-ihah As an Affix

From Book of Mormon Onomasticon
Jump to: navigation, search

All of the Lehite names ending in -hah are preceded by i, namely, Ammonihah, Cumenihah, Mathonihah, Moronihah, Nephihah, Onihah, and Zemnarihah. The only names ending in -hah(without the preceding i) are Jaredite: Ahah, Mahah, and Limhah. The only outlier to these two patterns is the Jaredite name Orihah.

I have purposely composed the affix as -(i)hah because it is not clear to me that the i is part of the affix or not. If the -(i)hah affix is involved in the Jaredite names, then 75% of them lack the i, which would tend to eliminate i as part of a Jaredite affix. The evidence for the Lehite names is also mixed. If all the Lehite names do exhibit the i, that does not necessarily mean that the i is part of an affix. Most of the Lehite -ihah endings are attached to names that already end in i: Cumeni/Cumenihah, Mathoni/Mathoni, Moroni/Moronihah, and Nephi/Nephihah. Two names, Onihah and Zemnarihah do not have a counterpart without affix and are therefore not diagnostic. It would seem then that it is legitimate to ask if this Lehite affix should not simply be -hah without a leading i. The spoiler to this suggestion would appear to be Ammon/Ammonihah, where the i seems to belong to hah. However, in a Hebrew vorlage, an i that seems to connect two words could very well be a hireq compaginis, that is, a helping vowel between consonants, e.g., as some scholars suggest, the i in the Hebrew name Melchizedek.

In short, the i may not belong to the Lehite affix and probably not to the Jaredite affix.Nevertheless, the discussion that follows is not based on the full range of possibilities of -(i)hah.

The fact that -(i)hah appears on Jaredite names might suggest that this affix could be Jaredite and not Lehite. If it is a Jaredite affix, I can offer no suggestions.[1] Assuming, however, that -(i)hah is a Lehite affix leads to further discussion, particularly to what the affix is not.

Based on the names Moroni and Moronihah, who were father and son respectively (see Alma 62:43), it might seem that -(i)hah could mean “son of.” However, no other names ending in -(i)hah follow the father/son pattern. In fact, Mathoni and Mathonihah appear to be brothers (see 3 Nephi 19:4). If -(i)hah meant “son of,” it might be expected that more than one example would be evident, especially in cases where the text gives examples of a son being named after his father.[2]

It has been suggested that the ending -ihah on some Nephite names represents the Hebrew divine name yhwh, יהוה ,traditionally pronounced “Jehovah” in English. Indeed, on the surface, yhwh and -ihah would seem to have much in common, even if -ihah cannot be derived from the traditional Jehovah pronunciation.[3] If -ihah is to be related at all to yhwh, commonly called the Tetragrammaton (because it consists of four letters), then it must be based on some pronunciation other than the traditional English pronunciation. And, a close look at the Hebrew divine name as the theophoric element in biblical period Hebrew names will rule out the plausibility that -ihah corresponds with the Tetragrammaton.

The first reason to doubt that -ihah represents the Hebrew divine name yhwh comes from studies of biblical period Hebrew names. Nearly all ancient Semitic personal names are normally composed of two elements, a theophoric name, usually the name of a deity, and a noun or verb. Often, the theophoric element was shortened or omitted altogether. In the latter case, the name of the deity, though missing, is understood to be present. In biblical period Hebrew personal names, the Tetragrammaton often occurs as the theophoric element. Yet, the divine name never occurs in its full form, yhwh, as the theophoric element in the personal names of the Old Testament.[4] As far as I am aware, it also never occurs in biblical period Hebrew names outside of the Bible. When yhwh does appear as the theophoric element it only occurs in shortened (hypocoristic) forms, or is left off completely. For that reason alone, equating Book of Mormon -ihah with the Tetragrammaton should be viewed with extreme scepticism if not outright rejection.

The second reason for rejecting a connection between -ihah and yhwh is actually a corollary of the first reason. If the full form of the Tetragrammaton is never used as the theophoric element of a biblical Hebrew name, could one of the shortened forms that are often used in the biblical onomasticon be the basis for -ihah? The answer is no. None of the known shortened forms of the Tetragrammaton would yield -ihah. The shortened forms are only used as affixes on nouns or verbs. The prefixed forms are -yehô(יוה )and -yô(יו)and the suffixed forms are -yāh(יה- ,) yāhû(יוה ,)and, exclusively in extra-biblical names, -yô(יו).[5] All of these shortened forms have at least one vowel, and most have two, that cannot be reconciled with -ihah.

If the evidence above, particularly the first reason, is ignored, then the viability of deriving -ihah from the Tetragrammaton rests on vocalizing יהוה ,as yihwah. This vocalization is possible if the Tetragrammaton is a Hebrew Qal imperfect third masculine singular verbal form.[6] That the Tetragrammaton is an imperfect third masculine singular verbal form from the common Semitic root hwy/hyy, [7] meaning “to be” or “to exist,” is generally acknowledged.[8] However, the evidence is fairly compelling that the Tetragrammaton is not a Qal imperfect, but rather is from the causative (Hiphil) form. The Hiphil form cannot be the source for -ihah. But first, let me present the evidence that the yhwh is a Qal form. The Qal pronunciation is hinted at in a few places in the Masoretic text. For example, the Leningrad Codex Exodus 6:2 and 3 supplies for the Tetragrammaton the vowels yəhwah, which could produce yihwah. But the Leningrad Codex, though the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible (probably written in AD 1008), is at best preserving the Masoretic pronunciation of a few hundred years before that, i.e., at least a thousand years after Lehi left Jerusalem.[9] Few if any scholars today defend this pronunciation.[10] And, the Masoretic text itself even contradicts this pronunciation at other points.[11]

The Masoretic text presents compelling evidence that yəhwah was not the original pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. Though there is no sure evidence on how the Tetragrammaton waspronounced in biblical times, there are some fairly compelling reasons to pronounce it as yahweh (from an original Hiphil yahwih and not from an original Qal yihwah (yəhwah) pronunciation). This is not the time or place to expound on all the reasons, so I will confine myself to only a few salient points. In every instance where a shortened form of the Tetragrammton is preserved (the only forms that consistently supply the vowels), the voweling would exclude the Qal yihwah and support the Hiphil yahweh pronunciation.[12] Thus in verses like Isaiah 26:4, the Hebrew reads yahh yhwh, which is commonly taken as a repetition of the Tetragrammaton, i.e., yhwh yhwh.[13] The first of the Hebrew words representing the Tetragrammaton has the voweling yahh, and thus provides the prefix vowel /a/ of the imperfect verbal form.[14] The prefix vowel /a/ is compatible with the Hiphil but not with the Qal if the theme vowel in the Qal is also /a/.[15]

That the prefix vowel of the imperfect verbal form yhwh was /a/ and not /i/ can be confirmed by the fact that in every case where a vowel is provided by the Hebrew text for a hypocoristic form of yhwh, it is always /a/ or /ô/, the latter coming from the shortening of /yaw/. This is also true where the shortened form of yhwh does not form part of a name, as in the example above. In addition, in nearly all other instances of ayin-yod and/or ayin-waw verbs,[16] the theme vowel in the Qal and Hiphil imperfect is either /i/ or /u/, and not /a/.[17] This would make the pronunciation yihwah highly unlikely.

Therefore, based on pronunciation, it seems implausible, but not entirely impossible, that Book of Mormon -ihah can be derived from the Tetragrammaton. Any attempt to equate -ihah and yhwh must explain how the vowels can be reconciled, and do it without going through linguistic gymnastics.


  1. Until the possible language affinities for Jaredite names can be determined, all suggestions for etymologies of Jaredite names and affixes must remain speculative
  2. The two most prominent examples are Alma and Mormon.
  3. The vowels do not coincide
  4. See IPN, 104, “In den Personennamen, die immer Neigung zu kürzen haben, ist der Gottesname nie in seiner vollen Form überliefert.”
  5. Jeaneane D. Fowler, Theophoric Personal Names in Ancient Hebrew, JSOT Supplemental Series 49 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988), 35.
  6. In Hebrew there are seven major verbal paradigms: Qal, Niphal, Piel, Pual, Hiphil, Hophal, and Hithpael. There are several additional minor paradigms that are not used very often. Within each of these paradigms there are perfect, imperfect, participial, infinitive, and imperative forms, most of which have masculine, feminine, singular, dual, plural and first, second, and third person conjugations.
  7. Hebrew dictionaries list the root under hyh. But nearly all final he verbs in Hebrew come originally from final yod roots, the he being a mater lectionis for the long vowel occasioned by the yod. If yah/yahweh turns out not to be a verbal form, my conclusion would not change, but the discussion that follows leading to my conclusion would change. The fact is that the first vowel of yah and yahweh is /a/, and such vowels do not morph into /i/ or even /ih/. Even yah would not morph into hah.
  8. 8 Hebrew, like English, does not naturally distinguish between “to exist” and “to be.” Other languages make the distinction, e.g., Latin sistere and esse, Spanish estar and ser, and German dasein and sein. But the distinction often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
  9. Below I will argue that the Masoretic text vocalization, though dating to at least a thousand years after Lehi, can be reliable if substantiated from another source. This corroboration does not exist for the vocalization of the Tetragrammaton because the Septuagint does not transcribe it, but rather translates it with the Greek word for “lord.” Therefore, any vocalization of the divine name that might have been known to the translators of the Septuagint was not preserved in the Greek text. This may be due at least in part to the reluctance in Jewish circles to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, that is, to add the vowels to the consonantal text
  10. Among the prominent scholars who have defended the Qal form is Wolfram von Soden, “Jahwe, ‘er ist, er erweist sich,’” Welt des Orients 3 (1944-1966):177-187.
  11. For example in Joshua 7:10 it has yəhwah, but in 7:7 it has yehovih.
  12. In footnote 9 above I argued that the Leningrad Codex preservation of the vocalization yəhwah may not be reliable. It may seem double talk now to argue that the voweling of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible can usually be trusted. The reason for the change is the fact that, unlike the Masoretic pronunciation in some passages of the Tetragrammaton, the pronunciation of most names can be substantiated through the transliteration of the Hebrew names into Greek in the Septuagint. Greek does contain vowels. Therefore, Septuagint spellings of the Hebrew names would in theory preserve the pronunciation of the names as the names were pronounced 300 to 400 years after Lehi. In nearly all cases the Septuagint and the Masoretic vocalizations support each other. In no cases that I am aware of does the Septuagint contradict the argument I am making here, though not all of the examples that I present can be corroborated in the Septuagint.
  13. The King James Bible translates “LORD JEHOVAH,” indicating that the translators understood the expression to be a repetition of the divine name. This is still the consensus understanding today
  14. The /a/ as the prefix vowel contradicts passages like Exodus 6:2 and 3 (discussed above), where the prefix vowel is a schwa, /ə/. Such changes in vowel quality in Hebrew and in all Semitic languages are usually phonemic.
  15. Originally in the North-west Semitic languages, the prefix vowel of the Qal imperfect, the vowel that comes between the subject marker (in this case y) and the first radical of the root (in this case h) was /a/. The theme vowel of the imperfect, the vowel between the second and third radical, could be /a/, /i/, or /u/. According to Barth’s law, however, in Hebrew and Ugaritic if the theme vowel is /a/, as it would have to be if -ihah is to be equated with yhwh, then the prefix is changed from /a/ to /i/. In other words, in the Qal, the theme vowel and the prefix vowel in the imperfect cannot be the same. Beyond this, the vowels in Hebrew can be colored by the consonants in their environment.
  16. In Hebrew, the roots that have y as their second radical are called aiyin-yod roots; roots with w as the middle radical are called aiyn-waw roots
  17. The theme vowel of middle weak verbs with waw or yod is naturally (and respectively) /u/ or /i/ because of the inherent sound of the waw and the yod. This means that the prefix vowel of the imperfect qal form will be /a/. Additionally, if the Amorite names with ya-wi- as the verbal element in the Middle Bronze Age city of Mari can be reflections of the same root as yhwh, then it would seem the divine name has /a/ as the prefix vowel. The same prefix vowel /a/ is conjectured for a supposed Late Bronze Age appearance of the imperfect verbal form in an Egyptian text. See Thomas Schneider, “The First Documented Occurrence of the God Yahweh? (Book of the Dead Princeton ‘Roll 5’),” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 7/2 (2007):