E 0487 IS, WAS

The verbal forms " is " and " was " are of Germanic origin

H 1068 ש י

Concept of root : to be

Hebrew word

pronunciation

English meanings

ש י

ysh

( there ) is

Related English words

is, was

Comparison between European words and Hebrew

Languages

Words

Pronunciation

English meanings

Similarity in roots

Hebrew

ש י

ysh

(there) is, (there) are

y . sh <

*w . sh

Old Church Slavonian

jestzj

ystzj

(there) is, (there) are

y . s

Russian

есть

ystj

(there) is

y . s

English

is ; was

is;

was

( i ) s ;

w . s

German

ist

war ;

Wesen

st; war ;

wzen

is;

was ;

(being (n)

( i ) s ;

w . r ;

w . s

-

Dutch

is ;

was ;

wezen

-

is ;

was ;

wzen

-

is;

was ;

to be;

being (n)

( i ) s ;

w . s ;

w . z .

Amsterdam dialect

is ;

was

ish ;

wash

is ;

was

( i ) sh ;

w . sh

Latin

es ;

est ;

esse

st ;

sse

is ;

to be

() s (t) ;

() ss .

 

 

Proto-Semitic *YESH < *WESH --- *IS, WAS Indo-European

 

 

This entry is narrowly related with entry E 0486 (Hebrew 0099), and it is useful to compare the information that is not written hereunder a second time.

 

The first observation is that English, like German and Dutch, uses for various forms of what is wrongly called " the verb to be ", either a " W " or an " I " . In Nordic we find the " W ".

 

 

Note:
  • Hebrew and Russian show a striking similarity. Hebrew "yesh" and Russian "yestj" both mean "there is, there are". Russian scholars have little doubt that these words are forms based on the same root as English "is" and Latin "esse". The picture becomes even clearer if we realize that the present tense for "to be" is not used either in Hebrew or in Russian, with the exception of these brief remnants. Then we see in other Slavic languages cognates. Old Church Slavonian "jestzj" is seen in the table above. Czech has a very convincing couple in "jest; jsou = there is; there are".

 

Note:
  • Hebrew "ysh" is a brief , but very important word. There are three strictly related versions of this root, but it is not easy to define to which extent their differences are influenced by choices of spelling. In the days of the patriarchs people began to introduce alphabetic symbols for sounds . That was a difficult task for several reasons. First because no alphabet is sufficiently perfect to represent all sounds of a living language, especially as each sound is influenced by the other sounds that precede or follow it.

     

    Secondly because the pronunciation of a language is never fully identical between all persons that speak it. On the one hand there are local habits or dialects, on the other hand the voice as a technical instrument gives different results in individuals .

     

    The codifiers of words in alphabetic signs found two pronunciations of words from the root of this entry and that of E 0486 (Hebrew 0099) , that basically were the same. One had the Yod as a consonant, "Y", the other had it as a vowel " I ". The consonant Yod brought the necessity of a vowel for pronunciation and an E was chosen : "ysh". But the vowel Yod, pronounced " I ", in the system chosen required the sign י . One recalls that in the Hebrew alphabet no vowels are used. They are not written. But it was still judged necessary to specify the case in which a word had to begin with a vowel. That is what the Aleph was used for.

     

    This also means that upon seeing an Aleph, a reader knows that he has to pronounce the initial vowel of a word or syllable, but it does not tell him which vowel. That may be an A, E , I , O or whatever.

     

    In entry E 0486 (Hebrew 0099) , we saw the result of this , or rather two different results. Some spellers wrote, according to the rules, " א ש ish". Others apparently realized the problems of clarity and inserted the letter Yod to explain that a vowel " I " had to pronounced. They wrote therefore " א י ש ish".

 

Note:
  • Hebrew has had many initial W’s in its roots, but has abolished them nearly all, basically by changing them into a Y . A " Y " is a consonant, but it may get to be pronounced as a vowel, basically a vowel " Ī ". Also the consonant " W " may be pronounced as a vowel, like " O " or " U ". The supposition that "yesh" has had an initial W in the past, is reinforced by the fact that we see both " W " and " I " in the verbal forms of " to be " in English and its sisters.

 

Note:
  • Hebrew makes very little use of a verb " to be ". Like Russian , for " he is great ", it simply says "he great". This is a possible cause why so few forms have remained. The basic message of the verb " to be " is that of communicating existence, reality, being .

     

    Existence and being in English can be and often are expressed by using a verb for "to have" : " In England ‘ you have ‘ many beautiful small villages ". The same occurs in many other tongues .

 

Note:
  • Hebrew has not fully abandoned its Yod that expresses " to be ". A few examples are :

     

     

    י ח ד
       , yaghad    to be(come) one.    א ח ד    , aghad = one
       י ט ב    , yathav    to be good    ט ו ב    , thov = good
       י ח ם    , yagham    to be in heat    ח ו ם    , ghom = heat
       י ד ע    , yad‛    to be in knowledge   ד ע    , de‛ = knowledge

 

Note:
  • Proto-Semitic . The Hebrew root " Y SH" is also found in Akkadian "ishu = to be" and has a cognate "Y S" in Arabic "laysa = is not" from "la = not + *ysa = to be ". In Aramaic and Syriac instead we have " א י ת, 'it, Aleph Y T , in which the Aleph is a neutral prefix. Presumably Proto-Semitic was similar to Hebrew : "* י ש , Y SH".

 

Note:
  • Germanic and Hebrew. One might remark that there is the difference between the Hebrew SH and the English S in "is, was". Therefore the table shows also the dialect of Amsterdam, that pronounces the S as SH. So this difference may be a matter of shifting pronunciation in many cases. The same phenomenon is seen in many Semitic words, where a Hebrew " SH " may correspond with " S " in other languages. An example can be found in Hebrew "shalom" and Arabic "salam".

 

Note:
  • Proto-Germanic . The proposed Proto-Germanic of English "is" that we find is "*I S-". This is fully in harmony with the existing verbal forms .

 

Note:
  • Indo-European. On the basis of the information in this entry and in number E 0486 (Hebrew 0099), regarding Greek, Latin and Germanic a couple of strongly related roots is to be found: "*I S-" or "*E S- as well as ""*W E S-" and "*W A S-".

     

    These can also be considered hypotheses for Indo-European. In other languages there are cognates. Old Indian has "ás-ti; vás-ati; vāsá = is; to live; remaining, staying", which together confirms the mentioned hypothesis.

     

    Celtic offers Old Irish "is", Baltic gives Old Prussian "ast" and Lituanian "esti" , Slavic has Old Church Slavonian "jestzj" and Armenian "es". For the other verbal forms like in Latin "sum, sunt" there are also many cognates.

 

 

 

 

 
Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 18/12/2012 at 15.31.39