[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Sun Nov 14 21:50:35 EST 2004

>-----Original Message-----
>From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
>[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org]On Behalf Of Yigal Levin
>Sent: Monday, 15 November 2004 12:48 PM

>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Joseph I. Lauer" <josephlauer at hotmail.com>
>>     Whatever its original sound, the Sin apparently has not been
>> "correctly" in 2,000 years.  The Shibboleth/Sibboleth problem
>involved the
>> Shin and the Samech, not the Sin, and a Biblical word like Eres
>> (ayin-resh-sin) (see, e.g., Deut. 3:11, Amos 6:4, Psalms 41:4) had
>> apparently changed to Eres (ayin-resh-samech) by the time of the Mishnah
>> Gemara (see, e.g., Peah 7:8 [Aris], Kilaim 6:1, 2 [Aris], Shabbos 62b
>> [Arsotam], Nedarim 56a [Arsa]).  In modern Hebrew Eres is now again
>> with a Sin, not a Samech, for a cradle, although the word for hammock,
>> Arsal, is spelled with a Samech.
>>     Joseph I. Lauer
>>     Brooklyn, New York
>The shift from biblical Sin to mishnaic Samekh is very common
>(Heres, Yahas,
>Kabbes, Happes and more), and was probably influenced by Aramaic (see
>'Asar - ten). Modern Hebrew has tended to go back to biblical spelling,
>though not in all cases.
>It is interesting that Arabic does not have a Samekh. Ugaritic
>seems to have
>had both Sin and Samekh. When Greek adapted the Phoenician alphabet, they
>dropped Samekh, but retained Sin (Sigma). Phoenician certainly had Samekh.
>Does anyone remember a case of Phoenician Sin (that is, of a Shin
>being used
>for an /s/)?
>From memory, the usual explanation is that it is the lack of distinction
between sin/shin in Canaanite dialects, including Phoenician, that led to
there being only one symbol in the alphabet.  Obviously some of the southern
dialects must have had the distinction for it to exist in Hebrew, but not in
the dialect/s for which the alphabet was devised.  I can't find my notes on
this but, again from memory, the development of the various 's' sounds in
Semitic is not straightforward, and behind the 3 letters/4 sounds of
biblical Hebrew lie at least 7 phonemes in Proto-Semitic, and the
correspondence across languages is also not simple.  Did the Phoenician
'sin' merge with 'samekh' or 'shin'?  If with 'samekh' I would presume that
it would be easy enough to check if cognate words are spelt with 'sin' in
Hebrew and 'samekh' in Phoenician.  If 'sin' merged with 'shin' before the
alphabet was devised, how would we know?  We only know Hebrew had 2 sounds
for the one letter [sin/shin] because the Massoretes put the dot in
different places.  Unless we were lucky enough to find a Punic inscription
in Greek or Latin letters we could not tell if 'shin' represented 's' or
'sh', and even then it is likely both Latin and Greek speakers would
represent both by S or 'sigma'.

Sin and Samekh also fell together in Aramaic, and I think Syriac uses only
one symbol for both, but can't remember which it is.  Arabic uses Sin for
both [except Heb shin/samekh = Ar sin, Heb sin = Ar shin, usually].

Aramaic sometimes uses taw where Hebrew uses shin, which is thought to
suggest a previous 'th' sound.  Is the Welsh 'll' sound suggested as a
precursor to this, or to the /sh/ sound common to Aramaic and Hebrew?  Or is
it 'sin' that was originally 'll'?

Any direct connection between Hebrew and Welsh [or Irish, or any Celtic
language] is completely unproven.  Some connection between Irish and the
north African languages is more in the realm of possibility, especially if
there proves to be a connection between the latter and Iberian.  Welsh
'llyfr' = Gaelic 'leabhar' [OI lebor] and is from Latin 'liber'.  The Welsh
'll' is a development of older 'l' and parallels the Irish 'll' [spelt 'l'
initially, and not pronounced as in Welsh] and post-dates the Roman
occupation, so is unlikely to be connected in any way with a proto-Semitic
sound for which there is no evidence it still existed even as 'late' as the
time of Moses.

Kevin Riley

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