[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin
kwrandolph at email.com
Fri Oct 7 15:42:27 EDT 2005
I have already answered the problem with the
execration texts, I will go into more detail here.
First of all, we are dealing with the situation that the
last native speaker of Biblical Hebrew died 2500 years
ago, so the only clues we have are the writings they left
behind, and modern practices (unless you claim that
ancient Hebrews were somehow different from modern
>From the written record, we see no evidence that the
ancient Hebrews, i.e. native speakers who lived before
the Babylonian Captivity, differentiated sin from shin.
However, they differentiated both sin and shin from
The counter-argument is that loan words and names
sometimes introduce new phones and phonemes into
languages. Did that happen that way with these city
names into Hebrew? Or did the ancient Hebrews
mangle their pronunciations according to phonemes
already in Biblical Hebrew in the same manner as
modern speakers mangle foreign words and names?
We have no proof either way.
To give some examples where we have documentation
or can ask native speakers: while the German "ch"
sound is now found in English, the O Umlaut is usually
mangled by most American speakers as "er" sound.
German long ago lost the theta sound, so Germans
usually mispronounce it as an "s" or "t". Norwegian
didn't have the soft "g" sound, so they mispronounced
"garage" as "garash" with the Norwegian spelling as
"garasj". Ancient Greeks had one unvoiced sibilant, so
they tended to transliterate samekh, sin and shin as
sigma. And all westerners going to China need to watch
out that they learn the correct tones which have
phonemic import, or they risk calling a man not a
"lord" but a "pig". Many, many, many more examples
can be presented. From surveying modern practices, it
is far more prevalent that loan words and names are
mangled in pronunciation than that they introduce new
phonemes into a language.
Were pre-Exile Hebrews different from modern man?
Or did they mangle the pronunciation of loan words
and names to make them fit within their phonemic
structure, as is the usual practice today? That is why I
find neither the execration texts nor cognate languages
as proof that Hebrew had these phonemes.
But I do find as evidence the common practice that
when an alphabet is devised for a language, that one
letter usually stands for one phoneme. Thus the 22
letters stand for the 22 consonantal phonemes that
Hebrew originally had. Again I assume the common
humanity of ancient Israel.
Now why would Hebrew pronunciation as preserved by
the Masoretes follow the same patterns as found in
cognate languages? Again, looking at the same patterns
as above, when Hebrew ceased to be spoken as a native
tongue, people, when they read Hebrew, mangled the
pronunciation of Hebrew according to their native
tongue, which was overwhelmingly Aramaic for a
thousand years before the Masoretes recorded it. In
working with immigrants, where I see children, while
they yet speak their parents' language fluently, mangle
the pronunciation of that language according to
American phonemic practices; the thought that the
Masoretic points preserved the original pronunciations
from a thousand years earlier boggles the mind. Again I
assume a common humanity.
Finally, concerning the times that sin and shin are used
in modern practice to indicate words from different
roots: when I looked at the data, I was impressed by
how rarely that occurs. I didn't quantify it because I
was doing research not directly connected with this
question, but it seems to be no more prevalent than for
any other letter (assuming the sin/shin is one letter).
Further, it needs to be taken in context of the several
words written once with a sin, and another time with a
shin as well as those cases where words from a
common root are sometimes spelled with a sin and
sometimes with a shin. The latter two examples are
evidences that the sin/shin originally was one letter.
Already I covered this in greater detail before.
What I need from you is documentation, documents
written before the Babylonian Exile, in Hebrew, that
show the developments that you claim occured in
Hebrew. For reasons given above, I accept neither
cognate languages nor post-Exile developments as
proof, unless accompanied by such documentation. So
far you have refused to provide such documentation.
Therefore, I conclude that such documentation does
not exist, or that which exists contradicts the
hypothesis you so strenuously defend.
Karl W. Randolph.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
> I had brought evidence from the Execration Texts regarding the
> sh/th difference:
> As for Shin/Sin, Daniel Sivan's and Ziporah Cochavi-Rainey's "West Semitic
> Vocabulary in Egyptian Script of the 14th to the 10th centuries BCE" notes:
> Semitic & is represented in Egyptian by signs with s' and s, eg:
> (a-s'-bu in GN [39, cf Heb (es'eb, Arabic (u$bu].
> s'a'-(a'-ru' "hair" [187, cf Heb &e(ar, Arabic $a(r, $a(ar]
> For further information and Bibliography see Sivan "Grammatical Analysis and
> Glossary of the Northwest Semitic Vocables in Akkadian Texts of the 15th-13th
> centuries BC from Canaan and Syria", AOAT 214.
> Semitic $ is expressed by Egyptian with $, eg.
> ma-$:-)ab "scoop" (117) from *$)B
> Ma-$a-)-la GN (Thut III, 39) Heb Mi$)al < Canaanite *Ma$)al
> (a'-$a-q "to oppress" (40), Heb (a$aq, Arabic (a$aqa.
> Does this suffice?
> Yitzhak Sapir
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