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"Standard" glossing (following the Leipzig rules) uses a linear model of breaking down words into morphemes. In other words, it assumes you can draw lines between all the morphemes to separate them.

But what do I do when these assumptions break down?

For example, the Arabic word كتب (kataba) means "he wrote". It consists of two morphemes: the root k-t-b means "write", and the pattern _a_a_a means "3.M.SG.PERF".

I could gloss this following Rule 8:

k-a-t-a-b-a
write-3.M.SG.PERF-write-3.M.SG.PERF-write-3.M.SG.PERF

Or following Rule 9:

k<a>t<a>b<a>
write<3.M.SG.PERF>

Or following the optional Rule 4D:

kataba
3.M.SG.PERF/write

But none of these seems particularly satisfying. What is actually used "in the wild", and what do linguists find most useful when they're trying to actually study a Semitic language?

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  • This feature is not proper to Semitic language. I suggest to widen your question to all languages with nonconcatenative morphology. Besides, you only point out the case of transfixation, what about gemination, reduplication, ... – amegnunsen Feb 7 '19 at 9:32
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    @amegnunsen Entirely fair; however, the Leipzig rules already cover other types of non-concatenative morphology (such as tone-only morphemes and reduplication). Semitic verbs were the one type I know about that isn't covered. – Draconis Feb 7 '19 at 16:55
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I'm looking at the 2020 book The NP-strategy for Expressing Reciprocity by Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, so to answer your question what is used in the wild with but one example: this author simply does (p. 47, for Biblical Hebrew):

yiddōr
vow.IPF.3.M.SG

yidḥāqû
prod.IPF.3.M.PL

When I want to break it down further, I use angular brackets to distinguish prefix conjugation from root and stem:

y<idḥāq>û
IPF.M.3PL<prod\G>

But because angular brackets are normally for infices rather than circumfices this needs to be explained in a footnote or introduction. (G here refers to the basic stem/binyan.)

For suffix conjugations I don't use angular brackets:

katab-a
write\G.PFV-M.3SG

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