May 4, 2019 at 8:42 pm #2445Yehoshua (Jeremy) SteinbergKeymaster
QUESTION: Each word has a shoresh. We conjugate those shoreshim and create binyanim (banyan kal, banyan niphal, etc).
But shoreshim don’t create buildings – they produce plants, trees, etc. Buildings have foundation (yesodot).
So why the mix of metaphors? Are the binyanim related to something besides the shoreshim? Are there ‘trees’ or ‘plants’ or something else in Hebrew grammar which grows out of the shoreshim?
ANSWER: As far as I can tell, Rashi coined the term “shoresh” for the underlying source of a given word. The concept may have been
borrowed from French or Latin, I really have no idea. But the concept is simple… loosely related words sharing a
common base of letters bear a resemblance to the branches of a tree reaching out in various directions, but which all draw sustenance from a single root system.
Again, as far as I can tell, R’ Eliahu Mizrahi coined the term “binyan” to denote conjugation constructs. Sticking to the tree metaphor, what would have fit? Geza (trunk)? Twig? Leaf? I’m not sure there is a great metaphor in nature at all for conjugation. It is a wholly abstract concept describing circumstances surrounding how actions are performed. Maybe the idea is that activities involved in building are viewed differently depending on the perspective of the observer. Everyone agrees that activities (peilulot) are an inherent part of building, but some actions are more direct, some less, some active some passive, etc., but all relate in some way to the activities involved in building.
In short, shoreshim is a noun-based system, the basic “noun” object being the word; hence the tree metaphor. The binyan system on the other hand is verb-based;
“binyan” doesn’t mean “a building” but “to build.”
Just some thought late at night, hope it makes a little sense.
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