[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Sep 21 16:13:15 EDT 2005


I don't know why you are putting so much effort to trying to 
convince me that your reading of language development 
is correct, if not to validate to yourself because of your own 
self doubts. I am not trying to convince you that mine is 
correct, just claiming that the surviving data is too sparse 
to say.

Take for example, when did Aramaic and Hebrew split? If 
we take Biblical dates, that was when Jacob left his father-
in-law Laban at about 1800 BC, give or take a century. In 
other words, from then to Biblical Aramaic, we have a 
separation of about a thousand years, plenty of time for 
extensive language shift in both Hebrew and Aramaic.

Further, when was the alphabet invented and used for 
Semitic languages? The earliest examples I have seen 
claimed in the literature is from about the same time 
period. Alphabetic use could have been in existence for 
centuries, or was new. Do we have indications from that 
period as to how many letters it had at that time? How 
many extensive writings from that period remain that are 
recognizably Aramaic or Hebrew? Can we build a time 
line from that period to the Biblical usage from that era? If 
the answers to this paragraph are "Don't know" "Don't 
know" "None" and "No", who has the hubris to claim to be 
able to "prove" language development from that period?

Now assuming that ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and other 
Semitic languages acted the same as do more modern 
languages, we find even more reasons not to be able to 
state categorically how ancient Aramaic and Hebrew 
developed. Take just the example of Latin, a language for 
which we have historical records: its spelling became 
frozen so that even when pronunciation changes occurred 
they did not show up in the written record until later, and 
then as new spellings in Spanish, French, Italian and 
other Romance languages. Yet even then, medieval to 
modern pronunciation of Latin is more based on French 
and Spanish pronunciation than the original Roman one. 
In particular, the letter "c", which used to be consistently a 
"k" sound, now is given a "s" pronunciation before "e" and 
"i", though there are other examples as well. But when the 
spelling is allowed to change, then letters tend not to 
change their values, as when the German Stratte became 
Strasse or the Greek thallattes became thallasses.

Again assuming that ancient Hebrew acted the same as 
more modern languages, as languages first adopt an 
alphabet, as long as the writings remain short on the order 
of graffiti, an ill fitting match is often tolerated. But once 
legal documents are written in the language, such as 
business contracts or extensive religious texts, people will 
either use a well attested other language (as did the 
Chinese (whose legal language no one spoke before the 
adoption of Mandarin as the legal language), medieval 
Europeans Latin or the example you linked to of the early 
Arabs using Aramaic) or to avoid confusion they adjust the 
alphabet by subtracting and adding graphemes to match 
the language. Therefore, unless you can prove that the 
early Hebrews were using an ill fitting alphabet when 
Moses wrote Torah in the 15th century BC, you cannot 
rule out the historically attested to pattern from other 
languages indicating that the 22 graphemes represented 
the 22 consonantal lexemes recognized by the ancient 

One area where we take almost the opposite tacks is in 
the use of cognate languages: I take the view that while 
cognate languages can sometimes, in rare cases, clear 
up something that is otherwise unclear in a language, 
most of the time a study of cognate languages will add 
nothing to the understanding of a language, many times 
actually confuse the issue and/or give misleading 
information, therefore the use of data from cognate 
languages should be done with extreme caution; you, 
OTOH, seem to take the position that if something is 
attested to in a cognate language, it must also be found in 
Biblical Hebrew as well, If we had native speakers to 
interview, we could ignore the cognate languages entirely 
as the cognates would be extra noise to filter out. The 
main use I see for cognate languages is where 
documents written in them explain concepts or lexemes 
rarely used in Hebrew and where the use in Hebrew does 
not indicate its meaning. Hence I tend to ignore the 
cognate languages as irrelevant (most of the time), while 
you consider their study indispensable.

Seeing as I have a major philosophic difference from you 
as to the validity of cognate language study, unless I 
changed my philosophy, even an extensive study of the 
materials you insist on will not change my mind. The only 
thing that will make me accept your theory is for you to 
produce extensive alphabetic documents dating from 
about the time of Jacob and Laban, showing the 
development of the alphabet as well as both Aramaic and 
Hebrew from then to Moses,  Since you, by your own 
admission, start with the DSS,.......

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
> On 9/20/05, Karl Randolph wrote:
> > > You can't claim this is the issue until you've looked at the
> > > evidence.
> >
> > To use a term from the computer industry, GIGO.
> The only thing that is "GO" is conclusions you make when
> you have evidence in front of you but refuse to examine at it.
> Because the only thing that can go in, if it's not the
> evidence going in, is the "GI".
Look at the validity of data from cognate languages: if that 
data is to be used only sparingly and with extreme 
caution, willy nilly throwing in such data is GI.

> > While I have not looked at the sheer amount of data, I
> > have seen some of it. Unless more data differs in quality
> > from that I have seen, mere quantity becomes tedious.
> > What I have seen is not convincing, mainly because it
> > does not control for time, rather it assumes "all along".
> You don't know Aramaic, nor Ugaritic, and not Arabic.  I
> am not sure how you can look at the data under those
> conditions if you can't properly read any data.
> > > Right now, you refuse to look, no matter the
> > > reason. ...
> > >
> > Rather, I have rejected your theory based on the data I
> > have seen so far.
> The only possible way to read "see" in the sentence above is that
> you selectively choose what to see, and what not to see.
> Because I showed you data, and I didn't say "go read all the
> 3000 pages of the corpus of Ugaritic" or "go read the whole Torah
> in Aramaic."  What I said is to read a relatively sizeable portion
> of that body of data, not a paragraph, nor something as long as the
> Aramaic in the Bible which is still relatively short.  Something
> a little longer, but not too much longer, if you're really strapped
> for time.
> > Secondly, I noticed words where one
> > root derivative as determined by meaning and context will
> > use a shin while another a sin. The example of the latter
> > that comes immediately to my mind is "place" where the
> > verb %YM to place is written with a sin, while $M that
> > place, i.e. there is written with a shin. Even $M name
> > could come from the same root as people place a person
> > by his name when speaking. This is the type of data which
> > is inconsistent with your theory,
> These are all guesses, and if you'd have known Biblical
> Aramaic, you'd know that "there" is "tm" in Aramaic, not
> "$m".  Consider the following cognates:
> there - $m [BH], tm [BA], t_mny [Ug], thumma [Arb]
> put/set - &ym [BH], &ym [BA], $ama [Arb]
> name - $m [BH], $um [BA], ism [Arb], $m [Ug]
> Hey, you picked the words, and I didn't invent these
> languages so that they will work out exactly like that so
> perfectly.  Exactly how did Aramaic influence (see the above)
> influence the pair of words $m [there] vs $m [name]?
> > but consistent with a late
> > bifurcation caused by corruption in the language caused
> > by the fact that it was no longer spoken as a primary
> > language, and that the pattern of corruption is similar to
> > the pattern found in the corrupting, primary language
> > spoken.
> What you're suggested is that after Ugaritic was long buried
> in the ground, Hebrew shifted the sound of exactly those
> words which were consistent with Ugaritic because of Aramaic
> corruption.  This despite the fact that you can't tell Aramaic
> corruption from bona fide Hebrew, and that it is clear from
> archaeological evidence that Hebrew continued to exist as
> a living language long after the Babylonian exile.  How do you
> suggest the difference appeared in Aramaic?  Why did it
> happen only in words that match Ugaritic or Arabic but not
> other words?  How would you suggest the roots $kr - &kr
> are etymologically matched?
> Arabic isn't a form of North Semitic.  If you can't verify facts from the
> wikipedia yourself, don't quote randomly from it.  Wikipedia is a handy
> resource, but because it is not edited nor monitored by those with
> expertise on the subject, you should verify everything you read there.
That's handy of you, first you link to an article, but the 
moment that it disagrees with your theories, you diss 
it. What consistency. 

> > The article clearly connects Arabic with northern
> > Semitic peoples and language, do you disagree with it?
> Yes, Arabic is not North Semitic.  "North Semitic people"
> (whatever that means) can speak Arabic.  But that doesn't
> make the language North Semitic.
Again, according to the article, the reason that Arabic 
today is not north Semitic is the result of migration. 
Therefore the similarities between it and Ugaritic can be 
attributed to a common origin not necessarily shared by 
Hebrew or even Aramaic.

> > >  Hebrew and Aramaic
> > > are closer to Ugaritic and Phoenician than they are to
> > > Arabic.
> >
> > That can be explained by passage of time, nothing
> > fancier.
> This statement of yours can be explained by lack of knowledge
> and acquaintance with the evidence, nothing more.
> > > Do you want to now reclassify Arabic and
> > > Ugaritic, two languages you haven't studied and
> > > know little about as a separate branch independent of
> > > Hebrew and Aramaic?
> >
> > Unless you have clear data to the contrary, can you
> > disprove it?
> You don't have any data.  Yes, Arabic is clearly, from data,
> not North Semitic and further related from Ugaritic than
> Hebrew and Aramaic are related to Ugaritic.  Go learn
> Arabic, Ugaritic, and Aramaic before you suggest there is
> no clear data for this position.
> > So far the only arguments I have seen to
> > disprove it is theory, not data.
> I gave you data.  You refused to read it because you don't
> have time.  But you can spend hours writing this posts
> which would be better spent learning Aramaic and Ugaritic.
> That will benefit you not only in this discussion but it will
> give you further insights into Bible study.  And you only
> have to accept those insights that you feel comfortable
> with.
> > I don't pretend to prove my theory, rather I claim that the data 
> > are too fragmentary to say either way.
> Seeing how you refuse to look at that data which does not
> suit you, there is no wonder why you think the data is
> fragmentary.  But in any case, the above claim is false.
> > > You can propose a lot of things.
> > > The question is not what you propose when you are
> > > oblivious to the evidence.  But what you propose when
> > > you are fully aware of it.
> Interesting that to this statement you have no response.
> > > > You are making assumptions that I don't share.
> > >
> > > You're the one assuming that each root must be uniquely
> > > represented graphically.
> >
> > Excuse me, where did I make that claime?
> Sorry, I meant the other way around.  Each unique set of
> graphemes that make up a root uniquely represents one
> root.  That is an assumption of yours.

Excuse me, and where did I make that claim?

If you can't even reproduce my position accurately, how can 
you critique it?

> > > Serious detailed study of Hebrew does begin with the DSS,
> > > and that does not mean that we should "shut the door on
> > > the study of Biblical Hebrew."  But if you trust the scribes
> > > to transmit the text, why don't you trust the readers to
> > > transmit the vocalization?
> > >
> > There's a difference between writing and speaking.
> > Writing is hard data, speaking is soft. The hard can be
> > reproduced even when the soft is lost. In fact,
> > archeologists regularly reproduce (in photographs and/or
> > drawings at least) data for which the software (use of the
> > object, interpretation of writing) has been lost.
> The vocalization information in the MT is as hard data as the
> consonants themselves.  If you trust the graphemes of
> consonants to represent phonemic ("speech") values properly,
> you should similarly trust the graphemes of vowels to
> represent phonemic values properly.
If those graphemes representing vowels were from native 
speakers, your claim would be valid. But seeing as the 
last native speaker of Biblical Hebrew died about a 
millennium previous to the invention of the vowel 
graphemes, there is no way that they can accurately 
represent Biblical pronunciation. Accurate memory is 
often lost in less than a generation, let alone a millennium.

> > As for Hebrew pronunciations, the Masoretic dots are
> > separated from the last native speaker of Biblical Hebrew
> > by about a millennium. When there is such a gap, it is very
> > unlikely that the pronunciation was preserved, especially
> > when there are clear examples where the dots are wrong.
> So are the Massoretic consonants.  If you want to go earlier
> than the Massoretic consonants you must involve yourself
> in the entire body of studies around the DSS, the Hexapla,
> and early Hebrew inscriptions.  So long as you are unable to
> fully compare the Massoretic Text to the results of such
> study yourself, you're stuck with the Massoretic Text, for all
> that it contains.

> > > So long as you don't look at the evidence, you can't
> > > suggest your theory is an alternative.  You know, I
> > > always find that after looking at an analysis of the
> > > evidence, I usually have to adjust my theory somehow.
> > > It can be little, it can be a lot, but my theories always
> > > become more robust as a result.  You've admitted there
> > > is evidence but you don't have time to look at it.  You
> > > can't just pretend it isn't there.
> > >
> > There are data, and there are theories. I don't dispute the
> > data. What I dispute is the interpretation of the data, i.e.
> > the theories.
> How can you dispute the interpretation of the data without
> examining the data yourself?
> > Your theory contradicts historically attested
> > uses of alphabetic writing.
> No it does not.  And you have not shown any specific
> examples of such writing where it contradicts.  You have
> suggested Greek but Greek worked in various respects
> differently from Semitic writing anyway.
> > It contradicts data from other sources.
> What other sources?
> > What it explains can also be explained by other
> > theories.
> Only when you are oblivious to the data.  This is what all
> this boils down to.  I showed you various evidence and you
> did not see it.  You refused.  Whatever the reason, you
> refused.  You don't know Aramaic.  You don't know
> Ugaritic.  You don't know Arabic.  And you think that while
> oblivious to the qualities of these languages you can make
> various theories.  Well, you can theorize all you want.  I
> can theorize that the sky is green every Sunday in Finland
> if I refuse to look at photos from Finland and visit Finland.
> Yes, I say, you have all these photos that you diligently took
> every Sunday the past decade, but I don't have time to look
> at them.  I looked at some photos that were shot by a very
> good man (but a very bad wizard) and I must say, that the
> evidence I have looked at thus far allows both interpretations.
> Without evidence, you can propose any theory.  Not looking
> at the evidence, nothing will stop you.  But from the moment
> I gave you all the tools you need to start off, your refusal to
> look at the evidence is just plain "GI" to use the term with
> which you started this post.  From now on, everytime you
> propose your theory I will be there to remind you that I gave
> you all the tools you needed and you refused to look at the
> evidence.  Ignorance is bliss, but don't go off making theories
> out of ignorance.
> Yitzhak Sapir

Notice, I did not answer all your points, not by a long shot. 
It is not because I don't have answers, it is just that I've run 
out of time. But neither did you answer all my points.

Karl W. Randolph.

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