Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works
Want to find another Jewish commentator?Judah ben David Ḥayyuj
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Hebrew Name(s): יהודה בן דוד חיוג׳
Other Names: Abu Zakariyya Yaḥya ibn Dawūd
Period: Rishonim — 10th Century
Dates: c. 945–1000
Judah ben David Ḥayyuj was born in Fez, Morocco but spent all his life in Cordova, Spain. He studied under the grammarian Menahem ben Saruk. Ḥayyuj developed a scientific approach to Hebrew grammar: by applying his knowledge of Arabic grammatical literature and theories to Hebrew he introduced the discipline of scientific study of Hebrew.
At a time when much scholarly confusion existed around the conjugation of the so-called "weak" verbs and the divergences that existed between "weak" and the "strong" verbs according to a morphological approach to Hebrew, Menahem ben Saruk had developed a theory of root stems (s. shoresh שרש | pl. shorashim שרשים): that there are stems containing three letters, two letters and one letter. His theory had weaknesses , however, and was criticized by grammarians (e.g., Dunash.)
Ḥayyuj's contribution to the debate was to propose a three letter root theory wherein "vowel letters" could be regarded as "concealed" in various ways in different verbal forms. To clarify his theory Ḥayyuj wrote a treatise in three parts, Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat Ḥuruf al-Lin (The Book of Verbs Containing Weak Letters)
Preceding each division the principles underlying the formation of the stems belonging to the division are systematically set forth in a series of introductory chapters.
Ḥayyuj later added a supplement to this work, Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat al-Mathalain (The Book of Verbs Containing Double Letters,) which governed the principles that apply when the second and third radicals of verbs are alike. Kitab al-Natf (The Book of Extracts) is a later work, which is no longer extant (except for a fragment,) but is quoted by later authors. This work is a supplement to Ḥayyuj's two grammatical works on the verb.
Kitab al-Tankit (The Book of Punctuation) is a practical work which deals with the principles underlying the Masoretic use of use of vowels and the word tone.
Ḥayyuj's work was so influential that Hebrew grammarians continue to refer to his work. Technical terms in Hebrew grammars continue to use Hebrew translations of the Arabic terms as introduced by Ḥayyuj, who wrote in Arabic. Moses ibn Gikatilla and Abraham ibn Ezra translated his work into Hebrew.
Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat Ḥuruf al-Lin (The Book of Verbs Containing Weak Letters); Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat al-Mathalain (The Book of Verbs Containing Double Letters); Kitab al-Natf (The Book of Extracts); Kitab al-Tankit (The Book of Punctuation)
Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat Ḥuruf al-Lin is a treatise on the word root stems of Hebrew words.
Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat al-Mathalain is a supplement to Kitab al-Af‘al Dhawat Ḥuruf al-Lin which deals with the occurrences of double letters when the second and third letters are alike.
Kitab al-Natf, a later work, (only an unpublished fragment is extant) is quoted by later authors. This work is a supplement to Ḥayyuj's two grammatical works on the verb.
Kitab al-Tankit is a practical work which deals with the principles underlying the Masoretic use of use of vowels and the word tone.
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