The Origin of the Hebrew nithpaal: A Sociolinguistic Proposal


  • Brian Donnelly-Lewis University of California - Los Angeles, USA



Late Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, Hebrew syntax, Hebrew morphology, diachronic linguistics, contact linguistics


This paper offers a socio-historical linguistic account of the origin of the Rabbinic Hebrew (RH) nithpaal, positing a contact-induced morphological compromise between the Hebrew niphal and the hithpael in which the usage of latter stem has been influenced by the Aramaic -t stem (hithpaal). To prove this, I outline the history of the relationship between the niphal and hithpael, focusing on a few post-exilic examples that display an equivalence of the meaning and use of the two stems, especially the growth of the passive hithpael. As such, the traditional account of the derivation of the nithpaal in RH as a blend of hithpael and niphal is argued to be a morphological compromise as the result of Hebrew-Aramaic bilingual language processing. This conclusion allows a presentation of RH nithpaal in its social and historical context, suggesting that, as a morphological compromise, it perhaps also indicates a linguistic reflex of a language community under threat of language extinction.


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How to Cite

Donnelly-Lewis, Brian. 2022. “The Origin of the Hebrew Nithpaal: A Sociolinguistic Proposal”. Journal for Semitics 31 (1):18 pages.



Received 2021-04-01
Accepted 2022-01-22
Published 2022-03-04