Arabic Form IV verbs with Verb I meanings

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inquisitiveness1

Senior Member
English - USA
This might be a question with an obvious answer, but is there is a reason why there are quite a few Form IV verbs in Arabic that have the same meaning as their Form I equivalents (for example أحس ʔaḥassa against حس ḥassa & أحب ʔaḥabba against حب ḥabba being some of the more common ones; along with verbs like أبصر ʔabṣara against بصر baṣira & أظلم ʔaẓlama against ظلم ẓalima)?

Theoretically, generally speaking, you would expect the Form IV pattern to result in a causative version of the Form I meaning (or some sense peripheral in meaning to the causative) ~ i.e. أحس ʔaḥassa would be "he caused (s.o./s.t.) to feel", contrasting with حس ḥassa "he felt". While I do understand that words can and often do obtain lexicalized meanings that cause them to no longer have a meaning that can be described as really being a pure causative of the Form I verb, it is not clear to me how a meaning shift that neutralized the causative sense as bluntly as the above sample words would occur. I am under the (potentially faulty) assumption that causative verbs in the precursors to classical Arabic do not have the subject of the verb also be the object (i.e. that you couldn't use a verb like أحس to mean "he caused himself to feel"). If it were possible for the object of the causative verb to also be the subject, then is the sense development assumed to be something like"he caused himself to {verb}" -> "he endeavored to {verb}" -> "he {verbed}" (and would such a usage of causative verbs be frequent enough for this development to occur)?. If it was not possible for the verb to have the subject as the object, I don't see how the causative verb in these cases shifted who the verb object (I mean the person/thing that is induced into peforming an action) is.

The situation where derived stems have the same meanings as the ground stem occurs with other derived stems too, but that semantic shift occurring for Form IV verbs is the hardest for me to understand since the person who is doing the non-causative action in a causative scenario (i.e. the girl in a sentence like "The mother caused the girl to feel (s.o.)") is changing from who was traditionally the causee (the girl) to why was traditionally the causer (the mother).
 
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  • elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Why are you assuming that the original meaning of all أفعل verbs was causative? Also, causative verbs of this form absolutely can and do take reflexive objects: أشعر نفسه بالخوف، أتعب نفسه بالعمل، أثبت نفسه لمديره, etc.
     

    inquisitiveness1

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Why are you assuming that the original meaning of all أفعل verbs was causative?
    Because I am ignoring verbs that (a) are Form IV verbs denominative from nouns (like how Form II is often used) and (2) The ʔ-stem comes from proto-semitic causative š-stem. I am aware that Form IV can give the root other senses aside from causative, but normally I can see how those senses are derivative from the original causative sense. I don't so clearly see how the causative can shift so much that it negates itself and becomes identical in meaning to the original Form I (again, this negation does occur with other derived stems too sometimes, but I can more clearly see how it occurs in those stems).

    As far as I am aware, the š-stem in semitic was clearly a causative at the heart (if there was another usage of the stem that had a different origin from the causative, I was unaware and would be interested about that). In any case, I doubt you are arguing that Form IV in the example verbs I used in the OP was just a useless bonus form that didn't originally have a separate meaning from Form I. Unless there is some other major sense of the š-stem stem that I am not aware of, I am assuming the original use of Form IV was causative, and that somehow from this causative meaning, a meaning identical to Form I appeared in some of the verbs. And just to bring it up, there are verbs that have both a clearly causative sense as well as a meaning identical to Form I, such as أَنَارَ which means both (1) {causative of Form I, as expected} to make s.t. shine/give off light and (2) {identical in meaning to rare Form I verb نَارَ} to shine/give off light

    Also, causative verbs of this form absolutely can and do take reflexive objects: أشعر نفسه بالخوف، أتعب نفسه بالعمل، أثبت نفسه لمديره, etc.
    Nowhere in my post did I suggest otherwise, so that doesn't warrant mentioning. I am aware that Arabic proper allows for a reflexive pronoun to be the object of a Form IV verb. I was referring to the precursors to classical Arabic, which is where the meaning shifts the thread is concerned with would have occurred (there's no use talking about classical Arabic for these meaning shifts, since the shifts already happened by then). That said, provided the precursor language(s) were like Arabic and had no issue using the reflexive pronoun together with Form IV, what was the sense development that caused the Form IV meaning in some verbs to develop a meaning identical to a Form I verb? For instance, if حس ḥassa "to feel (s.t.)" existed as a verb already, what would you say was the original meaning of the coined Form IV verb أحس ʔaḥassa, and if it had a different meaning (which is what I think - specifically "to make s.o. to feel s.t." at least originally), how did it obtain the non-causative meaning "to feel (s.t.)"?
     
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    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Perhaps the non-causative meaning derived from the verb + reflexive. In other words, maybe with some verbs the reflexive object was dropped over time.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I'd like to point out that this is not my area of expertise, but I thought that it might be useful if I give my thoughts on this. The truth is I have no idea why but maybe my thoughts can give you some ideas.
    there's no use talking about classical Arabic for these meaning shifts, since the shifts already happened by then
    I don't think you really mean that, because that is all we have. There most certainly were precursors to Classical Arabic, but they were not documented (at least nothing that we have found) with the exception of some names and some graphiti on old ruins - not enough to even attempt to form a language out of let alone derive theories. All we can do is find clues in Classical Arabic and maybe compare it to how Classical Arabic has developed since the time it was first documented.

    And just to bring it up, there are verbs that have both a clearly causative sense as well as a meaning identical to Form I, such as أَنَارَ which means both (1) {causative of Form I, as expected} to make s.t. shine/give off light and (2) {identical in meaning to rare Form I verb نَارَ} to shine/give off light
    Compare that to another example: أمسك, that retains both the causative meaning (to cause someone to hold) and the other meaning (to abstain from something - obviously originally to hold oneself from something). The latter is obviously reflexive, but this reflexive meaning came to have a meaning in its own with time: rather than saying أمسك نفسه عن الطعام, they dropped the نفسه and started saying أمسك عن الطعام and it started to mean something else. In the case of أنار, it probably started the same: أنار النجم نفسه and then they dropped the نفسه and it became أنار النجم, that is basically identical to نار النجم so it came to have the same meaning. Based on that, perhaps the other examples are the same except that they had use for the reflexive causative meaning but no use for the causative without a reflexive meaning so the latter started to be used less and less, then it became archaic, then disappeared from the langauge completely by the time Classical Arabic was documented.

    That is one possibility. The other one is if we consider what classical grammarians named this situation. They never called it 'causation', they called it تعديّة. Basically it means that it turns an intransitive verb into a transitive one, or adds another object to an already transitive verb. نزل فلان is intransitive - no need for an object. أنزل فلان فلانا is transitive: you have an object. علم عمرو شيئا is transitive with one object, أعلم عمرو زيدا شيئا is transitive with two objects. Now it's also clearly causative, I'm not denying that. What I'm trying to say is that maybe they were onto something but never delved into it deeply enough to explain the cases you gave. Maybe راد or حب were originally intransitive: he wanted, he loved, but there is no object to show what he wanted or who he loved. أراد وأحب become transitive requiring one to complete the sentence by mentioning what is wanted and who is loved. With time the transitive verb proved much more useful so with time they made the original form حب وراد also transitive - keeping in mind that the original form was not nearly as common as the form أفعل, so given time they may have totally disappeared from the langauge. Now this might explain أبصر but it doesn't really explain why بصر changed the meaning since the meaning of 'having the ability to see' is actually useful similar to عمي 'to loose such ability'; it also doesn't explain أحس that is intransitive.
     

    inquisitiveness1

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Perhaps the non-causative meaning derived from the verb + reflexive. In other words, maybe with some verbs the reflexive object was dropped over time.
    I suppose that might have to be it, although for some particular verbs (especially ones where the causee of the verb generally would have been inanimate, such as for أَنَارَ ), I have to wonder if the verb was used reflexively with enough frequency for that sort of causative->noncausative meaning development to occur (to use أَنَارَ as the example, would it have been used to mean "it made itself glow" enough for it to develop the meaning "it glowed"? Mahaodeh actually brings up this verb as an example, but I am just wondering if a usage like أنار النجم نفسه actually would have been said, much less frequently enough to warrant dropping the reflexive pronoun).

    I don't think you really mean that, because that is all we have. There most certainly were precursors to Classical Arabic, but they were not documented (at least nothing that we have found) with the exception of some names and some graphiti on old ruins - not enough to even attempt to form a language out of let alone derive theories. All we can do is find clues in Classical Arabic and maybe compare it to how Classical Arabic has developed since the time it was first documented.
    I do mean that. I am talking about a language development, so why would I talk about a stage of the language after the development in question? If you want to say "We can't know because we don't know enough about the pre-classical stage of the language", that's fine, but it is incorrect to talk about a later stage of the language if we are discussing a pre-classical meaning shift (aside from, of course, mentioning the classical language to give a reference point for what word I am talking about and the endpoint of the semantic development...It would also make sense to bring up the classical language if you are asserting/speculating that the precursor language had a similar or identical circumstance). That said, I am aware the precursor stage isn't strongly attested. For the discussion of the sense development, I was moreso wondering how the meaning development could theoretically have happened (particularly in the context of a Semitic causative).

    Compare that to another example: أمسك, that retains both the causative meaning (to cause someone to hold) and the other meaning (to abstain from something - obviously originally to hold oneself from something). The latter is obviously reflexive, but this reflexive meaning came to have a meaning in its own with time: rather than saying أمسك نفسه عن الطعام, they dropped the نفسه and started saying أمسك عن الطعام and it started to mean something else. In the case of أنار, it probably started the same: أنار النجم نفسه and then they dropped the نفسه and it became أنار النجم, that is basically identical to نار النجم so it came to have the same meaning. Based on that, perhaps the other examples are the same except that they had use for the reflexive causative meaning but no use for the causative without a reflexive meaning so the latter started to be used less and less, then it became archaic, then disappeared from the langauge completely by the time Classical Arabic was documented.
    The reflexive idea does seem to be the most likely explanation (although as I mentioned earlier, for some verbs, it would surprise me that they were used reflexively, much less frequently enough to develop a new non-causative sense).

    That is one possibility. The other one is if we consider what classical grammarians named this situation. They never called it 'causation', they called it تعديّة. Basically it means that it turns an intransitive verb into a transitive one, or adds another object to an already transitive verb. نزل فلان is intransitive - no need for an object. أنزل فلان فلانا is transitive: you have an object. علم عمرو شيئا is transitive with one object, أعلم عمرو زيدا شيئا is transitive with two objects. Now it's also clearly causative, I'm not denying that. What I'm trying to say is that maybe they were onto something but never delved into it deeply enough to explain the cases you gave. Maybe راد or حب were originally intransitive: he wanted, he loved, but there is no object to show what he wanted or who he loved. أراد وأحب become transitive requiring one to complete the sentence by mentioning what is wanted and who is loved. With time the transitive verb proved much more useful so with time they made the original form حب وراد also transitive - keeping in mind that the original form was not nearly as common as the form أفعل, so given time they may have totally disappeared from the langauge. Now this might explain أبصر but it doesn't really explain why بصر changed the meaning since the meaning of 'having the ability to see' is actually useful similar to عمي 'to loose such ability'; it also doesn't explain أحس that is intransitive.
    I suppose this might also be possible (certainly you can look at form II and see the boundary between causative and transitivizing blurred in Arabic). For the majority of Form IV verbs though, the productive use seemed to be explicitly causative rather than transitivizing (or to be more specific - "simple valency-increasing"). The reason I say that (even though the difference between making a verb causative and making a verb transitive can be unclear) is that I can see an notable functional distinction between the two. Namely, I mean that it seems like that Form IV's default use, however you want to consider it, did not restrict the agent of the "principal action" {i.e. the non-causative action} to be the agent of the Form IV verb, whereas if the usage of Form IV was just to make a intransative verb transitive (or a transitive verb ditransitive), the agent would have such a restriction. So, for instance, if Form I حب specifically had an intransitive meaning akin to "he was loving" ~ "he felt love", I would expect (given how most Form IV verbs behave, aside from obvious lexicalized meanings) أحب to mean "he made someone be loving" ~ "he made someone feel love", where the agent of the verb أحب is by no means the only person who can perform the action of feeling love (i.e. the someone who is doing the loving doesn't have to be the person doing the compelling) - contrast the meaning "he loved (someone)" meaning (which would be the result of transativizing) where the agent of the form IV verb would be the only person grammatically who could be performing the action of feeling love......So in summary, I agree that that Form IV does increase valency (which seems to essentially be what تعديّة refers to), but for most Form IV verbs, since the agent of the verb does not have to be the agent of the "principal action" (contrast if Form IV's function was transitivizing, where the agent of the verb would have to be the agent of the "principal action"), I would think it's not just simple transativizing, it's making verbs causative. Not to mention, as as you alluded to, that explanation doesn't work for all of those verbs. But it is a good idea to entertain (maybe what you brought up is it, and I have some error in my reasoning to contest it).
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    for some particular verbs (especially ones where the causee of the verb generally would have been inanimate, such as for أَنَارَ ), I have to wonder if the verb was used reflexively with enough frequency for that sort of causative->noncausative meaning development to occur (to use أَنَارَ as the example, would it have been used to mean "it made itself glow" enough for it to develop the meaning "it glowed"?
    It could have started with some verbs for which reflexive use is entirely plausible and then spread to others (like أنار) in a process of partial paradigm leveling.
     
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