dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #115

Gili Bar-Hillel abhillel at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 10 07:05:11 EST 2000


> > PAH, PAH, PAH! I AM SURROUNDED BY NINCOMPOOPS!
>
>*hug* Not here. But you know that :-)
>
>    Irina

No - not here! I love this list.
In fact, I have a lot of warm feelings and a lot of respect for most of the 
people I meet on a daily basis, which maybe why I find the exceptions to be 
*so* maddening...

Tapping in to the word composition discussion: Hebrew is one of the coolest 
languages in this respect. Every Hebrew word is basically composed of a 
three letter root, inserted into a "mold". This means that you can come 
across a word you've never met before and guess pretty much what it means, 
based on the meanings of the root and the context of the mold. And makes it 
easy to invent new words, too. Hebrew also has a lot of inflections too, 
which means that entire English phrases such as "I have loved you" can be 
expressed in a single word ["ehavtikh" spoken to a woman, "ehavtikha" spoken 
to a man].

Sometimes trying to figure out why a word has the same root in Hebrew is 
fascinating - this happened to me when I was trying to figure out why the 
word for "expectations" is the same as the word for "pillowcases". This is 
not as odd as it sounds at first if you look at other words with the same 
root: expectations (tsipiyot)forecast (tsefy), watching (tsfiya), 
scout/lookout (tsofeh), cover/veneer (tsipuy), pillowcases (tsipiyot).

And I could invent a word, such as "tsipayon", which sounds a bit odd but I 
could reasonably expect most Hebrew speakers to understand that I mean "the 
condition in which one finds oneself tensely expecting something", because 
root is the same root as watching/expecting, and the mold is a mold for 
situations or conditions, usually of an unpleasant sort: flood "shitafon"; 
faliure "kishalon"; blight "shidafon". I'm thinking hard for an example of a 
positive situation in this mold, and the only one I've found so far is 
"herayon" - pregnancy!!!

Gili
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