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(1,264 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Mehri is one of the six Modern South Arabian languages that form a unique branch of West Semitic spoken in the eastern part of Yemen (al-Mahra province) and in the southwestern part of Oman (primarily in Dhofar/Ḍufār province), as well as by a small number of speakers in adjacent areas of Saudi Arabia. The total number of Mehri speakers is unknown, but the number is probably at least 130,000, with more than half of this group living in Yemen. The language has a number of regional dialects, which…
Date: 2021-07-19

Polynesian Languages, Hebrew Loanwords in

(927 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
In the past, there have been scholars who argued for a genetic relationship between the Semitic languages and the Oceanic family of languages, of which Polynesian is a sub-group (e.g., Macdonald 1907). Such a theory is quite fantastical, of course. A connection of sorts between Hebrew and Polynesian does exist, however, although it is not genetic. Indeed, few Hebraists and Semitists are aware of the fact that a significant number of Hebrew words have been borrowed into several Polynesian languag…

Sumerian Loanwords

(793 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Sumerian loanwords are abundant in the lexicon of Akkadian, and a small number of these passed into Hebrew, either directly from Akkadian or through the medium of Aramaic or another language. There was no direct influence of Sumerian on Hebrew. No complete study of Sumerian loanwords in Hebrew exists, but Mankowski’s (2000) study of Akkadian loanwords in Hebrew (Akkadian Loanwords) includes words with a Sumerian origin. Sumerian words that have entered Biblical Hebrew via Akkadian include: אֲגַם ʾăḡam ‘swamp, pool’ < Akk. agammu < Sum. a-ga-am (or agam); אֵד ʾēḏ ‘stream, flow’ < Akk. edû…

Indefinite Article

(611 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
In no period of the Hebrew language has there ever been an element which can be called an indefinite article. Indefiniteness is simply ‘marked’ by the lack of a definite article. Cf. Biblical Hebrew אֶל־עִ֔יר ʾεl-ʿīr ‘to a city’ (Deut. 20.10) and אֶל־הָעִ֑יר ʾεl-hå̄-ʿīr ‘to the city’ (Josh. 8.5). However, it is not infrequently the case in Biblical Hebrew that the definite article is often missing where expected, and so the lack of the article does not always indicate indefiniteness in the Bible. An example is שֵׁבֶט šēḇεṭ ‘the scepter’ in the passage לֽאׁ־יָס֥וּר שֵׁ֙בֶט֙ מִֽיהוּדָ֔ה lō-yå̄sū…


(1,234 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Grammaticalization is the change whereby lexical items and constructions come in certain linguistic contexts to lose their lexical meaning and serve grammatical functions, or, the change whereby a grammatical item develops a new grammatical function. Grammaticalization and analogy are the two ways in which grammatical forms develop in any language. A classic example of grammaticalization is the English word go, which can be used to mark the future tense, as in I am going to read a book tomorrow. In such cases, go has lost its lexical meaning (associated with physical movement…

Christian Hebraists: Pre-Modern Period

(2,182 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
The 16th century saw a flourishing of Hebrew grammatical study among Christians. Early Christian Hebraists, though, were quite reliant on Jewish teachers, and much of their work was heavily indebted to earlier Jewish authors. In the 17th century, however, Christian authors began to come into their own, developing the field in new ways. At the same time, for various social and political reasons, the study of Hebrew grammar became rather stagnant among Jews. Thus the 16th century witnessed a real …

Definite Article: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(2,497 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
1. Form and Etymology In Biblical Hebrew, the definite article is a prefixed -הַ ha- plus gemination of the following consonant, as in הַדָּבָר had-då̄ḇå̄r ‘the word’, הַמַּלְכָּה ham-malkå̄ ‘the queen’, and הַשֹּׁפְטִים haš-šōp̄ṭīm ‘the judges’ (cf. דָּבָר då̄ḇå̄r ‘word’, מַלְכָּה malkå̄ ‘queen’, and שֹׁפְטִים šōp̄ṭīm ‘judges’, respectively). As shown by these examples, the definite article is not marked for gender or number. Because the consonants א ʾ, ה h, ח , ע ʿ, and ר r are generally not geminated in Tiberian Hebrew, the vocalization of the definite article is subject to…


(2,197 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Various types of abbreviations are in use in Modern Hebrew, some inherited from earlier periods and others introduced only in modern times. Each type will be dealt with below, followed by a short discussion of abbreviations in earlier stages of the language. 1. Abbreviations with a double apostrophe One type of abbreviation is marked with a double apostrophe (called גרשיים geršayim), which always appears before the last letter, as in סכו״ם and ארה״ב. This type can be further divided into three classes: abbreviations which are not pronounced as such; abbreviations wh…

American Creoles, Hebrew Loanwords in

(1,114 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Among the early European immigrants to the Americas were significant numbers of (mainly Sephardic) Jews, particularly in the region of the Caribbean (Arbell 2002). It is thanks to this population that one finds Hebrew loanwords in some of the creoles of the Caribbean and South America. In Sranan, the English-based creole that serves as the lingua franca of Suriname (and is the native language of much of the population), there are two clear loanwords from Hebrew. The first is kaseri (< Hebrew כשר kašer ‘kosher’), which means ‘(ritually) clean’. Interestingly, this word is so cl…

Egyptian and Hebrew

(1,961 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
The relationship between Egyptian and Hebrew can be considered from three perspectives: (1) from the perspective of the genetic connection between the two languages due to their shared Afroasiatic origins; (2) from that of the influence of Hebrew (or, Canaanite) on Egyptian; and (3) from that of the influence of Egyptian on Hebrew. Since (3) has been partially dealt with in a separate entry (Egyptian Loanwords), this article will deal mainly with (1) and (2). 1. Egyptian and Semitic It has long been recognized that Egyptian and Hebrew have certain elements in common. Alrea…

Afroasiatic and Hebrew: History of Scholarship

(870 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
The Semitic family, of which Hebrew is a member (Semitic Language, Hebrew as a), is part of a larger macro-family that is usually called Afroasiatic. The term Hamito-Semitic has been used in the past, but Afroasiatic is preferable, since the former inaccurately implies a binary split between Semitic and the other (Hamitic) branches. Other language families within Afroasiatic are Egyptian, Cushitic, Berber, and Chadic. The inclusion of an additional family, Omotic, remains debated. Some believe O…

Egyptian Loanwords

(657 words)

Author(s): Rubin, Aaron D.
Given the close proximity of Israel to Egypt, the fact that Egypt was a powerful ancient culture, and the fact that several biblical passages (including the lengthy Joseph narrative) are set in Egypt, it is no surprise that Egyptian words made their way into the Hebrew language (Egyptian and Hebrew). It is perhaps surprising that the total number of Egyptian loans is actually relatively small, especially if we accept the biblical account that the Israelites resided in Egypt for several generations. Among the Egyptian loans most commonly met in the biblical text are פַּרְעֹה parʿō ‘Pharaoh…