About Yehudah Hayyuj "Formash" ben David al-Fāsi, HaKohen
Judah Ḥayyūj (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben David al-Fāsi established the triliteralism of the Hebrew verb and was one of the few scholars who appears to have approached the Bible with the sole intention of making a morphological analysis of verbal forms in the search for a valid methodology. He was also the first Jewish author from al-Andalus to write in Arabic.
The nisba al-Fāsi indicates that Judah Ḥayyūj was from Fez in Morocco, a city he left for Cordova, possibly because as a writer he was attracted by the cultural movement fostered by Ḥasday ibn Shaprūṭ and the splendor of the metropolis. He apparently supported himself there as a teacher. Tradition maintains that Samuel ibn Naghrella was one of his students.
Establishing the dates of Judah Ḥayyūj’s life is a somewhat speculative venture, but if he participated in the grammatical controversy in Cordova around 960, he could not have been born after 940. And he must have died before 1013, because the grammarian Jonah ibn Janāḥ states in his first opuscule, published around that time, that Ḥayyūj was already dead. Noteworthy among the hypotheses is that of Derenbourg, who accepted the years around 940 for his birth and placed his death around 1010. Ashtor moved the date of his birth back to around 910, while Amador de los Ríos held that he died in Murcia or Valencia sometime after the massive exodus from Cordova precipitated by the 1013 revolt.
Another mystery about Ḥayyūj pertains to the question of whether he was the Judah ben David known to have been a disciple of Menaḥem ibn Sarūq, as might be suggested by his Arabic name Yaḥyā ibn Dāwūd. If this identification is correct, it means that Ḥayyūj lived among the Christians at some point and pretended to convert, because this is what Yehudi ibn Sheshet says about Judah ben David. One hypothesis explains the laqab Ḥayyūj as a nickname that combines the Hebrew name Ḥayya with the Romance suffix -ūj.
Later Jewish philologists considered Judah Ḥayyūj to have been the innovator of Hebrew philological studies and the grammarian who laid the foundations for the Andalusian school of Hebrew grammar. Scholarship has confirmed that most later grammatical works were based on those of Ḥayyūj. His influence has continued until the present day, as shown by the fact that his theories and his grammatical terms (in translation) are still in use.
Ḥayyūj gave the Hebrew language an almost perfect system, equal to that of Arabic, creating a methodology of high quality that conformed to the trends of the era without abandoning older traditions. Once Ḥayyūj propounded his theory, morphology became synonymous with reliability. Triliteralism became a kind of linguistic yoke in grammatical works for centuries. From a lexicographical point of view, the fever for morphology often made authors focus on the signifier and forget the signified, the original motive for this linguistic-theological construct.
Ḥayyūj’s method was highly influenced by the theories of Muslim grammarians, especially al-Khalīl, Sībawayhi, al-Mubarrad, and Ibn Jinnī. The influence of Aristotle is also quite apparent in his work, and the logic of his method depends on the hierarchical ontological “tree” presented by Porphyry in his Isagoge, which he must have studied in a madrasa in Cordova.
Ḥayyūj was the first Hebrew author who seriously considered the triliteralism of words, with special emphasis on weak and geminate verbs. His method was based on a phonetic and morphologic criterion in which all forms are potentially regular; one need only take them back to their origin and detect the accidents that produced the variations. His system elaborates twelve processes that affect and explain Hebrew forms: original form (aṣal), facilitation (istiḥfāf), compensation (ʿawḍ), vowel translation (ilqā'), analogue form (qiyās), license (jawāz), derivation (ištiqāq), flexion (taṣrīf), consonant doubling (tadʿīf y taḥrīr), behavior (istiʿmāl), anomaly (nādir y shādd), and convention (iṣṭilāḥ).
Ḥayyūj wrote all his treatises in Arabic because he had found his method and nomenclature in this language, which was the one used in the schools. As a result, his work spread rapidly and widely. His fame was such that he was translated into Hebrew twice, first by Moses ibn Chiquitilla in the eleventh century, and then, more literally, by Abraham ibn Ezra in the twelfth. Ḥayyūj’s Arabic output consists of four treatises, three on grammar and the fourth on exegesis: Kitāb al-Nutaf (Book of Handfuls). If he is correctly identified with the disciple of Ibn Sarūq, his contribution in Hebrew to the Teshuvot against Dunash ben Labraṭ must be added to this. Ḥayyūj stated that he had considered composing works that would treat other topics, but these writings are neither known to us nor mentioned in other sources.
The Book of Ḥayyūj is a key work in the legacy of al-Andalus and one of the pillars of modern Hebrew grammar. It consists of two treatises, one on weak verbs and the other on geminates, to which is usually added an opuscule on vocalization. The work as a whole, written during the caliphate, shows the social, literary, and scientific process of fusion found in the area from the beginning of the century. Its broad diffusion explains why more than a hundred manuscripts have been preserved.
The Kitāb al-Afʿāl Dawāt Ḥurūf al-Līn wa-l-Madd (Book on Verbs That Contain Weak Letters and Lengthening) and Kitāb al-Afʿāl Dawāt al-Mithlayn (Book on Verbs That Contain Geminates) were inspired by the Kutub al-Afʿāl (Books of Verbs) by the Arab grammarians of the epoch. They seem to have been conceived as a kind of morphological dictionary and not as a systematic grammar, since they deal, in a random, unordered way, with several topics of Hebrew language. The existence of triliteralism in all Hebrew verbs is put forth here for the first time.
The macrostructure is not set. The two larger treatises can be understood as a single compact work, as two works (one on weak verbs and the other on geminates), or as four fascicles (one for each type of verb). The healthy forms do not have a chapter in this work, and moreover, the author requires that the reader be familiar with them, since they are the touchstone for reconstructing the matrices from which the original forms are extracted. With these hypothetical forms, it is possible to study the phonetic processes that, if they have not “deformed” the original appearance of certain words, have at least “facilitated” their pronunciation.
Each of the four fascicles is made up of an introduction subdivided into sections and a dictionary. The Book of Ḥayyūj can also be understood as a complement to the Maḥberet of Menaḥem ibn Sarūq, a facet that should still be studied in much greater depth. Many of Ḥayyūj’s allusions seek to update the latter book, others to defend it.
The microstructure of these dictionaries has two characteristics: first, all the entries follow a strict morphological order, and second, the Hebrew verses are never translated into Arabic. The roots follow the traditional alphabetical order, except in the case of concave words, where the second radical does not interfere in the order of the healthy radicals.
The treatises on Hebrew words with weak and geminate letters are preceded by grammatical prologues in which the nature of each different genus is explained. The cases are always accompanied by numerous examples extracted from the Bible that confirm the argument, whether they are analogous forms reconstructed by the author or similar words that indicate the vocalization of the case in question. Dictionaries of verbs follow, one for each genus, with the forms given in a morphological order.
The Kitāb al-Naqṭ (Opuscule on Vocalic Norms) may have been Ḥayyūj’s first work in Arabic. From then on, Jewish writers in al-Andalus used Arabic systematically for discussions of Hebrew grammatical questions of all kinds. The treatise has three parts. The first considers the differences between the vowels qameṣ and pataḥ and between ṣere and segol. Ḥayyūj does not allude to vocalic quantity, which leads us to the Andalusian phonetic system, which lacked long vowels. The second part is dedicated to paroxitone nouns with a pe’el pattern, and the third to paroxitone nouns with the po’el pattern and their exceptions. The Arabic tripartite vocalic pattern, /u/-/i/-/a/, seems to underlie this vocalic division; but its particular sequence, /a/-/i/-/u/, seems to be under the vocalic influence of Romance. In fact, when enunciating them, Ḥayyūj always tended to the Romance sequence: a, e, i, o, u. This brief opus primum shares certain basic ideas with the Teshuvot of the disciples of Menaḥem ibn Sarūq, which means that the relationship between Ḥayyūj and Judah ben David was not influenced by historical motives that are impossible to explain today.
The Kitāb al-Nutaf (Book of Handfuls) is the name of the lost work by Ḥayyūj. As the first exegetical-grammatical treatise written in al-Andalus, it very likely was the model for those that followed. It focused on analysis of the most difficult forms found in the books of the Prophets. It was never translated into Hebrew, and perhaps there never was a complete edition. The work is now given up as lost. The known fragments, as a beginning, were partially published by Kokovtsov, Allony, Abramson, and Eldar. All these different fragments were compiled, studied, and translated into Hebrew by Basal (2001). Reading them one stands before the practical application of the theories developed in the earlier treatises, with more details, changes of opinion, and ratification of old points of view. The work is a practical complement to the whole of Ḥayyūj’s theory. In fact, one of its novelties is the application of the new grammatical theory to biblical exegesis.
José Martínez Delgado
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José Martínez Delgado. " Ḥayyūj, Judah (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben David al-Fāsi." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 05 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/hayyuj-judah-abu-zakariyya-yahya-ben-david-al-fasi-COM_0009580>