[b-hebrew] Proto-Semitic, was WAYYIQTOL
kwrandolph at email.com
Sat Mar 13 14:22:19 EST 2004
Both you and Uri mentioned proto-Semitic.
Are there any extent documents written in
that language, even ones as short as the
Mesha stone? Or are we talking about a
reconstructed language, one based on
theory? What if the theory is wrong? What
if Biblical Hebrew, with 22 consonantal
phonemes, is the proto-Semitic (there are
some who make that claim)?
What Im calling into question is not the
efforts of scholars over years, but the
theory upon which they base their efforts.
For example, hundreds if not thousands of
man years have been spent researching the
scientific theory of evolution, but it
is demonstrable that evolution is not
scientific at allit is merely a religious
belief. It doesnt matter how many scholars
have worked on the theory, their efforts
have no more scientific validity than the
monks in the middle ages arguing how many
angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Because theory is wrong, efforts based on
the theory are scientifically worthless.
Similarly, if proto-Semitic is merely a
scholarly reconstruction, how far can we
trust the theory upon which the
reconstruction was made?
On a similar note, who had the 22 letter
alphabet first: the Phoenicians or the
Hebrews? If it was the Phoenicians, in
what language was Moses writing in the mid
second millennium? Or do you claim, based
on theory, that the Hebrews were illiterate
until they learned the alphabet from the
There is some evidence that spoken Hebrew
pronunciation shifted to become consistent
with Aramaic,a process which started a few
generations after the Galut Babel. Since
the spelling of Hebrew did not shift to
reflect that pronunciation shift, that
indicates that Hebrew at that time was a
fossil language, in the same manner as
Latin and Imperial Chinese.
Karl W. Randolph.
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> On 10/03/2004 11:00, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >What I rejected was not Hebrew phonological
> >reconstruction per se, but a particular theory
> >of phonological reconstruction.
> >Admittedly, the evidence I have is pretty
> >sketchy, pretty much restricted to Tanakh and
> >the New Testament.
> All I can say is that you are rejecting a theory based on a lot of
> evidence and centuries of scholarly work for one of your own based on
> "pretty sketchy" evidence. You may be right, but unless you can find
> good evidence for it you really need to qualify statements like "There
> was a consonental pronunciation change" with something like "in my
> opinion" or "according to my theory".
> There is STRONG evidence that there was NOT a bifurcation of sin and
> shin, but that these were always pronounced differently in Hebrew
> (though not perhaps in Phoenician from where the alphabet was borrowed).
> But we have been through this one before. For a survey of the more
> generally held theory, see the following extract from Henry Churchyard's
> dissertation (available from http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/),
> > Thus in Churchyard (1993:333,335) I have assembled references which
> > indicate that until the last few centuries of the 1st millennium
> > B.C.E. á1¡ [sin] remained distinct from s (and Å¡) in Hebrew, while
> > Proto-Semitic *á¸¥ and *á¸« (IPA [Ï]) also remained distinct sounds, as
> > did Proto-Semitic *Ê and *Ä¡ (IPA [Ê]); while in Old Aramaic of the
> > early 1st millennium B.C.E., all these sounds remained distinct, and
> > in addition Proto-Semitic *Î¸, *Ã°, and *Î¸Ì£ (or â*áºâ) had not merged with
> > any other sounds. Yet when the North Semitic 22-letter alphabet â
> > devised to represent some dialect (Phoenician?) in which these sounds
> > had merged â was adopted in the early 1st. millennium B.C.E. to
> > represent Hebrew and Old Aramaic, no attempts were made to remedy the
> > orthographic inadequacies that resulted from having fewer letters in
> > the alphabet than there were consonant phonemes in the languages.
> I have not seen any evidence which contradicts the theory you rejected,
> only doubts cast on the reliability of some of the evidence for it and
> of the scholars who have presented it.
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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