[b-hebrew] Re: b-hebrew Digest, Vol 29, Issue 6

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Thu May 5 11:29:05 EDT 2005

>>It also accords well with the fact that the Israelites seem to have
>>used their matres lectiones for other important tasks, including
>>adding a Hey to the names of their Patriarch (AVRM --> AVRHM),
>>Matriarch (SHY --> SRH) and deity (ELYM --> ELHYM).
>This cannot be an adequate explanation for the form 'LHYM. The he as a 
>root letter is found in other Semitic languages, including Arabic 
>"Allah", "ilaha" etc, Aramaic "elah", all with a fully pronounced (not 
>mater lectionis) he. So it can hardly be a Hebrew invention, or one 
>dating from after the introduction of matres lectionis which was not 
>long before the Exile.

We can rule Arabic out right away, because the writing comes from the
middle of the first millenium CE, almost 1,500 years too late to be
relevant.  (Right?)

Aramaic is trickier, for two reasons.  

We don't know have any clear idea how a final HEH was pronounced.  A
pronounced final /h/ sound is rare in the world's languages, but
common in the world's writing systems, leading one to conclude that
written H's aren't usually pronounced.  Of course, part of the reason
final unpronounced H's are so common goes back to the matres
lectiones, so any application of current generalities to
pre-matres-lectiones writing is dubious.  And we left not knowing
enough about final H's back then.

But we also don't have enough (any?) pre-Hebrew Aramaic writing to
come to any clear conclusion about Aramaic.  Typical of current
thinking is Beyer's claim that "Ancient Aramaic in written form
appeared in the 11th cent. b.c. ... [but] the oldest witnesses to it
are inscription from [...] the 10th-8th [centuries]" (K. Beyer _The
Aramaic Language_ [1896, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht]) But such a claim,
which only narrows down the introduction of Aramaic writing to perhaps
200 years, is not precise enough to date Aramaic writing before Hebrew
matres lectiones.

I'd be very interested to know if there are any examples of Aramaic
ELEH meaning God that clearly predate Hebrew.

Also, while on the topic, can someone recommend a really good book
about the history of Arabic and its writing?



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