categories. In many European languages, for instance, the copula is used to denote the perfect and the passive (Kuryłowicz 1964: 56–57). In Akkadian, the stative has come very close to expressing both notions, in the “active” versus the “passive” stative; see further §7.3.2 (pp. 168–174). Since the t-infix also combines both functions in Akkadian—if not in the Gt‑stem, then at least in the Dt‑stem and the Št1‑stem—this seems to be an attractive solution. On closer inspection, however, it does not seem applicable to the Akkadian t‑perfect. The main reason is that the t-infix is not a resultative, neither in actual use, because it never has resultative function, nor in origin, because we can be confident that it goes back to a reflexive, as I will argue in chap. 14. In view of the general polysemy of detransitive voice markers (see §10.8.3, pp. 257–258), this may seem too critical an attitude: if the t-infix can be direct and indirect reflexive, reciprocal, (medio)passive, and perhaps denote yet other detransitive notions, why could it not be resultative as well? The answer is that reflexive and resultative belong to two different grammaticalization processes. The reflexive is usually part of a development: reflexive noun § reflexive/reciprocal affix § middle § spontaneous event § passive (see §14.3.4, pp. 369–370). The resultative, on the other hand, is part of a development: stative expressions § resultative § passive and/or perfect. In the corpus studied by Bybee et al., there are no instances of reflexives developing to resultatives. Instead, resultatives tend to go back either to stative expressions, such as clauses with a copula, or to auxiliary verbs for ‘to remain’ or ‘to come’ (Bybee et al. 1994: 67–69). This has three important consequences. First, the passive may arise from both reflexive and resultative markers—apart from other possible sources (see Haspelmath 1990)—but these are different processes unrelated to each other. This is illustrated by most of the Romance and Slavic languages, which use both types of passives side by side. Second, if passive and resultative are diachronically related, the development is from resultative to passive, not vice versa (Nedjalkov and Jaxontov 1988: 49), as the situation in Akkadian would require, if we wanted to derive the perfect from a resultative use of t. Third, if we want to derive the perfect function of iptarVs from a resultative, we have to combine two grammaticalization paths that are superficially similar and may lead to the same outcome but which should actually be kept distinct. This leads to the conclusion that the use of the t-infix for the perfect cannot be derived from a putative resultative function. The second option that has been proposed is to derive the perfect meaning from the indirect reflexive. In the indirect reflexive, the subject is coreferential with the indirect object. As such, it can have autobenefactive meaning: the subject does something for his own benefit, as in 57.  The present account of the rise of the t‑perfect (and its complementary part in chap. 14) replaces my explanation of the t‑perfect in GAV pp. 72–77, which includes some implausible developments, as pointed out by, for instance, Streck (1998b: 527–28) and Loesov (2004a: 166). 58.  For the development from resultative to perfect, see Kuryłowicz 1975: 109–10; Voigt 1987c: 88–93; Nedjalkov and Jaxontov 1988: 41–44; Bybee and Dahl 1989: 68–73; Bybee et al. 1994: 68–69, 104–5. For the development from resultative to passive, see Kuryłowicz 1964: 56–58; Nedjalkov and Jaxontov 1988: 45–49; Voigt 1987c: 90–92 n. 15.

6.4.  The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect


the middle voice of Classical Greek. Coreferentiality with the subject may easily develop into subject-affectedness (Waltereit 1999: 265–73), which does not seem to be too far removed from subject involvement. As we saw above, this is an important feature of the use of the t‑perfect in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. Along these lines, L. B. Anderson (1982: 256–57) has argued that the form with infixed t was an “ethical dative,” which took on the expression of “relevance of experience” and in combination with past tense became a category similar to the English perfect of have plus participle. Anderson’s characterization of the t-infix as an ethical dative does not seem very plausible (at least not as its “original” function), but the notion of ethical dative is closely related to subject involvement, so this idea is compatible with a development from an indirect reflexive. Likewise, Loesov (2004a: 167) derives the perfect use of the t-infix from its use as a middle voice. The problem is that this does not answer the question why and how this originally indirect reflexive completely lost its detransitive meaning and became restricted to the past tense.59 For the time being, we can say little more than that the rise of the t‑perfect is likely to be related to the autobenefactive meaning of the t‑infix, but further details remain completely obscure.60 Finally, several authors have argued that Sumerian influence played a role in the emergence of the t‑perfect. The first was probably Goetze (1936: 332–34), but the classical formulation comes from von Soden (1965).61 He points to similarities in use between the Akkadian t‑perfect and Sumerian verbs forms with the prefixes ba-, imma-, and u- and argues that the first two prefixes occur in narrative in places where an event is highlighted (“hervorgehoben”; 1965: 107a), just as the t‑perfect may function in narrative contexts, and that the use of the “prospective” prefix u‑ is parallel to the future perfect use of the t‑perfect.62 In the present state of our knowledge, it does not seem possible to decide this issue. On the one hand, the functional parallel between the t‑perfect and any specific Sumerian verbal category 59.  Loesov (2004a: 171) states that the form with t “was at a certain point put to the service of expressing an explicit temporal relation of past facts to the speaker,” but he does not explain how. His attempt (2004a: 167–72) to find iptarVs forms in Old Babylonian letters that would show a trace of this original “medial value” (his terms) are generally unconvincing: they are more likely to be t‑perfect forms, although not all of them completely fit the normal use of the t‑perfect. 60.  It is possible that the use of the reflexive marker se in Spanish gives an idea of how these processes may have come about, although I do not wish to argue that Akkadian must have had exactly the same development. Apart from the usual functions of a reflexive marker, se can also have completive function in transitive clauses, if their direct object refers to a finite quantity (Nishida 1994: 428) in a way that is reminiscent of preverbs in Germanic languages: the contrast between comer and comerse is parallel to the conrast between to eat and to eat up in English (1994: 450–51). This implies that apart from being detransitive, se can also increase the transitivity of a clause. Moreover, the completive meaning of se associates it more closely with perfective than with imperfective aspect (Maldonado 1999: 177). This may give us a hint why the grammaticalization of the t-infix to a tense/aspect form of the basic stem only took place in the perfective. As shown by Bybee et al. (1994: 57–61), completives are a well-known source of perfects. Maldonado (1999: 154–55) describes the non-detransitive use of se as benefactive or completive or as expressing “full involvement” of the subject. The last-mentioned function makes it clear that this use of se is a natural extension of reflexive se in its function of indirect reflexive “to do something for oneself.” The Spanish reflexive pronoun shows that it is possible for a detransitive voice marker to lose its detransitive value and to acquire an association with completive function. We do not know whether the t‑infix in Akkadian underwent a similar development, but it seems at least theoretically possible. For the parallel between se in Spanish verbs such as irse ‘to go away’ and t in Akkadian atluku ‘to start going, to set out’, see §14.3.4 (pp. 371–372). 61.  Others have taken up this idea: Streck (1995a: 221), Woods (2001), and Huehnergard (2006: 13–14). 62.  For a more recent discussion of these prefixes—with a rather different interpretation—see Rubio 2007a: 1344–49.


The Historical Background of the t‑Perfect  6.4.

or group of categories is far from obvious (see Streck 1998a: 190–91 for a discussion of possible parallels). Generally speaking, the function of Sumerian verb forms is more problematic than that of the Akkadian forms, so trying to explain the latter on the basis of Sumerian is tantamount to explaining obscurum per obscurius. Moreover, there is a widespread tendency in languages to develop a past tense form that underlines the recentness, current relevance, etc., of a past event. This increases the possibility that Akkadian and Sumerian developed this function independently. On the other hand, the likelihood of Sumerian influence also correlates with the absence of a plausible inner-Akkadian explanation. I have argued above that there is one, but admittedly it is far from conclusive. In conclusion, it cannot be ruled out that contact with Sumerian was indeed a factor in the rise of the t‑perfect, but—as is usual in such matters—positive evidence is difficult to find.

Chapter 7

The Stative

7.1. Introduction The last of the finite verbal categories to be discussed is the stative. It offers both historical and typological interest. Historically, the stative is a fairly transparent combination of an adjectival (rarely nominal) stem and a pronominal subject, and it has become an important member of the Akkadian verbal paradigm. It is related to verb forms with suffixed person markers in other Semitic languages and further afield in Egyptian and Berber. Functionally, it represents an intermediate stage between Berber, where it is essentially a conjugation of predicative adjectives, and West Semitic, where it has evolved into a perfective and/or past tense. Typologically, it belongs to a cross-linguistically common category of deverbal adjectives (“past participles”) that penetrate into the verbal system and gradually take on functions such as (medio)passive, resultative, perfect, and, ultimately, past tense.

7.2. The Stative: Form The G‑stem stative consists of an inflectional stem combined with suffixed endings for person, gender, and number. The stem is mostly that of an adjective, but may under certain conditions also come from a noun. Table 7.1 shows the standard paradigm of the G-stem stative as it appears in the main dialects, using the adjective šalmu ‘sound, in good shape’.1 Since many formal details of the stative endings have a strong diachronic aspect, they will be dealt with in §7.4, which deals with its historical background. person





šalmāku, -āk

šalmānu, -ni

2nd masc.

šalmāta, -āti, -āt


2nd fem.

šalmāti (-tī?), -āt


3rd masc.




3rd fem.


šalmā/  šalimtā


Table 7.1: The conjugation of the stative.

In the G‑stem, the stative is built on the suffix base PaRvS, which originally belongs to the (verbal) adjective. Statives derived from primary adjectives have PaRiS, PaRuS, or PaRaS, corresponding to the (unmotivated) vowel of the adjective. Statives derived from verbs regularly 1.  For details about the variant endings, see §7.4.1 (pp. 176–181). See also GAG 3 §75b–c; GKT §72a; Huehnergard 2005a: 219–20. For the stative forms of E-verbs, see §17.5.1 (pp. 525–526).



The Stative: Form  7.2.

have the inflectional stem PaRiS, at least in Babylonian.2 Assyrian shows more variation: apart from PaRiS, there are two other (marginal) patterns: PaRaS and PuRuS (see §3.3.4, pp. 64–66) in the following verbs:3 • • • • • • • • •

wašab ‘he is sitting, staying’ from wašābu (A/i) ḫalaq ‘he/it is lost’ from ḫalāqu (I/i) balaṭ ‘he is alive’ from balāṭu (A/a) qurub ‘he/it is near’ from *qarābu (U/u) rūq ‘he/it is far away’ from ruāqu (ū) (see §, p. 565) *kuzub ‘he is charming’ (no corresponding verb attested) *puluḫ ‘he is frightful’ from palāḫu (A/a) *puḫur ‘it is assembled, together’ from paḫāru (U/u) mušul ‘he/it is similar’ from mašālu (only NA, U/u?)

The Assyrian forms are all from intransitive verbs that are semantically close to denoting stative situations, similar to the verbs of the A/a vowel class (see §, pp. 74–75) and can be regarded as borderline cases between fientive and adjectival verbs. In the G‑stem forms, the stem vowel is only visible if there is no ending—i.e., in most 3ms forms: šalim (cf. Fem adjective šalimtu), maruṣ (maruṣtu) ‘ill’, and kabar (kabartu) ‘thick’. Statives derived from nouns simply copy the stem of the noun. In the derived verbal stems and the quadriradical verbs, the stative has the stem vowel u (Pa/uRRuS, naPRuS, naBaLKuT, etc.) and is always identical in pattern to the infinitive. As a finite verbal form, the stative can—at least in principle—take the same range of endings and suffixes as the prefix conjugations: the endings of the ventive and the subjunctive and the suffix pronouns of dative and accusative. For ventive forms after a stative, see §9.4.1 (p. 233).4 The subjunctive was originally not used with a stative, but during the history of Akkadian there was a growing tendency to attach the subjunctive ending ‑u to the third-person singular (see §9.3.1, p. 221, for details). The first and second persons of the stative do not take ventive or subjunctive endings for morphological reasons (Reiner 1966: 97), but they do occasionally take suffix 2.  A systematic exception concerns the stative of II/ā verbs in Babylonian, which have ā: šām ‘it has been bought’ (e.g., ša(-a)-am YOS 8, 66a:16 // 66b:30, Fem ša-ma-at TCL 1, 133:4); see § (p. 567). The only other genuine exception seems to be epuš, a rare by-form (MB/SB) of regular epiš, from epēšu ‘to make, do’ (e-pu-uš VAB 2, 10:35 (MB); CT 13, 35:1; IV R 25: III 58 (both SB); e-pu-us-si BWL 236: II 13 (SB), d ù -uš (/epuš/) ŠA 1, 96:99–100, cf. Huehnergard 1987a: 221 n. 10). The corresponding past participle sometimes has the feminine form epuštu in Neo-Babylonian; see CAD E 247a s.v. epšu adj. 1e. This verb has a strong general predilection for the vowel u; cf. also the atypical N forms Impfv inneppuš, Pfv innepuš, and t‑Pf ittenpuš , which will be discussed in detail in §12.2.1 (p. 291). For other instances of past participles with u derived from fientive verbs, all rather doubtful and most of them unique variants of normal PaRiS forms, see Kouwenberg 2000: 58–59 nn. 33–34; an additional instance is atū ‘it has been found’ from watû (a-tu MSL 5, 50:3 (SB)). 3.  For a possible fourth instance naʾal from nâlu ‘to lie down’, see chap. 16, n. 100 (p. 475). In addition, Assyrian has a few Fem nouns with the pattern PaRaSt, which may be derived from obsolete PaRaS past participles: ḫašaḫtu ‘need, requirement’, napaštu ‘life’, and šabartu ‘(broken) piece, block’, for which Babylonian has PaRiS (napištu) or PiRiS (ḫišeḫtu and šibirtu). It is also possible that the Sargonic Akkadian proper name Í-lu-ga-sa-ad RA 8, 158 AO 5659:3 contains a PaRaS stative /kasad/; cf. the Old Babylonian name type DN-kašid (Huehnergard 1987a: 221 n. 10). References for the PuRuS statives and adjectives were given in §3.3.4 (pp. 64–66). 4.  Since the stative denotes a state (see below), it is normally incompatible with the ventive as allative, but not with the ventive as dative (see Kouwenberg 2002: 201–3); an exception is napḫata quoted below.

7.3.  The Stative: Function


pronouns from Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian onward, although not very frequently; cf. the following selection of first‑ and second-person statives with a suffix pronoun:5 1. after ‑āk(u) (1st p. Sg): • dam-qá-ku-um AbB 3, 33:19 (OB) ‘I am favourably disposed toward you’ (damqāk(u) + -kum) • na-áš-a-ku-nu-tí Prag I 709:7 (OA) ‘I am bringing to you (Pl)’ (našʾāk(u) + -kunūti) • ka-ab-sà-ak-šu-nu-ti ARM 26/1, 421 no. 195:16 (OB) ‘I have trampled them’ (kabsāk(u) + ‑šunūti) • ḫa-bu-lá-ak-šu-um AfO 31, 17:37 (OA) ‘I owe him’ (ḫabbulāk(u) + -šum)6 • ḫi-ra-kaš-šu KAR 66:24 (SB) ‘I have chosen it’ (ḫīrāk(u) + -aššu) 2. after ‑āti, ‑āta, ‑āt (2nd p. Sg): • (atta) mé-ša-ta-an-ni ARM 10, 8:9 (OB) ‘you disregard me’ (mēšāt(a) + -anni • (atta) ḫa-aš-ḫa-as-sú ARM 28, 81: r.10′ (OB) ‘you want (to do something) against him (ḫašḫāt(a) + ‑šu(m)) • ša-ak-na-as-sú MSL 4, 82:87 (SB LL)’you have been placed for him’ (šaknāt(a) + šu(m) 3. after -at (3fs): • nap-ḫa-ta SAA 10, 31: r.5 (NA) ‘she (the planet Venus) has risen’ (napḫat + a(m))7 • ma-aḫ-ra-ta-an-ni BE 17, 43:6 (MB) ‘it has confronted me (maḫrat + -anni) • na-ad-na-ta-šu(-ma) RIMA 2/I, 13:32 (SB) ‘it has been given to him’ (nadnat + -aššu) • ḫa-da-tak-ka Dreams 340: IV 8 (SB) ‘it (amēlūtu ‘mankind’) rejoices in you’ (ḫadât + ‑akka) Although there seems to be no reason why statives in the first‑ and second-person plural should not be able to accommodate a suffix pronoun, I am not aware of any instances.

7.3. The Stative: Function  8 The grammatical function of the stative is the expression of a state.9 It is used indiscriminately for all kinds of states, whether permanent or transient, whether a “pure” state or a state resulting from a previous event. As such, it is opposed to the fientive members of the verbal

5.  It makes no difference whether the stative is derived from a verb, an adjective, or a noun, but most instances are from verbs, and instances from nouns with a ventive or suffix pronoun are not known to me. This is not caused by the nature of the stative but by the meaning of the affixes in question, which are far more compatible with verbal than with adjectival or nominal predicates. Dative suffix pronouns attached to statives that do not seem to be verbal at all include ka-a-a-an-šum AfO 18, 65:22 ‘it is constant for him’, ka-ia-na-kum AbB 1, 37: r.14 ‘it is constant for you’ (both OB). 6.  By way of exception, the final -u of ‑āku may be preserved: ḫa-bu-lá-ku-šu-um OAA 1, 63:34. 7.  This form is unique, as far as I know, in that it is the only instance of a 3fs stative followed by a pure ventive. It is less uncommon to find forms with a ventive followed by another element such as a nisubjunctive (e.g., ibid. 3′ nap-ḫa-ta-ni (napḫat + a(m) + ni  ) (see Parpola 1983: 14 ad loc.), (ša . . .) še-ṣua-ta-ni KAV 205:6 (MA) ‘(which) has been taken out’), the particle ‑ma ((ša. . .) ab-ka-ta-am-ma YOS 7, 7:44 ‘(which) has been led away’ [LB]), or a suffix pronoun (see above). 8.  Earlier literature on the function of the stative includes GAG §77; GKT §72c/e; Rowton 1962; Kraus 1984; Huehnergard 2005a: 219–23; Metzler 2002: 892–900. 9.  According to Lyons (1977: 483), “[a] static situation (. . .) is one that is conceived of as existing, rather than happening, and as being homogeneous, continuous and unchanging throughout its duration.”


The Stative: Function  7.3.

paradigm, which express events.10 This opposition is formally underlined by the contrast between the suffixes and the originally nominal stem of the stative (PaRvS) versus the prefixes and the verbal stem of the prefix conjugations (PRvS). A corollary of the stative function is the lack of tense distinctions: the stative may refer to the present, the past, and—much more rarely—the future.11 This is ultimately grounded in pragmatics: tense distinctions are less relevant as the situation they denote is more prolonged, and stative situations typically continue over a longer period of time than prototypical events—i.e., they are more “time-stable” (Givón 1984: 51–56). Aspectually, the stative has imperfective aspect, since it does not envisage the beginning or the end of the state.12 The stative is basically uniform in function, but for a more detailed description we should distinguish between statives derived from adjectives, from nouns, and from verbs. For the sake of convenience, I will refer to them as verbal statives, adjectival statives, and nominal statives, respectively, but these terms purely refer to their derivational background and not to their grammatical status, which is verbal in all cases. Adjectival and nominal statives (to be discussed in §7.3.1) are simply the predicative form of the corresponding adjective or noun. Verbal statives, on the other hand, have a complex relationship to the verb they are derived from, a relationship based on their historical development and on the fundamentally different properties of states versus events. First of all, for the reasons explained in §2.2.1 (p. 30), the verbal stative is subordinate in rank to and (synchronically) derived from the fientive prefix conjugations: iparrVs/iprVs/iptarVs § paris. Historically, of course, the stative is derived from the past participle, but the verbalization of the stative has reversed their relationship (see §8.3.1, pp. 200–201, and Kouwenberg 2000: 59–63). The dependence of the verbal stative on the verbal paradigm, and in particular on the fientive forms, is most clearly demonstrated by the “active” stative to be discussed in §7.3.2 below and by verbal statives that differ semantically from the corresponding past participle, such as: • taklāku ‘I trust in’ (+ Dat) from takālu + Dat ‘to trust, put one’s trust in’ (versus the adjective taklu ‘reliable, good’, lit., ‘that which can be trusted’) • qīpāku ‘I trust, I believe’ (+ Acc) from qâpu (ī) ‘to entrust, believe’ (versus qīpu ‘trust­ worthy’, usually substantivized as ‘official, administrator’) • kašdāku ‘I have arrived, I am at my place of destination’ (GAG §77d) from kašādu ‘to arrive’ (versus kašdu ‘obtained, successful, sufficient’) Second, in terms of semantic transitivity, statives have “zero transitivity,” since they do not indicate a change in the state of the world. Accordingly, they cannot have an agentive subject, since agentivity implies a conscious volitional act on the part of the subject and is therefore only applicable to actions (Binnick 1991: 187).13 Moreover, since statives do not envisage the termination of the state, as noted above, they are by nature atelic, whereas the fientive verb itself must be telic in order to have a stative at all. Finally, statives derived from verbs are neutral for voice: they can be “active” or “passive.” This is due to the fact that they only refer to the result of an event and 10.  Only in very specific, exceptional circumstances are some statives capable of referring to events; see §7.3.3 (pp. 174–176). 11.  For the stative with future reference, see GAG3 §77d*; Leong 1994: 244. 12.  Comrie 1976: 50–51; Binnick 1991: 187–88; Smith 1997: 32. For adjectival states, Akkadian uses the prefix forms of the corresponding adjectival verb to express the beginning of the state. 13.  This is important for Akkadian insofar as it bears on the interpretation of some types of “active” statives that Rowton (1962) claims to have an agentive subject. I will briefly discuss some of Rowton’s views in n. 32 below (p. 170).

7.3.  The Stative: Function


do not indicate how it came about; it is therefore immaterial whether its subject was the agent or the patient of the event. These features will be discussed further in §7.3.2. The sum of these semantic differences sets the stative apart from the fientive prefix categories and explains why it has a strong tendency to lexicalize—i.e., to develop its own meaning different from that of the other forms of the same verb, a process that is especially prominent in the active statives to be discussed below (Rowton 1962: 267–68). The nature of the stative has given rise to a controversy concerning its nominal or verbal character. In particular, Buccellati (1968) has claimed that the stative is (also synchronically) a nominal sentence consisting of a nominal (adjectival) base and an enclitic subject pronoun, and that it is therefore a syntactical rather than a morphological category that can be more economically treated in the grammar in the sections on the noun and the pronoun, respectively.14 In Kouwenberg 2000: 22–26, I argued that this view is untenable for a variety of reasons and that from a synchronic point of view the stative is a verbal category. Briefly summarized, the main arguments are the following. First, the stative is verbal in syntax, since it is always the predicate of the clause, has the verb-final word order of the verbal clause (whereas in non-verbal clauses with a pronoun the subject is clause-final), and can be a complete clause in itself (whereas a nonverbal clause needs an explicit subject, unless it is existential). Second, it is verbal in morphology, since it has personal endings and can have most of the verbal endings and suffixes that the prefix conjugations can have.15 Only semantically is the stative similar to non-verbal clauses in being tenseless and expressing states. However, semantic criteria are inferior to morphological and syntactic ones as a basis for deciding whether a form is verbal or not. In the next two sections, I will first deal with the adjectival and nominal statives (§7.3.1) and subsequently with verbal statives (§7.3.2).

7.3.1.  Statives derived from adjectives and nouns An adjectival stative is the predicative form of a primary adjective (GAG §77b; Rowton 1962: 236; Reiner 1970: 292). For instance, šarru dān ‘the king is powerful’ is the predicative form of šarru dannu ‘the powerful king’. Adjective and stative do not differ in meaning but only in their syntactic status. The stative is directly derived from the adjective without interference from the verbal paradigm. Needless to say, the root vowel of the adjective is copied in the stative, where it only surfaces in the 3ms: kabar ‘he is thick’ from kabru (< *kabarum, cf. Fem kabartu. For a predicative adjective, the use of the stative is more or less obligatory, especially in the older dialects. Very rarely, however, we find a predicative adjective in the nominative; this seems to occur mainly if the adjective is substantivized (01) and if it is followed by the enclitic particle -ma (02) but exceptionally also in other cases for unclear reasons, as in (03)-(04) (see Kouwenberg 2000: 34–38 for more examples): (01) TC 3, 70:11–12 (OA) ke-e-nu-um anāku ‘I am an honest person’ (02) ARM 26/1, 111 no. 13:12–13 (OB) bīt mārtī  [k]a dam-qú-um-ma ‘the house of your daughter is excellent’ 14.  See also Buccellati 1988 and 1996: 121–22; Huehnergard 1987a: 230–31; and Kouwenberg 2000: 22 n. 3 for more references. 15.  A “nominal” feature of the stative, however, is its combination with the precative particle lū (GAG §81b; e.g., lū i-ša-ra-a-ti MSL 4, 74:227 (OB) ‘may you be prosperous!’; bēlī lū ḫa-di ARM 10, 26:7 (OB) ‘may my lord be glad!’), which is also used in nominal clauses (GAG §127d). For the stative with lā as a prohibitive, see chap. 9, n. 36, p. 220).


The Stative: Function  7.3.

(03) St. Larsen p. 14:32 (OA) (four persons) e-lu-tum šunu ‘they are free of claims’ (elsewhere Stat ellū, e.g., St. Nimet Özgüç p. 133:14 and p. 135:35 e-lu) (04) OBTR 120:14–16 (OB) ina ālim GN [še].ba wa-aq-rum u ì.giš wa-aq-rum ‘in the city of Assur barley rations are expensive and sesame oil is expensive’ (05) MATSH p. 131 no. 8:49′ (MA) me-e-tu šūt ‘is he dead?’ However, in the later stages of Akkadian, and especially in Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian, it is quite common to find predicative adjectives in the nominative (Kouwenberg 2000: 33 n. 16; De Vaan 1995: 174–76) It is possible that Aramaic influence is involved, as suggested by Buccellati (1968: 9).16 See the following instances: (06) CT 54, 22: r.40 (NB) ḫa-as-si u pu-ut-qu-du atta ‘you are wise and circumspect’ (07) SAA 10, 245: r.6 (NA) šal-mu šū ‘it is safe’ (08) SAA 9, 3: III 8 (NA lit.) DNF pa-aq-tú šī ‘Ištar is slight’ (tr. S. Parpola) Apart from the vowel pattern, adjectival statives are not formally different from verbal statives. Their identification depends on the difference between fientive and adjectival verbs, which was discussed in §3.3.2 (pp. 58–60). However, in the II/gem verbs, there is a difference in form between adjectival and verbal statives: the former are monosyllabic in the 3ms, e.g., dān ‘he is strong’ and ēl ‘he is pure’ (see §16.6.1, p. 492) from dannu and ellu, respectively; but the latter are bisyllabic, e.g., balil ‘it has been mixed or polluted’, madid ‘it has been measured’ and šakik ‘it has been harrowed’ from balālu, madādu, and šakāku. This difference is due to a difference in derivation: dān and ēl are derived from the adjectives dannu and ellu by subtraction of the case ending and mimation (see §7.4.1, p. 178), whereas verbal statives such as balil are derived from the corresponding fientive forms (iballal § balil  ) on the model of iparrVs § paris.17 The stative of nouns is a subcategory of the stative of adjectives.18 A predicative noun may be conjugated as a stative, if it has the function of an adjective (i.e., if it is classifying rather than identifying) and constitutes a simple predicate (i.e., if it is not accompanied by any qualification or complement, such as an attributive adjective, a genitive, a suffix pronoun, a relative clause, or an enclitic particle), e.g., šarrāku ‘I am (a) king’. It is not possible, however, to use the stative in a clause such as šarru dannu anāku ‘I am a mighty king’ or if the predicative noun identifies the subject as a specific individual (i.e., if it is referential), as in:   (9) VAB 2, 4:8 (MB) lugal atta ‘you are the king’ (i.e., you are the one who decides)19

16.  The available grammars of these dialects do not allow us to determine the extent and the details of this development. 17.  There are some counter-examples, however, in Standard Babylonian; see §16.6.1 (p. 492). 18.  For a detailed discussion and an enumeration of nouns occurring in the stative, see Kouwenberg 2000: 38–48, and earlier discussions in Rowton 1962: 261–62 and Kraus 1984: 14–17. 19.  The logogram l u g a l can only be interpreted as a nominative šarru.

7.3.  The Stative: Function


(10) OIP 27, 56:7 (OA) wābil tuppim šūt dam.gàr-ru-um ‘the bearer of (this) tablet is the creditor (tamkāru)’ (i.e., he is the person who is entitled to the money specified in the tablet) The stative of nouns mainly occurs in two types of (con)texts: in legal (con)texts, in order to classify a person as belonging to a social group and thus being entitled to its rights or subject to its obligations, as in (11) and (12); and in literary texts, as an epithet on a par with adjectives, as in (13):20 (11) CHJ pp. 70–71 no. 143:16–17 (OB) PNF mārtī ul a-ma-at ‘PNF is my daughter, she is not a slave girl’ (12) AKT 3, 88:56 (OA) lū a-wi-lá-tí ‘be a gentleman’ (also in OB: ARM 1, 69: r.13′) (13) RIMA 2/1, 239:34–36 (SB) šar-ra-ku be-la-ku na-aʾ-da-ku geš-ra-ku kab-ta-ku šur‑ru-ḫa-ku (. . .) qar-ra-da-ku lab-ba-ku u zi-ka-ra-ku ‘I am king, I am lord, I am praised, powerful, honoured and famous, (. . .) I am a hero, a lion and a he-man’ However, even if a predicative noun is non-referential and qualifies for being in the stative for other reasons as well, it may be in the nominative; this is common in all dialects and again seems to be the only possibility in the later dialects.21 Here are a few examples: (14) ShA 1, 138 no. 64:62 atta lū a-wi-lum ‘be a man’ (OB, also Kisurra 156:16); (15) Legends p. 184:18 (OB lit.) bēlī attāma lū la-bu ‘my lord, verily you are a lion’ (tr. J. Westenholz) In practice, mainly animate nouns are used in the stative, as is clear from the examples given so far; a rare example of an inanimate noun (from agurru ‘kiln-fired brick’) is:22 (16) Gilg. p. 538:20 (SB) šumma libittašu lā a-gur-rat ‘(see) if its (Uruk’s) brickwork is not kiln-fired brick’ (tr. A. R. George) There is a contrast in markedness between statives of adjectives and statives of nouns: for predicative adjectives the use of the stative is unmarked, whereas that of the nominative is marked, and for predicative nouns the situation is the opposite (Huehnergard 1986: 232–33; Kouwenberg 2000: 55).23 The nominal stative developed secondarily as a subcategory of the adjectival 20.  Outside literary texts, statives of nouns are very rare; in the Old Babylonian letters of AbB 1–10, for instance, Kraus (1984: 14) counts only 20 nominal statives among 1200 instances of statives. 21.  Nominal statives are very hard to find in Neo- and Late Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian, which is not surprising in view of the fact that even predicative adjectives are often in the nominative in these dialects, as stated above. One exception is known to me: muš-ke-né-ku ABL 1059:6 (NB) ‘I am a commoner’ (but muškênu is a borderline case between noun and adjective; cf. the nominative in šarru muš-ke-e-nu SAA 10, 43:15 (NA) ‘is the king a poor man?’). However, it is not always easy to see whether a form is a stative or a nominative because of the loss of final vowels and the resulting inconsistencies in spelling. 22.  See Kouwenberg 2000: 39–40 for a list (add perhaps JRAS CSpl. 71:20 [OB lit.] DN ša qabalšu né-e-re-et ‘whose onslaught is murder(ous)’, from nêrtu ‘murder’). 23.  This is in keeping with the general markedness relationships between different kinds of nominal predicates, as established by Hengeveld 1992: 130–55 and Stassen 1997: 125–31; see also Pustet 2003: 72–73. Nouns are less likely to occur as predicates than adjectives and are therefore marked in this respect (Pustet 2003: 186–87).


The Stative: Function  7.3.

stative.24 This is demonstrated by the fact that if a nominal stative is derived from a noun with the feminine marker t, this t is omitted in the stative, a peculiarity that was taken over from the adjectival stative, where a single stem serves for masculine and feminine (see §7.4.1, p. 177), e.g.:25 (17) ARM 10, 31: r.7′ (OB) šumma anāku sí-ni-ša-ku ‘(even) if I am (only) a woman’ (i.e., sinnišāku from sinništu) (18) Or. 36, 120:65 (SB) ma-ra-ku kal-la-ku ḫi-ra-ku ab-rak-ka-ku ‘I (DNF) am daughter (mārtu), bride (kallatu), spouse (ḫīrtu) and housekeeper (abrakkatu)’

7.3.2.  Statives derived from verbs Verbal statives—i.e., statives derived from fientive verbs—are the most common and most complex type. In contrast to adjectival and nominal statives, which differ only syntactically from the adjective or noun they are derived from, verbal statives have the same syntactic status as the other finite forms of the verb but a different meaning: they denote the state that results from the event expressed by the fientive forms of the verb (GAG §77e).26 A few random Old Babylonian instances are: (19) AbB 6, 219:14–15 našpakum (. . .) pa-te-eḫ-ma šeʾum le-qí ‘the storehouse (. . .) has been broken into (lit., pierced) and barley has been taken’ (20) CT 47, 63:57–59 tuppātum šina ina bīt PN iḫ-li-qá-ma (. . .) kīma tuppātum šina ḫal-qá-a ‘these tablets disappeared from the house of PN (. . .); because these tablets are gone, (. . .)’ (21) FM 7, 15 no. 5:5–10 (the weapons of Adad of Aleppo have arrived here) ina bīt DN2 ina GN2 ka-le-ek-šu-nu-ti ‘I have stored them [hence: ‘I keep them’] in the temple of Dagan in Terqa’

24.  So already B. Landsberger 1926b: 971, Huehnergard 1986: 238–39; Voigt 1988a: 121; Tropper 1995a: 498–99. The opposite claim, that the ability to form statives of nouns is an archaic feature (e.g., Rössler 1950: 471; von Soden 1961b: 41) is implausible, since it goes against the markedness relationship referred to in the previous note, which implies that the predicative use of nouns presupposes the predicative use of adjectives. This also sheds light on the rarity of statives of nouns in Neo-Assyrian and NeoBabylonian: the decline in the use of the stative of nouns must have preceded the decline in the use of the stative for predicative adjectives. 25.  The 3fs (e.g., sinnišat ‘she is a woman’ from sinništu) is only an apparent exception, since -at of the stative has developed into a different ending from -(a)t- as the feminine marker, in spite of their historical identity. 26.  Nedjalkov and Jaxontov (1988: 6) define the resultative as follows: “The term resultative is applied to those verb forms that express a state implying a previous event. The difference between the stative and the resultative is as follows: the stative expresses the state of a thing without any implication of its origin, while the resultative expresses both a state and the preceding action it has resulted from.” With regard to Akkadian, it seems that the definition of Nedjalkov and Jaxontov puts too much weight on the preceding event at the cost of the resulting state. Since Akkadian has both a resultative and a t‑perfect, which typically expresses a past event that the speaker includes in his subjective present (see §6.3, pp. 140–141), it seems better to define the Akkadian stative in its resultative function as expressing a state and implying (rather than expressing) the preceding action it has resulted from; cf. Bybee et al. 1994: 54: “a state exists as a result of a past action.”

7.3.  The Stative: Function


In (20), for instance, the stative ḫalqā ‘they (Fem) are gone’ expresses the result of the past event iḫliqā ‘they got lost, disappeared’. Usually, the preceding event is not explicitly mentioned. The occurrence of resultative statives is therefore restricted to verbs denoting telic events, which culminate in a state. Atelic verbs for activities, such as malāku ‘to deliberate’, s/ṣullû ‘to pray’, ṣâḫu (ī) ‘to laugh’, and zanānu ‘to rain’, do not normally have a stative.27 On the basis of the valency relationship between the fientive forms of a verb and the stative, we can distinguish three kinds of verbal statives: intransitive statives, passive statives, and active statives.28 The intransitive stative applies to single participant verbs and describes the state of the subject of the preceding event after its completion (John has sat down > John is (now) seated  ). Examples are (20) quoted above, and, e.g.: (22) ARM 5, 43:8–9 (OB) nakrum ina GN pa-ḫi-ir ‘the enemy is assembled in GN’ (23) KH §240:72 (OB) eleppašu ṭe4-bi-at ‘his ship has sunk (and is therefore on the bottom of the river)’ The most typical cases are statives of intransitive verbs of telic movement, such as ḫalāqu ‘to get lost’, kamāsu ‘to kneel down’, paḫāru ‘to come together’, qerēbu ‘to approach’, rabāṣu ‘to crouch, lie down’, tebû ‘to stand up’, and wašābu ‘to sit down’, and change-of-state verbs, such as belû ‘to go out (of fire)’, mâtu ‘to die’, pašāḫu ‘to become calm’, and šebû ‘to become satisfied’. As argued in §3.3 (p. 55), there is no clear-cut borderline between the intransitive statives of the latter type and adjectival statives, as in the case of abālu ‘to be(come) dry’ and malû ‘to be(come) full’. If the verb is transitive, either the subject or the direct object of the underlying fientive clause may become the subject of the stative, depending on the context and on semantic and pragmatic factors outside the stative itself, which, as stated above, is neutral with regard to voice. If it is the direct object, we have a “passive stative.”29 It describes the state of the object (the patient), e.g., the lion in: šarru nēša idūk ‘the king killed the lion’ § nēšu dīk ‘the lion is dead as a result of being killed’.30 There­fore, it usually requires a passive translation, as in (19) quoted above and: (24) St. von Soden (AOAT 240), p. 45:10–15 (OB) PN GN1 ul iṣbat / ālam GN2 PN iṣbat (. . .) mimma GN1 ul ṣa-bi-it ‘Bunū-ma-Addu has not seized Aparḫā, B. has seized the town of Ḫaduraḫā (. . .). Aparḫā has not been seized’ [or, more accurately: ‘is unseized’] The passive stative competes with the fientive forms of the derived stems with (medio)-passive function, the N‑stem, the Dt‑stem, and the Št1‑stem. In principle, the latter refer to the event itself 27.  For cases such as lasmu ‘quick’ (Stat lasim ‘he is quick’) beside lasāmu ‘to run’, see chap. 3, n. 30 (p. 59). 28.  Nedjalkov and Jaxontov (1988: 8–10) speak of the subjective, objective and possessive resultative, respectively. 29.  If we take the terms active and passive in their strict sense—i.e., as denoting an action which an agent performs on a patient and an action which is undergone by a patient, respectively—they are inappropriate to the stative, because the stative does not denote any action. Nevertheless, I will retain them as convenient terms in a purely syntactic meaning: in relation to the stative, passive only means that the original direct object appears as subject, active means that the original subject remains the subject of the stative. This use is also prompted by the fact that most European languages do not have a grammatical category “stative” and often have to use passive constructions to translate the passive stative. 30.  Promotion to subject of other participants than subject and direct object is exceptional: see § (p. 260) for an example of the indirect object promoted to subject in the verb qabû ‘to speak’.


The Stative: Function  7.3.

rather than to the resultant state, and sometimes this nuance is tangible, as in (25A) versus (25B), but in practice there is often little difference, so that the choice depends on the subjective decision of the speaker, as in (26), where the stative and the N perfective occur as variants:31 (25A) ARM 5, 67:9–10 (OB) ṣābum bāqimu ul ibašši immerātum ul ba-aq-ma ‘There are no sheepshearers (available/present) and the sheep are still unshorn (Stat)’ (25B) ARM 2, 140:8–10 (OB) šamû ṭaḫittum iznunma 1 me immerātum ul ib-ba-aq-ma ‘since it has been raining incessantly, one hundred sheep have not yet been shorn (N Pfv)’ (similarly FM 2, 140 no. 76:17, 19 and AbB 4, 79:7 vs. 25) (26) ÖB 14:5 (OB) šamnum sà-pi-iḫ-ma (var. i-sà-pi-iḫ-ma) kāsam imlā ‘(if) the oil has been scattered and has covered the (surface of the) bowl’ (similarly KH §120:14). If the subject of the underlying transitive clause retains its subject position in the stative, we have an “active stative,” which describes the state of the subject after the completion of the event, e.g., the army in: ṣābum ālam ilwī ‘the army laid (Pfv) siege to the city’ § ṣābum ālam lawī ‘the army holds (Stat) the city under siege’.32 There is no standard way to translate an active stative into English; we often need some kind of periphrasis; cf. the following clauses: (27) ARM 3, 1:6–7 (OB) šipir nār GN ṣa-ab-ta-ku ‘I am engaged in (lit., I have seized) work on the canal of GN’ 31.  See Rowton (1962: 279–85), who argues that the passive stative may be used instead of the N perfective and that “[I]f (. . .) the speaker selects paris, then the continued bearing of the past event on the existing situation is rendered explicit by the choice of that tense” (1962: 284). This is not borne out by the examples he cites and confuses the stative with the t‑perfect (which also vitiates Rowton’s account of the active stative; see below); see also Maloney 1981: 151–53. It is true, however, that there is a tendency for the stative to encroach upon the domain of the t‑perfect (see §7.3.3 below, pp. 174–175), and the situation in the passive is more complex than in the active, also because of the relative rarity of the N t‑perfect (ittaprVs). A more detailed study is clearly required. 32.  The active stative was the subject of a detailed description by Rowton (1962). His study is welldocumented, exemplary as to how a grammatical problem should be addressed, and pioneering in its inclusion of competing categories such as the t‑perfect and the passive. However, his semantic interpretation of many statives is highly questionable. Using the term “permansive” for the stative, he distinguishes two functions: the descriptive permansive, which describes the subject in terms of his condition, position, location, appearance, etc.; and the active or agentive permansive, in which the subject is an agent who is “engrossed in the action” and which serves “to emphasize persistency or sustained care on the part of the subject” (1962: 234). He characterizes the latter kind of permansive with terms such as control, persistency, and sustained effort, and once claims that it expresses “not merely action, but a highly intensive aspect of action” (1962: 299). These notions are quite alien to the nature of the stative, however, which purely expresses a state resulting from a previous event. Any impression of effort or persistency on the part of the subject resides in the meaning of the verb itself and/or in the context (and is sometimes read into the text by Rowton without actually being there). To quote only two instances: Rowton’s no. 116 on p. 251—‘with greatest care I have examined (ḫi-ṭa-ku) the inscriptions on stone (dating) from before the flood’: in my view, ḫīṭāku simply means ‘I have examined/studied (with the result that I am now expert in)’, without any implication of effort, just as amrāku simply means ‘I (have seen so that now I) know’; likewise, Rowton (1962: 255 no. 166) translates AbB 2, 74:11–12 PN aḫūni rabûm ḫa-ab-la-an-ni-a-ti ‘PN, our elder brother, persists in wronging us’; in my view, this verb simply means ‘has wronged us (so that we are now victims of injustice)’, or the like. Earlier criticism of some of Rowton’s views can be found in Kraus 1984: 6–10; Maloney 1981: 151–53; and Streck 1995a: 177. For Rowton’s views on the use of the stative as a t‑perfect, see below.

7.3.  The Stative: Function


(28) AbB 13, 110:28–29 (OB) inanna šiprum ṣa-ab-ta-an-ni ‘at the moment, work keeps me busy (lit., work has seized me)’. Through its resultative nature, the active stative is closely related to the fientive past tenses of perfective and t‑perfect. There are many situations that the speaker can describe in different ways, according to whether he prefers to stress the past event itself (perfective), its association with the present moment (t‑perfect), or the resultant state (stative).33 Therefore, we find instances of perfective and stative alternating in the same context, e.g.: (29A) CT 47, 13:2–3 (OB) kirbānam ana nārim is-su-uk ‘he has thrown (Pfv) a clod into the river’, versus: (29B) CT 47, 13a:2–3 kirbānam ana nārim ˹na˺-si-ik (Stat) (see Veenhof 1973: 366–67) (30A) St. Dietrich, p. 586 nr. 7:18–20 (MA) (garments) ša ikkarātu ma-aḫ-ru-ú-ni (Stat) ‘which the farmers have received’, versus: (30B) ibid. p. 587 no. 9:17–18 (garments) ša ikkarātu im-ḫu-ru-ni (Pfv) Stative and t‑perfect are two sides of the same coin: the t‑perfect represents a past event as still associated with the present moment, whereas the stative describes a state resulting from a past event. Accordingly, the choice is often subjective, and we find both forms used in the same context: (31A) AfO 18, 65: II 31 šumma awīlum šuʾrāšu īnīšu ka-at-ma ‘if a man’s brows hold his eyes covered (Stat)’ (31B) YOS 10, 56: II 23 šumma izbum uznāšu īnīšu ik-ta-˹ta˺-ma ‘if an anomaly’s eyes have covered (t‑Pf) its ears’ (32) AbB 14, 119:6–9 (OB) (with regard to the three textiles which are your impost) ina libbi 3 ṣubātīka ištēn na-ad-na-a-ti u šaniam anāku annikīam at-ta-di-in ‘from your three textiles, you have given (Stat) one and I have given (t‑Pf) another one here’34 Whether the stative of a transitive verb is active or passive primarily depends on the context. The presence of an accusative does not automatically entail an active interpretation, as is clear from (33), nor does its absence guarantee a passive one; see (34) and (35): (33) BAM 4, 393: r.5 (OB) šumma awīlum kalbam na‑ši‑ik ‘if a man has been bitten by a dog’ (or, more accurately, ‘if a man has a dogbite’) (34) AbB 10, 7:14 (OB) 2 áb.ḫi.a ša ibaššiā al‑da ‘the two cows that are present have calved’ (/aldā/ < waldā) (35) ATHE 46:18 (OA) annakam emārū ak-lu-ú ‘the donkeys have eaten here (i.e., they are well fed now)’ However, verbs exhibit large differences in the likelihood that their stative will be active or passive. Statives of high-transitivity verbs are almost always passive. This is due to the fact that 33.  See also Leong 1994: 32–33; Streck 1995a: 166–89. For a similar contrast in Egyptian between stative and eventive verb forms, see Reintges 1997: 362–64. 34.  In this passage, the stative doubtless implies that the addressee is now free of his legal obligation, whereas the t‑perfect indicates the news value of the message for the addressee and/or its recentness and relevance.


The Stative: Function  7.3.

it is the degree of affectedness of the participants that determines whether the resultant state is more likely to be predicated of the subject (the agent) or of the object (the patient). Since in high-transitivity verbs the direct object (the patient) is strongly affected by the event, whereas the agent usually suffers no relevant effect as a result of having performed the action in question (see §3.4, p. 66), it will generally be the state of the object that is described by means of a stative.35 It is therefore unlikely that we will ever find active statives of verbs such as dâku ‘to kill’ and petû ‘to open’: clauses such as *šarru nēša dīk ‘the king has killed a/the lion’ or *awīlu bāba petī ‘the man has opened the/a door’ would imply that these actions have left some kind of mark on the subject that is relevant enough to be described in the form of a resultative stative, a situation that will not often occur. Statives of low-transitivity verbs, on the other hand, can be both active and passive, because the direct object of low-transitivity verbs is not or not significantly affected by the action (see §3.4, p. 66), so that their subject becomes proportionally more salient and therefore a more likely candidate to be described as having performed the action (Kozinskij 1988: 517–21). Therefore, most active statives come from transitive verbs with a low degree of transitivity. This is confirmed by the list of active statives attested in Akkadian that was compiled by D. Cohen (1984: 257–58).36 The fact that the stative describes an entity in terms of the result of a previous event makes the active stative eminently suitable for legal (con)texts to describe the legal status of a person (Rowton 1962: 292–94), as in the following instances: (36) KH §158:28 (OB) (a woman) ša mārī wa-al-da-at ‘who has given birth to sons’ (i.e., who has sons, is the mother of sons) (also LE §59: A IV 29) (37) CT 6, 6:5 (OB) eqlum ša PNF (. . .) ša-ma-at ‘the field that PNF has bought’ (and therefore now owns) (38) AbB 3, 2:11 (OB) aḫūni ṣeḫrum aššatam ul a-ḫi-iz ‘our youngest brother has not taken a wife’ (i.e., is still unmarried) (39) YOS 8, 150:19–22 (OB) ša pî kunukkim annîm kaspam gamram lū na-ad-na-ku ‘I have certainly given/paid all the silver in accordance with the words of the document!’ (40) CCT 5, 11d:6–7 (OA) (an amount of gold) ša ana PN ša-áp-kà-tí-ni ‘which you have invested for PN’ (41) KAV 1: VII §47:28–31 (MA) (in accordance with the words of the tablet that you have sworn to (ta-am-ʾ-a-ta-a-ni: Stat + Subj) before the king and his son) ta-am-ʾ-a-ta ‘you have sworn’ (i.e., you are bound by this oath)37 The subject of these clauses has performed an act which has brought him or her into a state with legal consequences,38 and the stative emphasizes the ensuing rights or obligations. The corre35.  See Comrie 1981b: 70–71; what Comrie argues here for the perfect applies to the stative in Akkadian. 36.  D. Cohen’s list could be augmented substantially, but the overall picture is not likely to change signifi­cantly. D. Cohen concludes (1984: 260) that the active stative is typical of the verbs that M. Cohen (1935) has called “déponents internes” and that we would call “middle verbs” or low-transitivity verbs, see §18.3.1 (p. 588). 37.  Many additional examples are quoted in Rowton 1962: 292–94. 38.  “[E]ine juristisch bedeutsame Situation” (Aro 1964: 8); similarly, Rowton 1962: 292.

7.3.  The Stative: Function


sponding perfectives or t‑perfects would simply have stated the occurrence of the event. This explains why so many active statives come from verbs denoting legally binding actions.39 As I stated above, active statives have a particular tendency to develop a lexicalized meaning if they are used frequently enough. The most common instances are four verbs that express different modalities of “taking” or “acquiring”, and whose active stative denotes the corresponding state of possession, as was first established by Ungnad (1918): ṣabātu ‘to take, seize’, leqû ‘to receive’, maḫāru ‘to receive’, and našû ‘to lift, carry’. The first three verbs often occur in the legal contexts referred to above and express different nuances of possession. Ṣabātu often refers to the ownership of real estate: ‘he owns, he is the legitimate owner of’ (but it also has a more general use, see, e.g., (27) and (28) above), and leqû and maḫāru to ownership of commodities that someone is entitled to and has received, e.g.:40 (41) AbB 4, 40:7 (OB) eqel bīt abīa ša ištu ūmī mādūtim ṣa-ab-ta-nu ‘the field of my father’s estate which we have owned for a long time (PN has claimed from me)’ (42) AbB 6, 43:8–9 (OB) 1/2 gín 15 še kaspam la-qí-a-ku ‘I have received 1/2 shekel and 15 grains of silver’ (43) AbB 11, 47:12–13 (OB) šeʾam ma-aḫ-ra-a-ta libbaka ṭāb ‘you have received the barley, (so) you are satisfied’ (i.e., you have been paid and have no further claims) The stative of našû, on the other hand, typically refers to the transportation of goods with which somebody is on his way: ‘to have on oneself, carry’, especially in Assyrian, but occasionally also in Babylonian: (44) Prag I 553:13–15 (OA) šitti kaspim (. . .) PN na-áš-a-kum ‘PN is on his way to you (našʾakkum) with (carrying) the rest of the silver’ (45) AbB 1, 132:7 (OB) kaspam ul na-ši-a-ku ‘I have no silver with me’ (tr. CAD N/2 95a s.v. našû v. A 2d–2′) Numerous other verbs have an active stative with more or less lexicalized meanings, among which I may single out (see Rowton 1962: 267 for a longer list): • amāru ‘to see’, Stat ‘to know, have experienced’41 • lamādu ‘to learn’, Stat ‘to know’ • katāmu ‘to cover’ (action), Stat ‘to cover’ (state) • lawû ‘to lay siege to’, Stat ‘to besiege’ (i.e., ‘to lie around (a city)’) • rakābu ‘to mount’ (an animal or a ship), Stat ‘to ride, sail’ 39.  For active statives in Old Assyrian, see Rowton 1962: 285–88. A very atypical case is the legal but apparently non-resultative use in: (a woman) uš-ba-at ak-lá-at u pá-ša-at ištīšunu St. Larsen p. 12:14 // 14:17–18 ‘shall live, eat, and be anointed together with them (the owners of the house)’. The usual form in such contexts is the imperfective, e.g., the ubiquitous īkkal ‘he has the usufruct of (a field)’, which comes close to stative meaning in this context, where a situation rather than an event is described (see Loesov 2005: 111). This may explain the shift to the stative in this clause. 40.  Many additional examples are quoted in Rowton 1962: 243–45. For an atypical use of the active stative of našû ‘to lift, carry’, see chap. 17, n. 212 (p. 574). 41.  Cf. Greek (w)oida, Sanskrit veda ‘I know’, which are also resultatives of a verb ‘to see’, preserved in the Greek aorist (w)eidon ‘I saw’ and Latin vidēre; cf. also the Gtn stative of amāru: ‘to have seen many times’ > ‘to know well’ (AHw 41b s.v. Gtn 2).


The Stative: Function  7.3.

In their typological study of resultatives, Nedjalkow and Jaxontov (1988: 22–26) use the term “possessive resultative” for this kind of active stative, and they observe that it is cross-linguistically the least common type.42 In Akkadian, however, it is fairly widespread and productive, although less frequent than the passive stative.43 Moreover, the term “possessive resultative” does not capture the essence of the active stative and is far too restrictive. There are numerous instances in which the notion of possession is quite inappropriate, such as the passages (39), (40), and (41) quoted above.

7.3.3.  Marginal and secondary uses of the stative Not all verbal statives conform completely to the definition of a resultative as given above. First of all, the stative of some verbs may express a state that, strictly speaking, does not result from a previous event, doubtless as a secondary extension of their core function. This applies in particular to the frequent “locational” statives of šakānu ‘to place’ (see (47)) and nadû ‘to put down’ (see (48)), which have developed more or less into a copula in such contexts (see CAD Š/1 132–33 s.v. šakānu 3b; N/1 91–92 s.v. nadû 5) and to the stative of šakānu with a double accusative ‘to provide with’ (see (49)); but it sporadically occurs in other verbs as well, such as kabāsu ‘to tread on, trample’ in (50): (47) AbB 4, 1:11 (OB) (a good field) ša ana mê ša-ak-nu ‘that is situated along/borders the water’ (48) RA 44, 13:14 (OB) šumma (. . .) šīlū mādūtum na-du-ú ‘if there are numerous holes’ (49) MIO 1, 74:24, 29 (SB) qaran alpi gar-in (. . .) kappī gar-in ‘he has (lit., is provided with) the horn of an ox (. . .) he has wings’ (in a description of a figure of a god, and passim in such contexts) (50) Sg. 8:375 (SB) (a figure of two goddesses) ša šiḫar šēpēšina šuk-bu-sa labbī nadrūte erbettašunu ‘the soles of whose feet are standing on four raging lions’ (tr. CAD K 11a s.v. kabāsu 7b; also MIO 1, 80: VI 3 and elsewhere with kabāsu G; for the Š‑stem, see §, pp. 330–331) Second, resultative forms have a widespread tendency to develop into perfects and further into past tense forms, as we saw in §6.4 (pp. 157–159). The Akkadian stative did not become a productive perfect, doubtless because Akkadian already had one in the iptarVs form,44 but it was not 42.  See Kozinskij (1988: 516–22) for a thorough discussion of functionally similar categories in a variety of languages. 43.  The active stative is attested in all dialects but is apparently most common in Old and Standard Babylonian. For third-millennium Akkadian, the only instances I know are TCBI 1, 235:11 (wool for the palace) PN za-bi-it /ṣabit/ ‘PN has in his possession’, and the problematic na-se11-⟨a⟩-nim AKI p. 256:55 (cp RI of Naram-Sin) ‘they (Fem: the people) carry for me’ (see chap. 17, n. 212, p. 574). It also occurs in the latest dialects, but the available handbooks do not make it clear how common it is. Instances are ḫaas-sa-na-ši-ni SAA 10, 39:14 (NA) ‘he has thought about us’ (Subj) from ḫasāsu, and maḫ-rak SAA 18, 160:13 (NB) ‘I have received’ from maḫāru. Streck (1995a: 169–70) mentions a few instances from Late Babylonian. 44.  This was already argued by Kraus (1984: 11–12), who discusses various Old Babylonian passages with a stative that cannot be interpreted as denoting a state but only indicate that the event in question has occurred or not occurred. See also Loesov 2004a: 86 on the similarity between perfect and stative.

7.3.  The Stative: Function


completely immune to such a development.45 The clearest cases are the passive stative of dâku ‘to kill’ and the intransitive stative of mâtu ‘to die’; cf. the following instances: (51) VS 26, 26:4–9 (OA) 6 imārū (. . .) u ṣuḫārūa ina GN de8-ku ‘six donkeys (. . .) and my servants have been killed in GN’ (also AMMK 1995 p. 150:7, 12, 18, 20) (52) AbB 13, 181:31–32 (OB) ina mitḫuri 1 mār GN di-i-ik ‘one man from GN was killed in the clash’ (also AbB 8, 24:17–20 and ARM 2, 63:14 according to Durand 1997/2000: I 487 n. 144) (53) BIN 4, 141:1–3 (OA) (I sent half a textile to PN) inūmi merʾassu me-ta-at-ni ‘when his daughter (had) died’ (54) KAV 1: VI §45:85–86 (MA) šumma lā ittūra ina māte šanītemma me-e-et ‘if he has not returned but has died in another country’ (also KAV 1: VI §43:22 with the stative lū me-e-et parallel to the Pfv lū innābit: ‘if he has either died or fled’) (55) Or. 24, 243:3 acc. to CAD Š/3 220 s.v. šuklultu c (SB) (the ghost of a person) ša ina šuklulti šīmtīšu mi-tu4 ‘who died at the completion of his allotted lifespan’ In themselves, the statives dīk (Bab)/dēk (Ass) and mīt/mēt mean ‘he has been killed (and therefore is now dead)’ and ‘he has died (and therefore is now dead)’, respectively, and simply describe the condition of the subject. However, the inclusion of a specification of the time and/ or the place of death (as in all these instances) shifts the attention from the present state to the previous event, since it can only refer to the event itself. Therefore, the stative is used as a perfect here.46 Instances from other verbs include: (56) AbB 3, 48:32–33 (OB) awâtum ekallam ka-aš-da ‘the words/matters have reached the palace’ (cf. Kraus 1984: 11–12 on the interpretation of this stative) (57) AbB 10, 208:4–5 (OB) kīma ina pa-⟨ ni  ⟩-tim ina šaptīya ša-mi-a-ta ‘as you heard from me (lit., from my lips) in the past’ (58) AbB 7, 59:9–11 (OB) ištu mu.2.kam eqlam (a.šà-lam) tu-ur-ra-an-né-ši-im ‘Seit zwei Jahren hat er uns das Feld zurückgegeben’ (tr. F. R. Kraus) (59) ABIM 20:82 (OB) (a slave girl) ša mādiš namrat ištiššu šinīšūma wa-al-da-at ‘who is in very good shape and has given birth once or twice already’ (i.e., has one or two children)

45.  Rowton (1962, especially 292–95) also claimed that the stative tends to become a perfect. In principle, he is right, but he supports his claim in particular by means of numerous active statives in legal (con) texts for which an English translation with a present perfect is often possible or even unavoidable (see above, (36)-(41)). However, as I argued above, these are pure statives that describe the state of the subject, whatever English translation we prefer. 46.  It is interesting in this context that dâku does not seem to have an N‑stem perfective or t‑perfect; there is only an N Impfv iddâk (earlier iddūak), familiar from the Old Babylonian law codes. So it is conceivable that the stative dīk serves to fill an awkward gap, since a passive perfective of the verb ‘to kill’ seems hard to dispense with. This explanation does not apply to mâtu, however, whose t‑Pf imtūt is commonplace in Old Babylonian; see (01) and (02) in chap. 6 (p. 142), for instance.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

Third, in Standard Babylonian literary texts, we find occasional instances of statives in contexts that exclude a stative interpretation. They are apparently employed as stylistic variants of the other finite categories. A detailed investigation of this phenomenon is required before we can venture an explanation; I will therefore restrict myself to a few examples. The three following statives replace an active imperfective (in (60)), an active perfective (in (61)) and a passive (narrative) perfective (in (62)), respectively: (60) AGH 68:16–17 mūša u imma šumki ištammarā qurudki dal-la ‘night and day they keep praising your name and they extol your heroism’ (also OECT 6, 73:18) (61) Gilg p. 622:59 var. (the shepherd) [ša] kayyānamma tumrī šup-pu-kak-ki (var. of iš-pu-kak-ki) ‘who regularly piled up for you (bread baked in) embers’ (tr. A. R. George) (62) Ash. p. 92 §61:14–15 lî pu-ul-lu-qú aslī ṭu-ub-bu-ḫu armannū quddušu sur-ru-qu kišukki ‘bulls were slaughtered, lambs slain, holy armannu was scattered on the censer’ (tr. CAD A/2 291a s.v. armannu a)47

7.4. The Prehistory of the Stative 7.4.1.  The formal background of the stative From a formal point of view, the stative is a relatively transparent combination of a nominal/ adjectival stem and person affixes of nominal or pronominal descent. This does not imply, however, that it is of recent origin. On the contrary, many of its formal and functional characteristics presuppose a long grammaticalization process. The formal ones will be discussed below; the most important functional characteristic is the active stative. Since the past participle of transitive verbs is typically passive (see §8.3.1, pp. 200–201), it is likely that the earliest verbal statives had passive meaning. Typological evidence shows that passive statives are much more common than active statives in the languages of the world and that the existence of an active stative presupposes the existence of a passive one (Nedjalkow and Jaxontov 1988: 22). There can therefore be little doubt that the active stative is a secondary development that started from intransitive statives (Huehnergard 1987a: 228; Tropper 1995a: 502). This is confirmed by the fact, stated above, that most active statives come from low transitivity verbs, which generally form a bridge between prototypically transitive and intransitive verbs. Since adjectives constitute the most typical kind of predicative nominals (see §7.3.1, pp. 165–​ 168), it is plausible that the univerbation that created the stative started with primary adjectives and spread from there to past participles, which have the same form. If it is possible to derive a predicative form marṣāku ‘I am ill’ from marṣu ‘ill’, for instance, it is not a big step to derive ḫablāku ‘I have been wronged’ from the PPartc ḫablu ‘wronged’ and thus indirectly from the verb ḫabālu ‘to wrong’. This related the stative paradigmatically to the established finite members of the verbal paradigm and incorporated it into the verbal paradigm as a resultative.48 Since 47.  Metzler (2002: 639–40) signals a possible instance from an Old Babylonian Sargon legend: Legends p. 84: I 17′ qarrādūšu ap-lu-ni-šu ‘his warriors answered him’. 48.  Loesov (2004b: 417–18, 2005: 142–45) argues that the stative originated with past participles and spread from there to primary adjectives. This seems to be contradicted by the evidence from Berber, where the suffix conjugation is only open to primary adjectives; see §7.4.3 below (pp. 191–192). This does not

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


a resultative state is dependent on the previous occurrence of the event expressed by the verb, the stative abandoned its dependence on the past participle to become hierarchically dependent on the fientive prefix conjugations. This enabled it to express the resulting state of any event, both active and passive, and to adopt more and more verbal properties. The past participle itself became a deverbal derivation of the stative, semantically subordinate to it, so that the historical derivational relationship past participle § stative became stative § past participle.49 This process of verbalization was essentially completed in the pre-literary period. The few historical changes we observe in the conjugation of the stative, especially the gradual adoption of the u‑subjunctive in the third-person singular, are the final stages on the road to verbal status.50 The univerbation of stem and personal pronoun had two important consequences. The first is the creation of a single stem for all persons regardless of gender and number. Differences in gender and number are only encoded in the personal endings themselves. This is a common outcome of grammaticalization processes (“simplification,” according to Croft 2003: 263–64).51 It was doubtless strengthened by the fact that almost all conjugations of Akkadian have an invariable stem.52 The second is that the third person could occur without an explicit subject even though it does not contain a subject marker: e.g., šar ‘he is king’. This only became possible after the stative had acquired verbal status, since other finite verb forms do not need an explicit subject either. A non-verbal form cannot in itself be a complete (propositional) sentence (Diem 1997: 47). For instance, Ḫammurapi šarru ‘H. is king’ and šarru šū ‘he is king’ are well-formed clauses, but šarru alone cannot mean ‘he is king’. The first‑ and second-person endings have a pronominal origin, and the third-person forms are only provided with gender and number markers agreeing with the subject. This reflects the fundamental contrast between the participants in the speech situation and the persons who are absent and spoken about. It is related to the non-existence of personal pronouns of the third person in languages all over the world.53 However, even without a personal suffix, the third-person stative forms are unambiguously marked through their contrast to the other forms. I will start with the third-person endings, shown in Table 7.2, which also includes the nominal endings of adjective and noun (cf. GAG Nominalparadigmen 1): mean, however, that “originally” only adjectives had a suffix conjugation (e.g., Tropper 1995a: 497–98). The similarity between the prefixed perfective of adjectival verbs in Akkadian (ikbit ‘he became heavy’, etc.) and the “aorist” of adjectival verbs in Berber languages (which often have the structure C1C2vC3; see D. Cohen 1970–71: 182) shows that the prefix conjugation of property concepts goes back at least to the common Berber-Semitic period, and probably further. 49.  See also Kouwenberg 2000: 56–68 for a more detailed description of this process. 50.  There is no compelling reason why we should assume Sumerian influence on this development, as maintained by Streck (1995a: 185), although it cannot be ruled out. 51.  Although it was deemed problematic by Kraus (1984: 20) and Diem (1997: 73). 52.  Streck (1995a: 184) attributes the invariable stem of the stative to Sumerian influence. Although this cannot be ruled out (cf. n. 50 above), it is especially hard to believe that the relatively rare predicative use of nouns that Streck mentions (l u g a l . m e . e n ‘I am (the) king’,è.en ‘we are (the) kings’, with invariable l u g a l) would be able to impose its pattern on the vastly more frequent statives of verbs. 53.  The fact that Semitic uses pronouns that are originally demonstrative as independent subject pronouns of the third person, alongside the “real” personal pronouns of the first and second person (see Table 7.3), has the same background. See, in general, Benveniste 1966: 228–31; Comrie 1981a: 219–20; for IndoEuropean: Beekes 1995: 207; for Semitic and Afroasiatic: D. Cohen 1984: 108–9; Huehnergard 1987a: 221–22 ; Tropper 1995a: 493–94; Streck 1995a: 182–83; Satzinger 1999: 24 (“interlocutive” versus “delocutive”). Furthermore, in Neo-Aramaic, several of the new suffix conjugations have a zero marker in the 3ms; see D. Cohen 1984: 462 for Western, and p. 512 for Eastern Neo-Aramaic; and also Jastrow 1997: 343, 363.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4. stative

adjective (Nom)

noun (Nom)  54

























Table 7.2: The third-person forms of the stative.

The third-person singular forms have a zero ending in the masculine and the nominal suffix ‑at in the feminine,55 so that they are identical to the corresponding nominal forms without case ending and mimation.56 They result from the subtraction of these elements, which symbolizes the loss of nominal or adjectival status: šalim ∞ šălĭmum and šalmat ∞ šălĭmătum (the outcome is somewhat obscured by the effect of the vowel syncope rule). For verbal statives, this statement is only historically true, however, since synchronically they are derived from the prefix forms, as I argued above; for statives derived from nouns and adjectives, it is also synchronically valid. Statives such as šarrāq ‘he is a thief’ and qātāt ‘he stands surety’ come directly from the nouns šarrāqu and qātātu, respectively, and dān ‘he is strong’ is directly derived from dannu ‘strong’ (see §16.6.1, pp. 492–493).57 The historical reason why the third-person singular of the stative has no ending is doubtless a consequence of the fact that, when adjectives in their primary attributive function acquired case markers, their predicative form remained the same.58 54.  From šarru ‘king’ and šarratu ‘queen’. 55.  In proper names from the third millennium, there are 3fs forms without -t, e.g., Si-be-la /Šī-bēla/ MAD 1, 163: I 28 ‘she is lord/lady’, especially in Mari Old Akkadian: Eš4-dar-dam-ga /Eštar-damqa/ ARM 19, 303:4, Ma-ma‑a-li-a /Mama-alia/ ARM 19, 384:12, and Eš4-dar-a-li-a /Eštar-alia/ ARM 19, 384:13, and exceptionally in Old Babylonian: Um-mi-na-da ‘my mother is exalted’ (quoted by Gelb 1961: 216), Um-mi-ṭà-ba ‘my mother is good’ and Ba-ba6-i-la ‘Baba is divine’ (quoted by Stol 1991: 195 as Ba-ú-i-la); see also Gelb 1961: 150–51, 1965: 74. We would expect damqat ‘she is good’, aliat ‘she is sublime’, etc. It is not clear to me whether we may regard these forms as alternatives for the 3fs stative or secondary forms determined by their position in a proper name, e.g., because of the sex of the bearer of the name according to the principle established by Edzard (1962) that the sex of the bearer may overrule the gender required by the subject of the sentence that forms the name. 56.  See Tropper 1995a: 493–94, who convincingly refutes Huehnergard’s (1987a: 221–22) contrary view. The reconstruction of Diem (1997: 69–71), who derives the third-person endings from the second part of the independent pronouns of the third person (as reconstructed by him), just as the first‑ and secondperson endings come from the second part of the corresponding pronouns (-ta from anta, etc.), is unconvincing, since it does not account for the background of this process. Presumably, the first‑ and secondperson independent pronouns are compounds themselves, for instance, of a former copula and an enclitic pronoun: an-āku ‘(it is) me’. It is unclear how an analysis of, say, huʾa/šiʾat into huʾ/šiʾ‑ plus -a/-at fits into this picture. I will come back to Diem’s views in §7.4.2 (pp. 182–183) for a different problem. 57.  For šarrāq ‘he is a thief’, see, e.g., awīlum šū ša-ar-ra-aq KH §7:55–56 (OB) ‘that man is a thief’, and for qātāt, e.g., PN aḫūšu qá-ta-at VS 26, 120:33 (OA) ‘PN, his brother, stands surety’. 58.  However, this issue is intimately connected with the prehistoric development of the 3ms stative. The corresponding form in West Semitic, the 3ms perfect qatVla, does have an ending ‑a, and both the background of this ‑a and the question whether it can be reconstructed for Proto-Semitic or not are highly controversial. I will discuss this further in the next section.

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


In the plural, the third-person endings -ū and -ā are parallel to the nominal and adjectival endings without the suffix -tu and could also be explained from a process of subtraction. However, it is more likely that they were taken over from the corresponding endings of the prefix conjugations (e.g., Impfv 3mp iparrasū, 3fp iparrasā), as part of the process of incorporation of the stative into the verbal paradigm.59 This was suggested by Kuryłowicz (1972: 93) and explains both the absence of -t- in the third-person plural feminine and the remarkable fact that this ending is always -ā, even if the corresponding adjective has -ētu, as in ṣeḫrētu, Fem Pl of ṣeḫru ‘small, young’, but 3fp stative ṣeḫrā.60 The dual forms are restricted to the oldest dialects: Sargonic Akkadian has a 3dum (lū) za‑aḫ-ra /ṣaḫrā/ (ā) zu-ku-na /zuqqunā/ SAB p. 158:10 (Diyala) ‘they (the two slaves) must be young and not have a beard’, and a separate 3duf sá-lim-da /salimtā/ SAB p. 177 top: 9 (Eshnunna) ‘they two are well’. This special feminine form is not found anywhere else, with the remarkable exception of na-mu-ra-ta (īnāšu) TIM 9, 65:12 // 66:24 ‘its eyes are shining’ in an Old Babylonian incantation. Mari Old Akkadian has the dual form marṣā (spelled mar-za) ‘(they are) ill’ both for men (e.g., ARM 19, 55:2; 57:2) and for women (ARM 19, 19:2) (Limet 1975: 49–50). Old Babylonian instances include zi-za /zīzā/ UET 5, 114:12 ‘they (the two brothers) have divided (the inheritance)’; wa-aš-ba-a(-ma) St. de Meyer p. 85:11 ‘they (two partners) are present’. In proper names, we find Dingir.dingir-dan-na /Ilān-dannā/ AbB 10, 200:1 ‘the twin gods are strong’; Dingir.dingir-ra-bi-a /Ilān-rabiā/ CT 8, 44b:7 ‘the twin gods are great’; Mara-an-ki‑na /Mārān-kīnā/ ‘the two sons are legitimate’ (quoted in Stamm 1939: 296).61 These dual forms have a different structure from the plural: whereas the plural forms are built on the stem (šal(i)m-), the dual forms are derived from the singular of the corresponding gender by adding ā: šalim § šalmā, but šalmat § šalimtā (originally šălĭmat § šălĭmătā, a form preserved in namurratā).62 It is remarkable that these forms are built exactly like the thirdperson dual forms of the Arabic perfect (if we ignore -a of the 3ms): 3ms qatala § qatalā and 3ms qatalat § qatalatā (see Fleisch 1979: 117–19) and the corresponding forms of the Modern South Arabian suffix conjugation, e.g., Mehri 3dum kətəbō, 3duf kətəbtō (Johnstone 1975: 16). The suffixes of the first‑ and second-person have a pronominal origin, as is clear from their similarity to the independent subject pronouns; see Table 7.3. 59.  Since the moot problem of -ā versus -nā as original 3fp ending mainly concerns West Semitic, I will not go into it; for a recent summing up of the discussion, see Diem 1997: 53–61. 60.  Cf. Kouwenberg 2000: 57. The absence of -t in the plural forms, especially in the 3fp šalmā, results from a morphosyntactic process and cannot be compared with the loss of final t in Arabic (-ah < -atum) and Aramaic (-ā < -āt), as claimed by Streck (1995a: 183 n.427). The latter is a phonetic process of attrition at the end of a word for which there are no parallels in Akkadian at so early a date. 61.  For Old Babylonian dual forms in the verb in general, see Stol (1988: 178). 62.  This also applies to the adjective, which has -ān/-īn (Ass -ān/-ēn) instead of -ā: Masc šalmu § šalmān, Fem šalimtu § šalimtān, e.g., Masc kà-ab-tá-an VS 26, 157:5 (OA) from kabtu ‘heavy’, a-ni-an UM 5, 156: r.5 (OB) from annû ‘this’, mi-it-ḫa-ri-in YOS 10, 62:30 (OB) from mitḫaru ‘of equal size’; Fem pá-tí-té-en6 OAA 1, 88:4 (OA) from petû ‘open’ (< *patiḥtayn), re-ti-ta-an Legends p. 198:49 (OB) ‘fixed’ (retû), ra-ab-ba-ta-an Ištar p. 24:43 (OB) from rabbu ‘soft’; ra-qé-té-en CTMMA 1, 121 no. 85a:12 (OA) from raqqu ‘thin’ (< *raqqatayn). The Sargonic Akkadian Nom Fem da-mì-iq-tá Or. 46, 201:7 (incant. from Kish) from damqu ‘good, beautiful’ is irregular in that it lacks the final -n. Is this a defective spelling for -tān or a kind of absolute state serving as a vocative? The latter option is taken by J. and A. Westenholz (1977: 207), referring to GAG §62j, and Hasselbach (2005: 184). In the noun, the same principle holds: šaptu ‘lip’, Pl šapātum, but Du šaptān (e.g., ša-ap-ta-an Ištar p. 24:43, OB). A parallel in the verbal system is the sporadically attested reciprocal first-person dual mentioned in §2.5 (p. 51; lurtāmā ‘let us love (each other)’, etc.), which is derived from the first-person singular by affixation of the dual ending ‑ā; see Kouwenberg 2005: 100–101.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4. person





šalmāku (-āk)



šalmāta (-āti, -āt)



šalmāti (or -tī?) (-āt)









šalmānu (Ass. -āni)













Table 7.3: The subject pronouns and the personal endings of the stative.

The emergence of the first‑ and second-person forms šalmāku, šalmāta, etc., presupposes the existence of a predicative 3ms šalim(‑) or perhaps šalima(‑). They consist of this form plus a short, probably enclitic, form of the independent pronoun, which apparently lacked the element an-: *‑(ā)ku), *‑tV, *‑tī, etc.: šalmāku < šalim + -āku. Stem and pronominal element coalesced into a single word through univerbation (Hopper and Traugott 2003: 145–49), with the pronouns developing from independent words to clitics and then to personal endings. Some problematic aspects of this development will be discussed further in the next section. However, the match between pronoun and suffix is far from perfect. In spite of atta, the 2ms form ‑āti is doubtless older than ‑āta: ‑āti is standard in Old Assyrian (sometimes reduced to -āt, see GKT §§72a, 45a) and is also typical of Archaic Babylonian and Early Old Babylonian, see GAG 3 §75c* and Stol 1988: 178.63 So ‑āta may be a secondary adaptation of -āti to the form of the independent pronoun. Old Assyrian seems to have -āti for both genders (GKT §72a), but it is conceivable that the feminine was actually ‑ātī. The short forms without final vowel are found from the oldest period onwards, e.g., SAk lū tu-mu-at /tummuʾāt/ SAB p. 53:10 (Adab) ‘be (2ms) bound by an oath’ from tamû D ‘to cause to swear’,64 OB la-ab-ša-a-at AbB 6, 22:15 ‘you (Fem) wear’ from labāšu, and OA qá-bi4-a-at Prag I 727:7 ‘you (Masc) have promised’ from qabû ‘to say, promise’. They are doubtless secondary, just as is 1s ‑āk for ‑āku. In the first-person plural, Babylonian -ānu contrasts with Assyrian -āni (GAG §75b; GKT §72a). It is hard to determine which is more original: on the one hand, the Babylonian form may be due to the influence of the pronoun, which has -nu in both dialects (nīnu or nēnu)65; on the other hand, Assyrian -ni may result from influence of the genitive suffix pronoun -ni. In conclusion, we cannot rule out the possibility that the similarity between the independent subject pronouns and the personal suffixes of the stative results from a gradual convergence rather than from an original identity.

63.  Add to the instances mentioned there (āl) wa-aš-ba-a-ti YOS 10, 36: III 14 ‘the town where you live’. 64.  This is the only 2ms stative attested so far in Sargonic Akkadian, so it is unknown whether a longer ending ‑ta or ‑ti also existed (Hasselbach 2005: 189–90). 65.  The forms nīni and anīni appearing in Neo-Babylonian and occasionally in Standard Babylonian are doubtless secondary, perhaps influenced by the suffix pronoun -ni.

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


Apart from the variations shown in Table 7.3, the endings of the stative are relatively stable during the history of Akkadian, with the exception of Neo-Assyrian, where a noteworthy development takes place: ‑t- of the second person is replaced by -k- (GAG §75b; Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 90–91), e.g., -āka instead of -āta (kam-mu-sa-ka SAA 1, 107:8 ‘you are staying’), ‑āki for ‑āti (šur-ba-ki Or. 23, 347:14 ‘you (Fem) are magnificent’ (NA lit.), and ‑ākunu for ‑ātunu (pal-ḫa-ku-nu CTN 5 p. 13:26 ‘you (Pl) are anxious’).66 This may be explained as an analogical extension starting from ‑k- in the first-person singular and represents a remarkable parallel with the same (but undoubtedly independent) development in South Semitic (Moscati, ed. 1964: 139; see §7.4.2 below).

7.4.2.  The relationship with the West Semitic perfect Diachronically, the Akkadian stative is closely related to two other categories in cognate languages: the suffix conjugation of West Semitic, which is traditionally called the perfect (originally qatVla, in fientive verbs usually qatala), on the one hand, and several suffix conjugations with basically stative meaning in Afroasiatic, on the other. In this section, I will discuss some aspects of the relationship between the stative and the West Semitic perfect. The common origin of the Akkadian stative and the West Semitic perfect is ascertained by the commonalities in the personal endings, by the correspondence between the non-active perfects qatila/qatula and the Akkadian adjectival statives, and by the correspondence between the intransitive or low-transitive qatila perfects and the passive/intransitive stative pattern PaRiS in Akkadian. Moreover, the function of the West Semitic perfect can be understood as a further development of the resultative function of the verbal stative in Akkadian (Aro 1965; Tropper 1995a: 504–12; T. D. Anderson 2000: 26–32; Cook 2001: 127–30). It underwent the well-attested grammaticalization process from resultative to perfect and further to perfective or simple past (Bybee et al. 1994: 81–87).67 The oldest function of the suffix conjugation as a predicative form of adjectives is preserved in West Semitic in the use of the perfect of adjectival verbs to denote a state or a quality (Tropper 1995a: 510; Cook 2001: 129): e.g., Hebrew kābẹ̄d ‘it is heavy’, ʾāhabtī ‘I love’ (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 359), Arabic kafarū ‘they are unbelievers’ (Reckendorf 1977: 10–11, who calls this “präsentisch-resultativ”).68 In this process, the perfect replaced the earlier perfective *yiqtVl, which is still in use in Akkadian and survives as a residual past tense in West Semitic (apart from a fully-fledged irrealis function); see §5.4 (pp. 129–130). The similarity between the personal endings of the Akkadian stative and the West Semitic perfect confirms their common origin: see Table 7.4 (p. 182), which compares Akkadian with Arabic and Geʿez as representatives of Central and South Semitic, respectively.69 66.  By way of exception, this also occurs in Neo-Babylonian: ku-uṣ-ṣu-pa-ku-nu ABL 301: r.2 ‘you (Pl) are planning’; ma-aṣ-ṣa-ku-nu ABL 1146: r.4 ‘you (Pl) are able’; see Woodington 1982: 94 (but note that in the latter form ‑ṣṣ‑ is typically Assyrian; see Kouwenberg 2003: 85). The alleged Old Babylonian instance of a second person with -k- (ka-aš-da-ki AbB 2, 135:4) mentioned by Gelb (1955b: 108b), Tropper (1995a: 509 n. 53), and Lipiński (1997: 362) is actually a first-person singular with a second-person feminine dative suffix: kašdāk(u)-ki(m) ‘I have come to you’. 67.  Not to mention the various other functions the perfect has developed in the West Semitic languages, such as the prophetic perfect in Hebrew (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 363) and the Arabic use of the perfect in wishes (Fischer 1972: 92). 68.  According to Fleisch (1979: 193–94), Arabic normally employs a nominal clause or the copula kāna to express a state and has restricted the perfect to fientive use: kāna karīman ‘he was generous’ versus perfect karuma ‘he became generous’. This is modelled on the situation in the fientive verb and doubtless represents a secondary development. 69.  See Moscati, ed. 1964: 137; Lipiński 1997: 359–61; Kienast 2001: 203; for Arabic: Fischer 1972: 102; for Geʿez: Tropper 2002: 88.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4. person













parsāti, -āta, -āt




parsāti/ī, -āt
































parsānu, -ni



Table 7.4: The personal endings of the Semitic suffix conjugation.

There are four major differences between the Akkadian and the West Semitic paradigms as they can be reconstructed on the basis of Arabic, Geʿez, and other languages not included in the table. Three of these concern the endings: the distribution of k and t in the first and second persons, the presence of ā between stem and ending in these persons in Akkadian, and the ∅ vs. a ending in the third-person singular masculine. The fourth one concerns the stem vowel a in most West Semitic forms, which has no counterpart in Akkadian.70 With regard to k and t, there is a general consensus that Akkadian represents the original situation and that Central Semitic has extended t to the first-person singular, whereas South Semitic has extended k to all second persons (see in particular Hetzron 1976a: 93–94). According to Diem (1997: 14–16), this solution was first formulated by Theodor Nöldeke. Its correctness is confirmed by the stative conjugations of Egyptian and Berber (to be discussed in the next section), which have the same distribution of k and t as Akkadian (Tropper 1999a: 175). The three remaining differences—which are intimately connected with each other—are less easy to solve. I will start with the difference between Akkadian and West Semitic with regard to the vowel -ā- between stem and ending in the first and second persons.71 A popular explanation, which according to Diem (1997: 19) goes back as far as Brockelmann (1908: 583) and Bergsträsser (1928: 12 n. 2) and which is still embraced by Diem (1997: 22), claims that the presence of -ā- in the first-person plural and all second persons of Akkadian is due to an analogical extension from the first-person singular, where it comes from the pronoun anāku. The original stative endings would thus be identical to the pronouns (in historical times anāku, atta [< *anta], attī [< antī  ], etc.) minus the element an‑: 1s šalmāku < šal(i)m-āku, but 2s *šalim-ta/tī (as in West Semitic), which was later replaced by the historical form šalmāta by analogy with šalmāku. A consequence of this view is that the West Semitic first-person singular without -ā- (qatVltu 70.  I will not try to account for the other (minor) differences between the Akkadian and West Semitic personal endings; see Diem 1997 for a recent discussion. 71.  A detailed Forschungsgeschichte is given by Diem (1997: 19–26).

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


šal(i)māta) but syncopated in West Semitic as a result of antepenultimate stress (*qatVl-a-ta > qatVlta). Although this might work for Akkadian (Tropper adduces the genitive singular as a parallel: bēli-šu > bēlīšu ‘of his lord’), it seems too ad hoc to be credible for West Semitic and against the usual stress patterns. The question of this short ă after the stem brings us to the two most problematic differences between Akkadian and West Semitic, namely, (1) the third-person singular masculine ending, for which Akkadian has ∅ (parVs) but West Semitic (originally) ‑a (qatVla), and (2) the origin of the stem vowel a in the West Semitic active/transitive perfect qatala. I will start with the second problem. On the surface, it may seem to concern West Semitic alone and thus to fall outside the scope of the present study. However, it bears directly on the reconstruction of the Proto-Semitic verbal system in so far as we have to answer the question whether Proto-Semitic had or did not have an active participle *QaTaL.

72.  Some authors have argued that this ā must have occurred in West Semitic, since it has left traces in some types of weak verbs, especially in the Hebrew conjugation of the II/gem verbs, e.g., sabbōtī, sabbōtā ‘I/you surrounded’ from sābab (e.g., Tropper 1999a: 186; Kienast 2001: 203). This would be plausible if we knew for certain that the first-person singular also had ‑ā‑ originally. Since this is not the case, it is one hypothesis piled on top of another. Actually, we do not need an original long vowel to explain these forms: starting from an original 1s *sabbatu (3ms *sabba § 1s *sabbatu (or ‑ku) modelled on the strong form *qatVla § *qatVltu) may become *sabbāta by vowel lengthening and sabbōtā by regular sound change (Tropper 1999a: 186). It is also possible that the vowel was lengthened in order to conform to the prosody of the corresponding strong form *qatVltu (etc.). Bauer and Leander (1922: 430) explain ō from analogy with the III/w verbs (< aw), which is also possible. 73.  The source of ‑ā- in the pronoun itself is not clarified by this proposal, of course, but this falls outside the scope of the verbal system.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

There seems to be a general consensus that the qatala perfect is a West Semitic innovation.74 The earliest factual evidence for its existence comes from Amarna Akkadian and Ugaritic, i.e., the 14th century b.c.75 Rainey (1996: II 296–301) mentions forms such as na-da-an VAB 2, 298:26 ‘he has given’, ša-ka-an VAB 2, 114:8 ‘he has established’, and ṣa-bat VAB 2, 114:17 ‘he has taken’. In Ugaritic, we find a few syllabic spellings showing a: ta-ba-ʾa ‘he departed’, ṣa-ma-ta ‘it devolved’ (Huehnergard 1989: 68 with n. 142; van Soldt 1991: 442; Tropper 2000: 464).76 However, since we do not have earlier reliable sources, we cannot determine when these forms emerged for the first time. As to the source of the qatala perfect, two possible options present themselves: it may represent the verbalization of a QaTăL participle, which was the active counterpart of the wellestablished passive/intransitive QaTiL form, or it may be a secondary offshoot of a doubtless more original perfect with the pattern qati/ula. I will start with the first option, which is the most far-reaching. From a typological point of view, it is not implausible that qatala arose from the grammaticalization of a periphrastic construction built on an active participle, parallel to the rise of qati/ula from QaTiL. This is indeed a widespread view, originating with Bauer (1910: 12–15).77 Aro (1964: 198–99) rejected it because of the cross-linguistic rarity of past active participles with the meaning ‘having done sth.’. It is true that such participles are rare (Haspelmath 1994: 154–57), but parallels from Modern Arabic show that the meanings expressed by qatala can very well develop from a present participle. This is based on the inherent ambiguity of a present participle. On the one hand, it can describe somebody as engaged in the activity expressed by the verb, e.g., Ar qātilun ‘killing’. As such, it may acquire an implication of habituality and thus develop into an agent noun (Ar. qātilun ‘killer, murderer’, and prominently in Akkadian; see §8.4.1, pp. 205–​ 206). On the other hand, if a participle of a transitive verb is qualified by a definite noun, e.g., qātilu Zaydin ‘the killer of Zayd’, it refers to a single event and the clause has an implicature: if someone is a killer of Zayd, he has killed Zayd. In this way, the present participle of a transitive verb may evolve into a resultative or a perfect (D. Cohen 1984: 269–328, esp. 275; Brustad 2000: 182–84 with additional literature). Concrete cases of this process have occurred in various Eastern Arabic dialects. According to D. Cohen (1984: 283), in the dialect of Bahrain the perfect is replaced by a predicative participle for the expression of perfect meaning in terminative verbs, whereas the participle in atelic motion verbs normally indicates the actual present. In the dialect of Baghdad, the perfect is the unmarked form for past reference, whereas the participle can serve as a resultative perfect. However, in verbs of state and movement the participle can express ongoing processes or processes about to begin (1984: 287–88).78 Johnstone (1967) reports a similar state of affairs for Kuwaiti, Baḥraini, and Qaṭari Arabic (1967: 144, 153, and 163, respectively). 74.  A selection of pertinent views includes Fleisch 1947/48: 51; Rössler 1951: 370–71; Rundgren 1959a: 280; Petráček 1963: 592; Diakonoff 1988: 94; Tropper 1995a: 504; Kienast 2001: 202–3. 75.  For the putative occurrence of QaTaL in Eblaite and the (non-existence of) earlier qatala perfects in Amorite proper names, see n. 93 (p. 189). 76.  It is significant, however, that the attested perfects of II/  ʾ verbs, where the stem vowel can be inferred from the preceding ʾ, all have i: lʾik /laʾika/ ‘he sent’, sʾid /saʾida/ ‘he served food’, and ˹š˺ʾil / šaʾila/ ‘he asked’ (Sivan 1997: 113; Tropper 2000: 470). 77.  See also, for instance, Nyberg 1920: 188; Brockelmann 1951: 146; Rundgren 1966: 137; Kuryłowicz 1972: 66; Loprieno 1986: 152–60; Tropper 1995a: 512–13; T. D. Anderson 2000: 31–34; Kienast 2001: 202. 78.  Further afield, T. D. Anderson (2000: 40–41) adduces evidence for this development from Japanese and Dravidian languages.

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


Moreover, T. D. Anderson (2000: 34–50) argues that the Hebrew perfect qāṭal has many imperfective-like uses in addition to its main perfective function, the most important of which is its consecutive derivation wəqāṭal, which is problematic in almost all theories that attempt to explain the highly controversial verbal system of Hebrew. He proposes to account for this apparent contradiction by starting from qatala as an active participle. This scenario presupposes the existence of an active QaTăL participle in Proto-Semitic or, at least, in a very early stage of West Semitic. There is, however, hardly any evidence for this. Particularly detrimental to its existence in Proto-Semitic is the absence of unambiguous traces in Akkadian (Rössler 1950: 473).79 Akkadian has a rather marginal adjectival pattern PaRaS, but it does not have the required meaning: it comprises primary adjectives, most of which express prototypically adjectival concepts. They were enumerated in §3.3.3 under C1–5 (p. 63) and some additional Assyrian cases in §3.3.4 as Type 3 (p. 65). Moreover, Assyrian has a few PaRaS statives, already mentioned in §7.2 (p. 162): wašab, ḫalaq, and balaṭ. They suggest that PaRaS statives of fientive verbs may once have existed and that therefore the predominance of PaRiS in Akkadian may be secondary (so also Kienast 1967: 65).80 However, even if these statives are fientive, they are neither transitive nor active (in the sense of denoting an action) and are therefore poor parallels to the West Semitic qatala perfect. Other possible traces of QaTăL in Akkadian are also disputable. First, the agent noun PaRRāS (residually PaRRăS; see n. 81), might be interpreted as an expressive extension of a hypothetical pattern PaRăS with active/transitive meaning. Second, since vowel lengthening is a common indicator of substantivation in Semitic (Kuryłowicz 1972: 113; Kienast 1989: 281, 2001: 376), one could argue—with Kuryłowicz (1972: 109)—that the Akkadian infinitive pattern PaRāS is a substan­tivation of a participle PaRăS with active meaning, which contrasted with the farbetter-known detransitive past participle PaRiS. The identity of past participle and infinitive in all Akkadian derived verbal stems—both have the stem vowel u—may be taken as an argument that in the G‑stem, too, the infinitive was derived from the past participle (see further §8.2.2, pp. 199–​200). This line of reasoning obviously contains a high degree of speculation, and the forms involved may quite well have a different background. With regard to West Semitic, the only direct evidence for the former existence of an active QaTăL participle consists of the residual agent noun pattern QaTaL in Classical Arabic, studied by Fleisch (1955), e.g., ḥakam ‘arbitre’, tabaʿ ‘qui suit’). It is the basis for the more productive extended patterns QaTāL and QaTTāL.81 However, Fox (2003: 161) is reluctant to accept Fleisch’s claim that the extended patterns with a or ā in the second syllable are affective derivations of an original QaTaL pattern. He points out (2003: 179) that QaTāL has “no evident semantic connection to *qatal,” which does not normally serve for action nouns. This is remarkable, 79.  In so far as there are any traces of QaTaL in Berber, they are prototypical adjectives, as in Akkadian (Rössler 1950: 303), and there is nothing that points to an active participle with this pattern. 80.  It may be added here—if only for the sake of completeness—that several nouns that can plausibly be derived from primary adjectives or past participles with the pattern PaRiS actually have PaRaS: šalamtu ‘corpse’ (cf. šalāmu ‘to be(come) sound, well’ [see Eilers 1954/59: 322–23 n. 3], Adj šalim), kaspu ‘silver’ (cf. kasāpu ‘to break in little pieces’, Stat kasip), kabattu ‘liver’ (cf. kabtu (i) ‘heavy’), and ṣalmu ‘statue’, construct state ṣalam (cf. ṣalmu (i) ‘black’), and perhaps wardu ‘slave’, construct state warad (cf. warādu ‘to go /come down’, PPartc warid ). See for this phenomenon Eilers, 1954/59: 322–23 n. 3. It is difficult to judge the relevance of such forms: they may represent indirect evidence of an earlier past participle pattern PaRaS, but they may also have a quite different background. 81.  Fleisch also mentions QaTTaL, but this does not seem to occur in Arabic. It does occur in Old Assyrian šarruqum ‘thief’ < šarrăqum and in Hebrew (with ă > ā); see Fox 2003: 257–60. QaTāL “occurs in many languages as a rare actant noun” according to Fox (2003: 179); QaTTāL is pan-Semitic as an agent noun.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

since QaTiL and QaTīL are closely related and even overlapping in function, and likewise QaTuL and QaTūL (2003: 157). So the problem is whether we are justified in positing any historical relationship between them.82 It could be argued, however, that already in Proto-Semitic QaTăL as an action noun was completely replaced by QaTāL. A parallel of such a development can be found in Akkadian PaRRāS, which has almost completely replaced PaRRăS as an agent noun (see n. 81 above), so that in historical Akkadian the remaining PaRRăS forms have a quite different function from PaRRāS (they comprise plural and perhaps intensive adjectives; see GAV pp. 49–58). It does seem possible, therefore, to posit an active participle *QaTaL for Proto-Semitic transitive verbs, opposed to the well-attested passive/intransitive past participle *QaTiL. *QaTaL was substantivized as an action noun *QaTāL (widespread as an infinitive; see §8.2.2, pp. 199–200), on the one hand, and as an agent noun, on the other, in which function it was largely replaced by various longer patterns. As productive active participle, it was renewed by *QāTiL (< *QāTaL?). According to Rundgren (1974: 200), it was this process that left QaTăL with the function of an abstract verbal noun (> infinitive). Needless to say, all this is just as speculative as the Akkadian traces of QaTăL discussed above. All in all, there are three (de)verbal categories that combine the stem vowel ă or ā with an active meaning: the G‑stem infinitive PaRāS and the agent noun PaRRă/āS in Akkadian, and the active/transitive perfect qatala in West Semitic.83 Even so, it remains questionable whether this constitutes sufficient evidence for attributing a QaTăL participle to Proto-Semitic, which could be pressed into service as the source of qatala. The residual QaTăL agent nouns of Arabic might indicate that it developed subsequently in West Semitic, but this remains a matter of speculation as well. So it may be easier to abandon Proto-Semitic QaTăL as an active participle and assume that the qatala perfect was split off from the inherited qati/ul(a) perfect at some point in the development of Proto-West Semitic.84 Semantically, the derivation of an active/transitive perfect from an originally passive/intransitive participle is unobjectionable, as the active stative of Akkadian shows. There also is a fair number of active qatila perfects in West Semitic that can be directly derived from the Proto-Semitic past participle QaTiL, especially the low-transitivity a/ i verbs of the yalbasu – labisa type discussed in § (pp. 74–75). However, it is unclear what kind of mechanism can be made responsible for the rise of the stem vowel a in the great majority of transitive verbs of the yaqtulu and yaqtilu types (T. D. Anderson 2000: 30–31).85 82.  There is also another group of QaTaL agent nouns in Classical Arabic that are “quasi-plurals” of QāTiL participles, i.e., they “are not used with numerals, and can often be used as singular or as plural alike” (Fox 2003: 160 with n. 21): ṭalab ‘seeking (Pl), pursuing (Pl), group of students’, ḫadam ‘group of servants (of a household)’, tabaʿ ‘group of followers’, raṣad ‘group of ambushers’, and ḫaras ‘group of guards’ (Fox’s glosses). Moreover, its feminine derivation QaTaLat is one of the possible plural patterns of the present participle QāTiL (Ratcliffe 1998a: 99–100), e.g., ṭalabah from ṭālib ‘student’. As plural forms, these nouns should presumably be kept apart from the present discussion; they may be representatives of the “internal a-Plurals” studied by Greenberg (1955). 83.  The Akkadian Impfv iparras does not belong in this series, since, as I argued in §4.5.1 (pp. 109–110), its stem vowel is the imperfective vowel a of the derived verbal stems and/or the marker of plurality. 84.  In modern European languages, the active perfect with “to have” is also more recent than its passive counterpart with “to be”; see Kuryłowicz 1972: 66 n. 4; 1975: 109–10. 85.  Kuryłowicz (1972: 66) argues that a results from the replacement of i in the vicinity of a guttural consonant, a typically structuralist argument that awaits confirmation from factual and typological parallels. Voigt (2004: 47) explains a of qatala by inference from a of iptaras (which is Proto-Semitic in his view, a view I do not share; see §6.4, pp. 155ff.). Rössler (1951: 370–71) claims that the vowel pattern of qatala

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


Finally, we come to the difference in the third singular masculine ending between Akkadian (parVs-∅) and West Semitic (originally qatVl-a). Only one of these forms can reasonably be reconstructed to Proto-Semitic, and which one has been a matter of debate since the beginning of the previous century. Diem (1997: 42–52) gives an exhaustive Forschungsgeschichte, showing that most scholars have opted for ‑a, since it seems easier to explain the loss of ‑a in Akkadian than its emergence in West Semitic. In itself, this is a sound argument, since loss of final vowels is ubiquitous in the history of languages, whereas the addition of a vowel requires some specific analogical proportion or grammaticalization process, but it should of course be backed by concrete evidence. The question is, therefore, whether the earliest stages of Akkadian show evidence for a third singular masculine ending ‑a in the stative and for a rule that accounts for its subsequent loss. If so, the issue can be regarded as solved: Proto-Semitic had *qatVla, which became parVs in (Proto‑)Akkadian. However, neither question can definitely be answered in the affirmative. The existence of a third singular masculine ending ‑a for the stative has been claimed on the basis of Sargonic Akkadian proper names containing a predicative noun or adjective with ‑a, which were collected and discussed by Gelb (1961: 147–53; 1965: 73–74), e.g., Šu-be-la ‘he is lord’, A-ḫi-ṭa-ba ‘my brother is kind’, dŠul-gi-na-da ‘Šulgi is praised’.86 Gelb also points out that the great majority of predicative nouns in Sargonic Akkadian have a zero ending (1965: 74), e.g., A-bí-ṭa-ab ‘my father is kind’, A-bu-ṭa-áb ‘the father is kind’, and Be-lí-ṭa-ab ‘my lord is kind’, or sometimes a nominative ending (e.g., A-bi-ṭà-bu and Be-lí-ṭa-bumx(balag) (all quoted in MAD 3, 301). Hasselbach (2005: 102–4) uses the names with ‑a as evidence that short final a is dropped in Sargonic Akkadian.87 She argues that final ‑a is an archaic feature preserved in this small group of Sargonic (or even earlier) proper names and that the corresponding names without ‑a represent a later stage in which ‑a has been dropped. If this is correct, the answer to both questions formulated above is affirmative. However, the argument rests solely on proper names, and—apart from the fact that evidence from proper names is unreliable, if it is not confirmed by other data (see, e.g., Rundgren 1965/66: 67–68 and Huehnergard 1987c: 714–15)88—there is also a different and perhaps more straightforward explanation for the alternative use of ‑a and ‑∅ in these names. In comparable names of later periods, predicative nouns may either be in the nominative or in the stative (see Kouwenberg 2000: 37–38):89 cf. the Old Babylonian names Adad-šarrum ‘Adad is (the) king’, Erra-bēlum ‘Erra is (the) lord’, and Abum-bēlum ‘the father is (the) lord’; this even applies to predicative adjectives: was modelled on that of Proto-Semitic yaqattal, for which he compares Mehri, where “qatala und yaqattal als Perfekt und Präsens gleichzeitig nebeneinander standen und gleichsam ein Gespann bildeten.” In my reconstruction of the history of yaqattal, this is not an option, however, since it implies that yaqattal was either already lost or in serious decline in Proto-West Semitic. Tropper (1995a: 504–5) argues that qatal was created on the basis of qatil, because it became “Ablautpartner” of *yiqtul, just as iparras in Akkadian. Therefore, it takes over the vowel a of iparras. This goes back to Rössler (1950: 510–12) and Voigt (1988a: 116–17) and is not acceptable to me, either. 86.  See also GAG 3 §77a* with further literature. 87.  See also Huehnergard 2005a: 591 and 2006: 6–7 with n. 31. 88.  A good illustration of this fact is the occurrence of proper names with ‑a whose subject is feminine, mentioned in n. 55 (p. 178) above (e.g., Eš4-tár-a-li-a ‘Eštar is sublime’), although the 3fs stative in context always has ‑at. This strengthens the impression that grammatical features from proper names should not be taken as representative of the grammar of the language to which they seem to belong, unless they are backed by other evidence. 89.  This also applies to predicative nouns in general: one can say either Ḫammurapi šar or Ḫammurapi šarru ‘Hammurapi is king’; see §7.3.1 (pp. 166–168) and Kouwenberg 2000: 37–38.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

Sin-waqrum ‘Sin is precious’ (beside the usual DN-waqar), Pīša-dannu ‘her word is strong’, and Middle Babylonian Šī-banītum ‘she is beautiful’ alongside Šī-ba-na-at (for references, see Kouwenberg 2000: 37–38). In spite of these predicative nouns in the nominative, we know for certain that in Old Babylonian the 3ms stative never has an ending ‑u(m). When we find ‑u(m), it is not a stative but a predicative noun or adjective. In Sargonic Akkadian, the matter is more complicated, because we also find ‑a beside ‑u(m), but the principle is the same: if we find ‑∅, the form is likely to be a stative, but if we find ‑u(m) or ‑a, the form may just as well be a predicative noun or adjective. In that case, names with ‑a differ syntactically from names with ‑∅, and the replacement of a by ∅ may represent a change in construction rather than a phonological change. Consequently, as long as we do not find a verbal stative with ‑a in context, there is no evidence for the existence of a stative with an ending ‑a. Whether the names with ‑a are older than names with ‑∅ has to be established on different grounds (basically, the date of the tablets on which they appear). The fact that names with ‑a are no longer used in later periods does indeed suggest that they are archaisms, but there is no reason to assume that there is a phonological change of ‑a to ‑∅. This leads to the conclusion that these names neither provide evidence for the existence of a 3ms stative ending ‑a nor for a sound change involving the loss of final ‑a.90 There does not seem to be much other evidence for the loss of final ‑a. Several concrete instances of final ‑a actually plead against such a rule: the a-subjunctives from the Diyala region (see §9.3.2, p. 224) and the accusative pronoun su4-a (/suʾa/ or /suwa/) ‘this’, which occurs in the standard curse formula of Sargonic royal inscriptions. There are occasional instances of the loss of final vowels other than a, e.g., in the suffix pronouns (‑š for ‑šu, etc.) and in prepositions (el for eli, ad for adi ‘until’), although prepositions are proclitic, so that their final vowels are not strictly word-final. However, a counter­example for u is the u-subjunctive.91 A further argument adduced is the loss of case vowels in the construct state during the Sargonic Akkadian period (Hasselbach 2005: 182–83). It seems doubtful that this can count as an instance of the loss of final vowels: they are not strictly final, because the construct noun is proclitic, and it seems likely that morphosyntactic processes were also involved in their loss.92 The evidence, then, for a sound change a > ∅/_# in early Akkadian seems inconclusive. The situation in Eblaite is not very clear, as usual. Eblaite also shows proper names with predicative 90.  The nature and the function of ‑a in these names is a matter of debate. It has been argued that it serves to indicate a specifically predicative form (Lipiński 1997: 360); that it indicates the status determinatus, as later in Aramaic (Kienast 2001: 158–59); or that it is a case ending, either simply the accusative of later Akkadian (Gelb 1965: 79–80; Krebernik 1991b: 138) or an “absolutus,” identical with or related to the later(?) accusative (Streck 2000: 284–90. It is possible that it is the same ending as the one found in descriptive proper names consisting of a single element (Kienast 2001: 155), such as Arnaba ‘hare’, Dumāqa ‘good one’, and Qarnāna ‘horned one’ (although -a in this kind of name may also be hypochoristic) and some early Akkadian loan words in Sumerian, such as na.gada ‘shepherd’ (cf. nāqidu), ma.da ‘land’ (cf. mātu), and d a m . ḫ a . r a ‘battle’ (cf. tamḫāru) (2001: 157). Actually, its exact nature is of minor importance for the issue at hand. The important thing is that in all proposals ‑a belongs to the realm of the noun or the adjective, not to the verb, and that there is no trace of an ending -a in any unambiguously verbal form. For a more extensive survey of opinions, see also Rubio 2003a: 178–81. 91.  On the other hand, in the light of the preservation of both the u‑subjunctive and the a-subjunctive, one might argue that these vowels were lengthened, since they were always in pausal position at the end of a (subordinate) clause and may have marked this prosodically by means of a lengthened vowel; cf. the common plene spellings of subjunctives in Old Assyrian (GKT §79g). 92.  Huehnergard (2006: 7 n. 31) adduces the dual endings ‑ān and ‑ēn (or ‑īn) < *‑āna/*‑ayna (cf. Arabic ‑āni and ‑ayni with dissimilation).

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


nouns or adjectives with ‑a (Gelb 1981: 32; Krebernik 1988b: 9; Pagan 1998: 12–16), and the same alternation between forms with -a, with -u and with -i and forms without ending (Krebernik 1988b: 9).93 On the other hand, there are clear examples of endingless stative forms in Eblaite, both in texts and in proper names: wa-zi-in /wazin/ ARET 13, 15: r. III 1 ‘he has weighed’ from wazānum (see §16.2.2, p. 458) and A-bù-na-im /  ʾabu-naʿim/ ‘the father is good’ (Krebernik (1996: 244).94 In West Semitic, the situation is comparable in that, initially, forms with ‑a only occur in proper names and are therefore liable to the same objections as their Akkadian counterparts. Buccellati (1966: 219–20) mentions Amorite names from the Ur III period with ‑a attached to nouns and adjectives. Gelb (1965: 75–79) shows that in Amorite, too, names with ‑a alternate with names with -u and ‑∅. This means that they are as unreliable for Amorite as the corresponding Akkadian forms are for Akkadian for establishing the (original) form of the 3ms stative or any corresponding category. The earliest instances of suffix conjugation forms with ‑a outside proper names only occur during the 14th century b.c. in Amarna Akkadian and Ugaritic. Amarna Akkadian shows a number of forms that Rainey (1996: II 288) calls “possible hints to the existence of the short ‑a vowel on the native Canaanite of that day”, e.g., da-a-kà VAB 2, 154:19 ‘he has killed’, ta-ra VAB 2, 85:54 ‘he returned’. Most forms have a ∅-suffix, however. Ugaritic, too, shows a number of unambiguous qatVla forms both in syllabic transcription (e.g., šal-li-ma ‘he has paid’ (D‑stem)) and in III/ ʾ verbs (e.g., nšʾa ‘he lifted’ /našaʾa/; mlʾa ‘it was full’ /maliʾa/) (Tropper 2000: 464; Sivan 1997: 110). Here, too, as in the case of QaTaL, the absence of earlier reliable evidence prevents us from dating the emergence of ‑a. On the other hand, it is difficult to envisage a possible source for ‑a so late in the historical period. It seems that the problem of ‑a vs. ‑∅ in ProtoSemitic cannot be solved on the basis of the available data and that we must leave the issue open for the time being.

7.4.3.  The suffixed stative conjugations of Afroasiatic The Akkadian stative can be associated with various formations in Afroasiatic outside Semitic on the basis of similarities in their personal endings. These are strong enough to establish the existence of a suffix conjugation with stative meaning in Afroasiatic, which I will call the stative conjugation.95 Together with the commonalities in the personal prefixes of the fientive verbs, it provides one of the strongest arguments for the existence of the Afroasiatic language phylum. There can be no question of a detailed discussion of these formations, their relationships, and 93.  The question whether Eblaite had a qatala suffix conjugation parallel to the West Semitic perfect has been hotly debated (see the recent discussion in Pagan 1998: 12–16). It has not resulted in any convincing instance (  pace Pagan 1998: 14–16), so the answer remains negative for the time being (see also Rubio 2006: 133 n. 93). According to Pagan (1998: 15), instances of an active/transitive perfect are found in Ur III Amorite, but I have not found a single convincing case among the relevant names collected by Buccellati (1966: 196). Pagan (1998: 15 n. 39) mentions in particular A-ù-da-il or A-aw-te-il /Hawdā-ʾil/ ‘Il has praised’, but if this is the most convincing one to be found, the situation is fairly desperate. 94.  Several other possible instances are obscured by the Eblaite spelling practice of indicating wordfinal consonants by means of Cv-signs: na-zi-bù ARET 13, 1: r.IX 12 ‘egli è in attesa’ may plausibly be read /naṣib/. Cf. also ma-ḫi-la ARET 2, 5: VIII 1 ‘he has received(?)’, according to Fronzaroli 1982: 113, i.e., /maḫira/, and ne-da-la (= n ú) VE 841, which Krebernik (1983: 40) reads /nitāla(?)/ (“vermutlich ein Stativ auf -a”); both may also be read without final vowel. Finally, we have a possible stative form a-ba-ad ARET 13, 6: IV 6 ‘egli è in fuga’ (cf. Ass abātu ‘to flee’) (the Italian glosses are from Fronzaroli’s ARET 13 glossary). 95.  See, for instance, Diakonoff 1965: 88–91; Sasse 1981: 139–40.


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

their development: this would require a separate monograph. I will restrict myself to a general characterization and highlight those aspects that are relevant to the historical background of the Akkadian stative. Table 7.5 compares the personal suffixes of Akkadian (copied from Table 7.3), Proto-West Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, and Eastern Cushitic (as given in Sasse 1981: 140):96 Akkadian






-āku, ‑āk





‑āta, ‑āti, ‑āt






-āti (‑ātī?), ‑āt


















-ānu, ‑āni



























Table 7.5: The personal endings of the Afroasiatic stative conjugations.

I will start with the stative conjugation of Egyptian (which is also known under other names, such as the “pseudo-participle” and the “old perfective”). It is of particular importance, not only because it shows a greater similarity to Akkadian than the stative conjugations of Berber and Cushitic, but also because in the fientive verb forms Egyptian and Akkadian (or Semitic as a whole) show a completely different development: Egyptian only employs suffix conjugations (of another kind than the stative) and Akkadian only prefix conjugations. Important details about the form of the stative conjugation are unknown to us because of the purely consonantal script of Egyptian. In their consonantal guise, the forms of the endings agree fairly well with those of Akkadian.97 The nature and background of the additional ‑j after most of the personal endings is problematic, but it is doubtless secondary (see Jansen-Winkeln 1993: 16–18). In many respects, the function of the stative conjugation is similar to that of the Akkadian stative.98 First, it is neutral with regard to voice: it is resultative/stative in intransitive verbs, active or passive in transitive verbs (see Reintges 1997: 361–66), and stative in verbs denoting adjectival properties. Derived from verbs, it shows the well-known development from present perfect in the oldest stages of Egyptian to preterite in Middle Egyptian, in complementary distribution with the sḏm.n=f    form (Satzinger 2002: 241). Already in the oldest available documents, 96.  For similar tables, see also Diakonoff 1988: 92–93 and Lipiński 1997: 378–79. For the Proto-West Semitic forms, cf., for instance, Moscati, ed. 1964: 138–41. 97.  Note, however, that in the oldest period the first-person singular is mostly spelled ‑k or -kj and that kw only becomes common in Middle Egyptian (Edel 1955/64: 271–72 §573). The interpretation of the spelling ‑kwj is uncertain; Reintges (1997: 270 n. 21) suggests that it is an orthographic compromise between the old and the new form. 98.  For the function, see Gardiner 1957: 237–42; Edel 1955/64: 280–88 §584–96; Jansen-Winkeln 1993: 7–16; Reintges 1997: 355–66.

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


it tends to be restricted to circumstantial clauses qualifying a main verb or an indefinite noun. As main verb, it mainly occurs in first-person singular narrative and in other persons with a modal value. These features strongly suggest that the Egyptian stative conjugation was originally a resultative and may ultimately have been derived from a verbal adjective. They also presuppose a fairly long history, which implies that the stative conjugation cannot be a recent development. These are important parallels with the Akkadian stative. In other respects, the Egyptian stative conjugation does not contribute much to our under­standing of its Akkadian counterpart. Finally, there is a controversy among Egyptologists about the vowel pattern of the stative conjugation, which may be relevant to Proto-Semitic. Kammerzell (1990 and elsewhere) and Schenkel (1994) have argued on the basis of a specific spelling pattern, especially in older texts, that the consonantal spelling of the stative conjugation actually hides two different conjugations, one with perfect meaning and one with stative meaning. In the former, the personal endings of the first and second persons are attached directly to the stem, but in the latter a vowel ‑ā‑ appears between the stem and the ending; for the first-person singular, this gives *CvCv́C-kVj and *CvCCā´-kVj, respectively, which may perhaps be vocalized as *saḏV´m-kuw and *saḏmā´-kuw from the verb sḏm ‘to hear’ (Satzinger 1999: 29). If these claims are correct,99 the similarity between the Egyptian and the Semitic suffix conjugations is even stronger than so far assumed. Actually, it is strong enough to make one suspicious, especially because of the huge differences between Egyptian and Semitic in the rest of the verbal system, and to raise the question to what extent this reconstruction is actually inspired by the situation in Semitic. If it is right, we are compelled to assume that Egyptian and Semitic have inherited these two conjugations from their common ancestor, as indeed has been argued by Satzinger (2002: 241), because such a strong similarity can hardly result from a parallel development. However, there is not a shred of evidence that Proto-Semitic had two suffix conjugations, a perfect *qatVlku and a stative *qatlāku. In all Semitic languages, only one suffix conjugation is used as both a stative and as a perfect. Moreover, there is abundant typological evidence for a close diachronic relationship between these functions in that a stative often develops into a resultative and hence into a perfect. So there is no functional reason to posit a different origin for the two functions. In the end, the claim that there are two stative conjugations is based exclusively on the spelling patterns in older Egyptian; there is no other support available, and all functional evidence pleads against it. I am not in a position to evaluate the strength of Schenkel’s orthographic argumentation, but if any other explanation of this phenomenon is feasible, it should probably be preferred. The stative conjugation in Berber is less similar in form to the Akkadian stative but also much less controversial. Among the Berber languages, it only occurs in Kabyle Berber, in several varieties of Libyan Berber, in Zenaga Berber of Mauretania, and in a much-contaminated form in Tuareg (Taine-Cheikh 2003: 666–69), but it is likely to have been more widespread in the past (Chaker 1995: 233, referring to an example on p. 139). The endings shown in Sasse’s table refer to Kabyle Berber (without the regular spirantization of ṯ in this language). Of particular importance are the stative forms of Zenaga Berber, which have only fairly recently become known (Taine-Cheikh 2003). This language has a distinct class of prototypical adjectives, denoting colours, physical defects, and other salient features, which differ from nouns both morphologically and syntactically: they do not have the prefixes that all nouns have, and, in contrast to nouns, they 99.  Different explanations of the spelling pattern in question have been proposed by Depuydt 1995 and Borghouts 2001 (see especially p. 31).


The Prehistory of the Stative  7.4.

can serve as predicates without needing the predicative particle äḏ. However, only a part of the typically adjectival properties is expressed by these adjectives; other properties are encoded by means of verbs (Taine-Cheikh 2003: 662) or nouns (p. 663). The most important morphological feature of these adjectives is that they are the only words which can be conjugated by means of the stative conjugation. Taine-Cheikh (2003: 664, 671) gives the endings shown in Table 7.6: Sg 1st p.


2nd p.


3rd p. Masc

3rd p. Fem




Table 7.6: The stative conjugation of Zenaga Berber.

They differ from the Kabyle endings shown in Table 7.5 in that they do not show pharyngealization, which makes their phonological correspondence to the Semitic endings more convincing. A specific feature of the Berber forms is that the plural persons all have a single ending consisting of i plus a dental. It is attractive to associate this with the adjectival plural ‑ūtu in Akkadian (see Table 7.2 above, p. 178),100 but this remains highly speculative. Apart from its form, the Berber stative conjugation is important, because it provides tangible evidence for the fact that the stative conjugation is in origin a conjugation of adjectives (TaineCheikh 2003: 671–72). Accordingly, it is often called the “Qualitative” from the “verbes de qualité,” i.e., the adjectival verbs, from which it is derived. This, too, applies in particular to Zenaga Berber. In the course of its development, it was gradually amalgamated with the prefix conjugations, so that we find, on the one hand, the first‑ and second-person suffixes extended towards the prefix forms in several dialects and, on the other hand, the prefixes attached to forms of the stative conjugation (Taine-Cheikh 2003: 672). In Tuareg Berber, for instance, the personal prefixes (and the accompanying suffixes) have invaded the suffix conjugation to such an extent that only the third-person singular masculine still differs from the regular prefix conjugations in the absence of the prefix i‑: măqqăr ‘he is big’, “parfait” of imġar ‘to be big’ versus ikrăs or yəkrăs ‘he built’, “parfait” of əḳrəs (Prasse et al. 1998: 418, 422). Moreover, what is left of the stative conjugation serves in Tuareg as the perfect (“parfait,” which others call the preterite) of stative verbs. In other categories, such as the aorist and the imperfective, these verbs are conjugated by means of prefixes, in the same way as all other verbs. So the stative conjugation has been incorporated into the verbal paradigm but in a different way from the Akkadian stative.101 According to Rössler (1950: 482–83; 1951: 105), the stem of the stative verbs to which these endings are attached shows the same vowel patterns as those of primary adjectives in Akkadian and occurs both with a single and a geminate radical: QaT(T)iL, QaT(T)uL, and QaT(T)aL (see also D. Cohen 1970–71: 182). I will not further go into the East Cushitic forms of Sasse’s table. Sasse (1981: 139) states that Cushitic has renewed the morphology of the stative but that some of the endings of the East Cushitic stative may go back to Afroasiatic. Banti (2001: 14–21), however, argues that this 100.  See, for instance, Diakonoff 1988: 93 n. 7; D. Cohen 1983: 84. 101.  See Prasse (1972/74: VI 16–19) for an attempted reconstruction of the development of the personal endings in Pre‑ and Proto-Berber.

7.4.  The Prehistory of the Stative


paradigm is actually cognate with the Egyptian fientive suffix conjugations (sḏm=f, sḏm.n=f, etc.) rather than with the stative conjugation. As long as the experts on Cushitic have not clarified this issue, these forms are too controversial to shed light on the prehistory of the Afroasiatic stative conjugation. In Beja, there is a quite different stative conjugation, which according to Rössler (1950: 493–94, 507–10) shows some similarities to the stative in Egyptian and Berber; however, Zaborski (1989: 418) concludes after a long discussion that it cannot be directly identified with categories elsewhere. In sum, the similarities in form and function between the stative conjugations of Akkadian, Egyptian, and Berber strongly suggest that they go back to the Afroasiatic proto-language and presumably started as a conjugation of predicative adjectives. However, the time depth and the vast overall differences between the languages involved make it difficult to go beyond this simple statement and to fill in some details about their early development.

Chapter 8

The Nominal Forms of the Verbal Paradigm

8.1. Introduction This chapter continues the description of the primary members of the verbal paradigm by discussing the non-finite derivations of the suffix base—i.e., the infinitive, the past participle, and the two present participles.

8.2. The Infinitive 8.2.1.  Form and function The infinitive expresses the verbal content as an argument to the predicate, without any reference to specific features of the situation, such as person, tense/aspect, mood, or diathesis. This makes it suitable to be used as a citation form in lexical texts as well as in modern handbooks. All verbs have an infinitive, although that of adjectival verbs is rare (see §3.3.2, pp. 58–60), since it is mainly used as an “action noun.”1 As a non-finite member of the verbal paradigm, the Akkadian infinitive is dependent on the finite members in form and meaning, and it has a single predictable form. The G‑stem is the only verbal stem in which the infinitive has a separate form from the past participle: parāsu versus parsu.2 Everywhere else, they have the same form, which is universally characterized by the stem vowel u: pitarrusu in the Gtn‑stem, pa/urrusu in the D‑stem, nabalkutu in the quadriradical verbs, etc.; see the sections about the respective verbal stems.3 1.  Goetze’s remark (1942: 4b) that “the infinitive faʿālu belongs exclusively to the action type verb” ignores the fact that adjectival verbs also have infinitives, not only as citation form in lexical texts, such as pagālu ‘to be strong’ and barāmu ‘to be multicoloured’, but also in the paronomastic infinitive construction (e.g., (08) below). Moreover, some adjectival verbs have a substantivized infinitive: danānu ‘strength’, labāru ‘long duration’, damāqu ‘kindness, success’, šalāmu ‘health, well-being’, salāmu ‘friendly relations’, etc. 2.  GAG3 §87k* mentions infinitives with the pattern PaRīS. Aro (1961: 14–15) shows that they are typical of the inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Sargonid kings and are always in the construct state before a noun. He argues, therefore, that they are likely to represent a Neo-Assyrian phonetic development of a to a kind of ä, spelled as i/e. An alternative explanation is that they are verbal adjectives in the construct state that are used as infinitives by analogy with the derived verbal stems, where the two forms are identical (see n. 3 on other verbal adjectives used as infinitives). 3.  Identity of infinitive and past participle also occurs in the G‑stem, namely, in the III/voc and the III/H verbs, at least in Old Babylonian, where the accusative of the infinitive of III/voc and III/H verbs verbs has i in the penultimate syllable: e.g., kalia(m) from kalû ‘to detain’ and leqiam from leqû ‘to receive’; see further § (pp. 507–508) for the III/voc verbs and §17.8.4 (p. 583) for the III/H verbs. The use of the G‑stem past participle of a strong verb in the function of an infinitive is also attested, but it is so rare that it may be due to scribal errors or poor language use. Possible instances are ana (. . .) wa-aš-bi-im AbB 14, 40:20 from wašābu ‘to sit down, stay’ and ana ba-al-ṭì-im FM 2, 38 no. 11:15 from balāṭu ‘to live, be(come) healthy’.


8.2.  The Infinitiv


The infinitive is morphologically a noun with case endings and—in the older dialects—mimation, but since it refers to an action or a process, it also has a number of verbal features, especially in its syntactic behaviour.4 As a noun, it occurs in the nominative as subject (01), in the accusative as direct object (02) and complement (03), and in the genitive, where it can depend on a preposition (04), a particle (ša, mala, ašar, etc.) (05), or another noun (06): (01) FM 2 p. 210 no. 117:48 (OB) [ma]tīmā wa-ṣú-šu-nu ibašši ‘when will their (the prisoners’) release (lit., coming out) take place?’ (02) ARM 2, 32:13–14 (OB) kīma ṣeḫrim irṭub ba-ka-am ‘he started to cry like a child’. (03) UM 5, 100: II 7–8 (OB) ṭēmam ana puḫrum (sic!) tu-ur-ra-am iqbû ‘they ordered to return the case to the assembly’5 (04) CCT 3, 24:27 (OA) ana a-kà-li-ni-i laššu ‘there is nothing to eat for us’ (lit., for our eating) (05) KH §134:27–28 (OB) šumma (. . .) ina bītīšu ša a-ka-li-im lā ibašši ‘if there is nothing to eat in his house’ (06) ARM 4, 6:17 (OB) eleppēt e-bé-ri-šu-nu ‘ships to carry them across’ (lit., of their crossing)6 A special use of the nominative is the paronomastic infinitive construction, in which an infinitive with the ending -um, usually followed by -ma, co-occurs with a finite form of the same verb (GAG §150a; Aro 1961: 111–15; E. Cohen 2003–4).7 Its function is to add emphasis to the predicate or to topicalize it: (07) AbB 13, 114:18–19 (OB) sa-na-qum-ma ul isniqam ‘he has definitely not arrived’ (tr. W. van Soldt) (08) ARM 4, 34:12–14 (OB) awīlû (. . .) da-ma-qum-ma damqū ‘the men (. . .) are very good indeed!’.8 The infinitive can also take the terminative ending -iš to express a purpose (GAG §67b; Aro 1961: 116–18; Veenhof 1986: 242–43). This is typical of the older dialects, such as Sargonic 4.  For the syntax of the infinitive, see the extensive descriptions in GAG §149–150; GKT §127; Hueh­ ner­gard 2005a: 337–45; Deutscher 2000, especially 127–34; and especially Aro 1961. 5.  Deutscher (2000: 124–32) has shown that this kind of complement clause only uses the infinitive when the main verb refers to the past; otherwise, a paratactic construction with a precative is used: so alākam taqbīšum ‘you told him to go’ but qibīšumma lillik ‘tell him to go!’ 6.  For infinitives after a noun in the construct state, see Aro 1961: 31–45. 7.  It is often argued that this form contains the locative ending -um (e.g., GAG §§66b, 150a; Huehnergard 2005a: 313, 341; E. Cohen 2003–4: 110–11). The locative is typical of locative expressions such as (ina) libbu and (ina) qerbu(m) ‘in (the midst of)’ and has a number of idiomatic uses (GAG §66). Since there is no locative nuance involved here at all, it seems simpler to assume that the paronomastic construction is an idiomatic use of the nominative, which is after all the unmarked case, not necessarily restricted to subject use. 8.  Other paronomastic constructions involving adjectival verbs occur in ARM 26/1, 582 no. 282:16 (maṣû ‘to be(come) able, sufficient’, OB) and AbB 14, 31:5 (zenû ‘to be(come) angry’, OB). On the other hand, in adjectival verbs the adjective itself could be used in this construction instead of the infinitive: ARM 26/1, 320 no. 154:29 i-ša-ru-um-ma i-ša-ra ‘they (the extispices, têrētum) are very favourable’; OBTR 156:16–17 ṣe-eḫ-ru-um-ma e-ṣe-eḫ-ḫe-er ‘it (the harvest) becomes smaller and smaller’ (both OB).


The Infinitiv  8.2.

Akkadian (09) and Ur III Babylonian (10), and sporadically survives into Old Assyrian (11), Old Babylonian, and Standard Babylonian, where it is normally replaced by ana + gen.: (09) SAB p. 183:22–23 (Gasur) šumma e-ra-si-iš /(ʾ)erāsis/ naṭū ‘if it (the field) is fit for cultivation’ (10) NATN 613:8 li-i-mu na-da-ni-iš ‘he refuses to give’ (11) TC 1, 13:11–12 šumma ṣubātam lā imuʾʾū ˹lá-qá ˺-iš ‘if they refuse to accept the textile’ As a noun, the infinitive can only have the suffixed pronouns of the genitive—not those of the accusative or dative, which are only attached to finite verb forms. The genitive pronoun can be both subject (04) and object (12) of the event expressed by the infinitive. If an infinitive requires a dative or a ventive, the ending or suffix is attached to the main verb, as ‑am in (13), ‑nim in (14), and ‑šum in (15), or it is left unexpressed (16): (12) KH §141:44–47 (OB) šumma mussa e-zé-eb-ša iqtabī i-iz-zi-ib-ši ‘if her husband has stated that he intends to leave her (lit., ‘her leaving’), he may leave her’ (13) TC 2, 23:36–37 (OA) kaspam (. . .) šēbulam qá-bi4-am ‘he has been instructed (qabī) to send the silver hither (‑am)’ (14) CCT 3, 49b:8 (OA) a-lá-kam lā im-tù-ú-nim ‘they did not want to come’ (15) ARM 1, 32:16–17 (OB) šumma bītum šū ana na-da-nim i-re-ed-du-šum ‘if that house is suitable to be given to him’ (16) AbB 14, 34:11 (OB) a-la-ki qerub ‘my going (or: coming) is imminent’ On the other hand, the infinitive is not a prototypical noun, since it refers to an action or a process. Accordingly, various nominal options—such as pluralization and qualification by means of an adjective, a demonstrative pronoun, or a relative clause—are very unusual for it (Aro 1961: 298–99). The following instances are therefore exceptional: (17) and (18) are accusative plural forms; (19) and (20) are infinitives qualified by an adjective and a relative clause, respectively: (17) ARM 28, 2:5 (OB) šena ši-tu-li ukīn ‘I have considered two options’, lit., ‘I have established two considerations’ (/šitūlī/, Acc Pl of šitūlu, Gt infinitive of šâlu Gt ‘to deliberate’) (18) ARM 8, 1:4–5 (OB) da-ma-qí-šu-nu idammiq le-mé-ni-šu-nu ilemmin ‘il jouira de leurs joies; il souffrira de leurs peines’ (tr. M. Birot, presumably /damāqīšunu/, Acc Pl of the G infinitive damāqu ‘to be(come) good’)9 9.  This passage is from an adoption contract. A similar expression occurs in Old Babylonian marriage contracts; its fullest version is erēbīša īrrub waṣîša uṣṣī zenîša izennī salāmīša isallim ‘she (the second wife) will enter and leave as she (the first wife) does, and be angry and reconciled as she (the first wife) is’; see, for instance, VAB 5, 4:21–23; 5:6–8; BAP 89:7–8; CT 4, 39a:16–17; BM 97159:18–19 (quoted by K. R. Veenhof, St. Finet, p. 185 n. 10). This infinitive seems to be equivalent to a circumstantial clause: ‘when PN1 acts in such and such a way, PN2 will do the same’—and may well be a plural accusative representing a general validity: ‘whenever . . .’. It is also possible that the form is actually a terminative: erēbišša, salāmišša, but ‑šš- is never spelled explicitly, as far as I am aware.

8.2.  The Infinitiv


(19) Prag I 680:20–21 (OA) ḫa-lu-qám rabiam tuḫallaqanni ‘you are ruining me completely’ (lit., a great ruining, D infinitive of ḫalāqu) (20) AbB 9, 61:10–12 (OB) ana ši-ta-pu-ri ša taštanapparī aḫmidma lā addikkim ‘in answer to your frequent appeals I have been evasive and have not (yet) given (them) to you’ (adapted from M. Stol’s translation; šitappuri(m) is Gtn infinitive of šapāru ‘to write’)10 These restrictions do not apply to the numerous infinitives that have been lexicalized and have become abstract nouns, such as qabû ‘speech, šapāru ‘message’, balāṭu ‘life’ and erēšu ‘harvest’ (Aro 1961: 299): (21) Atr. p. 60:244 (OB) išmûma anniam qá-ba-ša ‘they (the gods) heard this speech of hers’ (22) AbB 6, 63:5–6 (OB) mīnum ša-pa-ru-um annûm ša tašpurim ‘what is that message that you (Fem) wrote to me?’ (23) RA 22, 174:58 (OB) arkam dāriam ba-la-ṭa-am ‘a long and everlasting life’ (24) AbB 10, 96:2′ (OB) e-re-ša-am uppulam ‘the late harvest’ Whereas the morphology of the infinitive has always maintained its nominal character, its syntax has adopted some verbal features in that it can be construed as a finite verb with the subject in the nominative and the direct object in the accusative—just as the corresponding finite clause—when they are expressed by nouns (Aro 1961: 307–22): (25) AbB 6, 96:7–8 (OB) tuppī anniam ina a-ma-ri-im ‘in seeing this tablet/letter (Acc) of mine’ (i.e., when you see. . .’) (26) KH r.XXIV 59–60 (OB) (I wrote my precious words on a stele) dannum enšam ana lā ḫa-ba-lim ‘in order that the strong man (Nom) should not oppress the weak man (Acc)’ (27) ARM 1, 22:7–8 (OB) (I have written to you several times) aššum ina[nn]a ṣa-bu-[u]m ana ṣērīka lā a-la-ki-im ‘about the fact that the troops (Nom) cannot come to you right now’ The rather complex constructions (26) and (27) derive from clauses such as dannum enšam lā iḫabbal ‘let the strong man not oppress the weak man’ and inanna ṣabum ana ṣērīka lā īllakam ‘the troops cannot come to you right now’. This construction is not possible if the participants are encoded by means of suffixed pronouns. It is more common, however, to adapt the case of the noun to that of the infinitive, and when the infinitive is preceded by a preposition, to put the noun between them in the genitive (Frankena 1978: 8–9); cf. the nominative in (28) in contrast to (03) quoted above, and the genitive in (29) as compared to (25) and (26), and (30) as compared to (27): 10.  All instances of an infinitive with a relative clause known to me are of this type: cf. also (22) and: e-pé-e-šum annûm ša tēteneppušu ana manni muššul AbB 7, 179:11–13 (OB) ‘this doing that you are doing all the time, who else would act like that?’ (lit., to whom is it similar?), and [mi-t]aḫ-ḫu-ru ša ina qāt PN1 PN2 (. . .) im-taḫ-ḫa-ru MBTU 38:1 (MB) ‘The repeated receiving which PN2 did from PN1’ (cf. MBTU 39:1 mi-taḫ-ḫa-ru ša ina qāt PN1 PN2 (. . .) ma[ḫ-ru]).


The Infinitiv  8.2.

(28) AbB 3, 91: r.8′ (OB) eqlum (a.šà-um) tu-úr-ru-um ittaqbi ‘it has been ordered that the field (Nom!) should be returned’ (also AbB 3, 34:40; 4, 139:14–16) (29) AbB 5, 136:5 (OB) (the canal workers that have been assigned to you) ana šiprim e-pé-ši-im ‘in order to do the work’ (cf. Aro 1961: 151–71) (30) ARM 3, 13:8–9 (OB) (PN keeps writing hither) ana ṣa-bi-im Yamḫadāyi at-[l  ] u-ki-im ‘regarding the departure of the soldiers of Yamḫad’ This verbal construction of the infinitive is interchangeable with the nominal construction in which the subject or the direct object is in the genitive (Aro 1961: 311–22), cf. (31A) versus (31B) from the same text: (31A) BagM. 2, 56: I 27 (OB) ana ṣābim lā e-re-bi-im amguršunūti ‘I agreed with them that the army should not enter (the town)’ (lit., ‘for the army not entering’) (31B) BagM. 2, 57: II 12 ana lā e-re-eb ṣābim amguršunūti (same translation, lit., ‘for the not entering of the army’) Finally, if the object of the infinitive is a demonstrative pronoun (usually annû ‘this’), the infinitive is construed as a noun and the pronoun agrees with it (Aro 1961: 18, 210, 298–99; Veenhof 1986: 250 n. 23): (32) AbB 2, 64:11–12 (OB) ana e-pé-ši-im an-ni-i-im kī lā taplaḫ ‘why are you not afraid to do this?’ On the basis of the construction of a nominal direct object we would expect *ana annītim epēšim or *annītam ana epēšim ‘in order to do this’, but these do not seem to be attested. The heyday of the verbal use of the infinitive are the Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian periods. Later on, the verbal construction declines: the infinitive is more often construed as a noun with a genitive (Aro 1961: 321–22), and in complement clauses it is gradually replaced by other types of complements, such as subordinate clauses (Deutscher 2000: 123). As a deverbal noun, and thus a peripheral member of the verbal paradigm, the infinitive lexicalizes easily, primarily as an abstract noun (see §2.2.3, p. 36). This is particularly prominent in adjectival verbs (see n. 1, p. 194) and in verbs denoting atelic activities, such as dabābu ‘speech, complaint, lawsuit’, qabû ‘speech, utterance’, epēšu ‘action’, eṣēdu ‘harvest’, râmu ‘love’, zamāru ‘song’, ḫabālu ‘wrongdoing’, and karābu ‘prayer’. Lexicalized infinitives of other stems include the D‑stems s/ṣullû and suppû ‘prayer’, and nubbû ‘lament’. The change to nounhood can be underlined by adding the feminine or abstract suffix -t, as in awātu ‘word, matter’ (i.e., *awāʾtum from *awāʾum ‘to speak’; see chap. 17 n. 87, p. 538) and alaktu ‘way, road, behaviour’ from alāku ‘to go /come’, all from the G‑stem. In the derived stems we find, for instance, šitūltu ‘deliberation’ from šâlu Gt ‘to deliberate’. In later dialects, some of these abstract nouns also develop a concrete meaning, such as šaṭāru ‘copy, text’ (SB and later) from šaṭāru ‘to write’, nadānu ‘gift, tribute’ (MB and later) from nadānu ‘to give’, which has a plural nadānātu (NB), and ṣamādu ‘team (of mules)’ (NB), with a plural ṣamādāni from ṣamādu ‘to harness’ (see Cole 1996: 135 for this form).

8.2.  The Infinitiv


8.2.2.  Historical background The infinitive pattern PaRāS has close parallels in various Semitic languages and is therefore reconstructible as a G‑stem infinitive for Proto-Semitic (Moscati, ed. 1964: 146–47; Lipiński 1997: 415–16; Fox 2003: 179), perhaps alongside other patterns (Huehnergard 1995: 2130; 2004: 152).11 It also occurs in Berber. In Tuareg, for instance, the pattern aCăCaC < *(ā)CaCāC—in which *ā- is a secondary prefix—is the normal infinitive (or verbal noun) of the strong triradical verb (Prasse 1972/4: II 225; Greenberg 1952: 5 n. 14; Kienast 2001: 551; Heath 2005: 514), e.g., alămad from əlməd ‘to learn’. The infinitive patterns of the derived verbal stems are, to a large extent, language-specific: languages have often gone their own way in choosing a specific derivational procedure to (re)create these forms. Insofar as they are relevant to Akkadian, they will be discussed under the respective derived stem. Insofar as nouns are concerned, the pattern QaTāL has few other uses in Semitic (see Fox 2003: 179–86). There are a few primary nouns, such as *ʾatān‑ (Akk atānu) ‘she-ass’, and agent nouns, e.g., He ʿāšōq and ḥāmōṣ ‘oppressor’ (2003: 184), and, perhaps more importantly, hardly any abstract nouns that are not explicable as infinitives, such as Ar bayāḍ ‘whiteness’ and a few other abstract nouns of colour adjectives, quoted by Fox (2003: 182). It is plausible that its productivity as infinitive prevented other functions from arising and/or led to the discarding of pre-existing QaTāL nouns with a different function. As noted in the previous section, everywhere but in the G‑stem, the Akkadian infinitive is identical with the past participle. This might suggest that in origin the infinitives outside the G‑stem are substantivized past participles (Kuryłowicz 1972: 109; cf. also 1964: 29–31 for the process in general). It is, however, difficult how to envisage such a process in practice.12 In historical Akkadian, zero derivation of abstract nouns from adjectives is exceptional,13 and substantivation of a masculine past participle virtually always leads to a noun with concrete meaning, usually a person (see §8.3.1, pp. 201–202, for examples). Only feminine adjectives may normally be used as abstract nouns, which are a possible source of infinitives. In the G‑stem, the formal relationship between PaRāS and the past participle PaRiS is obscure, but it is clear that the former is not simply derived from latter. The fact that vowel lengthening often accompanies substantivation (see §7.4.2, pp. 185–186) seems to suggest that PSem QaTāL 11.  PaRāS also seems to be the regular G‑stem infinitive in Eblaite, e.g., a-ga-lu-um (= kú) /  ʾakālum/ ‘to eat’ (Krebernik 1983: 6); ba-ša-šum/šu-um (= š u . ì) /paṯāṯum/ ‘to anoint’ (1983: 18), and wa-za-nu-um (g i š . m a ḫ) /wazānum/ ‘to weigh’ (cf. Ar wazana) (1983: 16; see also §16.2.4, p. 458). However, there may be instances of infinitives with the pattern PiRāS; see Krebernik 1983: 22 n. 72. Krebernik prefers to interpret them as resulting from reduction of unstressed a > ə, but they may also come from dissimilation of a, just as the common Arabic G‑stem maṣdar qitāl may come from dissimilation of qatāl (Fox 2003: 224). Another possibility is that the forms in question are actually PiRS nouns, with the construct state PiRaS (as in Assyrian): bí-da-gi-i-ti[m], a variant of ba-da-gi-i-tim (= šu.ku5), which presumably stands for /batāq yidim/ ‘cutting of the hand’ (Krebernik 1983: 19), i.e., either /bitāq yidim/ as infinitive, or /bitaq yidim/ from bitqum; similarly mi-za-i 2 - š u (= n í g . a . š u . l u ḫ) (1983: 46), i.e., /misāḥ or misaḥ yiday(n)/ ‘washing of the hands’, ne-sa-gu(-um) (= n e . s u b5) (1983: 33), i.e., /nišāqum/ or /niš(a)qum/ ‘kiss(ing)’, and perhaps si-ga-pù-um (= ù . d i . d i) (1983: 40), i.e., /šikābum/ or /šik(a)bum/ ‘lying down’, if it is related to He škb. Fronzaroli (1991: 463–65) regards these form as manifestations of a rule that weakens pretonic a to i/e. 12.  Vycichl (1991: 434) mentions French entrée and Italian entrata and uscita ‘entering’ and ‘leaving’ as parallels in West European languages of abstract nouns derived from perfect participles. It is clearly a marginal phenomenon. 13.  A few cases are quoted in §8.3.1 below. Normally, either the feminine is used (lemuttu ‘evil’, šallatu ‘booty’, past participle of šalālu ‘to plunder’), or the patterns PuRS and PiRS (ḫulqu ‘loss, lost object’, ṣibtu ‘seizure’), or the suffix ‑ūt/‑utt- (Bab dannūtu ‘strength’). See GAG §§55c–d, 56s.


The Past Participle  8.3.

may come from a deverbal adjective QaTăL. This brings us back to the topic of the previous chapter, where it was argued that the existence of such a form remains to be proven.

8.3. The Past Participle 8.3.1.  Form and function The past participle14 is primarily an adjective expressing the state of an entity that results from a previous event. As such, it is the attributive counterpart of the verbal stative: what the stative expresses as a predicate, the past participle expresses as an attribute. Their close functional association is underlined by the fact that they have the same inflectional stem, PaRiS in the G‑stem, and forms with the stem vowel u elsewhere (D‑stem Pa/uRRuS, etc.; see §7.2, pp. 161–162, where also some exceptions to PaRiS are mentioned). Some random examples are wardu ḫalqu (cf. LE §50 A IV 3 // B IV 7) ‘a lost/runaway slave’ and awīlu ḫablu (cf. KH r. XXV 3) ‘a wronged man’ (both OB). The first is the attributive counterpart of the clause wardu ḫaliq ‘the slave has run away (and is now gone)’, the second of awīlu ḫabil ‘the man has been wronged’. In the hierarchy of the verbal paradigm, the past participle represents the final and lowest stage in a dependency relationship of finite fientive form § stative § past participle, e.g.: wardu iḫalliq ‘the slave runs away’

X awīla iḫabbal ‘X wrongs the man’

§ wardu ḫaliq § wardu ḫalqu

§ awīlu ḫabil § awīlu ḫablu

Accordingly, the use of the past participle is largely determined by the use of the corresponding stative.15 Verbs that do not have a stative (atelic activity verbs; see §7.3.2, p. 169), do not have a past participle either. Just as the stative, the past participle can be derived from both transitive and intransitive verbs and is (at least in principle) neutral with regard to the active/passive distinction. However, to an even larger degree than that of the stative, its actual use is severely constrained by semantic and pragmatic factors. An essential semantic condition for its use is that the resulting state must be sufficiently relevant to the entity qualified to make it worthwhile to mention this entity in the form of an attributive construction with a past participle.16 In practice, this means that only past participles of high-transitivity verbs are used more than incidentally, since these verbs describe a salient change in the state of the patient.17 As we saw in §7.3.2 (pp. 171–172), statives of high-transitivity verbs are almost always passive, and this applies even more strongly to their past participles. There is one important exception, however, namely zīzu (Ass zēzu) from zâzu ‘to divide’. It is used with active meaning in the

14.  For other literature on the past participle, see GAG §77g; Kouwenberg 2000: 58–68 (where it is called “verbal adjective”). The most common term for this category seems to be verbal adjective, which I have replaced with the more accurate past participle, because verbal adjective is more appropriate for a derivational category (Haspelmath 1996: 61). Another possible term is perfect participle or stative participle (Buccellati 1996: 85), but not passive participle, since the past participle is not principally passive. An even better term might be resultative participle (Haspelmath 1990: 40; 1994: 157–62), but this is too cumbersome. For the identity between the infinitive and the past participle in Akkadian outside the G‑stem, see the previous sections on the infinitive. 15.  When the meaning of the past participle deviates from that of the stative, this usually results from lexicalization of the past participle; see below. 16.  Cf. GAG §77g; Haspelmath 1994: 157–61; about Akkadian: Landsberger 1926a: 362; Aro 1964: 8. 17.  Cf. Hopper and Thompson 1980: 252–55; Kouwenberg 2000: 63–65; GAG §77g.

8.3.  The Past Participle


expression aḫḫū lā zī/ēzūtu ‘brothers who have not (yet) divided (their paternal estate)’.18 This is a nominalization of the stative of zâzu ‘to divide’ in clauses such as KAV 1: III §25:84 (MA laws) aḫḫē mutīša lā ze-e-zu ‘the brothers of her husband have not (yet) divided (their paternal estate)’ (CAD Z 78–81 s.v. zâzu 2d). The exceptional active meaning of this past participle is caused by the fact that (not) having divided the inheritance results in a legally relevant situation for the persons involved. This is parallel to the common use of active statives in legal contexts discussed in §7.3.2 (pp. 172–173). This expression illustrates that the past participle is not passive in principle but only for semantic and pragmatic reasons. It also reveals another reason for the rarity of active past participles: they cannot accommodate a direct object, which the active stative usually has.19 If one wants to qualify a noun by means of more than a single word, only a relative clause is possible. The semantic and pragmatic limitations on the use of the past participle are also responsible for the fact that passive, causative, and iterative verbs do not normally have a past participle. Past participles of the pluractional tan‑stems are not found at all (GAG §77g), and those of other derived stems only occur when the verb in question is lexicalized to such an extent that it has the status of a basic verb, e.g., Š-forms such as šūkulu ‘fattened’ (from akālu Š ‘to cause to eat’), and šulputu ‘destroyed’ (from the lexicalized Š‑stem šulputu ‘to destroy’), and Št2 forms such as šutāḫû ‘teamed’ (ultimately from atḫū ‘partners’; see §, p. 407) and šutātû ‘facing each other’. A distinct group of past participles in the Š‑stem are the so-called elatives, such as šurbû ‘magnificent’ and šušqû ‘sublime’, which will be discussed in § (pp. 331–332). Derived verbs with passive meaning do not have a past participle of their own because that of the corresponding active stem is used (GAG §77g). Past participles of the N‑stem, for instance, only exist for N‑stems with non-passive meaning, such as nābutu ‘fugitive’ and naprušu ‘flying’ from the N tantum verbs nābutu ‘to flee’ and naprušu ‘to fly’, and nanḫuzu ‘burning’ from nanḫuzu ‘to flare up’ (of fire), an idiomatic N‑stem of aḫāzu ‘to take, marry’ (see § sub 4, p. 296). In terms of its syntactic status, the past participle is basically adjectival and, accordingly, has the masculine adjectival plural -ūtu/i, etc., rather than the nominal plural -ū/ī (GAG §61).20 In practice, however, it is no less frequently used as a noun than as an attributive adjective, and the impression one gets from the dictionaries is that this increases over time (no exact statistics are available to me). In fact, the typical use of the past participle, especially in the later dialects, is as a more-or-less lexicalized noun. With regard to Neo-Assyrian, for instance, inspection of the glossaries of SAA suggests that the attributive use of the past participle in its original meaning has become marginal and that it mainly survives in nouns, referring to functions, such as qēpu 18.  See CAD Z 149 s.v. zīzu adj. 2; AHw 1534b s.v. zīzu I. It also occurs in the singular: mār awīlim lā zi-zu LE §16 B I 12 (OB). In the same text as aḫḫū lā zēzūtu, the past participle with passive meaning is also found: ina eqle lā ze-e-ze KAV 2: II §4:27 (MA) ‘on an undivided field’. 19.  Very rarely, the past participle is construed with a dependent genitive, e.g., in the expression ša-akna-at napištim KH r.XXVII 18 ‘those who are provided with life’, i.e., ‘the people, mankind’ (šaknāt with ellipsis of nišū), and in some Old Babylonian proper names such as Takil-ilīšu ‘a loyal (servant) of his god’ and Ašr-ilīšu < Ašir-ilīšu ‘cared for by his god’ (Stamm 1939: 258). Such constructions are transformations of a stative with an accusative adjunct: X napišta šakin, etc., in the same way that the present participle + genitive is a transformation of an active finite verb plus an accusative direct object. It is also possible to attach the ending ‑am to the first member of such syntagms, the “damqam-īnim construction”; see Wasserman 2003: 45–60 for a recent discussion. 20.  In frequent substantivized past participles (and adjectives in general) there is often fluctuation between the plural endings -ū and -ūtu, e.g., in agru ‘hireling’ (cf. CAD A/1 151b s.v.: agrū in older dialects, agrūtu in NA/NB), in ebbu as the designation of an official, which has both ebbū and ebbūtum as plural in Old Babylonian (CAD E 1b s.v. 2), and similarly in šību ‘witness’ (CAD Š/2 390a s.v.).


The Past Participle  8.3.

‘delegate’, šaknu ‘governor’, agru ‘hireling’; to commodities, such as tabku ‘stored grain’, ṣarpu ‘silver’, ḫašlātu ‘groats’ (resulting from ellipsis of the head word); and sometimes also to abstract notions, such as baqru and its plural baqrū ‘claim’ (from the past participle of baqāru ‘to vindicate’), batqu ‘deficit, damage’ (cf. batāqu ‘to cut off, reduce’), baṭlu ‘interruption’ (cf. baṭālu ‘to stop, interrupt’), tarṣu ‘reach, time’ (cf. tarāṣu ‘to stretch out’), and karṣu ‘slander’ (originally the past participle of karāṣu ‘to pinch off’ (AHw 450b s.v.: ‘“Abgekniffenes”, Verleumdung’). In the latter function, the past participle usually has a feminine suffix, e.g., abiktu ‘defeat’, šalimtu ‘peace, safety’, batiqtu ‘information’, and galītu ‘deportation’. Some of these nouns have acquired concrete meaning: egirtu ‘message’.21 Generally speaking, there is a clear-cut contrast between the past participle and the present participle, both in form and in function (see §8.4.1 below for the form and the function of the present participle). In some verbs, however, the resultative meaning of the past participle and the active meaning of the present participle more or less coincide so that they converge in function and become more or less interchangeable (GAG 3 §87b*), e.g., in wašābu ‘to sit down’, ṣalālu ‘to fall asleep’, and rakābu ‘to mount’:22 wašbu ‘having sat down’ > ‘being seated’ vs. wāšibu ‘sitting, staying (somewhere)’, ṣallu ‘having fallen asleep’ > ‘sleeping’ vs. ṣālilu ‘sleeping’, and rakbu ‘having mounted’ > ‘riding’ vs. rākibu ‘riding, sailing’.23 This explains the alternative use of wašbu and wāšibu in, for instance, lú.meš wa-aš-bu-ut GN FM 2, 204 no. 116:12 ‘the inhabitants of GN’ versus wa-ši-bu-ut ālim ARM 27, 1:24 ‘the inhabitants of the town’ (both OB Mari).24

8.3.2.  Historical background The functional development of the past participle in Akkadian is determined by its relationship to the stative. Historically, the past participle is primary and the stative has evolved from its combination with person markers, but—as argued in §7.4.1 (pp. 176–177)—its incorporation into the verbal paradigm has reversed their relationship and made the past participle dependent on the stative and thus a derivation of it.25 After the rise of the stative to cover the predicative use of adjectives and past participles, the past participle itself only preserved its attributive function. Since, for the reasons explained in the previous section, past participles are far less frequently employed as attributes than as predicates, their use diminished drastically. This fact, 21.  Two uses of the past participle are extremely rare but still interesting enough to mention. First, it may replace the present participle in the paronomastic construction with a finite form of the same verb to express an indefinite subject (mītu imât ‘someone will die’); see §8.4.1 with n. 33 (p. 206). Second, it is used in combination with the ending ‑ān‑ of the present participle in a single Old Assyrian form; see n. 40 (p. 208). Related to these phenomena is the use of a primary adjective instead of a paronomastic infinitive in the case of adjectival verbs (see n. 8, p. 195). 22.  These are the same verbs that also show some degree of overlap in use between the stative and imperfective; see chap. 4, n. 9 (p. 91). 23.  This alternation also occurs between the present participle as epithet and the stative as predicate in expressions such as āpir(at) agê ‘wearing a crown’ versus its finite equivalent agê apir/aprat ‘he/she wears a crown’; see CAD A/2 167a s.v. apāru 1b. 24.  Other present and past participles that are very similar in meaning include those of palāḫu ‘to fear, respect’, kanāšu ‘to submit’ (GAG3 §87b), magāru ‘to agree, obey’ (see CAD M/1 45 s.v. māgiru and 47b s.v. magru b/c), and sakāpu ‘to lie down, sleep’ (see CAD S 77a s.v. sākipu and 81a s.v. sakpu B). In many cases, the present participle is typically used after a negation: ṣallu ‘sleeping’, but lā ṣālilu ‘sleepless, restless’; see the dictionaries. 25.  A formal trace of this difference in derivation is preserved in the difference between the feminine forms of primary adjectives and past participles of II/gem roots (see GAG Verbalpar. 20a): dannu ‘strong’ has a feminine dannatu but sakku ‘blocked, deaf’, past participle of sakāku ‘to block’, has sakiktu; see further §16.6.1 (pp. 492–493).

8.4.  The Present Participles


in combination with their more nominal character, makes the past participle one of the most marginal members of the verbal paradigm. The past participle pattern PaRiS can confidently be reconstructed for Proto-Semitic. Its West Semitic counterpart QaTiL survives not only as a common pattern of primary adjectives (Fox 2003: 165–71), just as in Akkadian, but also as the inflectional stem of the perfect with the stem vowel i, such as Ar yalbasu, labisa ‘to put on, wear’. The Akkadian past participle parsu < *parisum, the PaRiS statives, and the West Semitic qatila perfect can all be derived from the Proto-Semitic past participle *QaTiL. However, West Semitic QaTiL is no longer used as a past participle: that function has been usurped by more extended patterns, such as maqtūl in Arabic, qatīl in Aramaic and qətul ( ibnum) and *l-yaktub (> li-yaktub) can be explained from the difference between l and other phonemes without recourse to a syllabic ḷ, and the negation ul versus West Semitic ʾal (etc.) definitely does not go back to *ḷ, as Testen (1993b: 6) claims: ul is a reduction of ulā (ūlā?), which itself is a strengthening of lā. For the alleged existence of vocalic ṇ, see §16.4.2 (p. 471). 21.  There are also a few instances of lū with a second-person imperfective to express a strong injunction, e.g., lū tu-wa-ša-ar YOS 11, 12:9–13 ‘you must release’; lū te-te-bi-am YOS 11, 6:11 ‘you must rise’;

9.2.  The Irrealis Categories


in the precative paradigm itself before consonant-initial prefixes but in Assyrian completely replaced by lū since the earliest texts.22 This does not answer the question where i comes from, since it has no obvious cognates anywhere in Semitic. In principle, it might be a negation in origin: the cohortative meaning of, e.g., i nillik ‘let us go’, might go back to a negative question: ‘shouldn’t we go?’ There is indeed a negation ʾi in Geʿez, but it is more likely to correspond to the Akkadian vetitive particle ē/ay (Tropper 2002: 148).23

9.2.2.  The vetitive: form and function 24 The standard form of the vetitive consists of the perfective combined with a proclitic particle that differs according to dialect and is spelled in many different ways, but basically seems to have the form ay.25 In Sargonic Akkadian (Hasselbach 2005: 202–3), it occurs in this form before the third-person prefix yi‑/yu‑ in the spelling a: a u-gi-il /ay yukêl/ AKI p. 259:165 ‘may he not hold’ (cp RI of Naram-Sin), and a e-ru-ub /ay yērub/ SAB p. 189:r.5′ (Gasur) ‘may he not enter’. Before other consonants, it may also be spelled a, e.g., before the prefix ta-/tu- in a daq-bí /ay? taqbī/ SAB p. 90:10 (Girsu) ‘do not say’, and once before a stative: a zu-ku-na /ay? zuqqunā/ SAB p. 158:10 (Diyala) ‘they (Du) must not have a beard’. Edzard (1973: 132) explains this a as a defective spelling for ay. If this is correct, it implies that the form ay, which is presumably regular before y- of the prefix, because the two ys form a geminate, is analogically transferred to positions before other consonants, where it should regularly have become ē in Sargonic Akkadian (see §1.5, p. 25, and Hasselbach 2005: 91). In fact, ē (spelled e) also occurs, e.g., e tal-li-ik /ē tāllik/ SAB p. 174:14 (Eshnunna) ‘she must not go’ and e da-ti-in /ē taddin/ SAB p. 174:20 ‘she must not give’. It is even introduced before y of the 3ms prefix yi‑/yu‑, e.g., in e u-gi-il GAKI p. 382:102 ‘may he not hold’ and e iṣ-ba-at GAKI p. 382:106 ‘may he not seize’ (cps of RIs of Naram-Sin), which I interpret as /ey yiṣbat/ and /ey yukêl/, with ey as a positional variant of ē before y- (cf. Edzard 1973: 132 n. 39).26 Old Assyrian has e both before a consonant and before a vowel (GAG §81i; GKT §77d), i.e., /ē/, the regular Assyrian outcome of the diphthong ay (e.g., e i-ta-lá-ak VS 26, 37:18 ‘let him not depart’). In Babylonian, the usual distribution is e before a consonant (e ta-aṣ-la-li ZA 75, 200:39 ‘do (Fem) not sleep!’; e ni-iṣ-la-al YOS 11, 24: I 21 ‘let us not sleep!’) and ay before a vowel, spelled in many different ways.27 Ay before the third-person prefixes is the regular outcome of *ay plus yi- (ay+yiddin > ayyiddin), so that it dates from the period before the loss and perhaps also lu!(sign ú) ta-at-ta-la-ki Or. 23, 338:21 ‘you (Fem) must go away!’ in Old Babylonian, and lū ta-an-na-as-sa-aḫ lū ta-at-ta-a[l-lak] ZA 23, 374:86 ‘you must be eradicated and go away!’ in Standard Babylonian. These passages come from very similar contexts in Old Babylonian incantations; see W. von Soden, Or. 23, 344 at line 21 and GAG §81e (but note that the first example mentioned in GAG 3 §81e* lū taḫassas Gilg. Y VI 43 should be discounted; see Gilg. p. 206:271). This suggests that this unusual construction is an innovation, perhaps modelled on the corresponding combination of lā + imperfective, the prohibitive. 22.  Note, however, that lū before ta‑ already occurs in Mari Old Akkadian: (DNF) še.numun-šu lu tal-gu-ud /lū talqut/ AKI p. 360 MŠ 3:10 ‘may Ištar destroy his progeny’. 23.  Testen’s (1993b: 10) proposal to regard i as the phonological outcome of *ḷ before ni- (*ḷ niprus > ṇ niprus > i niprus) leaves i in i taprus unexplained (*ḷ should become lu here according to his explanation). 24.  For further literature, see GAG §81i–j; Edzard 1973: 132. 25.  For a survey of spellings, see CAD A/1 218–19 s.v. aj ; AHw 23 s.v. ai I. 26.  Note that this spelling only occurs in copies of royal inscriptions (Hasselbach 2005: 202–3). 27.  The most common spelling is ⟨a-i+a⟩, in which ⟨i+a⟩ = ia, iu, jí in the awkward notation of von Soden and Röllig 1991: 19 sub 104); alternatives are ⟨a-a⟩, ⟨a-i⟩, ⟨i-a⟩ and simply ⟨a⟩, which is perhaps archaizing (see CAD A/1 218 s.v. aj 1a with many examples).


The Irrealis Categories  9.2.

of word-initial y-. However, the form ē is irregular: *ay before a consonant should give **ī in Babylonian (GAG §11a). Although the vetitive particle is sensitive to the initial phoneme of its host word, it is not a prefix,28 because it may be detached from the verb in the Assyrian idiom with ē lā and because in the oldest texts it may also precede a stative (see below for this construction). Moreover, it is also attested sporadically as an independent interjection ‘no!’ (AHw 180a s.v. ē II). As regards its etymology, ay/ē is usually associated with the Geʿez negation ʾi (AHw 23a s.v. ai I; Tropper 2002: 148), which, however, is not restricted to irrealis functions. Since ay is also an interrogative particle ‘where’ in Akkadian (AHw 23b s.v. ai III), and since there is a diachronic path from interrogative to negation (Faber 1991), it is possible that all three go back to this particle (cf. also Lipiński 1997: 456).29 The vetitive is basically the negative counterpart of the precative and, rarely, of the imperative; first-person vetitives are relatively rare.30 As such, it competes with the prohibitive (lā + imperfective). There are two major differences between them: first, the vetitive is a residual category that is gradually becoming obsolete, whereas the prohibitive is fully productive and expanding; second, the vetitive seems to be more polite than the prohibitive: it is typically used for wishes and more-or-less formulaic exhortations, whereas the prohibitive has a wider use that especially includes negative commands (see §9.2.3, pp. 219–220). The vetitive mainly flourished in the older dialects. In Sargonic Akkadian, the prohibitive is not (yet?) attested (Hasselbach 2005: 203) and the vetitive is fairly common; all known instances are quoted by Hasselbach (2005: 202–3). Old Assyrian offers the most copious evidence. It typically employs the vetitive in more-or-less conventional expressions that concern the interpersonal relationship of the correspondents and other people involved, e.g.: (13) Prag I 502:26 libbaka e im-ra-aṣ ‘may you (lit., your heart) not be annoyed (angered, disappointed, etc.)’ (likewise in the Š‑stem, see CAD M/1 275b s.v. marāṣu 6a–2′) (14) BIN 4, 39:18–19 libbušu e il5-mì-in ‘may he not become angry’ (lit., ‘may his heart not become bad’ (likewise in the D‑stem, see CAD L 118b s.v. lemēnu 6) (15) OAA 1, 71:25 e tù-re-i-qá-ni ‘do not keep it (the silver) away from me!’ (16) OAA 1, 134:39 e tù-ḫa!-li-qí-ni ‘do (Fem) not ruin me!’ In most of these expressions the prohibitive also occurs; for instance, we also find libbī lā imarraṣ alongside (13) and libbī lā ilammin alongside (14).31 On the other hand, it is unusual to find the vetitive expressing a concrete negative command (GAG §81i/j; GKT §77d; Edzard 1973: 131–32). This is the typical domain of the prohibitive. 28.  Pace Reiner 1966: 71–72 and Buccellati 1996: 181. 29.  Note, however, that Gragg (2004: 428) explains ʾi from *ʾay, which he derives from the common West Semitic negation *ʾal through palatalization. 30.  Examples are: e a-sí-li-iḫ ATHE 39:17 ‘may I not be cheated’; e áp-la-aḫ CCT 1, 50:15 ‘may I not be afraid’ (both OA); a-ia a-mu-ur Gilg. p. 278: II 13′ ‘may I not see’; e ni-iṣ-la-al YOS 11, 24: I 21 (OB) ‘let us not sleep!’; and ayyabāš ‘may I not come to shame’ in Old Babylonian proper names; see Stamm 1939: 174. 31.  See in particular the alternation of the prohibitive lá ta-tù-ar ‘do not renounce!’ (lit., turn back) and the vetitive e ta-tur4 in the same clause in OAA 1, 34:28–29.

9.2.  The Irrealis Categories


In Old Babylonian letters, the vetitive is rare and mostly restricted to formulaic politeness expressions, as in (17) (see Leong 1994: 380; E. Cohen 2005: 101–2). The vetitive used as a conditional clause in (18), like the precative in (07), is unique in Old Babylonian (E. Cohen 2005: 148): (17) AbB 2, 113:6–7 ilum nāṣir abīa ṣibūtam a-jí ir-ši ‘may the god who protects my father not get an (unfulfilled) need’ (18) AbB 12, 169: r.23–26 ikam šuāti ē tu-da-ni-in bīt abīka kalāšu lū ušmāt ‘if you fail to strengthen that dike, I will put to death the entire family of your father’ The preponderance of stereotyped formulae among the instances of the vetitive in Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian letters is a clear symptom of its decline. This is doubtless also the reason why the prohibitive is strongly preferred for the expression of commands: as an old formation, the vetitive had lost too much of its strength, whereas the prohibitive, based as it is on the relatively new Impfv iparrVs and the productive negation lā, was innovative and thus more expressive and forceful. The decline of the vetitive is also shown by the fact that in the older dialects it displays traces of a wider use:32 in Sargonic Akkadian and Old Assyrian, it can still be used with a stative, as in ay? zuqqunā (quoted above and in (19); see GKT §77d),33 and in Old Assyrian it can also be combined with lā to express an urgent request, as in (20) (see GKT §105a): (19) CCT 1, 50:13 annakam e na-áš-a-tí ‘I hope you do not have the tin with you’ (20) TC 3, 64:27 e lá ta-áš-qú-ul ‘do not fail to pay’ As regards the later dialects, the vetitive survives in Standard Babylonian, doubtless as a literary archaism,34 but seems to be completely replaced by the prohibitive elsewhere: Aro (1955: 86–87) does not mention it for Middle Babylonian, and it is not found in Middle Assyrian,35 NeoAssyrian, and Neo-Babylonian, according to GAG §81i, W. Mayer 1971: 60–61, Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 94, and Woodington 1982: 323.

9.2.3.  The prohibitive The prohibitive consists of the negation lā followed by an imperfective (GAG §81h; E. Cohen 2005: 95, 101–2). In the second person, it is the negative counterpart of the imperative; in the other persons, it has the same range of meaning as the precative (see §, pp. 212–213). It is common in all periods, with the exception of Sargonic Akkadian (Hasselbach 2005: 203) and Mari Old Akkadian, where it is not yet attested; this may well be fortuitous, however. 32.  There are no instances of ē with a t‑perfect, pace AHw 23b s.v. ai I 2a and GKT §77d n. 1 (on p. 130); ta-áš-tù-pu TC 3, 53:29 in ē taštupū ‘do not keep silent’ is a perfective of a “lexicalized” Gt‑stem; see §14.3.4 (pp. 371–372) and Streck 2003a: 70 no. 186. 33.  Exceptionally also in literary Old Babylonian: ina šerʾīšu dNidaba a ḫa-ni-ib Legends p. 260: r.7′ ‘may grain not be abundant in his furrow(s)’, which is no doubt an echo of a third-millennium royal inscription. Normally, Old Babylonian uses lā in this context; see n. 36. 34.  The idiosyncratic uses we find in Standard Babylonian, namely in a subordinate clause (noted in GAG 3 §176a for ZA 43, 19:74 = SAA 3, 32: r.34 aššu (. . .) ai iṭ-ḫu-ni a-a is-niq-u-ni ), and with asseverative force (GAG §81j) are secondary and artificial. The latter use is doubtless modelled on the double meaning of lū. 35.  The Middle Assyrian instance mentioned in GAG §81i: ja izziz (e.g., RIMA 1, 134:61) comes from a royal inscription and is a formulaic phrase taken over from earlier models.


The Subjunctive  9.3.

Historically, the prohibitive is based on the irrealis use of the imperfective, which in its turn is related to its function of denoting future events (see §4.3, p. 92). This irrealis use is not restricted to negative clauses, but the availability of a specific irrealis negation lā—at least in Babylonian—versus realis ul(ā) made it possible to formally distinguish between realis and irrealis meanings of the imperfective, a distinction that remains purely contextual in affirmative clauses.36 This is the ultimate reason for distinguishing a separate category “prohibitive,” after all.

9.3. The Subjunctive Akkadian has two formatives that serve to mark the clause as subordinate: a verbal ending -u and an enclitic particle -ni. I will refer to both of them as subjunctive37 and distinguish the u-subjunctive from the ni-subjunctive whenever this is relevant. The u-subjunctive is used in all dialects; the ni‑subjunctive is mainly restricted to Assyrian and is one of the defining characteristics of the Assyrian dialect. In Sargonic Akkadian and in the oldest stages of Babylonian, we find some other subjunctive markers that are used incidentally and whose exact status remains problematical. In Classical Old Babylonian and in Assyrian, the use of the subjunctive shows a great deal of regularity. I will first describe the regular u‑subjunctive and ni-subjunctive in Babylonian and Assyrian.38

9.3.1.  The form of the subjunctive Babylonian uses only the u‑subjunctive on a regular basis. It is attached to forms of the prefix conjugations that have no other ending, as in (21).39 Whenever these forms have an ending of their own—i.e., a number and/or gender ending, as in (22), or a ventive, as in (23)—there is no subjunctive and the form is identical to the form used in main clauses. (21A) tuppam ašpur

‘I sent a letter’

(21B) tuppum ša ašpuru

‘the letter that I sent’

(22A) tuppam išpurū

‘they sent a letter’

(22B) tuppum ša išpurū

‘the letter that they sent’

(23A) tuppam išpuram

‘he sent a letter to me’

(23B) tuppum ša išpuram

‘the letter that he sent to me’

36.  The prohibitive use of lā with the stative (GAG3 §81k), e.g., ana šeʾim anummîm lā ta-ak-la-ta ShA 1, 129 no. 59:7 (OB) ‘do not count on this grain’ (tr. J. Eidem)) and lā wa-aš-ba-at AbB 11, 139:13 (OB) ‘let her not sit’ is doubtless modelled on the prohibitive use of the imperfective. 37.  Von Soden (1973) proposes the term “Subordinativ,” which has the advantage that it does not have the association with modality that adheres to the term subjunctive; cf. Noonan 1985: 51: “Non-indicative s[entence]-like complement types can be referred to by the semantically neutral term subjunctive.” The Akkadian subjunctive, however, has no irrealis function and is in that respect a pure indicative. If we keep this in mind, however, there is no reason to replace the well-established and familiar term subjunctive. 38.  See also GAG §83; GKT §79; Huehnergard 2005a: 183–84. 39.  In the prefix conjugations, absence of the subjunctive ending is so rare that it may be considered incorrect. An instance is (kīma lā) i-ta-ar OBTR 2:18 (OB). An intriguing exception is the Old Babylonian expression ištu Šamaš iz-za-a-az ‘from sunrise’, lit., ‘since Šamaš stands’ (AbB 7, 50:9′; 10, 150:17; CTMMA 1, 87 no. 69:7); Wilcke (1987: 91) ingeniously suggests that Šamaš izzāz is “a call sung out by the guards on duty at the city gates or on the city walls functioning as the name of a specific moment in the course of the day,” so that it is a name or a quotation equivalent to a noun.

9.3.  The Subjunctive


If a suffix pronoun is attached to the verb, the subjunctive ending remains, with -u preceding the suffix (24B), unless the suffix is built on the ventive (see §, pp. 238–240, and Kouwenberg 2002: 222–23), as in (25B): (24A) tuppam ašpuršum

‘I sent a letter to him’

(24B) tuppum ša ašpurūšum

‘the letter that I sent to him’

(25A) tuppam ašpurakkum

‘I sent a letter to you’

(25B) tuppum ša ašpurakkum ‘the letter that I sent to you’ In the stative, the u-subjunctive can only occur in the third-person singular (3ms paris, 3fs parsat). In Old Babylonian, it regularly occurs in the masculine,40 but not in the feminine, as in (26A) versus (26B); (27) is exceptional: (26A) RA 13, 131–32:7–8 ina ba-al-ṭú u ša-al-mu ‘when he has completely recovered (lit., is alive and sound)’ (26B) UM 8/2, 215:7 ina ba-al-ṭa-[at] u ša-al-ma-at (idem with ‘she’) (27) AbB 4, 58:13 awiltum (. . .) ša ina ekallim wa-aš-ba-a-tu ‘the lady ho lives in the palace’ (this is the only instance known to me, quoted in GAG §83a)41 In Middle Babylonian and later, the suffix -u extends to the feminine as well, but only in letters, as in (28) and (29), not in texts with a more literary style, as in (30) from a kudurru inscription (Aro 1955: 73; Woodington 1982: 106): (28) BE 14, 40:11 adi PNF ba-al-ṭa-tu ‘as long as PNF lives’ (29) UM 1/2, 72:5 (a woman) [ša] irassu mar-ṣa-tu4 ‘whose breast is diseased’ (30) BER 4, 146:29–31 (a field) ša ultu ūmī pāna iku lā šap-ku ab.sim lā šú-zu-za-at ana mērišti lā šú-lu-ku-ú ‘where since ancient times no dike had been built (Masc: Subj), where no furrow had been established (Fem: no Subj) and which was unfit for cultivation (Masc: Subj)’ In the latest period, the use of the subjunctive interferes with the loss of final short vowels (GAG §83g). In Neo-Babylonian, it is usually written according to traditional usage but is sometimes omitted; instead of -u it is also spelled -i (Aro 1975: 15–16; Woodington 1982: 103–12; Hackl 2007: 144–46). Sometimes, the third radical appears geminated, possibly indicating a shift of stress one syllable to the right (Aro 1975: 16–17; see also GAG §83d).

40.  Here, too, forms without ‑u occur in northern Old Babylonian texts: for Mari, see Finet 1956: 261 §91d; Charpin 1989: 34, e.g., kīma (. . .) wa-ši-ib ARM 26/2, 339 no. 435:9; at Tell al Rimah: ([ša (. . .) wa]-ši-ib OBTR 301:8–9; lāma ˹na-wi-ir˺ 304:12 ‘before dawn’. 41.  Finet (1956: 188) mentions two cases where the third singular masculine form apparently replaces the third singular feminine subjunctive. The first is ARM 5, 8:15–16 bītam/ašar ša sinništum šī wa-aš-bu ‘the house/the place where this woman lives’; its relevance is seriously undermined by the fact that the writer also uses the indicative wašib to refer to the same woman (line 9), alongside correct wašbat (line 8). The second one is ARM 6, 49:11–15, which is, however, ambiguous: šu-ur-ku-bu may refer (if only ad sensum) to the barbers rather than to the enūtum.


The Subjunctive  9.3.

Assyrian makes extensive use of both the u-subjunctive and the ni-subjunctive. The usubjunctive occurs in the same circumstances as in Old Babylonian, i.e., after the endingless forms of the prefix conjugations and the 3ms stative (GKT §79).42 In addition, Assyrian has a subjunctive particle (not a verbal ending) -ni. The basic rule in Old Assyrian is that ‑ni must be used if a subordinate clause is not marked by the u-subjunctive, as in (31), (32), and (33), and may be used elsewhere in addition to the u-subjunctive, as in (34):43 (31) tuppum ša išpurūni

‘the letter that they sent’

(32) tuppum ša išpuranni

‘the letter that he sent to me’ (< išpuram-ni)

(33) tuppum ša išpurūninni

‘the letter that they sent to me’ (< išpurūnim-ni)

(34) tuppum ša ašpuru or ašpurūni

‘the letter that I sent’.

If there is a suffix pronoun, -ni is separated from ‑u and attached to the end of the verb form: (35) tuppum ša ašpurūšunni

‘the letter that I sent to him’ (< -šum-ni)

(36) tuppum ša ašpurakkunni

‘the letter that I sent to you’ (< -kum-ni).

It is not clear whether -ni is obligatory after a suffixed pronoun, if there is also an u‑subjunctive; forms without it are found sporadically, but most editors tend to correct them by adding ⟨-ni  ⟩.44 It is not possible to use a ni‑subjunctive without an u‑subjunctive in cases where the latter is possible: in (35), **ašpuršunni would be ungrammatical.45 The 3ms stative also has -u, and may in addition have -ni, as in (37) and (38); the other persons of the stative cannot have -u and therefore must have -ni, as in (39): (37) AKT 3, 62:15 kaspam ša pá-aq-du luwašširūnim ‘let them release for me the silver which was entrusted (to them)’ (38) TPAK 1, 190:12–13 ištu PN me-tù-ni ‘since PN is dead’ (more often me-tù(-ú) in this phrase) (39) OAA 1, 115:4 kīma māt GN (. . .) sà-aḫ-a-at-ni ‘since the land of GN is in turmoil’ In verbless subordinate clauses, -ni is usually attached to the final constituent (GKT §79c):

42.  The rare Old Assyrian instances where against the general rules the u-subjunctive is lacking are doubtless errors; a few are quoted in GKT §§79–80 (but in BIN 6, 169:12–13 K. R. Veenhof (p.c.) reads šu-ma rather than [k]i-ma). An additional example is AKT 3, 81:7. 43.  See also Bar-Am 1938. For some instances where ‑ni is lacking, see GKT §§79–80. Note that the two last examples mentioned there have two closely coordinated verbs of which the first lacks -ni: is this regular? (cf. also (ša) i-šu-ú (. . .) i-šu-ú (. . .) i-šu-ú-ni Prag I 677:5, 10, 13). Other exceptions include Bell. 231, 223:6–7 (iššamši . . .) ta-ša-me-a ‘on the day that you (Pl) will hear’ (collated by K. R. Veenhof); cf. Bell 231, 225:7 ta-ša-me-a-ni; (ša) ta-ar-de8-a Prag I 521:9 ‘which you (Pl) transported’; (mamman ša) i-šé-a-ni AfO 31, 16:30–31 ‘whoever wants to sue me’ (V. Donbaz: i-šé-a-ni-⟨ni  ⟩); with a stative: awâtum ša ma-al-a šamāʾē OAA 1, 134:12–13 ‘matters that fill/cover the sky’ (perhaps a proverbial expression; note the word order!). 44.  GKT §79b mentions two such cases: (ša) a-dí-nu-šu-nu-tí TC 2, 3:25 ‘(what) I gave to them’, and (adi) ú-ša-aṣ-bu-tù-šu BIN 4, 37:8 ‘(until) I will have them caught’; additional instances are (ašar) ú-ša-ḫizu-šu Prag I 724:18–19 ‘where I have instructed him’; (ša) iš-ta-ú-lu-šu Prag I 711:15–17 ‘about which he interrogates him’; mala anāku ú-na-ḫi-du!-kà AKT 3, 88:51 ‘according to what I have informed you about’. 45.  Pace Kienast 1995: 124.

9.3.  The Subjunctive


(40) BIN 4, 223:3–5 kīma PN a-ḫu-kà-ni ‘because PN is your brother’ (41) Prag I 442:18–19 igi kārim pīka pitē kīma tamkārum ša-qí-il5 da-tí-ni ‘declare before the kārum that the merchant is a dātum-payer’ (/dātinni/ < dātim-ni, see K. R. Veenhof, JAOS 122 [2002] 798) These rules lead to a situation in which the u‑subjunctive mainly occurs on its own after verb forms that have neither ending nor suffix. As stated above, ‑ni may be used optionally here, but forms without ‑ni are more common (Bar-Am 1938: 28), cf.: (42) AKT 3, 92:3–6 inūmi annakam tù-ṣú-ni (. . .) ištu annakam tù-ṣú ‘when you left (from) here (. . .) after you had left (from) here (. . .)’ (43) CCT 2, 42:11, 14 ‘they went here to the city authorities on account of the silver which was seized (i-ṣí-ib-tù-ni) in PN’s house, the silver that was seized (i-ṣí-ib-tù) was a votive offering’ (tr. CAD Ṣ 40b s.v. ṣabātu 13a-2′). It is possible that in some cases the option to use or omit ‑ni is exploited to (re)introduce a distinction between the third person masculine singular and plural, e.g. (from two letters by the same sender): (44A) AKT 3, 85:33 alē wa-áš-bu ‘where he is staying’ (44B) AKT 3, 87:24–25 [a]lē PN1 u PN2 wa-áš-bu-ni ‘where PN1 and PN2 are staying’. Middle Assyrian shows two developments as compared to Old Assyrian (see W. Mayer 1971: 59–60) First, -u has spread to the 3fs stative, as in (45); (46) is an exception with the older form: (45) NTA p. 25 no. 1765:4–5 kī PNF mar-ṣu-tu-ú-ni ‘(a sheep has been sacrificed) when PNF was ill’46 (46) KAJ 223:4 (a chariot) ša ana šarri qar-ru-bat-ni ‘which was offered to the king’47 Second, ‑ni has become obligatory in all subordinate clauses, also where it was still optional in Old Assyrian, both in verbless clauses (W. Mayer 1971: 112 §102.3), as in (47), in verbal clauses with an u‑subjunctive, as in (48), and in verbal clauses with a stative, as in (49): (47) KAJ 13:13–14 (a garden plot) ša būru ina šà-bi-šu-ni ‘in which there is a well’ (libbišū-ni) (48) ZA 73, 78:21–23 mimma ša ana dabābīka il-lu-ku-ni ‘everything that pertains to your lawsuit’ (49) MARV 3, 24:7–8 (oil) ša bēt PN la-a-qi-ú-ni ‘that has been taken from the house of PN’48 46.  Note the vowel assimilation: < *marṣatūni; likewise pe-gu-tu-ú-ni MARV 3, 19:7 < *pegatūni (from puāgu ‘to take away’). Occasionally, there is no vowel assimilation: (ša) aḫ-za-tu-ú-ni KAV 1: VIII §55:11 ‘who has been taken (in marriage)’ (beside aḫ-zu-tu-ú-ni KAV 1: VI §45:75); these are early instances of the change u > a before a stressed ū; see W. Mayer 1971: 12 and Postgate 1974: 274 for Middle Assyrian and Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 31 for Neo-Assyrian. 47.  W. Mayer’s interpretation of this form (1971: 8 nr. 42) is to be rejected; see Postgate 1974: 273. 48.  An exception where -ni is lacking is: (ša) la-at-ku-ú MARV 3, 38:7 ‘which has been tested’: a mistake?


The Subjunctive  9.3.

This means that in Middle Assyrian the u-subjunctive can no longer occur by itself and that ‑ni has become the general and obligatory marker of subordination (W. Mayer 1971: 59; BarAm 1938: 30), a perfect example of Kuryłowicz’s first “law” of analogy (Kuryłowicz 1945–49: 20–23), which, briefly formulated, states that a complex marker will replace a simple marker with the same function. In Neo-Assyrian, the use of the subjunctive does not seem to be different from that of Middle Assyrian, although the stem to which it is attached has changed, especially to restore the distinction between the third-person masculine singular and plural, which had been lost at least since Middle Assyrian. Whereas the latter has, for instance, paqdūni for both singular (< paq(i)d + u + ni) and plural (< paqdū + ni) ‘it/they have been entrusted’, Neo-Assyrian replaces the singular paqdūni by paqidūni, always with a broken spelling: pa-qi-id-u-ni, etc., with i (re)introduced from the indicative paqid: Pl paqdū § paqdūni : Sg paqid § paqidūni (Hämeen-Anttila 2000: 91–92).

9.3.2.  Other subjunctive-like suffixes Apart from the canonical use of -u and -ni in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian as described in the previous section, Sargonic Akkadian and the older stages of Babylonian occasionally show other forms with apparent subjunctive function and non-canonical instances of the suffix ‑ni. We can distinguish the following cases.49 1.  Sargonic Akkadian shows several instances of a suffix -a in subordinate clauses that is equivalent in function to the u-subjunctive (cf. Gelb 1955a: 190; 1961: 170–71): (50) OAIC 21:5–7 (a quantity of flour) šu ana PN a-ti-na /  ʾaddina/ ‘which I gave to PN’ (51) OAIC 3:7–10 (witnesses to the fact that) 1 pi še PN1 ana PN2 i-ti-na /yiddina/ ‘PN1 gave 1 pi of barley to PN2’ (52) OAIC 1:10–12 (8 witnesses to the fact that) PN1 é ana PN2 iš-du-da /yisduda/ ‘PN1 measured the house for PN2’50 All forms come from the same collection of tablets that probably originate from the Diyala region (Gelb 1955a: 174). Because of the small number of instances, it is difficult to establish their exact nature beyond the fact that they seem to be used exactly like the u‑subjunctive elsewhere in Akkadian. They are certainly not ventives without -m, as claimed by Kienast (1960: 152–53 n. 2, 2001: 272–73) and Lipiński (1997: 351–53), because the use of a ventive in the contexts of (50)–(52) is highly unlikely and final ‑m is not normally omitted in Sargonic Akkadian (see Gelb 1969: 103–4; Edzard 1973: 127; Kouwenberg 2002: 217; and Hasselbach 2005: 204 n. 157). In this collection of texts, a “normal” subjunctive 3ms id-ba-lu /yitbalu/ ‘(which) he took’ (OAIC 7:24) and a “normal” ventive (here as dative) i-ti-nam /yiddinam/ ‘he gave to me’ (OAIC 35:10) also occur. We have to wait for additional evidence before we can hope to learn more about the nature and background of these forms. 2.  In the great majority of cases, Sargonic Akkadian has the Babylonian-type subjunctive (Hasselbach 2005: 205–6), but it also has a few instances of what appears to be a ni-subjunctive (Gelb 1961: 169–70; Zadok 1996: 153–54). Most instances come from a single clause that occurs in

49.  See also Gelb 1961: 170–71; GAG3 §83b–c; Hasselbach 2005: 204–9. 50.  And a few other cases, for which see Hasselbach 2005: 206.

9.3.  The Subjunctive


the curse formula of almost all royal inscriptions (53). Otherwise, ‑ni occurs only sporadically; the most reliable cases are (54)–(57): (53) AKI p. 82:57–59 (RI of Naram-Sin) ša dub šūʾa u-sa-za-ku-ni /yusatstsakūni/ ‘whoever removes this inscription’ (and passim in Sargonic RIs, see GAKI pp. 255–56) (54) BIN 8, 134:8–9 (Mé-sag) īnu šarrum u-ur-da-ni /yurdanni/ ‘when the king came down (hither)’ (< urdam-ni) (55) BIN 8, 265:5–8 (Mé-sag) (receipt of goods) īnu ana š engar-˹e˺ PN1 u PN2 i-li-ga-ni /yillikāni/ ‘when PN1 and PN2 had gone (come?) for barley for the ploughmen’ (56) SAB p. 69:8 (Girsu) šūt in tu.ra u-ù-ḫi-ru-un /yūḫḫirūn/ ‘Diejenigen, die wegen Krankheit (mit der Arbeit) in Verzug geraten waren’ (tr. B. Kienast and I. J. Gelb), where -ūn is probably a short form of -ni or -na (see also chap. 17 n. 12 [p. 514] and n. 111 [p. 545] for this form) (57) Or. 46, 201:38 (incant. from Kish) lā da-ba-ša-ḫi-ni /tapaθθaḫīni/ ‘(I swear that) you (Fem) will not have peace!’ The consistent use of ‑ni in yušassakūni and its rarity elsewhere are difficult to explain but are doubtless related to its stereotyped nature. Hasselbach (2005: 207–8) also points out that the relative pronoun ša is irregular (Sargonic Akkadian would require šu) and suggests that the phrase was imported into Sargonic royal inscriptions from a different literary tradition together with the rest of the curse formula. This is possible, but the other cases of ‑ni show that the situation was more complicated.51 A few cases of ‑ni also survive in early and literary Babylonian, of which (58) from Ur III Babylonian doubtless imitates an ancient model and does not give any information about the contemporary use of -ni (Hilgert 2002: 312): (58) AKI p. 330:18 ⟨  ša dub šūa⟩ ú-ša10-sà-ku8-ni ‘who removes this tablet’ (RI from Elam) (69) RIME 4, 51:30–35 inūma kittam ina māt GN1 u GN2 aš-ku-nu-ni ‘when I established justice in the land of Sumer and Akkad’ (RI of Lipit-Eštar of Isin, ArBab) (60) Ištar p. 87: V 23–25 šarrum ša anniam zamāram (. . .) iš-mu-ni ‘a king, who has heard this song’ (OB lit.) (61) St. Reiner p. 192:31 (the mountain) ašru mūlû mūrida lā i-šu-ni ‘where the ascent has no descent’ (tr. W. G. Lambert, OB lit.) (62) St. Reiner p. 192:49 ūmū ta-am-la-ú-ni dulla ‘the days when you were full of suffering’ (OB lit.) In so far as these forms are reliable, they are doubtless archaizing, but may represent traces of an erstwhile more extended use of the same particle -ni as is found in Assyrian. 51.  There are two other instances of ‑ni that apparently occur in main clauses: AKI p. 82:51 (RI of Naram-Sin) i-dar-su-ni-iš /ītarsūnīs(u)?/ ‘they asked him(?)’, and AKI p. 159:94; 173:99 (cps RIs of Sargon) maḫriš RN i-za-zu-ni /izzazzūni/ ‘they stood before RN’ (subject two cities, so dual expected). Krebernik (1993: 128) takes -ni as a ventive without -m; Edzard (1991: 259) as an “affirmative mood,” but the existence of this category is uncertain; see n. 57 (pp. 227–228).


The Subjunctive  9.3.

3.  Early Babylonian also has a few instances of a suffix -na with subjunctive function (Whiting 1987: 13, 43; Zadok 1996: 154–56). Its earliest occurrence is in an Ur III royal inscription and in the Mari liver omens, which show a strong Babylonian influence: (63) RIME 3/2, 141:7–10 īnu māt GN1 u GN2 ù-ḫa-li-qú-na ‘when he had destroyed GN1 and GN2’ (RI of Šulgi) (64) RA 35, 47 no. 22:1–6 inūmi šarrum mātam nakartam ana ṣērīšu ú-ti-ru-na ‘when the king had brought (back) the enemy land under his rule’ (65) RA 35, 44 no. 10:5–8 inūmi Šubariū i-sà-aḫ-ru-na ‘after the Subareans had returned’ Note that (63) and (64) are singular, but (65) is plural; in this respect -ūna is parallel to Assyrian -ūni, which often has the same ambiguity. The suffix -na also occurs a few times in Archaic Babylonian royal inscriptions [(66)–(70)] and letters [(71)–(74)] and even a few times in Old Babylonian letters [(75)-(76)]; Whiting (1987: 43–44) lists the cases known to him; I repeat them here with two additional instances, namely, (69) and (70):52 (66) RIME 4, 679:23–30 [inūma] (. . .) qaqqad ummānim šiāti im-ḫa-ṣú-na ‘when he defeated (lit., hit the head of) that army’ (RI of Anum-mutabbil of Dēr) (67) and (68) RIME 4, 655:23–28 inūmi DN bēlī i-di-na-an-na u DNF bēltī tappûtī i-li-ku-na ‘when my lord DN had pronounced a judgement in my favour’ (< idīnam-na) and my lady DNF had come to my help’ (RI of Ashduni-iarim of Kish) (69) ZA 93, 8: IV 10–13 (a land which . . .) biltam [ana] mammana [lā] ub-lu-ú-na ‘had brought tribute to nobody’ (RI of Iddi(n)-Sin of Simurrum) (70) ibid. 9: V 7′′–9′′ ša ṣalmī u šiṭirtī ú-š[a-s]à-ku-na ‘who removes my effigy and inscription’ (71) OBTA p. 41 no. 6:12 ašar lā ú-da-˹ni  ˺-nu-˹na˺ ‘if I had not strengthened it’ (72) OBTA p. 85 no. 30:4–6 ana šume . . . it-ta-na-la-ku-ni-in-na ‘concerning (the fact that) they continually come to me’ (< ‑ū-nim-na) (73) TIM 7, 116:8 ana agrī ša še-˹am ub˺-lu-na ‘for the workers who carried the barley’ (74) AbB 11, 1:8–9 adi awātka ì-la-kà-na ‘until your word comes here’ (< īllak-am-na) (75) UET 5, 265 case: 9 lā i-pa-ša-ru-na ‘that he will not redeem’ (76) UET 5, 265:12 lā i-qá-bu-na ‘that he will not say’ (~ case: 11 ulā i-qá-bi)

52.  Whiting’s nr. 11 = ARM 1, 3:20′ iš-ku-na-an-na should not be included in this group, according to Durand 1997/2000: III 73 n. 1 (read iš-ku-na-an-ni).

9.3.  The Subjunctive


Just as ‑ni in Old Assyrian, ‑na can follow a 3s subjunctive, e.g., in (66) and (75); a 3mp ending ‑ū, as in (73); and a ventive or a dative, e.g., in (67), (72), and (74).53 This suggests that it is a dialectal variant of ‑ni and goes back to the same source. 4.  Literary Old Babylonian shows various instances of -nim, which normally has ventive function (see §9.4.1, pp. 232–233, below), attached to an u-subjunctive in a subordinate clause (GAG3 §83b):54 (77) and (78) AnSt. 33, 148:28–31 a[d]i ta-ak-ka-lu-nim ayy īkulū ilū aḫḫūka adi atta ta-ša-at-tu-nim ayy ištû ilū aḫḫūka ‘as long as you are eating, the gods your brothers shall not eat; as long as you are drinking, the gods your brothers shall not drink’ (79) St. Reiner p. 192:57 kī ta-da-am-mi-qú-nim atta ‘(and) that you are well-favoured’ (tr. W. G. Lambert) (80) MIO 12, 54: r.17 [š ]a qerbuššu ni-it-ta-aš-ša-bu-nim rīšiš ‘(a court) in which we used to sit joyfully’55 Normally, the ventive morpheme -nim only comes after the plural endings -ū and -ā, and the forms collected here do not show a typical ventive function. They may represent reanalyzed (misunderstood?) forms ultimately based on earlier -ni and partly associated in form with the ventive, or even hypercorrect spellings of ‑ni, although, as we have seen, ‑ni is very rare in Babylonian.

9.3.3.  The function and the historical background of the subjunctive The main function of the subjunctive is to mark a clause as subordinate; it is obligatory in relative clauses and clauses introduced by a conjunction (except the conditional conjunction šumma).56 In addition, it has the marginal function of marking the verb in statements under oath; I will ignore this use in the main part of this section and return to it at the end. It should be emphasized that according to the usual definition of modality (cf. Palmer 2001: 1–18; E. Cohen 2005: 9–12) the subjunctive is not a mood (Edzard 1973: 127; Kienast 2001: 269): a subjunctive form only differs syntactically from the corresponding indicative form.57 53.  This means that there is no suffix ‑anna in Akkadian parallel to the Arabic Energic I yaqtulanna (see §9.4.3, pp. 242–243), pace Zaborski 1996a: 71–72. 54.  Completely atypical and hard to explain is Gilg. p. 248:4 anāku am.meš ṣerim aṣ-ṣa-ab-ta-nim ‘I had taken hold of (some) bulls from the wild’ (OB lit., tr. A. R. George; see his note on p. 250). 55.  An additional instance might be Legends p. 84:17′ mimma ša ta-qa-bi-ni-im lūpuš ‘I will do whatever you (Ištar ?) order’ (but according to J. Westenholz, the qarrādūya of line 16′ are addressed, which requires the correction ta-qa-bi-⟨a⟩-nim). I assume that (ša) ta-aš-pu-ri-NI AbB 9, 225:5 is a mistake for tašpurim ‘(what) you (Fem) wrote to me’, and lā ta-ma-ga-ri-ni-in-ni AbB 3, 15:28 a mistake for lā ta‑maga-ri-⟨⟨ni  ⟩⟩-in-ni ‘(if I do something wrong,) do (Fem) not agree with me’. 56.  Conditional clauses are treated as main clauses in Akkadian; see chap. 6, n. 32 (p. 148). 57.  It still must be ascertained whether the subjunctive can be used in main clauses to render insistence or emphasis, especially in Mari texts (Finet 1956: 262–63: “subjonctif d’insistance ou d’emphase”). Most of the instances Finet mentions have meanwhile found an easier explanation, so that only two or three deserve more serious consideration: i-ma-ar-ru-šu ARM 6, 13:12 ‘he will see it’, aš-ku-un-nu 4, 86:11 ‘I have provided’, and perhaps ad-bu-bu 6, 76:25 ‘I spoke’. The first two are not regular subjunctives but also have gemination of R3, which is reminiscent of the so-called i‑Modus of Old Babylonian, which was discussed in n. 3 (p. 211). The i‑Modus also occurs in Mari; see Durand and Charpin 1988: 12–13 nos. [16]–[18]. It is possible that ad-bu-bu is a defective spelling of a similar form /adbubbu/ (if it is not simply a mistake). Rather than accepting a highly unusual and exceptional use of the subjunctive, it seems more satisfactory


The Subjunctive  9.3.

To understand the rise and development of the subjunctive, it is important to distinguish between the u‑subjunctive and the ni‑subjunctive and, accordingly, between Babylonian and Assyrian. Since the subordinate clauses in which it occurs are also marked by other means, the subjunctive is functionally redundant. The two dialects have reacted to this fact in different ways. Babylonian only marks subordination on verb forms that have no (other) ending and leaves it unmarked elsewhere. This is particularly revealing for its historical background: if ‑u arose for the specific purpose of marking subordination, it is hard to understand why such a large part of the relevant verb forms are not marked as subordinate at all. It rather suggests that ‑u is a residual morpheme that originally had a more relevant function but in historical Babylonian has become trapped in subordinate clauses in the final stage of a grammaticalization process. Assyrian, on the other hand, developed a consistent way of marking subordination in all dependent clauses by means of the particle ‑ni. The fact that ‑ni was initially—i.e., in Old Assyrian—optional in subjunctive forms with ‑u and obligatory elsewhere, but in Middle Assyrian became obligatory also in the forms where it used to be optional, suggests that it was originally not present in the forms where it was optional and that it was introduced there by analogy with the forms where it was obligatory. From this we may conclude that the original domain of -ni consists of forms that also have a gender and/or number suffix, and that initially the other forms only had -u. If this conclusion is correct, there is a striking commonality between the original form of the Akkadian subjunctive and the imperfective prefix conjugation of Classical Arabic: the distribution of -ni in “Pre-Assyrian” is identical to that of -na in Classical Arabic,58 as may be seen from a comparison of the third and the rightmost columns of Table 9.2. Here the perfective has arbitrarily been taken as model, but there are no differences observable between imperfective, perfective, and t‑perfect with regard to the subjunctive. This demonstrates that both conjugations go back to a common Proto-Semitic ancestor, which I will indicate as *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV, without attempting to specify the final vowel. The difference in function between the Arabic and the Assyrian forms can be accounted for by typological evidence. In the history of languages, the relegation of verbal categories to subordinate clauses and their subsequent reanalysis as indicating subordination is a well-known process (see Haspelmath 1998 for a general account and D. Cohen 1984 for its occurrence in Semitic). This makes it plausible that the tense/aspect function of Arabic is primary and that the Akkadian subjunctive represents the residual function of a verbal category that has been replaced by a new form in its main uses (Kuryłowicz 1972: 60), a view that is corroborated by the fact mentioned earlier that it is functionally redundant. It is true that the subjunctive is somewhat atypical insofar as it has not acquired a irrealis function, but this is to explain these forms as variants of this i‑Modus. The putative subjunctive of the verb kasû ‘to bind’ in a-ka-as-sú(-ma) ARM 2, 94:23 (OB Mari) testifies to the original U/u vowel class of this verb, and this explanation may also apply to lā i-ra-aš-šu-ú ARM 27, 25:18 and li-ir-šu VOM p. 186 A.1101:35 from rašû ‘to get, acquire’, which is I/i elsewhere but may have had an (older?) U/u alternative in accordance with the general drift of III/voc U/u verbs towards the I/i class (see §3.5.3, pp. 78–79). The only form that remains as a witness for an emphatic use of the subjunctive is lā ta-ma-aš-šu-˹ú˺ St. Reiner p. 192:56 ‘do not forget!’ (OB lit.), which is clearly too narrow a basis for a grammatical category. It is of course possible that some of these forms are ultimately related to the use of the subjunctive in oaths. 58.  This was already observed by Landsberger 1924: 121–22; Kuryłowicz 1962: 54–55; Kienast 1995: 124; and Hasselbach 2005: 208–9. The Arabic alternation of ‑na and ‑ni is determined by the quality of the preceding vowel. The Proto-Semitic origin of the Arabic forms is confirmed by Ugaritic (Tropper 2000: 457–60), Aramaic (Segert 1990: 249–51), and by vestigial remains in Hebrew (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 136–38).

9.3.  The Subjunctive


Pfv Indic

Pre-Ass Subj

OA Subj

MA Subj

Ar. Impfv 59




iprusu or -ūni






taprusu or -ūni






taprusu or -ūni












aprusu or -ūni





























niprusu or -ūni




Table 9.2: The spread of the subjunctive endings in Assyrian.

not a major problem.61 In fact, Akkadian itself offers an exact parallel, namely, the old perfective iprVs, which was restricted to subordinate clauses (and some other clause types; see §6.3.4, pp. 153–155) without becoming an irrealis form. This does not mean that all details of this process are straightforward and easy to reconstruct. In particular, it is problematic how to envisage the shift of the ending ‑u, ‑ūnV from an imperfective to a subordination marker and its subsequent disappearance from main clauses. We may hypothesize the following scenario, which builds on Kuryłowicz’s (1962: 52–55, 59–60; 1972: 60; 1973) pioneering explanation. Two features of the Proto-Semitic imperfective *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV are crucial for the development of ‑u, ‑ūnV towards a subordination marker: the fact that—just as the imperfective of the older daughter languages—it could indicate simultaneity with a past event (Kuryłowicz 1973: 119–20) and the fact that it had the same inflectional stem as the perfective *yiqtul. 59.  For the Arabic paradigm, see, for instance, Fleisch 1979: 119–20. I have omitted the persons that do not exist in Akkadian (the 2du taqtulāni and the 2fp taqtulna), and I have bracketed the 3fp yaqtulna, the backgound of which is a matter of controversy; see Faber 1997: 7 and Diem 1997: 53–61. Krebernik (1993: 125) plausibly claims that ‑na is taken over from the respective feminine personal pronouns, which also end in -na (Ar ʾantunna ‘you’ and hunna ‘they’). 60.  As far as I know, this form is only attested in Sargonic Akkadian: i-li-ga-ni /yillikāni/ BIN 8, 265:8 ‘they two went’ (Subj), quoted as (55) above. 61.  It is more common that verb forms that are secondarily restricted to subordinate clauses have some kind of irrealis function as well (Noonan 1985: 51–54); the subjunctive categories in Romance and Germanic languages are typical examples. In this respect, the term subjunctive may be somewhat misleading; cf. Noonan’s definition quoted above in n. 37 (p. 220). Finite verb forms exclusively used to indicate subordination do occur outside Akkadian, however. Noonan (1985: 50) only mentions the “dependent” forms in Irish. Another instance is Amharic, where a new present formation, the “Compound Imperfect” yəsäbrall (cf. Leslau 1995: 341–45), arose in affirmative main clauses, leaving to the old form, the “Simple Imperfect” yəsäbr (1995: 300–302), the negative main clauses and irrealis and subordinate clauses including relative ones (1995: 344); see also Haspelmath 1998: 52, who refers to Leslau’s description, and Rundgren 1963b: 69.


The Subjunctive  9.3.

The replacement of *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV with the new Impfv iparrVs in Akkadian started in main clauses, as is usually the case,62 and left its predecessor *yiprVsu, ‑ūnV stranded in subordinate contexts—i.e., both subordinate clauses and asyndetic uses dependent on a main verb, such as circumstantial clauses. In these clause types, the imperfective typically expresses simultaneity with a past event. This strengthened the association of *yiprVsu, ‑ūnV with past tense, a development that was greatly enhanced by the fact that it has the same inflectional stem as the inherited perfective iprVs. The contrast between iprVs in main clauses and iprVsu in subordinate clauses caused the endings of the old imperfective to be reanalyzed as subordination markers. As a result, they became obligatory in subordinate clauses and thus also attached to other finite forms, including the stative (insofar as possible), and they were banned from main clauses. This entailed the replacement of an original *yiparrasu, ‑ūnV (see §4.5.3, pp. 115–117) by *yiparras, ‑ū, and also created the usual markedness relationship of an unmarked main clause and a marked subordinate clause.63 This process was greatly facilitated by the fact that the different endings were no longer needed to distinguish the imperfective from the perfective, which was now based on gemination. Initially, the reanalysis of ‑u, ‑ūnV led to a period of fluctuation and inconsistency, which is reflected in our third-millennium sources as described in §9.3.2 (pp. 224–227), both in the nature of the vowel after n (‑ni versus ‑na) and in the conditions under which the additional suffix ‑nV was used. The incidental cases of ‑nV in Sargonic Akkadian and the earliest stages of Babylonian show that the marker ‑nV started to develop in the same direction as in Assyrian but did not become productive (or lost its productivity before our earliest texts). In the second millennium, the situation crystallized into the divergent systems of Babylonian and Assyrian. Babylonian gradually discarded ‑nV; Assyrian, on the other hand, reinterpreted it as an additional marker of subordination to be added to the end of the clause rather than to the verb form. This made it possible to detach it from the verb (when there is a suffixed pronoun), and to add it to the end of all subordinate clauses, both verbal and nominal.64 Admittedly, this scenario is fairly speculative. However, it has the great advantage of solving various vexing problems that led to a great deal of fruitless speculation in the past. First, we can discard all claims about the background of ‑u as a nominal marker (case marker or otherwise) that in some way has come to be attached to a finite verb form;65 none of these is in the least convincing.66 Second, we have a straightforward explanation for the etymology of Assyrian ‑ni, 62.  See Bybee et al. 1994: 230–36; Hock 1991: 332; Givón 1979: 48–50 about the tendency of embedded clauses to be conservative. 63.  For the markedness relationship between main and subordinate clauses, see Givón 1995: 32–39. 64.  See also Eilers 1968; T. D. Anderson 2000: 24. Eilers’s claim that the loss of -u/-ni in main clauses can be attributed to a phonetic process—the omission of endings at the end of a clause in pausal position—is very unlikely. Other endings do not seem to be affected by such a process until much later in the history of Akkadian. 65.  Several scholars have put forward proposals to this effect, although it is difficult to envisage how a case ending could spread to a finite verb form (unless indirectly, if this verb form goes back to an earlier nominal form), e.g., Diakonoff 1965: 91 n. 88, referring to earlier publications by A. P. Riftin, and Diakonoff 1988: 103; Gelb 1969: 108–12; Tropper 1994 (with Knudsen’s [1998] rejoinder); Voigt 1997: 219–21; Lipiński 1997: 351. Others have explained ‑u as a marker of nominalization parallel to the Sumerian suffix ‑a, e.g., Fleisch 1966: 275–76; von Soden 1991b: 473. Hetzron (1976a: 105) proposes to derive WSem *yaqtVlu from the jussive *yaqtVl with an “indicativizer” ‑u/‑nV (“an original ‘he is so that he would do’ ~ ‘he is to do’ becoming ‘he does/will do’”). A similar explanation was proposed by Voigt (2004: 49–50). It may be theoretically possible, but there does not seem to be any factual or typological evidence in support of it. For the methodological background of all these proposals, Gensler’s (2000: 261–63) remarks are relevant. 66.  For some speculations about the structure of PSem *yiqtulu, ‑ūnV, see §18.3.1 (pp. 589–590).

9.3.  The Subjunctive


which Edzard (1973: 129) considered “noch ungeklärt,” implicitly disavowing all explanations then available.67 Third, we can dispense with the typologically unlikely spread of ‑u/‑nV from subordinate clauses in Akkadian to main clauses in the rest of Semitic, which is often adduced to account for the different imperfective categories in Akkadian and West Semitic (see §4.4.1, p. 98).68 We still have to discuss the second function of the subjunctive, that of indicating that a statement is an oath. Akkadian basically has two formal devices to mark a clause as an oath, which we can conveniently distinguish as with šumma and without šumma.69 The construction with šumma (which normally introduces conditional clauses) mainly occurs in the later dialects and is therefore arguably secondary. Its importance for the present study lies in the fact that in Old Babylonian it can still have the indicative (GAG3 §185g–g*), whereas later on it has the subjunctive. Since šumma in its normal use as a conditional conjunction does not have a subjunctive, the use of the subjunctive in oaths introduced by šumma must be secondary, taken over from the oath construction without šumma.70 In oaths without šumma, which are characteristic of the older dialects, the use of the subjunctive is probably original. Negative oaths consistently use lā with the subjunctive.71 Positive oaths show greater variation: according to whether they are assertory (with the verb in the perfective or the stative referring to past or present tense) or promissory (with the verb in the imperfective referring to the future), they may have the verb in the subjunctive or the indicative and they may have or not have lū.72 However, the actual form the oath takes does not provide us with any clear information about the crucial question to be addressed here, namely, why the subjunctive is used in oaths in the first place. This is still a matter of speculation.73 The most likely assumption is that it is also a residual use of the original imperfective, since oaths are arguably a conservative environment 67.  Among these is Kienast’s (1960: 158; 2001: 269) claim that both ‑u and ‑ni are “nachgestellte Demonstrativa” (which is vacuous without an additional account of how they could become a verbal ending), and that of Gelb (1969: 107) that ‑uni combines the subjunctive endings ‑u and ‑i (sic!) with n as a glide (which presupposes a process of agglutination of discrete morphemes that is completely alien to the structure of Semitic). 68.  E.g., R. Voigt 1988a: 118; 2004: 36–37; Lipiński 1997: 342, 351; Kienast 2001: 338. This view was criticized by T. D. Anderson (2000: 22). Among earlier comments, see in particular Polotsky (1964: 111): “no really convincing answer has yet been given to the third question” [i.e., about the emergence of *yiqtVlu], and Kienast (1995: 124): “die abweichende Funktion [of ‑u in Ar yaqtulu versus the Akkadian subjunctive] bleibt zu erklären”). 69.  For general accounts, see GAG §185; GKT §§131–32; Huehnergard 2005a: 436–38; Malbran-Labat 1979/84. 70.  For reported instances of subjunctives in main clauses apart from oaths, see n. 57 (p. 227). 71.  In Old Assyrian, rarely ulā (GAG §185c; GKT §132b). 72.  The t‑perfect does not seem to be used in oaths, as stated explicitly in GKT §131c for Old Assyrian; GAG §185 does not quote any oaths with a t‑perfect (apart from a few exceptional cases in šumma-oaths quoted in GAG3 §185g*). If this is correct, it is another archaic feature of the oath formula. 73.  Because oaths in Old Babylonian predominantly occur in legal documents, which are strongly dependent on Sumerian models in their formulations, Dombradi (1996: II 343) argues that the use of the subjunctive results from a literal translation of the corresponding Sumerian formula, which uses a dependent (nominalized) construction to express the contents of an oath. This may be an attractive explanation for the oaths in these particular texts, but it leaves us empty-handed with regard to another large corpus of subjunctives in main clauses: the Old Assyrian treaties, such as those published by S. Çeçen and K. Hecker in St. von Soden (AOAT 240), pp. 31–41 and the two published by C. Günbattı in St. Larsen, pp. 249–68. It seems unlikely that Sumerian influence has played a role here.


The Ventive  9.4.

where old forms can survive.74 According to Haspelmath’s investigation of old presents (1998), the main new functions of presents that have been ousted from their original function are future and subjunctive, but many of them also have additional minor functions, such as being used in proverbs, in stage directions, in narrative, as performatives, etc. It seems plausible that, in a specific language, oaths can also retain old forms that have become obsolete in other environments. It is, however, not the case that in oaths the original imperfective *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV has simply been maintained: oaths use exactly the same forms as subordinate clauses, with the imperfective subjunctive iparrVsu referring to the future and the perfective subjunctive iprVsu referring to the past, and in Assyrian the particle ‑ni comes at the end of the verb form both in oaths and in subordinate clauses (GKT §132a, in particular BIN 4, 184:1–9 quoted there). This shows that the subjunctive in oaths was reanalyzed on the basis of its use in subordinate clauses and that in fact the oath was felt as a kind of subordinate clause without an introductory conjunction.75

9.4. The Ventive 9.4.1.  The form of the ventive The finite forms of an Akkadian verb can be extended with a suffix that appears in three allomorphs in complementary distribution: -am, -m, -nim. It is traditionally called “ventive,” a term coined by Landsberger (1924: 114), who was the first to gain a correct insight into the nature of this grammatical category. The suffix -am occurs after otherwise endingless forms, i.e., immediately after the verb stem, -m only after the suffix -ī of the second-person singular feminine, and -nim after the plural and dual endings -ū and -ā; see column II of Table 9.3 for the conjugation in its Old Babylonian form, with the perfective as the model for the prefix conjugations. I







Pfv + Vent












(taprus-am) —



































taprusā-nim pursā







2mp. 2fp. 1p.

Table 9.3: The ventive endings after perfective, imperative, and stative. 74.  Or where new forms do not penetrate: a good parallel of this is the absence of the t‑perfect in assertory oaths, although semantically the t‑perfect would fit very well there; see especially §6.3.1 (pp. 142–144). 75.  One could argue that the reason for the subjunctive in oaths is that the statement is actually dependent on an unexpressed main verb “I swear that . . .” or the like, with the complement clause introduced by kīma ‘that’, for instance (cf. Deutscher 2000: 37–60). However, in historical Akkadian this construction is not actually attested with verbs of swearing.

9.4.  The Ventive


In the stative, the ventive morpheme can only be attached to the third-person singular masculine (pars-am) and the third-person plural forms (3mp parsū-nim, 3fp parsā-nim).76 This is doubtless a secondary development by analogy with the prefix conjugations, just as in the subjunctive.77 The ventive cannot be attached to non-finite verb forms. However, if an infinitive dependent on a main verb needs a ventive, it is possible to add the ventive to the main verb (GKT §78b; Veenhof 1986: 248–49), see (13) and (14) in §8.2.1 (p. 196). If a ventive is followed by a suffixed accusative or dative pronoun, final -m is assimilated to the initial consonant of the pronoun, in spite of the fact that m does not regularly assimilate to a following consonant: ṭurdaššu ‘send him to me!’ < *ṭurdam-šu, ašpurakkum ‘I wrote to you’ dative > ethical dative > emphatic, or the like.101 As long as we do not know the answer, we can only speculate about the historical background of the ventive and, in particular, about its relationship to similar verbal categories in West Semitic. 97.  According to the copy on pl. 8; the transliteration omits -ni-. 98.  Nothing definite can be said about the ventive in Eblaite. There are several verb forms attested which end in the sign AN (which might be read ⟨am6  ⟩), but its function is obscure: ù-wa-ì-da-an ‘(which) I have ordered’ (quoted in Fronzaroli 1984: 152); ù-sa-ti-an ARET 13, 19: III 7 ‘I announced’; lu-sa-ti-an ARET 13, 19: III 11 ‘he(?) announced’; i-ba-ti-ʾà-an ARET 13, 1: IV 8 ‘it is/was opened’, and nu-da-bí-an ARET 13, 9: r.IX 11 ‘we brought(?)’. Moreover, i-da-kam4 ARET 13, 5: r.X 12 may possibly be interpreted as /yittalkam/ or the like (Edzard 1992: 214), a Gt‑stem of (h)alākum ‘to go /come’ with ventive, which is common in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. 99.  There is no factual basis for the speculations by Testen (1993a: 300–301 n. 10) about an original difference between the ventive and the first-person singular dative. 100.  For a more-detailed account of the functional development of the ventive, see Kouwenberg 2002: 233–39, and the critical comments in Loesov 2004c, 2007. 101.  This was argued, for instance, by Gelb (1969: 136) and Kienast (2001: 272).

9.4.  The Ventive


The most important of these categories are the following: • the cohortative suffix ‑ā in Hebrew and Ugaritic, which is used for exhortations in the first person and after the imperative (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 143, 374–75; Tropper 2000: 455–57) • the Arabic subjunctive yaqtVla, which is used in subordinate clauses to express purpose and intention, and after a number of modal particles and conjunctions (Fischer 1972: 97) • various formations with a suffix containing -n(n)-, in particular the energicus formations in Arabic, Ugaritic, and (in traces) in Hebrew and Aramaic. The historical background of these categories and their mutual relationships are themselves controversial and the subject of much speculation. The general idea seems to be that at least the Arabic subjunctive is a secondary formation ultimately derived from the energicus via pausal forms in which ‑an becomes ‑a.102 The most promising candidates for comparison with the ventive, then, are the formations with a suffix containing -n(n)-, since they contain a nasal like the ventive and may show similarities in use. There are several of them, but they are rather heterogeneous and their exact function is often elusive (Krebernik 1993; Testen 1993a: 296–302; Hasselbach 2006). By far the best known is the energicus in Arabic. It comes in two forms, a long one, traditionally called energicus I, and a short one, energicus II. Table 9.3 (adopted from Wright 1967: I 298) shows the conjugation of the energicus I and II and the corresponding forms of the other prefix conjugations of Classical Arabic: Impfv



energicus I

energicus II




































































Table 9.4: The prefix conjugations of Arabic with the energicus I and II.

According to Wright (1967: II 41–43), the most prominent uses of the energicus comprise emphatic future statements (preceded by la-), commands, prohibitions, wishes, questions, and conditional clauses, both in the protasis and the apodosis.103 102.  For the secondary nature of the Arabic subjunctive, see Fleisch 1947/8: 55–56; Testen 1994b; and Tropper 1997b: 403–4. 103.  See also Reckendorf 1967: 63–64; Fleisch 1979: 131–32; and Zewi 1999.


The Ventive  9.4.

Superficially, the endingless forms of the energicus II neatly correspond to the Akkadian ventive: yaqtulan ≈ iprusam (cf. the ending of the accusative singular: ‑an ≈ ‑am).104 If we consider the conjugation as a whole, however, an important difference appears: the ventive shows an alternation of three morphemes in complementary distribution according to the final vowel of the verb form: ‑am, ‑m, and ‑nim. This allomorphy has no synchronic motivation but must go back to an earlier stage of Akkadian (or Proto-Semitic). In the energicus I, a single morpheme is added to all verb forms regardless of their ending and the resulting phonological problems are solved by means of a purely phonological adjustment. The energicus can therefore simply be accounted for by the synchronic phonological rules of Arabic, which suggests that the energicus suffix(es) is/ are less integrated into the verbal system than the ventive and that it may therefore be a more recent development. Reckendorf (1967: 63) and Zaborski (1996a: 75), for instance, regard ‑an(na) as a particle attached to the conjugation of the jussive or the subjunctive (to which it is functionally most closely related), with the concomitant shortening of final ī and ū (e.g., *yaqtulū + ‑nna > yaqtulunna). This suggests that the energicus I forms result from an inner-Arabic (or innerCentral Semitic; see below) development and are not directly related to the Akkadian ventive. The relationship between the two energicus forms is problematic: it is unclear whether the long variant yaqtulanna is an extension of the short one yaqtulan or whether it is the other way around.105 It is generally assumed that Ugaritic also has a verbal category with a suffix ‑anna parallel to the Arabic energicus I, which Tropper (2000: 497–501) calls “Energikus I.” There is no conclusive evidence pointing to the existence of a form parallel to the Arabic energicus II with the suffix ‑an (Tropper’s “Energikus III,” 2000: 504–6). Tropper also identifies an “Energikus II,” which is formally characterized by a double suffix: -nn- (2000: 501–4); it is an allomorph of the “Energikus I” and functionally parallel to it, but its formal interpretation is uncertain. The consonantal script makes these distinctions extremely tentative. An important point is that the suffixes in question can also be attached to forms other than the prefix conjugation: the imperative (as in Arabic), the suffix conjugation, and even the narrative infinitive (2000: 222–23, 500, 503). The suffix nn is often separated from the verb itself by a word divider (a single wedge). All these features strengthen the possibility that n and in particular nn are actually particles rather than verbal endings.106 Sabaic may also provide some interesting evidence, in spite of its purely consonantal script (see Testen 1993a). In this language, the prefix conjugation may have a suffix ‑n in the singular and ‑nn in the plural: yqtl-n versus yqtl-nn (Testen 1993a: 297–98; Stein 2003: 181–85). Testen (1993a: 304) interprets these forms as *yaqtVlan and *yaqtVlūnin, respectively, and employs them to clarify the etymology of the Arabic energicus I and II. He argues that the singular form is 104.  The contrast between word-final ‑m in Akkadian and ‑n in West Semitic, which is specific to grammatical morphemes, is a subject of debate itself. A change ‑m > ‑n has been posited by Brockelmann 1908: 136–37; Voigt 1997: 211; and Testen 1993a. Conversely, it has also been argued that Akkadian ‑m goes back to an earlier suffix *‑n (e.g., Hasselbach 2006: 315), in particular because of its assimilation to a following suffix pronoun, which is regular for n but unusual for m (see Krebernik 1993: 128 and Kienast 2001: 292 for a discussion of the issue; and also von Soden [1988: 276–81], who is sceptical). A less far-reaching explanation is perhaps preferable—for instance, the fact that ventive and suffix form a close-knit unity in a peripheral position in the word, which may favour assimilation more than other positions. 105.  See Zaborski 1996a for some inconclusive speculations. 106.  See also Pardee 1984: 244–45 n. 14. Kienast (2001: 280) also ascribes a directional meaning to verb forms with a suffix -n- in Ugaritic. Tropper (2000), however, does not mention anything of the kind.

9.4.  The Ventive


directly related to the short energicus II yaqtVlan in Arabic and that the plural form lies at the basis of the energicus I: he explains ‑anna from ‑nin, which became ‑nna or ‑nni through the regular syncope of a short vowel between identical consonants and the addition of a final vowel to avoid a word-final geminate. Subsequently, the two forms became optional variants of each other as energicus I and II (1993a: 302–6). The uncertainty about the exact function of the Sabaic forms and the purely consonantal alphabet of Sabaic make the interpretation of these forms hazardous, but if Testen’s interpretation is correct, the Sabaic forms provide a striking parallel to Akkadian iprusam, iprusūnim. Both conjugations may then go back to PSem *yiqtVlam, ‑ūnim through the change of word-final ‑m to ‑n in Sabaic.107 Finally, Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic have preserved a number of forms that may offer an important formal and semantic parallel to the Akkadian ventive. The first one is the cohortative suffix ‑ā. Fassberg (1999) has shown that in Biblical Hebrew the imperative with this suffix (qoṭlāh) is used when the action of the verb is directed to the speaker, whereas the simple imperative is used when the action of the verb is directed elsewhere (1999: 10). The second form is the morpheme ‑n(n)‑, which in Hebrew and Aramaic is often inserted between endingless prefix forms and a suffixed object pronoun, e.g., He yiqṭəlennū ‘he kills him’ (alongside yiqṭəlẹhū) (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 172–73; Segert 1990: 310–11). It is generally assumed to be a residue of an energicus suffix *‑an. This ‑n(n)‑ is also used in the imperative before suffixes, and Joosten (1999) argues that such imperative forms show the same semantic feature as the imperatives with the suffix ‑ā, e.g. tənennāh 1 Sam 21: 10 ‘give it to me’. These two points suggest, first, that the cohortative ending ‑āh goes back to ‑an, parallel to the Arabic energicus ‑an, which has a pausal form ‑ā, and, second, that there may also be a possible functional relationship between the Akkadian ventive and at least some of the West Semitic suffixes starting with a. These diverse scraps of evidence suggest that, in addition to the Impfv *yiqtVlu, ‑ūnV and the Pfv *yiqtVl, ‑ū Proto-Semitic had a third prefix category *yiqtVlam, *yiqtVlūnim (of which the plural form is rather uncertain). It is built on the imperfective by means of the suffix ‑(a)m, since ‑nim occurs in those persons that according to the reconstructed original distribution of ‑nV (see §9.3.3, pp. 228–229) have ‑nV in Proto-Semitic,108 with the function of conveying emphasis and/ or expressing a kind of first-person benefactive.109 The former may survive in the “emphatic” ventives of Akkadian discussed in § (pp. 236-37) and in the energicus formations of Central Semitic, the latter has greatly expanded and systematized in Akkadian, and survives marginally in the Hebrew cohortative forms elucidated by Fassberg (1999) and Joosten (1999). 107.  Stein (2003: 182) endorses Testen’s view, but Hasselbach (2006: 315) rejects it. See Nebes 1994b about the difference between the short and the long forms of the prefix conjugation (especially pp. 202–4); and Tropper 1997c. 108.  This does not apply to the second-person singular feminine, which has ‑īm rather than ‑nim in the ventive, whereas it has ‑na in Arabic (taqtulīna) and ‑ni in the Assyrian subjunctive (taprusīni  ). This is not surprising, however: as in many other cases in Semitic, the Akkadian second-person singular feminine is (re)modelled on the corresponding masculine form: taprus : taprusam § taprusī : taprusīm. This is doubtless also the reason why the second-person feminine prefix is not **ti‑ (as might be expected on the basis of the independent subject pronoun attī), but ta‑, as in the masculine. It is possible that **ti‑ was analogically replaced by ta‑, as claimed by Kienast 2001: 197 and Hasselbach 2004: 31, but it is questionable whether it ever existed at all. 109.  To what extent this *yiqtVlam, ‑ūnim can be related to, or even built on, the Sargonic Akkadian form ending in ‑a, which appears to be an alternative to the u-subjunctive (see §9.3.2, p. 224), is hard to determine.


The Ventive  9.4.

It has been argued that the directional use of the ventive morpheme has arisen—or perhaps has become predominant—under the influence of the Sumerian ventive, which is expressed by the prefix mu‑.110 This is possible but difficult to prove. 110.  This idea goes back to Landsberger (1924: 123) and has been endorsed by various others, for instance, Edzard 1984: 111 n. 1; Pedersén 1989: 434; Krebernik 1993: 127 n. 11; Testen 1993a: 301. Von Soden (1988: 277–78) is sceptical.

Part Three

The Derived Verbal Stems Chapter 10

The Derived Verbal Stems:   General Features

10.1. Introduction This chapter describes the general aspects of the system of derived verbal stems as it is found in Akkadian: their systematic structure, their status as derived verbs, the contrast between regular and irregular verbs in terms of their meaning, productive and unproductive derivation, and a general account of the kind of functions they perform. In later chapters, I will discuss the individual stems in detail, compare them with other Semitic languages and describe how they may have developed in prehistoric times.

10.2.  Definition One of the most characteristic features of the Semitic languages is the existence of a highly systematic pattern of verbal derivation.1 It is used to derive secondary verbs from basic verbs by adding one or more formatives to the simple stem. These formatives include infixes, prefixes, gemination, reduplication, vowel lengthening, and combinations of them. Generally speaking, a formative has a specific function, so that its presence correlates with a predictable semantic or syntactic modification of the meaning of the simple verb. From the G‑stem verb parāsu ‘to cut, separate’, for instance, we can derive several secondary verbs, such as naprusu with passive meaning by means of a prefix n(a)‑, purrusu with intensive and pluractional meaning by means of gemination of R2, and šuprusu with causative meaning by means of a prefix š(a)‑. Each of these verbs has a full paradigm that has the same structure as that of the simple verb, with only such adaptations as are necessary to accommodate the extra formative, and many of them have a regular semantic relationship to the basic verb.

1.  Literature on the derived verbal stems is legion; for Semitic in general, see Brockelmann 1908: 504–44 (§257); Castellino 1962: 114–39; Moscati, ed. 1964: 122–31; Lipiński 1997: 378–415; Stempel 1999: 110–18; and Kienast 2001: 207–236. For specific languages, see in particular Wright 1967: I 30–47 and Fleisch 1979: 271–335 for Arabic; Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 149–70 and Waltke and O’Connor 1990: 351–61 for Hebrew; Dillmann and Bezold 1907: 140–212 for Ethiopic; GAG §86–95 and Edzard 1965 for Akkadian.



Formal Aspects  10.3.

Most verbs have several such secondary verbs. This gives rise to an intricate system of “derived verbs,” which can be classified into “derived verbal stems” or simply “derived stems” according to their formative2 and which is exploited for the expression of various kinds of semantic and grammatical notions, among which voice (passive, reciprocal, etc.), causation, and verbal plurality are prominent. However, hardly any verbs have the full range of possible derived stems; how many and which ones a given verb will have is basically unpredictable (and for Akkadian at least partly dependent on chance occurrence), but there is a clear correlation with meaning and frequency: transitive verbs tend to select a different set from intransitive verbs, and frequent verbs tend to have a larger set than infrequent verbs.

10.3.  Formal Aspects The main formatives of the derived verbal stems of Akkadian are the prefixes n(a)- and š(a)‑, the infixes ‑t- and ‑tan-, gemination of R2, and combinations of these; for some others, which occur sporadically, see below (p. 248, no. 3). On the basis of these formatives, the verbal stems can be divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary stems (the “Hauptstammformen” according to GAG §86b) are the G‑, the N‑, the Š‑, and the D‑stem. The G‑stem (iparrVs) is the simple stem; the other three are extended by means of the prefix n(a)‑ (the N‑stem ipparrVs < *yi-n-p . . .), the prefix š(a)‑ (the Š‑stem ušapras), and gemination of R2 (the D‑stem uparras), respectively. These stems are primary because they can serve as the basis for a (further) derivation by means of infixes, which gives rise to the secondary and tertiary stems. The secondary stems (or “t‑stems”) have an infixed ‑t‑ after the first consonant of the inflectional stem of the primary stem. This results in the Gt‑stem iptarrVs, the (very rare) Nt‑stem ittaprVs, the Št1‑stem uštapras, and the Dt‑stem uptarras (see below for the Št2‑stem uštaparras). Finally, to each primary stem corresponds a tertiary stem (or “tan‑stem”), which (at least in the imperfective) adds -n- to the sequence -ta- in the secondary stems, or alternatively, inserts -tan- after the first consonant of the inflectional stem of the primary stem: the Gtn‑stem iptanarrVs, the Ntn‑stem ittanaprVs, the Štn‑stem uštanapras, and the Dtn‑stem uptanarras. We can represent the primary, secondary, and tertiary stems in a diagram, as in Table 10.1, illustrated by means of the imperfective of the usual sample verb parāsu: primary G





1,316 Gt


167 Gtn




395 Nt


6 Ntn





369 Št1/2


36+94 Štn





935 Dt


237 Dtn



Table 10.1:  Diagram of the Akkadian derived verbal stems.

The numbers are meant to give an impression of the frequency of each verbal stem. They are based on a count of the verbal stems listed in AHw and should not be taken too literally because 2.  I will use the term “(derived) verbal stems” as the most simple and self-evident designation. Other terms current in the literature are verbal themes, modifications, conjugations (Joüon and Muraoka 1991: 124), forms (Wright 1967), (derived) measures (Versteegh 1997), patterns (Holes 1995), degrees (Hetzron 1973/74: 36 n. 1), classes (Kuryłowicz 1972: 48–49 and Izre'el 2005: 536), stirpes (Diakonoff 1988: 104), Stammformen (von Soden, GAG §86a), and the Hebrew term binyanim; see in general Goshen-Gottstein 1969: 70–71 n. 1.

10.3.  Formal Aspects


of the numerous uncertainties inherent in interpreting cuneiform texts, the ambiguity of many forms, the subjective decisions involved in counting verbal forms in general, and the numerous new instances from texts published since the appearance of AHw.3 The members of the diagram are arranged so as to show the regular structure they have relative to each other. The primary derived stems have an explicit morpheme distinguishing them from the unmarked G‑stem; the secondary stems share the infixes ‑t‑ and ‑tan‑, respectively, as their distinctive element and are in addition characterized by the morpheme of the corresponding primary stem (zero in case of the G‑stem), so that most of them are doubly marked. There is a clear increase in complexity from left to right caused by the number or the length of the morphemes added to the stem. There is also an increase in complexity from top to bottom, but only between the G‑stem on the one hand, and the other three primary stems, on the other. The latter are marked vis-à-vis the G‑stem but not marked in relation to each other. In addition, the two upper rows of G‑ and N‑stem with their derivatives, taken together, contrast with the two lower rows of D‑ and Š‑stem and their derivatives on four points:4 • they share the same prefix vowels (i/a versus u in D and Š) • they copy the imperfective vowel (see §4.2, pp. 88–89) of the G‑stem, whereas D and Š have their own fixed vowel pattern • they have different prefix and suffix bases (see §2.2.1, pp. 31–32): ‑PRvS, PaRvS(‑) for G, ‑n‑PaRvS, na-PRvS(‑) for N, whereas D and Š have a single base for their entire paradigm (Pa/uRRvS and Ša/uPRvS) • the t‑perfects of G and N have the same vowel as the imperfective, whereas the t‑perfects of D and Š have the same vowel as the perfective (see §6.2, pp. 138–139) Most of these differences are determined by the relationship of these stems to the G‑stem and by the way they developed historically; I will discuss them in greater detail in the sections about the individual stems. It is important to realize, however, that the diagram has a certain historical relevance as well, insofar as the primary and secondary stems have close parallels in other Semitic languages and may therefore be reconstructed to Proto-Semitic, whereas the tertiary stems are (largely) an Akkadian innovation. The formal regularity and transparency of the system of the verbal stems is immediately obvious. Already in the first full-scale grammar of Akkadian, that of Delitzsch, the verbal stems are presented as a coherent system of oppositions in the form of a diagram (Delitzsch 1889: 229), which was modelled on the one developed for Geʿez in Dillmann and Bezold 1907: 141.5 Table 10.1 is essentially Delitzsch’s diagram translated into modern notation, with the addition of a few stems Delitzsch had not yet identified and a different order in the vertical column. However, this kind of scheme has an important drawback: inevitably, some forms do not fit in and as a result run the risk of being marginalized in grammatical description. In addition, it requires a certain degree of schematization and subjectivity as to what criteria we adopt for including or excluding a given formal category as a derived stem. Therefore, Table 10.1 is an “ideal” scheme, since it also depends on a number of subjective choices:

3.  The numbers are adopted from GAV pp. 110–11. Verbs and derived stems found in texts published after the publication of AHw are not included. Streck (2003a: 1) gives slightly different numbers for some stems. 4.  See also Goetze 1947: 59. 5.  See Goshen-Gottstein 1969: 74–79 for the history of this form of representation.


Functional Aspects  10.4.

1. It does not include the quadriradical verbs, which have their own more reduced system, basically restricted to N‑ and Š‑stems with the corresponding secondary and tertiary stems; they will be discussed separately in chaps. 12 and 13. 2. I have excluded the ŠD‑stem, which does not fit into the scheme: it is not primary, because it cannot be extended with the ‑t‑ or ‑tan‑ infix (not counting a few doubtful forms), nor obviously secondary or tertiary. Moreover, it is arguably an artificial creation of the literary language; see further §13.3 (pp. 334–337). 3. I have also omitted some marginal devices for extending the stems included in the diagram: gemination of R3 in the paradigm of the II/gem verbs (see §16.6.1, pp. 493–494) and reduplication of R2 in a small group of Dt‑stems (see chap. 15). These forms are best regarded as variants of the corresponding regular forms. 4. However, I have included the Št2‑stem as a variant of the Št1‑stem because of its frequency and its similarity in form, although it does not belong in the diagram if we consider its function, as I will argue in § (pp. 404–411). The number of verbal stems, including the G-stem, can conveniently be taken to be fourteen, the thirteen members of the scheme (separating Št1 and Št2) plus the ŠD‑stem. These fourteen stems can be regarded as the “canonical” stems.6 They comprise the vast majority of Akkadian verb forms. A second point in which the diagram may be misleading is that it suggests that all stems are neatly distinguished from each other in their entire paradigm. This is not the case. A major source of complications is the fact that some formatives are used both to mark a verbal stem and a tense. First, the t‑infix functions as the marker of both the t‑perfect and the secondary stems, so that the t‑perfect of the primary stems is identical with the perfective of the corresponding secondary stem: iptaras is both t‑perfect of the G‑stem and perfective of the Gt‑stem, uptarris both t‑perfect of the D‑stem and perfective of the Dt‑stem, etc. Which of the two options applies in a given case can only be determined on the basis of the context. Second, gemination of R2 serves as the imperfective marker in the G‑stem and most derived stems but also as the marker of the Gtn‑stem and the D‑stem. Another source of ambiguity is the fact that except for the Gtn‑stem the tertiary stems are identical in form to the secondary stems in all forms outside the imperfective, so that the same form serves as a passive and as a pluractional active of a primary stem. For instance, the form uptarris, which I just mentioned, can also be the perfective of the Dtn‑stem.

10.4.  Functional Aspects Most derived verbs express a predictable semantic or syntactic modification of the simple verb. Therefore, the diagram also has a functional side: the formal oppositions shown in the diagram reflect the functional oppositions among the derived stems, at least in principle. If we include in the scheme presented above the hierarchy which determines these functional relationships by means of arrows, its systematic nature becomes even more apparent; see Table 10.2 This diagram is identical to the formal diagram (Table 10.1), apart from the fact that the primary stems are in the middle, between the secondary and tertiary stems.7 This reflects their functional relationship: both the secondary and the tertiary stems are derivations of the primary stems, but 6.  They are comparable to the Stems I–X in Arabic, which are usually contrasted with the “rare” Stems XI to XV; see, e.g., Fleisch 1979: 274 “les formes dérivées usuelles” versus ibid. 330 “les formes verbales dérivées dites ‘rares.’” 7.  The Št2‑stem has not been included, because it does not have a regular functional relationship to another stem; see § (pp. 404–411).

10.4.  Functional Aspects


secondary Gt


Dt Št1














Table 10.2: The functional relations among the derived verbal stems.

synchronically they are not directly related to each other: the tertiary stems do not function as pluractionals to the secondary stems, in spite of the fact that they share the infix -t-.8 This curious fact can be explained from the way the tertiary stems developed historically: although they originated as derivations from the secondary stems, they came to be associated with the primary stems, a process which will be described in detail in §14.7.6 (pp. 431–437). As a result, Table 10.2 reflects the actual relationships between the verbal stems, whereas Table 10.1 shows the original state of affairs from a historical point of view. The increase in formal complexity noted in the previous section is paralleled by an increase in functional complexity. For instance, the Š‑stem is normally causative to the G‑stem, and the Štn‑stem is pluractional to the Š‑stem, so that the Štn‑stem is both causative and pluractional. This gives the system an extraordinary degree of transparency and isomorphism—and hence of stability: already in the oldest texts, it exists in its complete form (as far as we can tell), and it remains largely unchanged in the course of Akkadian history, apart from the fact that from Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian onward some stems started to drop out of use, especially the t‑stems (see §14.3.4, p. 371; and §14.5.3, p. 388). However, whereas the formal regularity applies to almost all verbs, the functional regularity only applies to a part of them. Each derived stem includes verbs with an irregular, unpredictable meaning. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to them as irregular derived verbs, but this only refers to their meaning, not to their form (unless indicated otherwise). Regular derived verbs have a predictable meaning that can be analysed into the lexical meaning of the basic verb and the grammatical function of the stem in question. For instance, šakānu ‘to place’ has a regular causative Š‑stem šuškunu whose meaning can be described as ‘to place + CAUS’ and a passive N‑stem naškunu that means ‘to place + PASS’. Of these “features,” the notion of placing resides in the radicals škn, the notions CAUS and PASS in the prefixes š(a)- and n(a)-, respectively, in combination with the specific pattern imposed upon the radicals. As a result, regular derived verbs are embedded in a network of associations. On the one hand, because of their lexical stem they are associated with other derived stems of the same root, especially with the basic verb; on the other hand, because of their derived stem affix, they are associated with other members of the same verbal stem. This network has a double function: it makes the system productive, thus enabling a speaker to create new verbs with a specific form and meaning, and for existing derived verbs, it strengthens the formal and semantic association with the basic verb, stabilizing the form and the meaning of the derived verb and thus countering lexicalization.

8.  For possible exceptions, see chap. 14 n. 249 (p. 434).


The Relationship between the G‑Stem and the Derived Stems  10.5.

Irregular derived verbs, on the other hand, have a fundamentally different status: since they are not analysable and not part of a productive process, they are in principle independent verbs9 in which the verbal stem is simply a formal vehicle for expressing a certain lexical concept. Almost all derived stems include irregular verbs. Overall they form a fairly small minority, but the proportion of regular to irregular verbs varies considerably. Generally speaking, irregular verbs are relatively numerous in the primary derived stems, relatively rare in the secondary stems, and very rare in the tertiary stems (with the possible exception of the Ntn‑stem). I will discuss this further in the context of the individual stems. The existence of irregular derived stems is an inherent feature of the system, caused on the one hand by the universal process of semantic change, and on the other hand by the specific way each derived stem has developed. The two main causes of irregularity are lexical­ization (see §2.2.3, pp. 35–36) and denominalization. The former changes the meaning of an individual derived verb and thus tends to separate it from the basic verb. Derived verbs with a high frequency are especially prone to this. Šūbulu, for instance, the Š‑stem of wabālu ‘to bring, carry’, originally means ‘to cause to bring/carry’ but in practice it is used as an independent verb ‘to send’. Denominali­ zation creates verbs that may formally belong to a derived stem but get their meaning from the source noun rather than from another verb. It is responsible for the notoriously irregular function of the Št2‑stem and is also an important function of the D‑stem (see §, pp. 404–411; and §11.4, pp. 277–278, respectively). Finally, and most importantly, what neither of the two diagrams shows is that, under the surface of this regularity, massive changes can be going on that undermine the structure of the system without visibly affecting it. Lexicalization disrupts the semantic associations between different verbal stems of the same verb; grammaticalization causes whole categories to shift from one slot to another and thus to disrupt the isomorphic structure of the verbal paradigm. This happened, for instance, with the shift of iptarVs from a Gt perfective to a t‑perfect of the basic stem and the rise of gemination in the paradigm of the G‑stem. As I will argue in chap. 14, this kind of shift is a major cause of the decline of the secondary stems during the course of Akkadian history.

10.5. The Relationship between the G‑Stem and the Derived Stems The relationship between the G‑stem and the derived stems is determined by the unmarked nature of the G‑stem (see §3.2, pp. 53–54; and Edzard 1965). The G‑stem is the pivot of the entire system from which all other stems are derived, either directly or indirectly via the corresponding primary stem. Within the primary stems, there is an opposition between the G‑stem on the one hand, and the N‑, D‑, and Š‑stems, on the other, but the latter are not directly in opposition.10 The derived stems, then, constitute a multi-level system in which a derived stem may itself be the basic form of another derived stem. In principle, this process is unidirectional.11

9.  For the status of regular derived verbs, see §10.5 below. 10.  In other words, the N‑stem is not normally used as a passive to the D‑stem, nor is the Š used as a causative to the D‑stem, etc. However, in verb classes that do not have a G-stem (the quadriradical verbs and some N tantum verbs), N and Š are directly in opposition to each other; see § (p. 333). 11.  Under certain conditions, however, the functional relationship may be reversed: there are some G‑stems that may secondarily serve as intransitives to frequent transitive D-stems: for instance, qerēbu ‘to be/come near’ may be used as passive/intransitive to qurrubu ‘to offer’, lit., ‘to bring near’ (CAD Q 234 s.v. 4), and paḫāru ‘to come together’ occurs also as passive/intransitive of puḫḫuru ‘to bring together’ in Old Assyrian (CAD P 27 s.v. 1e). The frequency of these D‑stems makes them independent of the G‑stem and a likely basis for derivation themselves, even to the degree of pressing the G‑stem into service.

10.5.  The Relationship between the G‑Stem and the Derived Stems


An alternative way of organizing the verbal stems is to regard all stems as derived from the verbal root and thus of equal status. This, however, ignores the functional relationships between them and, therefore, the hierarchy on which they are based. Only by deriving the secondary stems from the primary stems can we explain that for detransitivization it is not an arbitrary derived stem that is chosen but the one corresponding to the primary stem: an N‑stem in the case of a G‑stem, a Dt‑stem in the case of a D‑stem, etc. Thus, the passivization rule presupposes a specific active stem, not just a root.12 In this respect, the four primary stems constitute four parallel subsystems, each with its own detransitive and pluractional category. As the term indicates, the derived verbal stems have derivational rather than inflectional status. They show many features that are typical of derivation. First, they do not meet the criterion of obligatoriness (Booij 1998: 14–15), because a verb may or may not have a specific derived stem; instead, they show the restrictions in productivity and idiosyncrasies in meaning that are typical of derivation. Second, the functions they express are cross-linguistically typically expressed by derivational categories: valency changes, especially detransitive and causative (Bybee 1985: 30–31, 98–99), and verbal plurality (1985: 100–101, 150–51). Third, their formal exponents, changes in the stem, are a typical feature of derivation, whereas inflectional categories tend to be expressed by more peripheral markers (Booij 1998: 20–21).13 The Semitic verb, with its person marking by means of prefixes and suffixes, is a prototypical representative of this tendency.14 From a grammatical point of view, then, derived verbs are separate lexemes with their own paradigm. However, their actual degree of independence vis-à-vis the basic verb may vary considerably according to their semantic nature and their frequency. Irregular derived verbs are by definition independent, since their meaning is unpredictable. Regular derived verbs, however, are dependent on the basic verb to the extent that they can be analyzed into a lexical and a grammatical part, as described in §10.4 (p. 249), and are thus semantically complex (Bybee and Brewer 1980: 202–3). The lexical part guarantees a close semantic association with the basic verb. For instance, the passive/intransitive N‑stem naškunu ‘to be placed’ and the causative Š‑stem šuškunu ‘to cause to place’ quoted in §10.4 have their own paradigm, but semantically they are strongly dependent upon šakānu ‘to place’, and it seems counter-intuitive to regard them as independent verbs. This applies even more strongly to the pluractional Gtn‑stem šitakkunu ‘to place continuously’. On the other hand, a derived verb has a more independent position as it has a higher frequency. Frequency contributes to independence, since it increases the “lexical strength” of a word according to Bybee’s (1985: 117–18; 2001: 113–16) terminology, i.e., the degree to which it is stored as 12.  The G‑stem is also described as the basis of the derived stems by D. Cohen 1984: 60–61; Wright 1967: I 29; Fleisch 1979: 272–73 n. 2. A prominent dissenting voice comes from Waltke and O’Connor 1990: 351–61; see also Hoftijzer 1992: 118–19 n. 7 for a discussion, mainly concerning Hebrew. 13.  However, the most important criterion for the distinction between inflection and derivation does not apply here, namely, that derivation forms independent lexemes and inflection does not (Booij 1998: 11). This is precisely what is at stake here. 14.  Aronoff (1994: 123–46) argues that the verbal stems are inflectional classes, mainly because they are obligatory in the sense that every verb must belong to a verbal stem, just as any verb in Latin belongs to a conjugation and any noun to a declension. However, the difference is that verbs and nouns in Latin typically belong to a single class and only exceptionally to more than one, with a corresponding difference in meaning (such as iacĕre ‘to throw’ versus iactāre ‘to throw repeatedly or energetically’, and iacēre ‘to lie’ (i.e., ‘to be thrown down’), whereas in Semitic a verb typically occurs in more than one verbal stem and the semantic relationships are largely predictable and productive. Thus the verbal stems have a clear grammatical function. The problem of the obligatory character of the system can be solved by assigning an essentially different place to the basic stem, as the default stem, outside the system of derived stems.


Oppositions between Stems  10.6.

a separate unit in the mental lexicon of the speaker. Therefore, derived verbs which are relatively frequent are also relatively independent of their basic verb. This applies to causative Š‑stems such as šūbulu ‘to cause to bring’ > ‘to send’ and šūṣû ‘to cause to go /come out’ > ‘to take/bring out’, as well as factitive D‑stems such as kunnu ‘to establish, confirm’ and qurrubu ‘to offer’. Ultimately, an increase in frequency may lead to lexicalization, as we saw in §2.2.3 (pp. 35–36), and to complete independence from the basic verb. Altogether, this demonstrates that for regular derived stems an absolute classification as derivational may be grammatically correct but that their actual status is rather more complex and variable. There is a continuum from independent to dependent. It is ultimately based on the way these forms are stored in the mental lexicon of the speaker and produced in an actual speech situation: the more independent forms are stored as whole units just as basic forms are, whereas the forms with a high degree of dependency are derived on the spot by means of a productive morphological rule, whenever the speaker needs them (Bybee 1985: 134).

10.6. Oppositions between Stems The function of a derived stem is determined by two factors: its historical background and its opposition to other stems. The first factor will be discussed in later chapters. This section contains a general survey of the oppositions between the individual stems. In a seminal article, Edzard (1965) has attempted to specify all attested oppositions on the basis of contrasting pairs of different stems of the same verb, in principle limiting himself to Old Babylonian (1965: 111–12). The results, summarized in a diagram (1965: 115), show a bewildering complexity and suggest that almost every stem can be in opposition to every other stem. However, this is largely caused by the fact that Edzard does not differentiate according to the number of verbs to which an opposition applies, although he points out (1965: 115–16) that there are large differences in productivity. For all practical purposes, Edzard’s system should be divided into a series of subsystems to which a verb is assigned on the basis of its semantic features. The subsystem determines the derivational options of a given basic form. Insofar as our sources allow this, I will make a three-way distinction between productive derivations, regular but (presumably) unproductive derivations, and all the rest—i.e., unproductive, irregular, and incidental derivations. In addition, it is useful to distinguish literary from non-literary texts, since there are strong indications that, in the former, the system of derived stems has been exploited for stylistic variation, so that several derived stems are mainly or even exclusively found in literary texts.15 The use of the derived stems in non-literary texts is considerably simpler, and many of the more complex stems, if they are used at all, appear to be strongly lexicalized, i.e., they were available to the speakers as ready-made entities rather than productive derivations. If we restrict ourselves to the productive and regular oppositions that (also) occur in nonliterary texts, it turns out that there is only a small number of “derivational paths” that a verb can follow and that are largely determined by its meaning or, more specifically, by its syntactic and semantic (degree of) transitivity. The following derivations may be considered productive (and therefore regular by definition) for verbs whose basic stem is the G‑stem: 1. All G‑stems can have a pluractional Gtn‑stem, although it is attested only for a minority of them (see Table 10.1).

15.  See especially §13.3 (pp. 334–337) on the ŠD‑stem, § (pp. 329–331) on the literary use of the Š‑stem, §14.3.4 (pp. 372–374) on that of the Gt‑stem, and §14.7.5 (p. 430) on that of the Ntn‑stem.

10.6.  Oppositions between Stems


2. Transitive G‑stems can have a passive N‑stem and a causative Š‑stem.16 The following figures may give a rough impression of the frequency of the combination G–N–Š: AHw contains about 700 transitive G‑stems, of which 126 have both an N‑stem and a Š‑stem attested; most of them are very common verbs. In addition, there are 162 transitive G‑stems with only an N‑stem (mostly medium frequency verbs) and 66 with only a Š‑stem (mostly rather infrequent verbs). The relatively low frequency of causative Š‑stems is due to the fact that the causative of transitive verbs is a highly marked category and generally far less frequent than the passive. The distribution of N‑stems and Š‑stems shown by the figures is in keeping with this fact: the absence of a Š‑stem in medium-frequency verbs and of an N‑stem in low-frequency verbs can safely be ascribed to non-attestation rather than to non-existence. The numbers also show that about 350 transitive G‑stems have neither an N‑stem nor a Š‑stem; most of them are very rare verbs. Many transitive G‑stems also have a D‑stem, for which see below under #7. 3. Intransitive G‑stems17 have either a D‑stem or a Š‑stem as their transitive counterpart, usually a D‑stem in process verbs and a Š‑stem in action verbs, but this is a mere tendency; see further §10.8.2 (pp. 256–257) below and the references given there. For verbs in the remaining primary stems—the N‑stem, the D‑stem, and the Š‑stem, whether they are themselves derived from a G‑stem or not—the following derivations may be regarded as productive: 4. They can all have a corresponding pluractional stem (N § Ntn, D § Dtn, and Š § Štn). 5. Transitive D‑stems and Š‑stems can have a detransitive secondary stem (D § Dt and Š § Št1). 6. N tantum verbs (most of which are quadriradical) can have a causative Š‑stem. Verbs in the secondary and tertiary stems do not have any further productive derivation. It is not easy to determine to what extent a derivation is actually productive in Akkadian. However, a few derived stems, even some that are quite common, give the impression of constituting a closed class, resulting from a derivational process that was productive in an earlier period. The following cases may belong here: 7. Transitive G‑stems frequently have a D‑stem,18 which in comparison to G § N and G § Š shows a high degree of idiosyncrasy. It often involves plurality, or is lexicalized, or appears to be interchangeable with the G‑stem (see §11.3.4, pp. 274–277, for details). The problem is aggravated by the fact that many D‑stems of transitive verbs mainly occur in Standard Babylonian, with its often highly stereotyped language. These features make it questionable whether the D‑stem belongs to the productive derivations of a transitive G‑stem, in spite of its frequency. Note also that several very frequent transitive G‑stems that are not typical high-transitivity verbs do not have a D‑stem (see §11.5, pp. 278–279). 8. Transitive G‑stems with a suitable meaning may have a reciprocal Gt‑stem; this is probably productive in Old Babylonian, fossilized in Old Assyrian, and artificially kept alive in Standard Babylonian (see §14.3, pp. 360–375). 16.  With the qualifications that transitive II/voc verbs starting with a sibilant cannot have a Š‑stem (see GAV pp. 248–49) and that transitive low-transitivity verbs cannot be passivized; if they have an N‑stem at all, it is usually ingressive; see § sub 4 (p. 296). 17.  Including transitive verbs with a low degree of transitivity, such as lamādu ‘to learn’, etc.; see §3.4 (p. 66). 18.  Roughly 420 of the approximately 700 transitive verbs listed in AHw have a D‑stem.


Diachronic Aspects of the Derived Verbal Stems  10.7.

9. Reciprocal Gt‑stems in Old and Standard Babylonian may have a causative Št2‑stem (see §, pp. 405–406); it is sporadic but may be or may have been productive. 10. Dt‑stems in Old and Standard Babylonian may have reduplication as an additional marker to underline plurality or repetition (a Dtr‑stem; see chap. 15). Again, it occurs sporadically, but in certain dialects it may be or may have been productive. If we include literary texts, the picture becomes much more complex. The Babylonian scribes exploited derivations that were marginal and/or residual to create additional possibilities for stylistic variation. Edzard (1965) includes them in his more-or-less complete enumeration, and they will all be discussed in the following chapters under the respective verbal stem; here I will restrict the discussion to the most salient instances: 11. Intransitive G‑stem § factitive Š‑stem (in process verbs instead of D; see §, pp. 328–331). 12. Intransitive G‑stem § ingressive N‑stem (see §, pp. 297–298). 13. Transitive and intransitive G‑stem § Gt‑stem without reciprocal meaning (see §14.3.4, pp. 372–373). 14. D‑stem § ŠD‑stem (see §13.3, pp. 334–337). 15. Gt‑stem § Dt‑stem to underline plurality (see §14.5.1, p. 385). Edzard lists various other oppositions that are not mentioned here because they seem to be indirect, resulting from accidentally non-attested direct oppositions or from incidental analogical creations. They include Dt § Št2 (Edzard 1965: 117; see §, p. 410, for lemēnu Št2), Gtn § Dtn, Gtn § Štn, Gtn § Ntn and N § Dt (or vice versa) (1965: 113). Indirect in a chronological sense is N § Št2 in a few reciprocal N-stems, such as amāru N ‘to meet’ and emēdu N ‘to join one another’ (1965: 117), which themselves replace a reciprocal Gt‑stem (see §, pp. 405, 410). Derived stems that do not play a role in these productive processes are the marginal Nt‑stem (see §14.5.4, pp. 391–392), the stems with a double t‑infix, which are a Neo-Assyrian innovation (see §14.5.3, pp. 388–390), and—with a single exception—the Št2-stem, which is basically denominal and thus not derived from another verbal stem (see §, pp. 404–411).

10.7.  Diachronic Aspects of the Derived Verbal Stems The diachronic development of the derived verbal stems involves their origin and growth in prehistoric times, on the one hand, and their further development in the course of Akkadian history, on the other. Both issues belong to the chapters about the individual stems. Here, I will only discuss some general points. Most formatives of the derived stems have clear cognates in other Semitic languages and even in Afroasiatic, implying that the Akkadian system of derived verbal stems must have a very long prehistory. I will not speculate about the form it had in Afroasiatic, but for Proto-Semitic we are on firm ground: the combined evidence of the older Semitic languages and some additional data from Afroasiatic allow us to reconstruct the Proto-Semitic system with a reasonable degree of certainty (see chap. 18). It differs from the Akkadian system in some important respects, the most salient of which is the existence of a derived verbal stem with pluractional function characterized by gemination in the basic stem (the GPL‑stem *yiqattalu) and the stem vowel a elsewhere (D‑stem *yuqattalu, etc.), as I argued in chap. 4. As far as we can tell, the Akkadian system is already fully developed in the earliest texts in much the same form as in later and better-documented periods. Since it is virtually the same in all

10.7.  Diachronic Aspects of the Derived Verbal Stems


older dialects, it can be reconstructed for Proto-Akkadian. The few data we have on the derived stems in Eblaite suggests that the Eblaite system was not very different from the Akkadian (see Edzard 2006: 79–82), with one exception: the action nouns or infinitives with a double t-infix and a different vowel pattern, which will be discussed in §14.5.6 (pp. 395–397). Thus, the Akkadian system dates back to Proto-East Semitic, although Proto-East Semitic itself may have had additional derived stems that were lost in Proto-Akkadian. Once it was established, the system proved to be extremely stable throughout the history of Akkadian, which is doubtless related to its regular and isomorphic structure. The main type of change affecting the system is the gradual decrease in productivity of individual stems, which is particularly evident in the secondary stems with infixed t: they gradually disappear from all but literary texts after the Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian periods. This decline corresponds to a concomitant increase in the use of the t‑perfect, which from Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian onward is the regular past tense in affirmative main clauses. There can be little doubt that there is a causal relationship between the two processes. The tertiary stems also decline but apparently at a somewhat later date, mainly in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian, and this decline does not affect their whole paradigm: the imperfective of the tan‑stems, which in all dialects is vastly more frequent than the other forms, remains in use. The rise of new forms during the attested period of Akkadian is very limited and only occurs in the margins of the system. There is one instance of what one could call a “new derived stem,” namely the ŠD‑stem, which I will argue in §13.3 (pp. 334–337) is a literary artifice rather than a “natural” development instigated by ordinary speakers of the language. Another change is the creation of t‑perfect forms with a double t-infix in the secondary and tertiary stems: Gt iptatrVs, Gtn iptatarrvs, Dt(n) uptatarris, Št(n) uštatapris, etc. They became indispensable after the rise of the t‑perfect as an inflectional member of the verbal paradigm. Their actual attestation provides eloquent proof of the stability of the system of derived stems. Even though the t‑perfect was a fully productive and frequent category in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian, the use of forms with a double t‑infix was staunchly avoided: in Old Babylonian they are very rare, and in Old Assyrian they seem to be absent altogether. Old Babylonian partly suppletes the missing form by using the t‑perfect of the N‑stem (see §, p. 295); Old Assyrian seems to solve the problem by simply using the perfective instead. Only in Middle Babylonian did forms with a double t‑infix become less exceptional, but they still were fairly rare, because by that time the secondary and tertiary stems themselves had started to decline.19 Directly related to this process is the emergence of another new form: in Neo-Assyrian (and rarely in Neo-Babylonian), the inherited Dt and Št1 forms (Impfv uptarras and uštapras) are replaced by forms with a double t‑infix (uptatarras and uštatapras), the first of which has made it into most grammars of Akkadian as the Dtt‑stem. These forms are a reaction to the increasing predominance of the tense function of t, which made it unsuitable as a valency marker. Since it is hard to dispense with a passive for the predominantly transitive D‑ and Š‑stems, Neo-­ Assyrian created a new passive by extending the existing double t of the t‑perfects uptatarris and uštatapris to the imperfective and the perfective (see further §14.5.3, pp. 388–390). In the weak verbs, more changes take place over time, mostly after the Proto-Akkadian stage but still in the preliterary period. This is clear from differences between Babylonian and Assyrian that are already established in the oldest texts, such as the t‑perfect of the II/voc verbs (Bab imtūt versus Ass imtuat), the N perfective of the II/voc verbs (Ass iššiʾim versus Bab iššām), 19.  All these developments will be discussed in detail in chap. 14 on the history of the t-infix. Therefore, the presentation given here is schematic and without examples or references.


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

the Š imperfective of the II/voc verbs (Bab ušbāt versus Ass ušbīat), and the N perfective of the I/voc verbs (Ass innāmer versus Bab innămer). All these forms will be discussed in the relevant chapters. Generally speaking, the behaviour of the weak verbs confirms the stability of the system of derived stems. In particular, the rise of new weak verbs as a result of the loss of the guttural consonants is illustrative: the affected verbs tend to join existing schemes of weak verbs rather than creating a new conjugation that would not be derivable from the strong paradigm. In Babylonian, for instance, the original II/H verbs adopt the patterns of the II/voc verbs. In these processes, morphophonemic (analogical) change is much more prominent than phonological change. In sum, the general picture is that Akkadian has experienced a stage of drastic changes in its derived verbal stems in the preliterary period after the Proto-Semitic stage; and this gave rise to a well-balanced system that subsequently existed virtually unchanged for several millennia, except for a gradual decline in the productivity of some individual stems. The heydays of the system in terms of the number and productivity of stems lie in the early period—in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian, and perhaps even more in the literary dialect of Standard Babylonian, which preserves and even extends the Old Babylonian system. The later non-literary dialects show a rather drastic decrease in the use of all but the primary stems: Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian seem to preserve mainly a simplified system consisting of a passive N‑stem, a causative Š‑stem, and a largely lexicalized D‑stem (usually factitive).

10.8. The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems It is convenient to give an overview of the grammatical functions expressed by the derived verbal stems, especially since the chapters on the individual stems are lengthy enough in themselves. In Akkadian, these functions concern verbal plurality, causativity, and voice.

10.8.1.  Verbal plurality Verbal plurality or event plurality refers to a quantification of the event or the process expressed by the verb, i.e., whether it refers to a single, a repeated, a protracted, or a more intensive occurrence. According to Dressler’s (1968) seminal account of verbal plurality, we can distinguish four basic realizations (1968: 56–84): iterative (which includes frequentative, repetitive, habitual, etc.), continuous or durative, distributive, and intensive. A definition of these notions and illustrations from Akkadian can be found in §14.7.1 (pp. 415–417), which deals with the functions of the tan‑stems. For the sake of convenience, I will subsume all these nuances under the noun phrase verbal plurality and under the adjective pluractional (following Newman 1990: 53–54), when there is no need for a more specific term. The main verbal stems for indicating verbal plurality in Akkadian are the tan‑stems, to be discussed in chap. 14, but it is also an important function of the D‑stem of transitive verbs. The typical marker of verbal plurality is gemination of R2. Gemination of R3 and reduplication are also used, but they are marginal (see §16.6.1, pp. 493–494; and §15.2, pp. 439–444, respectively.

10.8.2.  Causative and factitive An important function of derived verbal stems is causativization, i.e., to indicate an increase in valency. Akkadian has two verbal stems for this purpose, the Š‑stem and the D‑stem, but since they are different in character, I will call them causative and factitive, respectively (see also GAV pp. 237–44). This distinction is based on the semantic distinction between agent-oriented verbs

10.8  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems


(shortly, action verbs) and process-oriented verbs (shortly, process verbs) (Payne 1997: 54–62; Haspelmath 1993: 90–96). Action verbs refer to events that require the intervention of an agent for their realization, so they normally have an agentive subject. Process verbs denote events that can (also) occur spontaneously, without intervention by an agent, and are characterized by the absence of “agent-oriented meaning components” (Haspelmath 1993: 93). Examples of English process verbs are break and redden (in their intransitive reading), in contrast to, for instance, cut and paint. Process verbs focus on the result of the process rather than on its modalities. Therefore, one can say that something broke or reddened but not that it cut or painted. The verbs cut and paint specify to some extent how the action was performed and are therefore agent-oriented. Process verbs are often related to adjectives and indicate the inception of the quality or the condition expressed by the adjective (‘to become what the adjective indicates’). Action verbs and process verbs behave quite differently when an external agent is added, i.e., when they are causativized. For action verbs, the addition of an extra agent on top of the one that is inherently present results in a prototypical causative event in which not only the original event and the external agent are clearly distinguishable but often also the original agent, the “causee,” who may keep a certain control over the action (Comrie 1981a: 166–67)). This is a highly marked situation for which an explicit marker is indispensable. Akkadian uses the Š‑stem for this purpose. The Š‑stem is a fully-fledged causative that can causativize both intransitive and transitive action verbs. Process verbs, on the other hand, do not have an inherent agent, and the addition of an agent to instigate the process in question usually results in a two-participant clause that is not significantly different from that of an ordinary transitive clause. Moreover, it is not a causative clause as defined above. The typical function of the D‑stem of intransitive verbs is to underline the presence of such an agent in process verbs that are intransitive in the G‑stem. I will call this function factitive. A factitive D‑stem, then, does not indicate the presence of an additional agent but a change in the subject from non-agentive to agentive. We can define its function as indicating “derived agentivity.” In terms of a valency change, it denotes a qualitative valency increase in contrast to the quantitative valency increase of the causative. The fact that the factitive D‑stem is usually also transitive is of secondary importance, as I will demonstrate further in §11.3.1 (pp. 272–274). The actual use of the D‑stem in Akkadian shows that it cannot be causative, i.e., it cannot add an extra agent to a clause which already has one. Therefore, D‑stems of action verbs have the same valency as the G‑stem and are never causative (see further §11.3.4, pp. 274–277).

10.8.3.  Voice In contrast to causativization, the term voice as it is usually defined refers to a reduction in valency. It concerns the different ways in which the argument structure of a clause can be changed by rearranging the arguments or reducing their number. There are three basic voice types: active, middle, and passive. In languages with a nominative/accusative system, the active is the unmarked voice: it selects the constituent performing the action as subject. The passive selects the patient as subject and demotes the subject of the corresponding active clause to oblique status or leaves it unexpressed altogether. In the middle voice, the subject is also an agent (or at least the initiator of an event) but is at the same time affected by the event (Croft et al. 1987: 184; Shibatani, ed. 1988: 3–4). Passive and middle differ in some important respects. First, passivization basically represents a rearrangement of arguments, rather than a reduction, and therefore entails a change in focus but not a significant change in meaning vis-à-vis the corresponding active clause. However, it amounts to a valency reduction as well, if the original subject is not overtly expressed. In fact,


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

the most common pragmatic reason for using the passive is either to avoid mentioning the agent or to describe the event from the perspective of the object (Givón 1990: 566–67). The middle voice, on the other hand, involves a salient change in the meaning of the clause by ascribing to the subject the status of affected entity, which is absent from a normal active clause. Second, the passive affects the status of the subject of the active clause, i.e., the first argument, whereas many types of middle voice affect the object, i.e., the second argument. Therefore, passive and middle can be distinguished as “first argument reduction” versus “second argument reduction” (Dik 1997: II 12–14). The latter especially concerns reflexive and reciprocal clauses. The distinction between first‑ and second-argument reduction is useful for the description of voice in Akkadian. Akkadian has two derivational categories for valency reduction, the secondary stems with infixed t (Gt, Dt, and Št1) and the N‑stem. G‑stem verbs realize first-argument reduction (passive and mediopassive) by means of the N‑stem and second-argument reduction (reflexive, reciprocal, and middle) by means of the Gt‑stem or the N‑stem. The primary derived stems only have one verbal means of valency reduction, namely, the secondary stems, which accordingly are used for all detransitive categories. In addition, the stative, strictly speaking a resultative, syntactically behaves like a kind of (medio)passive if it denotes the resulting state of the direct object of the active clause (see §7.3.2, pp. 169–170). The way Akkadian expresses valency reduction is very common in the languages of the world: according to Haspelmath (1990: 28–29), the most widespread passive morpheme is a marker affixed to the verb. Passive affixes tend to have other functions as well, such as reflexive, reciprocal, mediopassive, and occasionally also fientivization (1990: 32–37). Generally speaking, valency reduction markers are typically polysemous; they denote derived intransitivity or “detransitivity” in general but which type of detransitivity is purely determined by the meaning of the verb and the context.20 Rather than looking for a single overarching value to comprise all types of voice reduction, we should attempt to establish a diachronic process that shows how one function can develop into another, allowing for the possibility that early stages show little or no similarity to later ones.21 Because there is little terminological consistency in the literature, it may be useful to give definitions of some basic types that are relevant to Akkadian and describe their main features in this language. I will distinguish the following detransitive categories: passive, mediopassive, reflexive, reciprocal, and middle.

20.  See Keenan 1985: 253–56; Haspelmath 1990: 32–37. 21.  The polysemy of voice markers occasionally leads to problems of classification. A vexing case in Akkadian is the common verb labāšu ‘to put on, wear’. Its Gt‑ and N‑stems are usually classified as reflexive (which is at least partly inspired by their modern translation equivalents; see n. 29 below, p. 261), but this violates the main condition for reflexivity, namely, that the basic stem should mean ‘to dress (sb. else)’ (see §, p. 261). This can only be expressed by the D‑stem lubbušu, however; labāšu G can only have clothing as its object. The N‑stem of labāšu can aptly be characterized as ingressive: ṣubāta labiš ‘he wears a garment’ § ṣubāta illabiš ‘he put on a garment’ (see § sub 4, p. 296), but this does not work for the Gt‑stem: there are no transitive Gt‑stems with ingressive function (the “ingressive” Gt‑stems of motion verbs such as alāku Gt ‘to start going’ are something quite different; see §14.3.4, pp. 371–372) nor with passive function. The easiest solution may be to assume that labāšu G did mean ‘to dress (sb. else)’ in some prehistoric stage of Akkadian but lost this meaning to the factitive D-stem (i.e., that labāšu once was a “factitive G-stem”; see §11.6.2, p. 286., and GAV pp. 438–41). Accordingly, I will treat labāšu Gt as a reflexive Gt‑stem in the rest of this study, with all due reservations.

10.8  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems

259  Passive In the passive, the direct object of a transitive clause is promoted to subject and the original subject is either suppressed or demoted to oblique status but is implicitly present. In Akkadian, the original subject is almost always left unexpressed.22 There are, however, a few Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian instances of passive statives with an explicit agent, introduced by itti or ina (see (01)–(04)), and at least one Standard Babylonian case of itti with a passive N‑stem (see (05)):23 (01) KTS 1, 24:6–8 (OA) ina utukkē u ina eṭammē ša-am-du-a-ni ‘we are plagued (? or the like) by demons and spirits of the dead’ (also RA 59, 166:13–15) (02) YOS 10, 17:1 (OB) niqi awīlim itti ilim ma‑ḫi‑ir ‘the man’s sacrifice has been accepted by the god’ (cf. TuL p. 41 VAT 9518:2 (OB) niqi awīlim ilum im‑ḫu‑ur ‘the god has accepted the man’s sacrifice’ with the corresponding active construction) (03) AbB 6, 73:4 (OB) itti šarrim ú-šu-ra-nu ‘we have been discharged by the king’ (OB, R. Frankena: ‘beim König’, which makes no sense) (04) RIME 4, 616:7–9 (OB) ‘(he dedicated two silver bags) ša ina dumu.meš ummênūtim šu-uk‑lu‑[la] ‘which had been perfectly fashioned by the artisans’ (also ibid. 618: 15′–17′) (05) JNES 33, 276:51 (SB) lu-na-ṭir (var. lu-un-né-ṭir) ittīka ‘let me be saved by you’24 It is more common to qualify passive forms by means of an adjunct accusative with instrumental function, e.g.: (06) RA 80, 117:39 (OA) (the textiles (. . .) which arrived later) sāsam lá-áp-tù ‘were moth-eaten’ (07) BAM 4, 393: r.5 (OB) šumma awīlum kalbam na‑ši‑ik ‘if a man has been bitten by a dog’ (= (33) in chap. 7, p. 171) 22.  Faber (1980: 89–104) gives a survey of agent marking in passive sentences in the older Semitic languages except for Akkadian. Her conclusion that “Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic had at the very least vestiges of a passive agent construction” (1980: 105) and that “[t]his construction was a retention from Pre-Semitic stages of Afroasiatic” (p. 111) is vigourously contested by Liebermann (1986: 597–98 n. 103). 23.  Other passive statives with an agent are AfO 18, 65:32; 66: II 44–45; CT 44, 37:3; YOS 10, 46: II 44, III 41, 44 (all from Old Babylonian omens), and perhaps ARM 5, 67:12–13 (OB letter). Standard Babylonian instances are CT 20, 25:8 and SpTU 3, 93:13 according to E. Frahm, NABU 1998/10. It seems that passive statives with an agent are less unusual than passive N‑stems with an agent. 24.  Malbran-Labat (1991) also includes inanimate constituents in her collection of passives with agents. These cannot be agents, however (unless they are personified), since agents are by definition volitional. Strictly speaking, this also applies to constituents introduced by a compound preposition such as ina qāt‑ ‘by (the hand of)’, but because the compound preposition gradually replaces the simple one, its basically instrumental meaning will become more general and include that of agent, without a clear-cut boundary being discernible. Malbran-Labat (1991: 986 sub 3.3.3) mentions some other instances of passive forms with itti (unfortunately without references), which, however, should be interpreted differently: adduk ittišu (reference unknown to me) is a Gt-stem ‘to fight’ (itti ‘with’), and ittīšu ikkammalū (BBR 25:10) is an ingressive N-stem of kamālum itti ‘to be(come) angry with’.


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

In Akkadian, passivization is restricted to transitive fientive verbs with prototypical direct objects.25 Intransitive verbs have no passive (i.e., there is no impersonal passive in Akkadian), and passives of transitive verbs denoting stative-like concepts (see §3.3.1, pp. 55–57) are very unusual.26 Accusatives that have no direct object status cannot be promoted to subject (see GAG §144d). This concerns the “adjunct accusative” with verbs such as malû ‘to be(come) full (of/ with)’ and katāmu ‘to cover (with)’, etc., and the accusative with verbs of movement (gerra alāku/waṣû ‘to go on a journey or an expedition’ (OB), bīta erēbu ‘to enter the house’, bāba waṣû ‘to go out of the door’, eqla etēqu ‘to travel overland’, etc.).27 Indirect objects and similar constituents cannot be passivized either, with one exception—the verb qabû ‘to say, order’ (+ Dat), in which the indirect object may occur as subject of a passive stative in Old Assyrian and also very rarely in Old Babylonian: (08) CCT 2, 31a:21–25 (OA) (an amount of copper) ša (. . .) ina suḫuppim laqāʾam qá-bi4-a-tí-ni ‘which you have been authorized to take from the depot’ (see further CAD Q 37–38 s.v. 4e) (09) St. Reiner p. 192:50 (OB) šummamān lā qá-bi-ja8(pi)-at ana balāṭim ‘if you had not been ordained to life’ (tr. W. G. Lambert)28  Mediopassive The mediopassive is similar to the passive in that it promotes the object of an underlying transitive clause to subject, but there is no implied agent: the action occurs spontaneously. It is also known under various other terms, such as anticausative (Haspelmath 1990: 33; Payne 1997: 218). In Akkadian, it forms a single category with the passive and is expressed by the same categories. Two Old Babylonian examples, an N‑stem of šebēru ‘to break’ (trans.) and a Dt‑stem of pasāsu ‘to annul, destroy’, are: (10) ARM 5, 66:7–11 ina atallukīya (. . .) GIŠgigir šū ina qablītīšu iš-še-bi-ir ‘during my voyage (. . .) that chariot broke in the middle’ (11) RIME 4, 382:52–54 (six great forts . . .) ina labirūtīšunu in ramānīšunu up-ta-as-sí-sú ‘in their old age they had fallen into ruin on their own accord’ (tr. D. R. Frayne) The choice between a passive and a mediopassive interpretation depends on the meaning of the verb and the context, but it is possible to make the mediopassive interpretation explicit by means of ina ramāni- and similar expressions, as in (11). 25.  These categories represent the class of “basic passives” according to Keenan 1985: 247–50. 26.  This phenomenon is found in many other languages; cf. Siewierska 1984: 189–204. In Akkadian in particular, it applies to verbs of the following semantic types: knowledge verbs (but see below for lamādu), verbs of fearing (šaḫātu, palāḫu, adāru, etc.), and verbs of possession (rašû ‘to get’, kašādu ‘to obtain’, ḫašāḫu ‘to need’, ḫabālu ‘to owe’, etc.). If these verbs occur in the N‑stem, it is usually ingressive rather than passive, e.g., ḫabālu N ‘to become indebted’ (OA). Yet there is no ban on passivization of these verbs. The D tantum verb kullu ‘to hold, offer’ has a quite common Dt-stem with passive meaning ‘to be held’ (alongside other meanings), and lamādu N occurs with passive meaning in a specific context in literary texts, presumably a literary artifice, e.g., BWL 265: r.7 ṭēm ili ul il-lam-mad (SB) ‘the will of a god cannot be understood’ (tr. W. G. Lambert; cf. CAD L 58b s.v. 9). 27.  Most of these accusatives interchange with prepositional phrases; see §3.4 (p. 67). This is syntactic proof of their non-direct object status. 28.  The normal construction in Old Babylonian is to promote the infinitive to subject; see Frankena 1978: 8–9. An example is (28) quoted in §8.2.1 (p. 198). Note that in the Old Assyrian instance (08) the infinitive keeps its accusative case (laqāʾam).

10.8  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems

261  Direct reflexive Whereas passive and mediopassive involve first-argument reduction, the remaining types of detransitivity (reflexive, reciprocal and middle) involve second-argument reduction: they affect the status of the direct object rather than the subject. The first to be discussed is reflexivity. Reflexivity’s basic feature is that the subject of the sentence is coreferential with another argument, either the direct object (direct reflexivity) or another constituent (indirect reflexivity) (Lichtenberk 1994: 3505). The subject is proto­typically a human agent who acts volitionally, and the event is usually an action. It is important to distinguish between prototypical reflexive verbs and natural reflexive verbs. In the former, the subject performs on him/herself an action normally performed on some other entity (English kill, blame, hurt, curse). This is a highly marked situation, in which a reflexive marker is indispensable. In contrast, natural reflexive verbs are verbs which because of their semantics have a natural propensity to be used in reflexive situations, e.g., verbs of body care: wash, shave, dress, etc.29 Their reflexive use is—at least in specific contexts—just as common or even more common than other uses, so that a reflexive marker carries little meaning and can therefore easily be dispensed with. As a result, the marker is liable to weakening and this may give rise to the class of “middle verbs” to be discussed in § below (pp. 265–267). In Akkadian, reflexivity is mostly expressed by a nominal marker, usually ramānu (also ramanu, ramnu; see CAD R 117–25 s.v.), but in Old Babylonian also by pagru, lit., ‘body’ (CAD P 16–17 s.v. 4) and in Ur III Babylonian and Old Assyrian sometimes also by qaqqadu, lit., ‘head’.30 Here are a few examples: (12) Kaufvertragsrecht p. 121 no. 12:3′–4′ (OA) PN ra-ma-šu ipṭur ‘PN redeemed himself’ (13) KH §32:23 (OB) ra-ma-an-šu ipaṭṭar ‘he himself will redeem himself’ (14) CBSM p. 122 §56:10 var. (SB) Lamaštu iṣabbassu ra-man-šú idâk (ga z-ak) ‘Lamaštu will seize him and he will kill himself’ (see pl. 45 K.2809: IV 9) (15) ARM 10, 3: r.8′ (OB) pa-ag-ri ušallim ‘je me suis préservée’ (tr. G. Dossin) (16) FAOS 17, 127:6 (Ur III Bab) (PNF . . .) qá-qá-sà ana šám iddin ‘PNF sold herself (lit., her head) (into slavery)’

29.  It should be emphasized that a basic condition for reflexivity is that the verb in question is basically (or at least originally) a two-argument transitive verb in which the two arguments happen to refer to the same entity. This condition is often not observed in grammatical studies of Akkadian, with the result that a fairly large number of verbs are incorrectly classified as reflexive, although they should rather be defined as intransitive, ingressive or mediopassive, and thus belong to § (e.g., in GAG 3 §90f/f*; Kienast 1967: 78–79 n. 32, 2001: 247; and Streck 2003a: 38–45). A major reason for labeling such verbs reflexive seems to be the fact that they can be translated with a reflexive pronoun in languages such as German and French. This is of course not a valid reason. For the problems this criterion may cause for some verbs, see n. 21 above (p. 258). 30.  For qaqqadu in Old Assyrian, see Veenhof 1972: 265 and Kouwenberg 2005: 101. It is not always possible to be certain whether these nouns are used in their original meaning or whether they have acquired the status of a reflexive noun. For instance, there is no compelling reason to regard the nouns qaqqadu and napi/aštu in the clauses quoted by Finet 1956: 37 §18c, as reflexive: they are used in their literal meaning of ‘head’ and ‘life’.


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

For prototypical reflexive situations, only nominal markers are used; for natural reflexive situations nominal markers may also be used, as in (17), but here they compete with the verbal markers of the N‑stem and the secondary stems. (17) KUB 4, 17:11 [āši ]pu r [a-m]a-an-šú ullal ‘the exorcist purifies himself’ Generally speaking, the use of verbal reflexive markers is marginal. There are a number of reflexive Dt‑stems (see §14.5.1, p. 384), but reflexive Gt‑ and N‑stems are extremely rare (see §14.3, pp. 361–364, and §, p. 296, respectively), and reliable instances of reflexive Št‑stems do not seem to occur at all, neither in the Št1-stem (the canonical passive of the Š‑stem; see §14.5.2, p. 387), nor in the Št2‑stem (for which see §, pp. 404–411).31 For the equivalence of nominal and verbal markers, compare the different reflexive constructions of naṣāru ‘to guard’ (Gt in (18A) with pagru in (18B) and with ramānu in (18C)), and of šakānu in the expression šuma šakānu ‘to provide with a (good) name, give renown’32 (Gt in (19A), N in (19B) and with pagru in (19C) (all OB): (18A) AbB 6, 107:4 eʾid iṣ-ṣa-ar ‘be careful and watch out!’ (also RA 53, 35a:11) (18B) ARM 10, 80:21–22 pa-ga-ar-ka uṣur ‘guard yourself’, i.e., ‘be on guard’ (18C) AbB 14, 148:7 ra-ma-an-ka uṣur (idem) (19A) FM 6, 184 no. 14: r.11′ šumam damqam bēlni li-iš-ta-ka-an ‘may my lord establish a good reputation (for himself)’33 (19B) ARM 10, 107:23–25 dawdam dūkma šumam na-aš-ki-in ‘give battle and establish renown for yourself’34 (19C) AbB 1, 115: r.4′ šum ḫabālim pa-ga-ar-ki tašakkanī ‘you (Fem) will establish a reputation of wrong-doing for yourself’35 31.  The instances adduced by Streck (1994: 169–72 and 175–76) under the headings “3.1. Št2 als Reflexiv zu Š” and “4.2 Št2 als Reflexiv zu D” do not qualify as reflexives under the definition of reflexivity adopted here: their meanings cannot be regarded as regular reflexive derivations (i.e., with coreferential subject and object) of transitive Š-stems (and are not volitional); see chap. 14, n. 176 (p. 407). For Šamaš šutēbib RitDiv. 30: 8 ‘Šamaš, purify yourself!’ (Streck 1994: 176 with n. 81), see § (p. 408). 32.  See Kraus 1960: 128–30, Römer 1971: 38 n. 3, and J.-M. Durand, ARM 26/1, 275 note d about this expression. Similar cases are šakānu Gt and N in the idiom piam maṭiam naškunu/šitkunu, which perhaps means ‘to speak humbly’ or the like (N in YOS 10, 23:8, 25:5; Gt in Izbu p. 204:18–19, 21–22, all OB; cf. also YOS 10, 31: I 29 with a slightly different construction), šakānu N in pâ ištēn or pâ ēda naškunu ‘to provide oneself with a single mouth’, i.e., ‘to come to an agreement, unite oneself’ (RIMA 1, 236:37 and BWL 207:14, both SB), and finally šakānu N with libbu as object in libbam rapšam na-aš-ki-in-šum ARM 4, 45: r.5′ (OB), lit., ‘provide yourself with a wide heart towards him’, i.e., perhaps ‘show yourself merciful towards him’ (but cf. Durand 1997–200: II 279: ‘aie pleine confiance en lui’, lit., ‘que tu sois doté d’un coeur vaste!’ with naškin as a passive N‑stem). 33.  Also Gilg. p. 200:160 and p. 202:188; ARM 1, 69: r.15′; RIME 4, 606:58 (all OB). 34.  Also ARM 26/2, 84 no. 318:30; FM 2, 206 nr. 116:44; FM 3, 192 no. 20:14; OBTR 115:17 (read ta-aš-ša-ak-ni; see the copy) (all OB). 35.  This construction also occurs in Old Assyrian: šumam ra-ma-ni (i.e., /ramanni/, Acc) lū ni-iš-ku-un Prag I 711:33–34 ‘we want to establish renown for ourselves’. The G-stem without reflexive marker may also be used, e.g., šumī aš-ku-un RIME 4, 603:54 (OB).

10.8  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems


In principle, reflexive verbs have an animate subject, since only animate beings can do something to themselves. As they develop toward middle verbs, however (see § below, pp. 265–267), they are often extended to inanimate subjects as well, and this leads to the introduction of the nominal markers in clauses with an inanimate subject. This can also be observed for ramānu. An Old Babylonian instance is (20); in later periods it becomes more common, as in (21)–(22): (20) ÖB 2, 13:2 šumma šamnum ana šinīšu ra-ma-an-šu i-zu-uz (var. iz-zu-uz) ‘if the oil has divided itself in two’ (also ÖB 2, 17:18 and 18:26 [the latter with ana erbīšu]); (21) Sn. 108:59–61 (SB) (a precious material) ina GN ukallim ra-ma-nu-uš ‘showed itself in GN’, i.e., ‘became visible’ (also Sn. 127d: 6f acc. to AHw 989b s.v. ramānu 2c) (22) SAA 10, 21: r.9′–10′ (NA) (the king knows) kī bēt DN ra-man-šú id-dip-u-ni ‘that the temple of DN collapsed (lit., knocked itself over)’ (tr. CAD R 119a s.v. ramanu b-5′ )36 The diachronic development that is observable in the expression of reflexivity in Akkadian will be discussed in §14.3.4 (pp. 369–375).  Indirect reflexive or autobenefactive In the indirect reflexive, the subject is coreferential with a constituent other than the direct object, often the indirect object. This indicates that the subject performs an action for his own benefit, in his/her own interest, etc.; it is therefore also called autobenefactive. In Akkadian, the expression of indirect reflexivity seems to be completely taken over by nominal markers, such as ana ramānī- ‘on behalf of oneself’, e.g.: (23) AbB 2, 110:17–18 (OB) ana ra-ma-ni-ja mīnam ēteneppuš ‘what do I ever do for myself?’ (24) KTH 16a:27–30 (OA) kīma (. . .) annakam u ṣubātē ana ra-mì-ni-šu-nu itbulūni ‘since they (. . .) have taken along the tin and the textiles for themselves’ However, the secondary verbs tabālu and tarû ‘to take/bring along’ are likely to go back to fossilized Gt‑stems with indirect reflexive meaning: ‘to take/bring with oneself’ (‘mit sich nehmen/ bringen’); see §16.2.3 (p. 454). This suggests that in prehistoric times this function could also be performed by verbal markers.  Reciprocal In a reciprocal sentence, the subject—which is necessarily plural—performs an action on some other entity but simultaneously undergoes this action at the hands of the other entity involved (they punched each other ). Semantically, reciprocal situations are closely related to reflexive ones: both typically have animate subjects and are usually actions rather than states; moreover, here too we can distinguish between direct and indirect reciprocals and between proto­typical and natural reciprocals (see §, p. 261). The latter prominently include verbs of meeting, conversing, embracing, and similar acts (Kemmer 1993: 102). Generally speaking, reciprocal can be seen as a subtype of reflexive that is restricted to a specific class of verbs and only occurs with a plural subject. 36.  Similar instances with daʾāpu in Neo-Assyrian include SAA 1, 138:12 and 13, 28: r.12 // 29: r.4′.


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

Reciprocity is often expressed by a special “reciprocal marker,” such as English each other and German einander (Akk aḫāmiš  ), but many other languages use the reflexive marker also for reciprocal situations, e.g., se in French and sich in German (alongside einander ). Akkadian, too, uses the same verbal markers for both concepts: the t‑stems (mainly Gt) and the N‑stem; see §14.3 (pp. 360–375) and § (pp. 294–295), respectively.37 Akkadian has both nominal and verbal markers for reciprocity. The nominal markers differ according to period. The older dialects use various syntactic paraphrases to express “each other”: a noun in two different semantic roles such as Latin manus manum lavat, the preposition (ina) birī- (Ass bari-) or birīt ‘between’ (like Latin inter se), and aḫu ‘brother’ (or aḫātu ‘sister’) in different cases. The latter expression is by far the most common in Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. Cf. the following instances: (25) Prag I 446:33–34 (OA) tup-pu-um tup-pá-am imaḫḫaṣ ‘tablet will kill tablet’ (i.e., the two tablets [quittance and debt note] will cancel each other) (26) ARM 4, 20: 21–22 (OB) nīš ilāni ina bi-ri-ti-ni dannam i nizkur ‘let us swear a strong oath by the gods to each other’ (27) BIN 4, 72:9 (OA) aḫī atta i-ba-ri-ni nitakkir ‘you are my brother: should we fight among ourselves?’ (tr. CAD N/1 166a s.v. nakāru 6) (28) TIM 4, 40:20–21 (OB) a-ḫu-um libbi a-ḫi-im uṭīb ‘brother has made the heart of brother content’, i.e., ‘they have given each other satisfaction’. That the word brother in such contexts is to be taken literally (rather than being grammati­calized into a semantically empty grammatical marker) may be deduced from the fact that, if the subject is feminine, aḫātum ‘sister’ is found instead (CAD A/1 173a s.v. aḫātu A 3): (29) CT 6, 42b:9–10 (OB) a-ḫa-tum ana a-ḫa-tim ul iraggam ‘sister will not raise claims against sister’, i.e., ‘they (the two women) will not raise claims against each other’ On the other hand, the beginning of a process of grammaticalization is observable from the fact that there are also instances of aḫum as subject but with the verb in the plural: (30) TSifr. 37:19–20 (OB) a-ḫu-um a-ḫa-am lā i-tu-ru lā i-ge-er-ru-ú ‘they will not sue each other again’ (= tablet, but the case (TSifr. 37a:18–20) has the verb in the Sg: a-ḫu-um a-ḫa-am [lā] i-ta-ar-ma [lā] i-ge-er-ri ) From Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian onward, we find another reciprocal marker: aḫāmiš ‘each other’, obviously derived from the earlier construction with aḫu; but the details of this development remain unclear; see CAD A/1 164–68 s.v. aḫāmeš for examples. 37.  This may lead to ambiguity, for instance, in the verbs lapātu and pašāšu in the following passages, which describe the ceremonial feast following the conclusion of a legal transaction (see Gelb et al. 1991: 243–44): MARI 1, 81–82:20–24 (6 persons, his witnesses) sikkātim timhaṣū ninda tīkulū kaš tištayū u ì ti-il-tap-tu ‘who drove in the pegs, ate bread, drank beer and anointed each other with oil’; ARM 22, 328: II 46–47 ˹šībū˺ akalam īkulū šikaram u karā[nam] ištû u [š ]amnam ip-ta-aš-šu ‘the witnesses ate bread, drank beer and wine and anointed each other with oil’ (similarly ARM 8, 13:11′–14′ with ip-ta-šu), where ‘themselves’ (e.g., Gelb 1991: 168) is grammatically possible but less appropriate; cf. Gelb et al. 1992: 244.

10.8  The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems


The verbal markers for reciprocity are the same as for reflexive, but especially the Gt‑stem is far more often reciprocal than reflexive. Although most instances concern more-or-less natural reciprocals, there are even instances that are similar to prototypical reciprocals. I will discuss the reciprocal use of the t‑stems and the N‑stem below in later chapters. In this section, however, it is convenient to discuss several special nuances of reciprocity relevant to Akkadian (see also Streck 2003a: 82–83). First, the subject may be a collective rather than a plural noun, such as mātu ‘the people’, ṣābu ‘the troops’, or puḫru ‘the assembly’: (31) YOS 10, 49:5 (OB) mātum (kalam) iṣ-ṣa-ba-at i-ta-ka-al ‘the (people of the) land will fight and destroy (lit., eat) one another’ Second, the reciprocal meaning may give rise to the “collective” use of the reciprocal (Streck 2003a: 38 “soziativ”), in which the subject is a group of people (at least two) that carry out an action together (Kemmer 1993: 98, 123–25). It is not very common in Akkadian; an example is: (32) BDHP 80:6–9 (OB) (the wall that PNF bought from PNF2 is a party wall) ištu qaqqari adi elēnum ši-it-pu-ka ‘they (the two women) have erected it jointly from the ground up to the top’ Note that aḫāmeš can have this function, too, especially when preceded by itti (cf. CAD A/1 166–67 s.v. aḫāmeš 2). Other traces of this use are the nouns tākultu ‘(common) meal’ and tarbāṣu ‘stable’ (where animals lie together), which are originally deverbal nouns of reciprocal Gt‑stems (see §14.6.1, pp. 397–402). Third, reciprocal verb forms may also be used with a singular subject and the other participant(s) introduced by itti (Babylonian) or išti (Assyrian), or simply omitted. This doubtless serves to single out the subject as more topical or more in focus. (33) AbB 14, 140:43 (OB) ittišu ti-iṣ-bu-ta-ku ‘I have a dispute with him’. (34) OBTR 121:13 (OB) anāku itti PN ti-du-ku-ú ad-da-ak ‘must I have a fight with PN?’ (tr. S. Dalley) The other participant(s) may be omitted, if they are self-evident or irrelevant; I will call this “pseudo-reciprocal” (see also Streck 2003a: 83–84). Instances are: (35) AbB 1, 121: r.10 (OB) mi-it-ḫa-ṣí-im ‘fight!’ (Fem) (versus maḫaṣ ‘hit!’) (36) Gilg. p. 242:5 (OB) atta ta-at-ta-ak-ki-ip-ma kīma lîm tušabraqšu ‘you will lock horns and batter him like a bull’ (tr. A. R. George) (37) TCS 2, 31 no. 13:47 (SB) [puḫālu] rit-ka-ban-ni ‘ram, mount me!’ The pseudo-reciprocal is the starting points for a weakening of the reciprocal meaning observable in a number of reciprocal verbs, especially speech verbs, e.g., atwû ‘to speak’ (OA atawwum), where the t-infix seems to have lost its force already in the older dialects. In Standard Babylonian, this has caused a rather frequent use of Gt forms with no apparent difference from the corresponding G form, as I will argue in chap. 14.  The middle voice and “middle verbs” in Akkadian The term middle voice derives from a specific verbal conjugation in Classical Greek that combines various detransitive functions such as direct and indirect reflexive, autobenefactive, and


The Grammatical Functions Expressed by the Derived Verbal Stems  10.8

(medio)passive. In modern linguistic literature, it refers more generally to verbal categories in which the subject is both the initiator of the action and at the same time affected by it (see, e.g., Kemmer 1993: 1–4). In an insightful analysis, Kemmer (1993) has shown that in many languages a specific class of “middle verbs” has developed, i.e., verbs that are reflexive in form but not in meaning according to the definition of prototypical reflexivity cited in § (p. 261) above: coreferentiality of participants in events in which the participants are normally distinct entities. This phenomenon is well known in Germanic and Romance languages: e.g., German sich fürchten ‘to be afraid’ and sich irren ‘to make a mistake’; French se douter ‘to suspect’, s’asseoir ‘to sit down’; Spanish asustarse ‘to be startled’, irse ‘to go’. Middle verbs typically belong to a small number of “event types” that are strikingly similar across languages. Prominent among them are verbs of body care (wash, shave), intransitive motion verbs (turn, bow, go, leave), verbs referring to natural reciprocal events (meet, converse, embrace), emotion verbs (be angry, grieve, be frightened  ), speech verbs (complain, lament, boast, confess), cognition verbs (think, believe), verbs of acquiring (acquire, take for oneself    ), and verbs for spontaneous events (grow, stop, change) (1993: 16–20). The trigger of this development is the fact that in natural reflexive verbs (see §, p. 261), the reflexive marker is predictable to a certain extent and therefore liable to lose its force. Since natural reflexive verbs are semantically similar to ordinary one-participant—i.e., intransitive— verbs, there is a possibility of extending the use of the reflexive marker to intransitive verbs as a mainly formal exponent. The development of such “middle verbs” happens especially when the frequent use of the reflexive marker in natural reflexive situations has weakened its force to such an extent that it has triggered a renewal of the reflexive marker in prototypical reflexive clauses. In this case, the older reflexive marker becomes available to accompany both natural reflexive verbs and middle verbs and develops into a “middle marker”.38 In languages with more than one reflexive marker (which Kemmer [1993: 24–28] calls “twoform languages”), there is a consistent correlation between the “heaviest” of the two markers with prototypical reflexive function, on the one hand, and the “light” marker with natural reflexive function, on the other. Languages in which this situation obtains are Russian (heavy: sebja, light: sja) and Dutch (heavy: zichzelf, light: zich).39 Moreover, if the heavy and the light marker are etymologically related, the light one tends to be a reduction of the heavy one (as in Russian), or the heavy one an extension of the light one (as in Dutch). This suggests the well-known grammaticalization path of functional weakening and formal erosion, with a subsequent renewal of function in the prototypical instances of the reflexive function. Kemmer describes this process in detail for the development of sik in Scandinavian languages and se in Latin and Romance (1993: 151–93). She argues that the corresponding cognitive development consists of a gradual loss of the distinguishability of the participants in reflexive situations (1993: 66). Whereas in a reflexive event type the two participants, even though they refer to the same entity, are conceptualized as separate entities, in middle verbs with a reflexive marker they are not distinguished conceptually by the speaker but viewed as a single entity, so in this respect middle verbs are like ordinary intransitive verbs. 38.  See also Croft et al. 1987, esp. pp. 180–81, 190. 39.  In Dutch, the strong marker zichzelf (originally emphatic) is used in prototypical reflexive situations. The older and weaker form zich can only be used in natural reflexive situations (zich aankleden ‘to dress (oneself)’, zich wassen ‘to wash (oneself)’ but is also used in intransitive verbs such as zich vergissen ‘to make a mistake’ and zich schamen ‘to be ashamed’, which are reflexive only in form (there are no corresponding verbs without zich).

10.8  The Grammatical Functions E