Old folks, piss, snoring and long boats have one thing in common
*ŠḪ (shakh -‘kh’ German ‘ch’) is a bilateral, or mono syllabic root morpheme – it could be either, with several meanings the most common of which is’ŠḪaḪ’ “piss”. From the same root ŠaiḪ “old man, a tribal chieftain, a Muslim priest”, or similar. ŠaḪr is “to snore, snoring”. ŠaḪtr is a nucleitic compound made of two roots and it means a long type of old boats.
By now, we hope you know what a linguistic category is. If you’re new, think of categories as drawers for utensils and cutlery in a kitchen. Knives, forks and spoons go in one drawer; cutting knives, large forks rollers, but not the ones earmarked for unsympathetic husbands, you may need one handly, go in another, kitchen towels in a third and so on.
The beauty of this system is you know where “birds of feather” stick. For our exceptionally clever ancestors the same applied linguistically. If you remember the root you can have an idea of all derivatives because they must have some of the meanings of the root. In a way, it is like children, they would have some of the characteristics of the parents, unless some are “offside”.
So, a question: how come the four words above are from the same root category because their meanings look different from each other?
Well, they are members of the linguistic category “long” or “elongation”. They are all long or longish. Piss because it is rarely a drop or two. ŠaiḪ (sheikh) because he’s been around for a long time. ŠaḪr because snoring can go on at night for ever. ŠaḪtr is a long old boat.
So note the beauty and simplicity of the prehistoric language that survives today in Arabic.
People have to know what does the root *ŠḪ mean. As people needed more words to express more things and ideas, they took the root and added a suitable letter at the end or in the beginning. Both types are called ‘extensions’ because they extend the meanings of the original root. Therefore all extensions MUST retain in their meanings some of those of the original root.
For example, *QṬ is “cut off, break”, sounds English does it not? *QṬ+f means “to cut a cluster of grapes or an apple”, and so on.
Now Arabs know all these extensions because they are very common. What they don’t know is where they came from because the people who invented the words died at least 5,000 years ago and took the great linguistic secret with them. The ancestors who invented the roots probably lived 10,000-50,000 years ago.
Last modified: December 30, 2022