[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Wed Jun 28 08:04:33 EDT 2006

Peter Kirk wrote:

>On 28/06/2006 12:10, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
>>While the linguistic evidence may strongly hint that the
>>Israelites were native Canaanites originally (because the
>>Hebew language of Judea, and the Israelite language of
>>Israel were offshoots of the earlier attested Canaanite),
>>the linguistic evidence is probably not sufficient and may
>>even provide false leads.  It is possible to think of
>>conquerors who adopted the local language, such as
>>perhaps the Norman conquest of England.
>An alternative scenario, which may appeal more to conservatives like 
>Karl, is as follows: When Abraham and his family came to Canaan, they 
>initially spoke a form of Aramaic, similar to what their relatives who 
>remained in the north, like Laban, continued to speak. But when they 
>moved to Canaan, they picked up the local Canaanite language. Hence the 
>difference between Jacob's and Laban's language, Genesis 31:47. (But we 
>must assume that Jacob also picked up some Aramaic during his many years 
>with Laban.) When the Israelites went into Egypt, they took with them 
>this same Canaanite, which is quite well attested as being widely spoken 
>by immigrants to Egypt during the second millennium BCE (see for example 
>the Wadi-el-Hol inscriptions). As there was constant interchange between 
>Egypt and Canaan, Egyptian Canaanite did not diverge far from the 
>version spoken in Canaan itself - but perhaps remained closer to the 
>southern dialects which became Moabite than to the northern ones which 
>became Phoenician. When the Israelites returned to Canaan, they brought 
>back with them this same Canaanite, which was not too different from 
>that of their neighbours. (I note for example that the spies could 
>communicate with Rahab in a situation where an interpreter was 
>unlikely!) They may have picked up some Transjordanian influences during 
>their time in the wilderness and in close contact with Moabites. This 
>was of course an early form of what we now call biblical Hebrew, which 
>continued to develop for centuries.

HH: Thanks for these good thoughts.

Harold Holmyard

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