It may be safe to assume that the majority of extant biliteral roots were invented to communicate a certain thing, state or situation, each and all provide the phonetic and semantic values attached to the biliteral root. Ideally, the phonetic values should not be expected to change beyond the “natrual” adjustments dictated by the first or second letters of the biliteral root. In the majority of cases investigated the generic semantic values expand gradually as more things are discovered and identified and the knowldge and awareness of the speakers develop and advance. Even when figurative values are added to the generic semantic values of biliteral roots the semantic domains of biliteral roots must remain within the reasonable confines of the semantic domain. When they do and indeed they do, the semantic domain overflows to the semantic domains of other biliterals creating the known cases of confusion.
The clearest examples of such confusion can be seen in many scores of triliterals. The essential concept of triliterals was not to create alternatives to their biliteral roots or to invent a new family of roots to join biliterals. In most cases, triliterals are specifiers of biliterals. One of the first generation of biliterals is *QṬ (قط). The second letter is a heavy ‘t’ reproduced in English cut with the same meanings of “chop, sever,” etc. Farmers of vinyards and fruit trees needed to specify the various types of cutting. The linguists of the time looked deeply at the biliteral root and added a third letter, *QṬ + f qṭf (قطف). The word conveyed the general meaning of “cutting” but specified the type of cutting required: “pick, reap.” Fruits and culsters of grapes are qṭf not “cut” which suits of cutting the tree itself.
However, in certain cases the addition of a third specifier letter before (prefix) or after (suffix) the biliteral root produced not a triliteral specifier only but a second biliteral root occupying the place of the first and second letters of the triliteral or the second and third letters. In one entry of Lisan al-Arab after another, triliterals are explained in texts that combine some of the meanings of the first biliteral and some of the meanings of the second. This is the reason why the entry n‛š is said by lexiographers to mean “coffin,” and “refresh.” Some were aware of the conflicting meanings but they failed to idenfy the reason so called it the “case of antithesis” or “oppositions” and blamed the language for the confusion. The reason should be clear. The entry n‛š combines two different biliterals: *N‛ “mint, refresh,” and *‛Š “bird nest.” The reason why a bird nest is used to mean “a coffin” because coffins in ancient times were a piles of straw on stretchers.
The English version cut is the Stone Age biliteral root *QṬ. The phonetic value of the two words are almost the same. At one time in the distant past the speakers of what became English may have used ṭ but subsequent alphabets did not serve the heavy letter. *QṬ is a secondary biliteral root derived from the echoic ṬQ softened to English “tick, tock.” It is a human approximation of breaking a branch or a falling rock.
In this example ṭ > t substitution was not followed by semantic substiution. Akkadian has hundreds of words in which ‘k’ replaces ‘g’. Meanings may be added but the semantic domain is not altered:
agru: [Professions] hired man; hireling
ikkāru: [Country → Agriculture] farmer , peasant , yeoman , a ploughman / plowman;
English has agrarian and acre. Dialectal Arabis has kâr “profession.” English has career. The original hard ‘g’ is substituted for ‘k/c’ in acre, kâr and career. Modern or textual Arabic has an additional ‘j’ substituion in ’jīr (أجير) “hired man”. In Hebrew: ikkar “farmer, peasant”. Now, Ancient Arabic alphabet does not serve ‘g’ so a ‘k’ subsitution is understandable. Hebrew is supposed to serve ‘g’ so attempting to find the reason for a switch to ‘k’ could be interesting.
However, this is not the case in hundreds of other words. English farted, parted and bartered have the same Stone Age biliteral root *PR. In this case, assessing the semantic values is vital for the identification of the roots. On invetnion, the semantic domain of *PR appears to have been “flying away,” mostly probably echoic of birds flying away when disturbed. The domain is very specific. something or part of something is separated from a place or a body. This is the case of bartering and parting or departing and a fart leaves the body. *PR is a primary root invented by the nation of ‛Aad, Yemenis and the future Assyrians and Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt. The secondary root, *RP, is elevation. A disturbed bird flies away. An ‘f’ migration of ‘p’ is Arabic raf “flutter, shelf.” The equivalent in English is reef. The term continental shelf is well known.
Next: LIPS AND LABIA
Last modified: December 30, 2022