[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Thu Jun 29 06:47:25 EDT 2006

On 29/06/2006 00:47, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> ...
> 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.
You are going too far here. Yes, languages can be compared without 
reference to any historical data, and a meaningful picture can be built 
up. But in practice linguistic studies surely make use of known 
historical information. I guess that one could derive simply from 
studying modern Romance languages that they had a common ancestor around 
2000 years ago, probably spoken in what is now Italy. But it is on the 
basis of known historical data, not pure linguistic reconstruction, that 
that language is identified as Latin and as having been spread by the 
Roman Empire. And similar undisputed historical data can be used for 
study of Semitic languages.

The problem with this comes when uncertain or disputed historical data 
are used as part of the linguistic reconstruction. The result of this is 
that the linguistic reconstruction becomes entangled with the historical 
issues. It is at least in principle possible for the linguistics to be 
of real help in resolving the historical uncertainty, as well as vice 
versa. Or we may simply end up with multiple scenarios, covering both 
history and linguistic development, and no way to decide between them.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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