[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Nov 17 16:41:36 EST 2004

Karl Randolph wrote:
> Yitzhak:
> In looking at Ezra 4:7, only the presence of a prefix H- on N$TWN indicates 
> that the verse was written in Hebrew, all the other indicators are either 
> neutral (shared by both languages) or pointing to Aramaic. This brings up 
> the question whether this is a copyist error, the substitution of a Hebrew 
> prefix for an Aramaic suffix?

Hi, Karl,

Ezra 4:7 seems to me to be Hebrew, because besides the heh prefix:
1) The verse begins: bymy.  In Aramaic, there always seems to be a
waw in the plural of ywm.  Compare Daniel 5:11.
2) The suffix waw in knwtw.  In Aramaic, the suffix is heh.  Compare
Ezra 5:6.  Interestingly, as late as the destruction of the First Temple (600
BCE), we find the Hebrew also using suffix heh (Ketef Hinnom Amulets,
Lachish letters).  If Hebrew did not "live" onwards and Aramaic was
the only influence on Hebrew that was preserved as a static language, why
is there a waw here?
3) The form ktwb.  In Aramaic, I think this should be ktyb like Ezra 5:7
4) The specification of the document being in Aramaic.  This seems odd
if it appears in an Aramaic text.


> Yitzhak Sapir writes:
> > Furthermore, it seems the Egyptian phoneme you describe had the
> > phonetic value /c/.  In Phonologies of Asia and Africa, ch. 22,
> > Antonio Loprieno writes on this: "Egyptian /c/, which is the
> > palatal phoneme usually transcribed t_ by Egyptologists, [...]
> > can be used to shed some light on the value of the phoneme /s/
> > (samekh), which must originally have been an affricate [ts] in
> > Semitic."

I am quoting various of your comments out of order:
> Some people glibly say the Egyptians wrote
> only with consonants, but that is only true of the basic sign few signs.  

I've not read in any study of Egyptian being otherwise.  Could you
explain where I can read about this?

> Anyway, in the writing of Semitic words, /T/
> represents samekh, NOT tzade--so that certainly must be taken into 
> consideration.

I'm not sure what you are saying, but I should point out that Faber, and
following her, Woodhouse and Loprieno, all accept that samekh 
originally had the phoneme [ts].  This wasn't Sade, which was an
emphatic s.  It was as if sopher would be pronounced tsuparu or tsapiru (I 
guess). Note that I transliterated an underscored t as t_ above.  If apparently
your "G47" and "T13" were very similar and "lumped together" (even if
mistakenly), and G47 had the sound (possibly) of "tzi" this would make a 
lot of sense if they were used to transcribe samekh and samekh had the 
sound of [ts] (or, evidently tz).

> I, personally, cannot see "ts" becoming a "t" by any archaism, false or
> otherwise, but I can certainly see that happening to "th".

I'm not sure if this has bearing, but Woodhouse writes (p. 273):

"Faber's (1982:90) demonstration that fricatives can be perceived as 
affricates (and, by implication, vice versa) ..."

quoting Faber, 1982, "Early Medieval Hebrew Sibilants in the Rhineland,
South Central, and Eastern Europe." Hebrew Annual Review, 6:81-96.

The following are the other articles by Faber that are quoted, and perhaps
build that case further.  It might seem odd to rely on so many publications
of a theory of just one linguist, but every linguist I've seen that has been
aware of her work seemed to accept it as conclusive and convincing:

Faber, 1980, "Genetic subgrouping of the Semitic Languages", PhD diss.,
U of Texas.
Faber, 1981, "Phonetic Reconstruction", Glossa 15:233-62.
Faber, 1984, "Semitic Sibilants in an Afroasiatic Context," Journal of 
Semitic Studies 29:189-224.
Faber, 1985, "Akkadian Evidence for Proto-Semitic Affricates," Journal of
Cuneiform Studies 37:101-7.
Faber, 1986, "On the Actuation of Sound Change: A Semitic Case Study,"
Diachronica 3:163-84.
and the above quoted "Second Harvest", in Journal of Semitic Studies 37:1-10.

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list