[b-hebrew] Why Semitic languages had no written vowels?]

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Mon May 2 13:30:32 EDT 2005

> > Vowels could have been omitted not only because several neighboring
> > tribes used different vowels in their brand of the language, but also
> > because the value of the vowels in understanding what is being said is
> > not as great as many seem to believe. The consonants are by far the most
> > important element in these languages, including our own.
> Though consonants are more important, vowels are also important.
> in Hebrew, where they serve morphological function - unlike in English.
> *** Note that English, and other modern languages, are greatly excessive.
> English distinguishes f and ph, geminates, and otherwise employ many
> excessive letters in most words. But we know that languages become
> not more complex. Why assume the contrary evolution of writing system,
> simple (inadequately vowelless) to complex (with supra-adequate vowels)?
> know that vowels simplify, not diversify (OF loans in English). It is more
> reasonable to suggest that the proto-script sufficiently described
> proto-language. No vowels in script infers no different vowels in
> Ancients hardly distinguished consonants from vowels. It seems more likely
> that Hebrew alphabet was actually a syllabary of single-vowel language.
> > There are many syllabaries (obviously they used vowels) in the ancient
> > near east (why have a "ba", "be" and "bi" if all your "b" syllables were
> > "ba"?), yet an alphabet came after these syllabaries.
> Isn't it possible that West Semitic alphabet inherited the vowelless
> tradition of West Semitic or Egyptian proto-language? Think about the
> nations without their own script which adopted Arabic writing. Surely,
> could find a more functional script, but for cultural reasons they did
> Similarly, West Semites might adopt vowelless script for any cultural
> reason, perhaps out of reverence for Egyptian priests, whatever.
> > Only knew one vowel??? How many pre-speaking babies just say "ah ah ah"?
> > Most babies I have ever heard "talking" to themselves have "eee" and
> > "ooo" "ih" "uh uh" and even "eeeaaaooowaaa". To think that a people
> > would not be able to come up with more than an "ah" vowel seems a bit
> > rediculous, even if they were somehow less evolved than a bonobo. Heck,
> > I can point at a few dogs that use three vowels and they don't even use
> > words! :)
> Parrots use still more sounds, so what? The issue is an ability to
> distinguish the vowels, and babies lack this ability, as far as I
> understand. The earliest speaking humans likewise lumped all vowel sounds
> into kamatz, aa or ae.
> Everyone accepts that consonants developed. Many accept that humans
> originally employed only five or seven consonantal sounds. Why not apply
> this logic to vowels? Obviously, there were less vowels before than now.
> And, most important, yet ignored by everyone on this thread: earliest West
> Semitic speakers just did not need any other vowel besides kamatz. They
> a single grammatical form, davar nouns. Only later, with increasing
> sophistication of the language, when new morphological forms appeared,
> then new vowels became needed.
> Vadim Cherny

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