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

Vadim Cherny vadim_lv at center-tv.net
Thu Dec 23 03:12:32 EST 2004

I assume there are many around here who believe that Hebrew (or its earlier form, say, Ugaritic or even Accadian) is a naturally derived language.

Anyone, please explain me this puzzle about the roots.

If the words indeed developed from cavepeople mumbling, we would expect them to be of different length. This what happens in Germanic with their long history as evolving, living languages. However, more or less all Hebrew words have three-letter roots. How is it possible that "accidentally," from mumbling, all the words are "exactly" three-letter long? Roots of a "fixed" length seem an evidence of artificial derivation.

To develop three-letter roots, there must have been a concept of letter. It is well-known, however, that people did not have this concept until very late. The concept of isolated letters developed only after long periods of syllabic and acrophonic writing.
Perhaps the roots were originally of varying length, and adjusted to three letters only late? No evidence for this. Besides, this would also have been an arbitrary decision.

Forming stems with prefixes seems a centralized decision. I can imagine how a cavemen one morning decided to add hey to produce casuative, perhaps by analogy with directional suffix hey. But how did he convince others to follow the suit? One could invent a word, and it slowly drifts down, becoming popular, right. But this development seems less plausible with stems.

But, while natural derivation of stems is at least imaginable, it eludes me how the fixed-length roots could derive naturally. I don't remember encountering any scientific explanation of the origin of these roots.

Vadim Cherny

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