[b-hebrew] Canaanite - response to certain folks.

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Jun 28 22:43:34 EDT 2006

Chris Watts wrote:

> Surely when one considers that the Amorite dialect must have
> been very widely spoken (a from of Aramaic) amongst Babylonia

Why "must"?  Where do you get this "must"?  What evidence
do you have that Amorite was spoken at all in Babylonia.  All
evidence we have shows that Akkadian was spoken in Babylonia.

> and around 2400-1800 in Canaan when they moved in,

Amorite may indeed be an ancestor of Canaanite.  We have very
little evidence of it, however.

> and Abraham allying himself with them in a momentous battle,

This is not any piece of linguistic evidence.  Nor does "allying
oneself with another" whether it is historically accurate or not,
tell us anything about the language.

> alludes to some common understanding with them.

Since such phenomenons as bilingualism, especially among
the elite and army generals was known from ancient times.

> And EARLY aramaic had more in common with the canaanite
> tongue than did later aramaic?

We have no evidence of Aramaic prior to the 1st millenium BCE.

> Maybe upon this there is some thought that the SPOKEN hebrew
> during the Egypt years was a kind of independently forming Aramaic.

Hebrew and Aramaic are cognate, sister languages.  Hebrew is not
a later form of Aramaic.

> After all, Moses fled to Midian and not the place of his ancestral
> beginnings in Canaan.  Midian being of course of Family kindred and
> similar tongue to Moses?  Otherwise surely a man who was lonely
> and in need of feeling secure would try to find a place where he was
> most at home, both in language and belief?  Which would not have
> been Midian - just a thought! chris.

None of this is any kind of linguistic evidence.

(To Yigal)
> Canaanite origin?  I personally think that that is pushing away so much
> biblical literature and calling it fanciful?

Hebrew is a developed form of Canaanite.  That is a fact.
Hebrew is not a developed form of Aramaic.  That is also a fact.
Canaanite is not Aramaic.  That is also a fact.

Yigal is an archaeologist.  I think in the above statement, he is referring
mainly to the archaeological evidence which points to this conclusion.

(back to me)

> The Normans did not adopt the saxon language in England and they did not
> adopt the Keltoi language in Ireland either.  What happened was that they
> influenced the language of saxon over 200 years - the written language was
> latin and the spoken was Frankish. and never took any notice of Gaelic at
> all when they arrived in 1170 in Ireland.  In Ireland the celtic language
> was pushed to the fringes.  In England they brought in the written latin and
> conversed in frankish dialects and influenced the saxon language that by
> 1400 you see a clearly defineable new written and spoken language which by
> the way was sprinkeld with old norse as well.

Languages are not born anew.  They develop.  Thus the "new written
and spoken language" is still related to the ancient parent language
and has much in common with it.  I brought this as an example.  Of course,
the most simplest conclusion from the fact that Hebrew is a developed
form of Canaanite, is that the speakers of Canaanite were ancestors of
the speakers of Hebrew.  No conquest, no borrowing, nothing is necessary
to assume.

> By all this I am not saying that Hebrew was not influenced by a canaanite
> language but rather I do not see that Hebrew can spring forth from canaanite
> when this language is not a uniform entity but by all accounts that I have
> read it was a mixture of different tribes and migrants speaking different
> dialects but mutually intelligable and quite apart from what was happening
> in Goshen.

I am not sure what you have read, but obviously you have not read any
linguistic description of Hebrew.  Try "A History of the Hebrew Language"
by Saenz-Badillos.  See the link at

> Maybe since canaanite and early aramaic had so much in common
> that it is the labels we give things that cause divisions in the first place?

No.  Canaanite is not Aramaic.  Hebrew is Canaanite.

> So maybe most of the lingual groups spoke a form of aramaic which
> when divided up into smaller groups develope a unique  identifiable
> lingual structure, but we come along and think that one gave birth to
> the other?????? Chris

"Maybe" and "Could" is not linguistic evidence.  There is always a
problem in reconstruction of languages, for example, that when
all daughter languages undergo a certain sound change, that sound
change is ascribed to the parent language, because there is no
evidence of a daughter language having preserved the original
sound.  But all we have to work with is evidence, not wild guesses.

Yitzhak Sapir

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