[b-hebrew] linguistics, was Re: Prov. 30:19

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Sat Oct 11 17:12:07 EDT 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: "Trevor Peterson" <06peterson at cua.edu>

> Karl wrote:
> > Did Semitic 
> > languages always have the number of phonemes and roots as 
> > indicated by modern Arabic and other modern Semitic 
> > languages, obscured in ancient Hebrew by an ill fitting 22 
> > character alphabet, or was the 22 character alphabet evidence 
> > of the original number of phonemes in ancient Semitic 
> > languages, some of which phonemes later split into two or 
> > more daughter phonemes, just as early Viking speech with 16 
> > phonemes developed into modern Norwegian with roughly double 
> > that amount?
> You're blurring the picture by failing to distinguish the relevant
> factors. It's not just a matter of an ill-fitting alphabet. If an
> alphabet developed appropriately enough for one situation and was later
> used in other, less ideal situations, then what we're really seeing is a
> stage of development when some Semitic languages had lost consonantal
> phonemes.

Lost, or added? Was the original Hebrew usage appropriate and other languages ill-fitting? Were those phonemes added or lost? What does the evidence say?

> > I happen to reject that presupposition, as should be pretty 
> > clear by now. The original 22 character alphabet is evidence 
> > for the original 22 consonental phonemes present in the 
> > original Hebrew language, such as what David spoke about 1000 
> > BCE and Moses wrote four centuries earlier. My philosophical 
> > presuppositions color how I percieve the development of the 
> > Hebrew language.
> What presupposition? Do you think people are just assuming that there
> were more phonemes early on?

What I am saying is that the evidence, as I see it, indicates that there were only 22 consonental phonemes in ancient Hebrew up to the Galut Babel. That includes that the bgdkpt and sin/shin differentiations did not exist until afterwards.

> You have yet even to attempt an explanation
> of cognate correspondences according to your model. If, as you suggest,
> the process worked in reverse from what pretty much everyone else is
> saying, then how is it that the divergences in various Semitic languages
> line up with each other?

How soon in cognate languages did they appear?

> Plus, you don't seem to have taken account of
> the existence of the larger consonantal inventory present in Old South
> Arabian, which is attested about as early as anything we have in Hebrew.
> Indeed, the inventory there is larger than that found in Arabic, so you
> can stop appealing to the time difference involved with Classical Arabic
> any time you like.

How early do you mean by “anything we have in Hebrew”? The proto-Sinaictic writing that I have seen that I can decypher, is readible from Biblical Hebrew. The proto-sinaitic stone that I referrenced its URL in an earlier posting, was found in Scandinavia, yet it followed classical Biblical Hebrew with a slight variation. So which came earlier? Even if a larger number of phonemes were found early on in a cognage language, does that mean that Biblical Hebrew had all those phomenes? It appears to me that Biblical Hebrew had 22 characters, precisely because it had 22 consonental phonemes.

> > Do you agree that we are dealing with differences that are 
> > more philosophical than linguistic?
> I don't.


> Trevor Peterson
> CUA/Semitics

Karl W. Randolph.

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