Linguistic Origins of Hebrew

irene riegner iriegner at
Fri Sep 1 10:08:36 EDT 2000

Brian Tucker wrote

> Could you critique the following statements, for a lecture I'm working
> on, concerning:
> A Study of Linguistic Roots of Hebrew
> Linguistic origin: Where did Hebrew come from in the history of
> languages?
> 1. It originated in a particular group within the Family of Shem (Gen
> 10:21ff).
> 2. The descendants of Shem are referred to as Shemites or Semites, i.e.
> semitic.
> 3. The term Semitic was first used by Auguste Ludwig Schlozer to refer
> to the whole family of languages stemming from the descendants of Shem
> in J.G. Eichhorn's _Repertorium fur biblische und morenlandische
> Luteratur_ (Leipzig, 1781), p. 161. This was the earliest designation
> for this whole family of languages.
> 4. The name for the Hebrews (Ayin Beth Resh) has its origins in their
> historical experience 'go over or pass over'

If you are doing a scholarly history of language you can't use
the bible as your prooftext.  The biblical text is the
understanding of the Israelites/Judaeans of several millennia
past.  It is their interpretation of their past and like many
myths of origins, beginnings are traced to a particular ancestor
who may or may not have actually existed.

Over 200 yrs. have passed since Schlozer (1781).  Surely you must
realize that much has changed since his researches including the
rediscovery of Akkadian and Ugaritic.

Try starting with the Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4.  There's
an introductory article on Semitic languages called Languages
(Introductory) on p. 155 and an article called Languages
(Hebrew), p. 203.  In addition there are articles about the
cognate languages, Aramaic and Akkadian and others.  All articles
have a bibliography.
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