[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Jun 28 19:47:08 EDT 2006

On 6/28/06, Karl Randolph wrote:

> Further, it is a matter of relativeness: while you
> may be considered a maximalist compared to extreme
> minimalists, you are a minimalist compared to my
> position. And my position is shared by several on
> this discussion forum.

Get ready.  I never said I was not a minimalist.  I would
probably fit somewhere in the middle between current
minimalistic views and current maximalistic views.  I
even find it easier often to read and make use of
"minimalist" studies and scholarship because it is more
critical and it is much easier to separate, within those
studies, the assumptions of the author and the data that
he or she uses.  Some "maximalist" studies provide the
claims in a synthesis that makes it hard to separate
authorial assumptions from data.  When one disagrees
with a particular assumption, this means one cannot
make use of the study at all.  However, this is just a
general feeling at this point and it may be that reading
a different set of studies than what I've read so far would
have led to the opposite conclusions.

However, the data I provided is not either minimalistic or
maximalist.  It is facts.  See, Peter did not dispute those
facts.  He provided a possible synthesis of those facts
with the Biblical claims.  This synthesis may still be off
or missing out on a few minor points, but it is much more
in line with the basic linguistic data compared to Chris'
original suggestion, which was purely based on Biblical
claims and had no basis in any linguistic data.  One then
has to decide whether Peter's synthesis is convincing and
whether one accepts those Biblical claims.  A careful
reading of my post to Chris will show that I did not write
anything that cannot be consistent with Peter's eventual
synthesis.  Peter's synthesis does involve Biblical claims
that I do not think are true, so I would not provide such a
synthesis, but it is at least generally consistent with the
linguistic data.

Your view is something that I consider to be
"fundamentalistic."  I write this, like you, not as a
perjorative term but as a simple description of the
situation, especially when it applies to linguistic data.
It is based on both the following two points:

1) Acceptance of Biblical claims almost literally (as can
be seen from this and prior threads of the list)
2) Refusal to accept, or even read and become acquainted
with, modern linguistic data and studies, even when it is
freely available.

Specifically, point (2) is not something that can be said of
Peter or Harold, for example (if those are the people that
you refer to when you note that "And my position is
shared by several on this discussion forum").

> But the historicity of the text is a legitimate
> linguistic question. While for purposes of this
> discussion we don't have to agree on historicity,
> it has a bearing on how we interpret historical
> data and how Hebrew compares to cognate languages.

No, it does not.  Hebrew can be compared and
contrasted to cognate languages irrespective of
whether one accepts Biblical historical claims or
one's position on Biblical historicity.   This is
because the comparison of cognate languages is
a process that takes into account purely linguistic
features, and has no place for any historical
claim of any kind.  Using Biblical historical
claims as if they have a bearing on such a
comparison is simply wrong.

A historian can take the linguistic data once it has
been analyzed, and fit it together with his own
historical conclusions to arrive at a synthesis,
something like Peter did.  However, one cannot
take "historical conclusions" and use them to
arrive at new linguistic data.

> It has been pointed out elsewhere (not on this
> forum that I know of) that from the genealogies
> that Melchizedek mentioned in Genesis 14 could have
> been Shem, son of Noah, born before the flood. If
> so, it is hard to imagine that he would not have
> had a very conservative influence on the local
> languages (people wanting to speak like the great
> sage). I put this forward as an example of how
> one's interpretation of the historicity of Tanakh
> influences how we interpret historical linguistic
> data.

Where in all this paragraph above is there any
use of known linguistic evidence?  This is
exactly "taking 'historical conclusions' and using
them to arrive at new linguistic data."  It is
methodologically wrong.

Yitzhak Sapir

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