Derived stem

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Derived stems are a morphological feature of verbs common to the Semitic languages. In those languages, the vocabulary is based predominately on roots[1] consisting of three or four consonants, wherein each root may be the basis for a number of conceptually related words. Each language features a number of set patterns for deriving verb stems from a given root. Stems from the same root represent separate verbs, albeit often semantically related, and each is the basis for its own conjugational paradigm.

For example, both in Arabic and in Hebrew, many words that have a meaning related to writing contain the root K-T-B (in Hebrew, when the letter B does not come at the beginning of a word, it may sound like a V). Thus, "he wrote" in Arabic is "huwa kataba", "he dictated" is "huwa kattaba", and "he corresponded" is "huwa takātaba". Similarly, in Hebrew, "he wrote" is "hu katav", "he dictated" is "hu hikhtiv", and "he corresponded" is "hu hitkatev".

In each language, one stem is canonically associated with the ordinary active voice, while each of the others is canonically associated with the passive voice, the causative, the intensive, the reflexive, etc., or some combination thereof. Many[citation needed] verbs, however, don't conform to this pattern, though the etymology of some may point to conformance historically.

In each Semitic language, the number of common derived stems is different. In Hebrew there are seven common ones,[2] in Arabic there are ten common forms[3] and five rare, in Akkadian there are thirteen common patterns, and so on.


  1. ^ Andrew Kingsbury Simpson (2009). "The Origin and Development of Nonconcatenative Morphology". Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Rubin, A. D. (2008). "The Paradigm Root in Hebrew". Journal of Semitic Studies 53: 29–41. doi:10.1093/jss/fgm043.  edit
  3. ^ Peter F Abboud, Ernest N McCarus, et al. (1983). Elementary Modern Standard Arabic. Pronunciation and Writing: Lessons 1-30 (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 231–233.