[b-hebrew] logograms--an ode to Hebrew

George F Somsel gfsomsel at juno.com
Wed Dec 22 11:37:42 EST 2004

On Wed, 22 Dec 2004 16:08:04 +0200 "Vadim Cherny"
<vadim_lv at center-tv.net> writes:
> > >What makes the third radical in, say, pr-derived roots a suffix? 
> Suffix
> is
> > >something employed across the words with the same meaning. ...
> >
> > Not necessarily. In Russian, the various verbal prefixes have up 
> to
> > seven distinct meanings, according to Terence Wade's "A 
> Comprehensive
> > Russian Grammar".
> As native Russian speaker, I would call this an exaggeration, 
> semantic
> hair-splitting.
> > >... But the same
> > >radical in pr and nsh roots hardly relates exactly the same 
> meaning.
> Third
> > >radicals are no suffixes. ...
> >
> > It would be an interesting study to see if there are any semantic
> > regularities in third radicals. But there is probably not enough
> > remaining evidence to decide this question.
> There are many such studies. They involve some assumptions and 
> speculations,
> which is only natural, since they compare the meanings, an 
> inherently
> subjective thing.
> > >... Besides, if they were suffixes, a highly developed 
> morphological
> device,
> > >then the addition was deliberate. ...
> >
> > Well, this depends what you mean by "deliberate". Yes, it was the
> > conscious act of some human to coin a new root and suffix 
> combination.
> Hardly a caveperson, what do you think?
> > But it is
> > demonstrably untrue that complex morphology is not used by 
> primitive
> > peoples. On the contrary, the most morphologically complex 
> languages in
> > the world are spoken by primitive pre-literate tribes in the 
> Amazon, who
> > were living in a Stone Age culture until very recent contact with
> > westerners.
> But of course! This is the whole point! The Hebrew morphology isn't 
> complex
> at all. It is beautifully simple. Each stem is produced by a 
> meaningful
> prefix, that's it. This is why I believe this language is 
> artificial. The
> empiric languages are clumsy. Hebrew is not.
>  Hebrew is economical. It lacks what mathematicians call 
> excessiveness.
> Take few letters out of English or Russian word, and  you could 
> still
> positively identify it. Take a letter of a Hebrew word--and it 
> immediately
> gains a degree of freedom, allowing multiple meanings.
> I envisage this geometrically: you need only three dots in 
> three-dimensional
> world to fix a line. This is the three Hebrew radicals. Other 
> languages
> employ much more dots than needed, 4, 5, 7, 12.
> The simplest solutions are the most difficult to achieve. The 
> simplest proof
> of a theorem is the most beautiful. One needs a lot of knowledge to 
> distill
> the simple language.
> Hebrew is just the opposite of Amazon, see.
> A root-based language presupposes acquaintance with letters or, at 
> any rate,
> distinctive sounds. (Some studies argue for five initial consonants 
> because
> many roots with respective radicals from the same part of vocal 
> tract seem
> semantically related. I argue for the single-vowel origin of 
> Hebrew.)
> Without the letters (distinctive sounds), a root cannot be 
> comprised. At the
> very minimum, this is evident in forming three-letter roots from 
> two-letter
> cells. Since three-letter roots appeared before the alphabet, it 
> seems that
> the letters were clearly known to the root-builder well before they 
> were
> distilled into alphabet.
> Consider the acrophonic writing. Clearly, alphabet did not exist at 
> that
> stage. But both the letter-based roots (words) and the concept of 
> (initial)
> letter existed. To me, acrophony seems a way to explain the concept 
> of
> letters to cavepeople.
> If we accept that the roots are not an arbitrary mumbling, but are 
> carefully
> and meaningfully crafted, which seems the case, we are forced to 
> accept that
> whoever made these roots, he knew the letters.
> Vadim Cherny


Did you ever hear of "speedwriting"?  In this they attempt to increase
the speed of recording (usually for note-taking) by omitting the vowels. 
Thus you need to rely on the context for the meaning of the consonants
that remain.  If I were to write "rd" it could be "read", "ride", "rode",
"red", "raid", "rude", "reed", etc.  The vowels in English are not so
insignificant as you might think.

BTW:  "Me Tarzan, you Jane.  Ugh!"  No, I don't think Hebrew is an
artificial language.  If it were then other Semitic languages would need
to be as well.


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