The root אשר seems to act weirdly in relation to number.

On the one hand, it takes on plural morphology in situations that are clearly singular, here in the form of a plural (const.) noun (functioning as an adj.) in reference to a sing. noun: אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים (Ps. 1:1)

On the other hand, inversely, we sing as we return the sefer Torah to the ark, of a singular adj. qualifying a plural noun: עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותמכיה מְאֻשָּׁר(Prov. 3:18)

Finally, there are cases that appear altogether consistent, here plural with plural: אַשְׁרֵי אֲנָשֶׁיךָ אַשְׁרֵי עֲבָדֶיךָ (I Kings 10:8)

Is this just an anomaly of the root אשר, or is something else going on?

  • Is this a difference of the word meaning "praised (by many)" and so plural, vs fortunate (singular)? – Benyomin Walters Oct 7 '19 at 21:08
  • Interesting potential differentiation, Benyomin. Food for thought. – Joshua Oct 7 '19 at 21:15
  • I suspect it has nothing to do with Judaism. אשרי is different but I don't see any religious reasons for that. – Al Berko Oct 7 '19 at 21:37
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    @al I'm not really sure how questions about biblical Hebrew (AKA lashon hakodesh), as used in Scripture, could be considered off topic on this site. (Even putting aside that no less a halachic authority than Maimonides considers knowing Hebrew to be a mitzva kala.) (The OP isn't asking how to conjugate לפסבק.) – Loewian Oct 8 '19 at 4:05
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    academia.edu/2603454/… – magicker72 Oct 8 '19 at 17:37

אַשְׁרֵי is grammatically, as you note, a plural construct noun. So it isn't obligated to agree with the word following it, as in יְדֵי הָאִישׁ "the man's (s) hands (pl)." If we translated word-by-word, אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ would mean "the man's happinesses." There is one more word that is used in a similar construction, אַחֲלֵי אֲדֹנִי (2 Kings 5:3; see also Psalms 119:5).

The lack of agreement in וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר is a different issue, and not related specifically to the root אשר. The singular adjective views תֹמְכֶיהָ as a unit "everyone who supports it" (on another verse Metsudat David explains "each and every one"). Gesenius' grammar cites some more examples of this, such as מְבָרְכֶ֣יךָ בָר֔וּךְ וְאֹרְרֶ֖יךָ אָרֽוּר. This is common cross-linguistically (synesis).

  • So, in short, we are relying on the "Collective singular" usage that we see frequently in Tanac"h? – DanF Oct 8 '19 at 13:56
  • @DanF It depends on what you mean by that, but if you're thinking of examples like ישראל or עם as singular and plural, that's a similar case – b a Oct 9 '19 at 17:48
  • I'm sorry, 1. What is your source for saying that? Your proposition makes no sense. Please translate the whole sentence - it says "אשר לא הלך, not אשר הלכו - if אשרי was a plural noun it should read אשר לא הלכו in the plural. 2. אשרי is always synonymous to מאושר, it is no סמיכות. See רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן חֲנַנְיָה, אַשְׁרֵי יוֹלַדְתּוֹ, or אמר רבי יוחנן מאי דכתיב אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד or many others. – Al Berko Oct 10 '19 at 8:03
  • @AlBerko 1. אשרי doesn't walk, it's איש that walks... ("אשרי of the איש who didn't walk..."). 2. Semantically yes, but morphologically it's סמיכות. It behaves just like any case of סמיכות, as in אשריו, אשריך... which decline for possessor (same as ידיו, ידיך... which derive from יְדֵי) – b a Oct 10 '19 at 11:43
  • 1. Do you have a source or you're saying this by yourself? 2. Please translate the whole verse based on Smichus. – Al Berko Oct 10 '19 at 13:01

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