[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Nov 15 18:51:54 EST 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>

> On 15/11/2004 20:48, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >Yigal:
> >
> >When the Greeks adopted the Hebrew/Phoenician alphabet, did a difference between sin and shin exist in Phoenician? There was no written difference. 
> >
> >The Greeks retained the samekh as a Xi "x" sound while they shifted the name to the sigma, which was the sin/shin. The pre-exilic form of Hebrew samekh was almost identical to the Greek uncial Xi and in the same place in the alphabet. The Greeks dropped the tsada.
> >  
> >
> The situation with the Greek borrowing from Phoenician (or whatever) is 
> in fact not so simple. See 
> http://www.tlg.uci.edu/~opoudjis/unicode/nonattic.html sections 2 and 3. 
> A quote:
> > Faced with the four sibilants of Phoenecian, which they memorised 
> > without quite distinguishing correctly—especially when they didn't 
> > have half the sibilants in their own language—the Greeks jumbled the 
> > forms and the names of the letters, so that they no longer correspond 
> > to the Phoenecian originals.
> The Greeks originally borrowed all four sibilants, but later dropped 
> san, which had the same position in the alphabet as tsade, and perhaps 
> the same shape, but did not correspond in sound.

What I noticed is that the uncial Greek forms of sigma and xi are recognizably derivitive from the paleo-Hebrew alphabet both in form and pronunciation, and that the use of the xi was used mostly in the same places as the samekh in Hebrew in the transliteration of Persian names as late as Ezra and Nehemiah. (The writer of Esther appears not to have known Hebrew as well, as can be seen also by his use of Aramaic loan words and pronunciations(?) into Hebrew (Aramaic used sin/shin in the places where Hebrew used samekh and and Greek xi.))

> >It looks as if Aramaic originally had a difference between samekh and sin at the time of Daniel, but by a century later, at the time of Ezra or Esther, it either was in the process of or had completed dropping that difference. Apparently Hebrew under the influence of Aramaic dropped the difference within a few generations of Ezra. Hence Arabic which is even later did not have the samekh.
> >  
> >
> I'm not quite sure where this last idea comes from. It seems clear that 
> the Arabic seen س corresponds to Hebrew samekh, and the Arabic sheen ش 
> corresponds to Hebrew shin. This is clear from their numeric values - 
> Arabic seen = Hebrew samekh = 60, Arabic sheen = Hebrew shin = 300. In 
> palaeo-Hebrew both samekh and shin were made up of three elements, and 
> because of this their shapes coalesced in Arabic and had to be 
> distinguished by the three dots on sheen.

We'll have to ask what Yigal meant when he said that Arabic doesn't have a samekh, though your description of the seen and sheen seems to give an answer. From the above, it looks as if the samekh was dropped, and the seen moved over to its place. I don't know Arabic, so I depend on youall to give me accurate information.

As for the paleo-Hebrew, the samekh was made up of three horizontal lines with a vertical line tying them together, like a Greek uncial xi with a vertical line piercing it, though sometimes the vertical line dropped below the bottom horizontal line. The sin/shin letter looked very similar to a Greek uncial sigma rotated 90° counter clockwise. They looked very different from each other, I do not see how their shapes could coalesce.

> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
Karl W. Randolph.
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