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In reading Daniel Block's commentary on Ezekiel, I have come across the word sufformative. (Block uses it of the Hebrew masculine singular ending -em.) I have searched all around but cannot find a definition. Searching on Google is instructive in that it reveals that the word seems to be used primary in the context of the study of ancient Hebrew and Greek. I have had trouble before finding definitions for words used by Biblical linguists; they seem to have their own set of vocabulary.

Obviously, in a general way it indicates some sort of formation at the end of a word. I also have the sense that this is somewhat different than the meaning of suffix, though I am not clear enough on the definition of the word to express this difference. What is the meaning of sufformative? Is it different from suffix, and if so, how? Examples (in whatever language) would also be appreciated.

(I've chosen to ask this rather than on English.SE because this word seems to be used only by linguists.)

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I have never heard this term used in the study of Greek, and I get only results about Hebrew when I search in Google. Wikipedia doesn't know the word, nor does the Oxford English Dictionary. So perhaps this is a (badly?) translated term from Hebrew? Is the word even used in academic linguistics? I saw it seemed to contrast with performative in certain Hewbrew grammar books. –  Cerberus Nov 23 '12 at 9:03
About one hundred years ago some linguists called affixes "afformatives", prefixes "preformatives", and suffixes "sufformatives". –  Alex B. Nov 23 '12 at 17:15
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2 Answers

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As Alex B. points out in his comment to your question, some writers (especially earlier ones) use "sufformative" interchangably with "suffix". However, as I understand it, a sufformative in Biblical Hebrew is specifically an inflectional ending. According to Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 2nd ed.:

The Perfect conjugation is also called the "suffix conjugation" because different inflectional endings or sufformatives are added to the verbal root in order to indicate person, gender, and number.

So when Block refers to sufformatives, I think he's describing verbal inflectional endings, rather than other types of suffix such as plural suffixes on nouns and so on.

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Sufformative refers to "Perfect" "Inperfect" etc. (1cp etc.) endings. See Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar by Pratico and Van Pelt, p. 148 #6.

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