Thursday, June 04, 2009

A question for grammar people

I spent a while today trying to track this down. I got part of the way, but not all the way. If anyone out there can tell me the source for this quote, I would be most grateful:

lang="HE">כל דבר שאין בו רוח חיים קורא אותו בלשון זכר ובלשון נקבה
Inanimate objects can be both masculine and feminine.

Yad Malachi, Kelale ha-Talmud 309, quotes the Tosafot Yom Tov who says this in the name of Ibn Ezra, and Radbaz in the name of Rabenu Tam. I haven't found it in either of those authors (I skimmed through Ibn Ezra's Yesod ha-Lashon and Sefer Zahut, and R. Tam's comments on the Dunash-Menahem debate). I found examples to that effect in Rashbam, but without expressing it as a rule. And the sentence appears in Hizkuni in a couple of places without attribution. So who first said it?

Thanks!

7 Comments:

Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I haven't sufficient time at the moment to really track it down (not that I am certain I can do it) but I found in Harkavy's Zikhron ha-gaʾon Rav Saʻadyah al-Fiyumi, pg 23 of the introduction, that he too cites the saying of Ibn Ezra (it seems this was long attributed to him, but the Yad Malachi you mention doubts it -- to me it initially looks like the reason why no one gives chapter and verse in Ibn Ezra is because he indeed never wrote it). In his footnote, he refers to the Teshuvos Dunash al R. Saadya, where Dunash argues against this (#145, on pg 49 of the 1866 edition). The 1855 edition of Teshuvos Dunash includes Rabbenu Tam on Menachem, so perhaps this is the place to look for Rabbenu Tam formulating this rule.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Yitzhak said...

FWIW, Hebrewbooks's OCR search (for זכרהו או נקבהו) finds this Radvaz:

שו''ת הרדב''ז
ספר זרעים הלכות מעשר פרק א הלכה טו

וכ"ש לפי מה שכתב (ר"ת בריש קמא) [הראב"ע] דבר שאין בו רוח חיים זכרהו או נקבהו

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Mar Gavriel said...

As soon as I saw the quote, I thought immediately: אברהם אבן עזרא!

I can't give you chapter-and-verse, but I think it's in the פירוש על התורה somewhere. He even gives the example רוח גדולה וחזק from Kings -- but we do not possess Ibn Ezra on Kings.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Moulie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Moulie said...

Your blog is terrific! (this is my first comment, but I have been reading it for a while.)

There is some literature on the origin of this phrase, going back to Spinoza and Zunz... the influential treatments are by J. Reifman (Beit Talmud 1, 1881) and M. Wilensky (in a piece titled "The Origin of the Phrase, 'Kol Davar' etc."; I am not sure where it appeared first but it is included in his Mehkarim ba-lashon uva-sifrut).

The most recent treatment I know of is in Luba Charlap's essay on medieval views on the grammatical gender of Biblical nouns, which was published in the Shmuel Ahituv Festschrift (Mossad Bialick, 2001); Charlap acknowledges a great debt to A. Golberg's article in Leshonenu 54 (1990), 190-216, which she says is comprehensive and meticulous (I have not seen Godlberg's article because my library's copy of Leshonenu 54 is missing mysteriously; perhaps another, quicker reader of Hagahot?).

Charlap accepts the conclusion Goldberg and others reached that the phrase is not Ibn Ezra's (despite the fact it is persistently attributed to him), and that its origin is from Arabic grammar. She disagrees with Goldberg's claim that even though the phrase isn't Ibn Ezra's, it fits his grammatical views. She is agnostic about the first use of the phrase in Hebrew, but traces it to a possible misunderstanding of a comment by Jonah ibn Janah.

Hope this is helpful – thanks again for a great blog!

(earlier post had a typo I wanted to fix)

7:57 PM  
Anonymous avi said...

Thanks Moulie for rounding up the relevant sources here.
Note though that the important article in Leshonenu 54 is not by "A. Goldberg" but rather by Esther Goldenberg, one of the most outstanding scholars of Hebrew grammar from the perspective of the influence of the Arabic grammars.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This evening (January 31, 2010) Rabbi Dr Eliezer Hurwitz of YU showed me in the BETH HAMMIDRASH CHATAM SOFER in Kew Gardens Hills a Tosafot Yom Tov where he quotes IBN EZRA: KOL DAVAR SHEEN BO RUACH CHAIM ZAKKEREHU WENAQQEVEHU, and asked me the source of it. I replied that I am familiar with the quotation of IBN EZRA. I checked HAMMILLON HECHADASH where the source is indicated as ARUGAT HABBOSEM 7, 28 who mentions it in the name of IBN EZRA. I downloaded from www.hebrewbooks.org the SEFER ARUGAT HABBOSEM (Venecia 1602), and indeed I found the quotation in the name of IBN EZRA.
Judah K Lefkovits

4:23 AM  

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