[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53:8 lamo

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Dec 20 12:34:10 EST 2004

On 20/12/2004 16:14, Vadim Cherny wrote:

>>>It only implies that etymological analysis "may" be flawed. In fact,
>>>etymology, due to the root system, is much more stable that in Germanic
>>>languages. ...
>>I can find a number of examples of semantic shift between cognates
>>within the Semitic triliteral system. A simple one is "shalom" = "peace"
>>(Hebrew) and "salaam" = "greetings" (Arabic). Semantically linked, of
>>course, but the Arabic meaning is significantly weakened.
>Why go for Arabic? You have the same greeting in Hebrew. And it is perfectly
>linked with the original sense in its proper form sholom aleiha.
>Sure, many words in Hebrew drifted from the root meaning, but by far lesser
>percentage than in other languages. A quick glance into etymological
>dictionary would demonstrate that, in fact, few English words retained even
>their OE meaning. Hebrew is much more robust.
Oh, come on! There is an obvious difference here: we have extensive Old 
English texts and so we know about semantic shifts between OE and modern 
English; but we don't have pre-biblical Hebrew texts and so we have no 
data on pre-biblical semantic shift in Hebrew. We do have data for 
post-biblical semantic shift, and that is significant, although 
constrained by the authoritative status of the Bible. And we can compare 
with other related languages e.g. Arabic (just as we can for example 
compare English with German) and so get a good idea of how much semantic 
shift there has been.

Anyway, very many English words retain their OE meaning, but there is a 
semantic shift in a sizeable minority. Although evidence is limited, we 
can expect to see a similar picture in Hebrew over the same time frame.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list