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

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Wed May 4 03:28:43 EDT 2005

> >On how many pre-alphabet piel/paal Akkadian examples do you rely? Is the
> >difference between pre-alphabet Akkadian piel and paal really semantic,
> >beyond mere intensity? If you date "hieroglyphic" Semitic alphabet to
> >BCE inscription, I don't think we have a meaningful number of earlier
> >Akkadian examples of piel semantically different from paal. ...
> Well, if you "don't think", I suggest you go away and do your homework
> about this before you continue with your speculative theories.

Well, by "I don't think" I just trid to state politely that such examples
must be non-existent. If you refer to them - pre-2000 BCE - then name some.

> >... Besides,
> >Akkadian might be more developed. In the modern time, post-Soviet
> >try to develop their language from scratch, and do so primitively,
> >of accepting powerful Russian language.
> >
> Please lay off the Russian nationalism. Russian is only more powerful
> than Ukrainian in that it has had more guns behind it.

If you have had any correct idea of ethnic realities, you would not
implicate me in Russian nationalism. But never mind. Russian is surely more
powerful than Ukrainian, especially in vocabulary, but also in grammatical

> >>Even an obvious pair like MELEK "king" and MALKA "queen" are
> >>distinguished only by vowels (the final he in the latter is a mater
> >>lectionis, a late development).
> >
> >Why do you think hey is mater lectionis, and not consonantal suffix? I
> >think this view is universally accepted.
> It is universally accepted.

No, it is not. This is what I learned, at the very least.
It is simply a question, whether Aramaic affix aleph predated Hebrew hey. To
anyone not prejudiced with your view of the history of language, it is
obvious that aleph is a late pronunciation of vowelized hey.
Even while rare late cases of clear feminine gender of animate objects might
indeed by influenced by Greek -a, other cases, not related to gender, likely
employ affix hey in its vague meaning of direction. At any rate, -a in malka
has different semantics from -h in milhamah.

> >Would you agree with these points:
> >
> >- at some time, speechless humans received or developed a primitive
> Yes. But this process may have started before our ancestors were fully
> human. It certainly happened many tens of thousands of years ago, so is
> of little relevance to Hebrew.

I'm not a specialist in the field, but I recall publication some years ago
of unearthing in Jericho the remains of the oldest human with some specific
anatomical feature, necessary for speech. Articulate speech did not start
long ago.

> >- primitive language had a single grammatical form, nouns
> >
> No. We can only speculate, but just as likely the first words were
> commands, verbs in the imperative.
That was my opinion, too, some time ago. But, first, holam in commands seems
derivative from kamatz. Second, too few commands are needed - twenty,
perhaps. That does not make a language. Third, children start from nouns,
not verbs.

> >- Hebrew developed, ...
> > ... accumulating grammatical forms
> No. Hebrew demonstrably developed from an earlier language which seems
> to have had more grammatical forms. Hebrew may have added a few new ones
> of its own, but also dropped many of those of the earlier language.

That's an issue of terms. Say, predecessor language of Hebrew developed from
a single grammatical form to diversified grammar.

> >- earlier stages of development of proto-Hebrew included progressively
> >grammatical forms
> No.

How so? A developed language includes many forms, the earliest language -
one only. So as we go back in time, less forms are there.

> >- C'C' and C'C'C' nouns are perfectly suitable for humans beginning to
> Certainly not. Consonants cannot be pronounced clearly without vowels.
> Quite probably vowels were initially more important than consonants. But
> we can only speculate.

I don't follow your logic. What's wrong with c'c'c' with indistinct vowel?
Say, "devere"?

> >You are right, I simplified the matter. Let's replace "davar nouns" with
> >"c'c' and c'c'c' nouns." Would you agree that proto-Hebrew at some time
> >consisted only of such nouns? This seems fairly obvious. This was a
> >single-vowel language.
> No, I would not agree. This seems to me fairly obviously false.

What false? That a proto-language had only nouns? That these nouns, like
davar, had a single vowel? That proto-language, consequently, had a single

You keep avoiding the major point, that all Hebrew vowels developed just as
expected from the syntactical accent elongation and stress-shift shortening.

Vadim Cherny

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