[b-hebrew] Yitzhak - Canaanites/Amorites/Language - a reply

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Jun 29 21:33:18 EDT 2006

On 6/29/06, Chris Watts wrote:

> Yitzhak wrote
> We have no evidence of Aramaic prior to the 1st millenium BCE.
> Chris replies
> >>>>>LABAN??? Jacob a wandering aramean?????

That is not evidence of Aramaic prior to the 1st millenium BCE.  These are
historical claims that need to be substantiated and which may be further
elaborated and understood from independent conclusions about Aramaic,
but which cannot themselves throw light on Aramaic.

> Chris wrote
> > Maybe upon this there is some thought that the SPOKEN hebrew
> > during the Egypt years was a kind of independently forming 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.
> Yitzhak wrote
> None of this is any kind of linguistic evidence.
> Chris replies
> You are right!  But I am not thinking as a linguist because I am not
> one.

It doesn't matter if you are a linguist.  If you want to make conclusions in
the field of linguistics (such as "spoken hebrew was a kind of aramaic"),
you need to use linguistic data.  You cannot use historical data or
historical claims to substantiate linguistic phenomena.  Said another
way, if you want to make claims about languages, you have to think
like a linguist.

> Yitzhak wrote
> Hebrew is a developed form of Canaanite.  That is a fact.
> Chris replies
> Canaanite is a label that over simplifies the issue, People think of
> canaanite and connect it with Canaan.  BUT I think that it should be
> explained that Canaanite could well have been spoken in the middle of
> the nomadic wastelands a few hundred miles east of Ur?  Canaanite
> describes an Alphabet and that's it!

No, Canaanite does not describe an alphabet and that's it.  People do
not think of Canaanite and connect it with Canaan.  There is a language,
call it language X, that is attested in letters from Canaan in the late 2nd
millenium BCE.  Hebrew is a direct outgrowth of X as are other
languages.  You can call it Canaanite, or you can call it what you like,
but it doesn't change the fact that Hebrew is a direct outgrowth of it,
and neither Hebrew nor X are Aramaic.

> Yitzhak wrote
> 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.
> Chris replies
> I agree with all the above EXCEPT THIS:-that the speakers of Canaanite
> were ancestors of the speakers of Hebrew"

Let me clarify: There are several possibilities you could conclude from the
above.  The simplest possibility is that the speakers of Canaanite were the
ancestors of the speakers of Hebrew.

> Not so!  Abraham did not stem from Canaan.  If however you accept
> that canaanite is a broad term that WE USE TO DESIGNATE A LINGUA
> FRANCA of commonly related peoples and NOT confined to a
> geographical area then Yes!

I don't know if Abraham even existed.  That is not an issue.  You can try
to synthesize the historical claims with the linguistic data, like Peter did,
but you cannot use the historical claims to invent new linguistic data.

Yitzhak wrote
> 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.

Chris replies
> So Funny this, it is his book that caused me to post this question in
> the first place!!!! I got half way through and had to begin again and again.
> All those linguistic data and terminology is a nightmare for me and so it
> is hard to appreciate.  But I have found it extremely helpful none the less.
> Unfortunately it will not educate me too much because I have no background
> understanding of all that detailed movement of sound change etc.

Maybe you could ask the list about the areas in the book with which you
had problems.

Chris wrote
> 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
> Yitzhak wrote
> "Maybe" and "Could" is not linguistic evidence.
> Chris replies
> I am not a linguistic evidence orientated phonologically minded data
> analyser; the above statement conceals a quest for answers rather than
> a proposition against those who could shoot me down within seconds of
> opening my mouth.

It's not an issue of shooting you down.  If you want to find answers, you
need to adopt the strategies of scholarship.  Anyone can suggest and
offer hypothetical scenarios that are not supported by data.  But these
are no more than wishful thinking exactly because they are not supported
by the data.  Part of the problem with your suggestions is that you have
suggested hypothetical explanations for the development of Hebrew that
contradict well known and established evidence.  By evidence I do not
mean historical claims in the Bible.  Rather, actual inscriptions in various
languages make up this evidence.  After taking all the inscriptions and
fitting them together and seeing how they make up a reasonable linguistic
scenario, one can take the language of the Bible and see where it fits in
this picture.  Finally, after all this, one can take the claims made by the
Bible and see how, in light of the picture that we have created of the
linguistic development, the events described in the Bible can be
understood.  In the process, claims must be proven.  "would", "could",
"maybe", "circumstantially" are not good enough and only lead toward
a process of creating hypothetical but unlikely scenarios.  I strongly
suggest that you go back to the Saenz-Badillos book, starting from page
1, and bring up any issues or problems or misunderstandings you have
with what it says on the list.

Yitzhak Sapir

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