Accordance: Finding the Weak Roots

This post at the Accordance Bible blog was a revelation for me. (Yes, it is now a revelation that is over five weeks old. So I percolate.) It shows that I can use Accordance to search for particular kinds of weak Hebrew roots, like geminates, middle-weaks, even III-liquids and the like.

Long ago, I had done far worse than give it a whirl and give up. I had glanced the problem over and decided it couldn’t be done.

Serves me right, then, that I’ve spent long stretches of minutes looking at indiscriminate search lists of, say, Qal infinitive constructs, picking the weak roots I wanted from the crowd until my eyes bled.

The big insight here is that you can describe a root as “???” then define any of the three radicals in parentheses: ??(w, y)? for roots middle wāw/yōd, for example. Why would I want to find these sorts of results? Two reasons:

  1. In my research or when reading the Hebrew Bible, I will pop up with a question or provisional hypothesis of the “what would it look like” variety. “Hey, I see that the nūn doesn’t assimilate in לִנְפּוֹל, perhaps because the initial lin- derives from lĕnĕ– (“rule of shewa”). Let’s have a look at the rest of the I-nūn Qal infinitive constructs with preposition –לְ, and see if the nūn is typically preserved, as we suspect.” This sort of thing happens all the time when I’m reading, including when I’m reading other semitic languages. The search term in this instance looks like this:accordance search shot
  2. For my students, I like to create worksheets, exams, or presentation slides that a) demonstrate a phenomenon in weak roots, like the assimilation of nūn or the loss of III- before a suffix, and b) demonstrate it with nominal or verbal forms that they already know, like Piel perfect or participle when they have not yet learned the Piel imperfect. This helps me find relevant biblical examples, eliminating the risk that I’ll create on my own an unattested or incorrect form.

So, a big ol’ fist-bump to David Lang. I’m not even bitter about all the time I have wasted in the last 8–10 years doing this the hard way with overly-broad search terms. Really. Just a lesson well learned about asking for help on this sort of thing, and looking forward to at least 8–10 years of doing exactly the searches I want on weak roots.