This is the last installment on my musings on the Proto-Semitic case system. I'll discuss the ever mistifying He Locale.
The He Locale is a suffix we find in Hebrew traditionally thought to be a suffix /-ā/ written as <h> just like the feminine suffix /-ā/. Semantically this suffix generally conveys a meaning of 'motion towards': <bblh> 'towards Babylon'.
This He Locale could also have a less directional, or more lexicalised meaning. Example is the word <lylh> 'night' which is a masculine noun which seems feminine because it has a suffix <-h>, but in fact it's a masculine noun which can be seen in the construct state and agreement. This form probably kept its <-h> from the expression <h-lylh> 'tonight', in a similar way we find <h-ywmh> for 'today', but the word for day never got this <-h> lexicalised the word for day is simply spelled <ywm>.
Originally these two uses of 'towards' and 'at (a certain time)' were considered the same suffix, but this view has recently changed due to new insights into the language due to Ugaritic. On top of that, both these functions of the He Locale were considered to be uses of the Proto-Semitic Accusative *-a. Which we see functionally the same in Arabic al-yawma 'today'.
We find texts of Ugaritic which also have a He Locale. We find the word <arṣh> 'towards the ground'. But in Ugaritic writing <h> is not used to write a word final /-ā/ but only a consonant final /-h/, which led to the conclusion that the He Locale is indeed just that: a suffix /-(V)h/ expressing motion towards even in Hebrew.
The <h> that we find in <h-ywmh> probably is the Proto-Semitic Accusative. So in fact the He Locale represents two different pronunciations that happened to be written the same, which also had two different functions.
The consonantal suffix /-(V)h/ has been connected to the Akkadian directive suffix -iš. Leading to a Proto-Semitic reconstruction *-aš. I'm unsure if we should really reconstruct the vowel as such. Akkadian points to *i. Vocalisation in Hebrew points to *a or *ā but one should wonder if the vocalisation is to be trusted at all, as this vocalisation indicated that there was no cononantal /h/ in the suffix in Hebrew. So for now it's probably safer to stick with a Proto-Semitic reconstruction *Vš.
The sound correspondence Proto-Semitic *š : Hebrew h is probably okay, but should be considered briefly. The origin of this correspondence is found in the Causative derivation in the verb which in Akkadian consists of a prefix ša-. In Hebrew this prefix is hi-. In other placed (except for now the Directive case) this sound correspondence was not regularly found. The normal explanation for this is as follows:
*š> h in pre-vocalic position while it was retained as š in postvocalic position. All verbs that would have started with š retained it because the Perfect has šaCaC but the imperfect had VšCaC which would create a strange unwanted paradigmatic alternation between h and š which led to analogy which levelled all h back to š.
But now we have a suffix -(V)h from *-Vš which doesn't take much imagination to see that this is in fact post-vocalic position. So was the original Proto-Semitic form actually *-VšV word final short vowels seem to've both been lost in Hebrew and Akkadian, so this might be possible.
The other reconstruction that underlies the Hebrew He Locale also poses problems. There is no indication of the original short vowels *a/i/u which originally made up the Proto-Semitic case system, except in the used as ha-yoma 'today'. What is the reason why it was retained here while it was lost elsewhere?
It seems like Hebrew did not always get rid of final short vowels, for example, in the verbal system we find several retentions of final short vowels which we see in Classical Arabic.
Let's take the 1st 2nd and 3rd person forms in both Arabic and Hebrew and see what we can say about word final vowels purely from that.
Word final -u seems to become -ī in Hebrew, word final -i seems to disappear completely, word final a has two reflexes, both ā and Ø. 3sg.f. was included for completeness sake, -at > -ā is a shift also found in the noun.
In the noun though the Nominative case marker -u is never reflected as -ī but always as -Ø. Genitive -i poses no problem, it has the same reflex as in the verb: Ø. Accusative -a is most problematic. As you can see in the verb a final -a can have two reflexes, the conditioning of this is difficult to determine. Is it:
a > ā /CC_
a > Ø /C_
Hard to be sure from just these two examples.
Since what would be traditionally marked with an Accusative in Semitic has been replaced by a new syntagm, one cannot say that -a shifted to -Ø in most cases. The accusative noun phrases are marked with a preposition ʔεt. Since prepositions usually take the genitive, it's probably safe to say that accusative phrases in Hebrew took the genitive -i which was later lost.
The only place where we find the old accusative *-a then is in fixed expressions like ha-yomā 'today'. So it would seem like in the noun the regular reflex is -ā.
In A Linguistic History of Arabic Jonathan Owens suggests that Proto-Arabic in fact had two forms, a caseless variety and a case variety. His arguments for this are a bit radical, but I find them quite compelling. BUt Owens goes as far as reconstructing two varieties of the languages as far back as Proto-Semitic, claiming that Proto-Semitic both had a case variety and a caseless variety.
While I find this idea rather radical in that the evidence is a bit scarce, it would explain some of the confusing situation of Hebrew. Why do the short vowels in the verbal system have different reflexes than those of the noun (where case distinction is mostly lost)?
Maybe the short vowels of the noun were not lost, but never there because Hebrew (mostly) derived from a caseless variety of Proto-Semitic. The accusative found in ha-yomā would then be one of the few places where we see the regular reflex of a case from the case variety.
I'm really not sure if I believe Owens' ideas, but in this case it definitely helps explaining a bit of the confusing web of case in Semitic. Thoughts?