[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.apu.ac.uk
Wed Jun 28 09:32:25 EDT 2006

Peter wrote
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.

In addition to this I would like to make the observation 
that the phenomenon of the divine name seems to support 
this theory. yhwh being an aramaic name was the way 
Abraham called his god and was the way he taught his 
children to call his god. This was perhaps the only 
survivor of Abraham's language that managed to rest in 
the language all the way through the generations even 
though for the rest of everyday communication they 
adopted hebrew.

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