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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue May 3 07:11:09 EDT 2005


On 03/05/2005 07:06, Vadim Cherny wrote:

>>What do you mean by a "complex vowel"? Although possibly shuruq and
>>holam were originally one vowel, they were certainly distinct from
>>qamats. You have no argument.
>>
>>    
>>
>
>Of course, I do, you just do not listen.
>
>I treat tzere and holam as complex vowels ae and au, as opposed to simple
>vowels a, u, i. Complex vowels exist only accented, and break into simple
>when losing stress or limited by a stop (diber- dibar.ti).
>  
>

My point is that complex vowels are still vowels. Your argument about 
the alphabet requires that Hebrew has no vowels at all, or at most one 
vowel with no distinctions.

>...
>I likewise explain every morphological form. They all derived from the davar
>form.
>
>  
>
In this case you need to explain why in many cases there are 
semantically distinct words which differ from one another only in their 
vowels. On your theory this is impossible.

>>...
>>    
>>
>
>In the most simplest form, the argument boils down to: did the Hebrew (or
>proto-Egyptian, for that matter) emerged as developed language, or did it
>start from a single grammatical form, likely davar? I think, the latter is
>obvious. If so, it has necessarily the single vowel - just did not use
>others.
>  
>

You seem to assume that Hebrew emerged in isolation as some kind of 
proto-language among a previously entirely mute population. But that 
simply did not happen. The very first human languages may have emerged 
like that, tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago, but they were not 
Hebrew (and probably already had many vowels). Hebrew clearly emerged 
from common West Semitic, and the latter from proto-Semitic, and that 
from a common Afro-Asiatic root, by gradual processes (possible other 
steps omitted). It is known that proto-Semitic already had multiple 
binyanim, and was already a fully developed language with millennia of 
history - all of it long before anyone had even thought of alphabetic 
writing.

>...
>
>  
>
>>Well, this is a new claim and an interesting one. I suppose you claim
>>that the concept of consonant-only writing was developed before the
>>dynastic period of Egypt for a non-Semitic language and preserved
>>throughout millennia from which the only surviving writing is
>>hieroglyphic - only to reemerge with the same concept but different
>>letter shapes for a different type of language. Not impossible, I
>>suppose, but it does seem highly unlikely, and you do not have a shred
>>of evidence.
>>
>>    
>>
>
>I do. Besides the already mentioned reasoning that vowelless syllabary (or
>alphabet) is natural only in the absence of differentiated vowels, another
>argument is historical. When Moses came to Israelites, they did not know God
>under the name Moses knew. Quite obviously to me, Moses made a standard
>trick of associating their earlier beliefs with the new religion by
>proclaiming that two names both refer to God. I do not seriously doubt that
>Moses passed to Israelities ancient Egyptian religion (already surpassed by
>polyteist beliefs in Egypt proper) of Aton. Why not suppose that among other
>knowledge, he passed to them old Egyptian tradition of writing?
>
>  
>
By Moses' time, Egyptian hieroglyphs had been in use for nearly two 
millennia, and the only writing known in Egypt was this and simplified 
variants of it. This, and nothing else, was the old tradition of writing.

The religion of Aten was not ancient Egyptian religion, but if it did 
predate Moses it did so by less than a century.

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



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