[b-hebrew] Nun-Tav-Vet root

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Nov 22 00:57:17 EST 2006


On 11/21/06, Isaac Fried wrote:
> On one count the amazon.com "reviewer" of my book: "the Analytic and
> Synthetic Etymology of the Hebrew Language" is profoundly wrong (of course I
> am not going to argue with him about what is "probable" and what is
> "improbable"), and I want to point this out here for the sake of our
> readers. It never occurred to me to suggest that "...every Hebrew word can
> be analyzed..." It is of course not 'word' but 'root'. This commentator, an
> apparent expert on the "principles of historical linguistics", is confusing
> here word and root.

Dear Isaac Fried,

I don't know who the reviewer of that book is.  But that particular review is
actually very useful.  Indeed, of all the people on amazon who used that
review (5), all of them found it useful.  What that review says is that you have
no idea what you're talking about.   I think it actually gives you more credit
than you deserve.  In any case, the reviewer is not fundamentally wrong in
his review because of his confusion as regarding your theory.  His review
is correct whether the theory relates to words or roots, and gives you too
much credit in both cases.

One does not have to be an expert in historical linguistics to know that
what you are talking about is absolute nonesense.  A basic treatment,
such as "Reconstructed Ancient Languages" in the Cambridge
Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages suffices.  Even just
reading the following link suffices:
http://www.utexas.edu/depts/classics/documents/PIE.html

The following links on Proto-Semitic may also be useful:
Introduction - http://www.bartleby.com/61/10.html
Sounds chart - http://www.bartleby.com/61/JPG/proto.jpg
Root Index - http://www.bartleby.com/61/Sroots.html
Language relationships - http://www.bartleby.com/61/tree.html

In a sense, you and Karl think alike.  Neither of you has apparently any
understanding of how comparative historical linguistics is done, nor are you
or him have any knowledge of some cognate languages.  But there is a
difference.  You appear to be a university professor!  You are expected to
know how theories are proposed.  You are expected to know the value of
offering your book to criticism from your peers in the linguistics department.
You have easy access to a university library where you can probably read
all you want about the linguistic method, and about various cognate
languages, as well as modern studies of the ancient pronounciation of
different words.

In an earlier post, I asked you to explain the following sentence of yours:
> In fact, the extension of נתיב is at once upward, widthwise,
> and lengthwise.
I picked this one because it appeared that you were referring to the shape
of the letters, in which case (if this is indeed what you are talking about),
I was going to confront you with how the alphabet developed and the way
the letters looked like in ancient times, and also in other languages such
as Ugaritic which had a very different alphabet but both roots.  If this is not
about the shape of letters, I admit that I have no idea what you're talking
about.  But honestly said, I don't think you do either.

This is not to say that you can't come to this list and write nonesense.
Just expect it to be properly discredited if it is a crackpot theory like yours
is:

> The Hebrew word (noun as well as verb) is composed of a root interlaced with
> pronouns. The inserted pronouns (the "infixes") are the sounds U and I,
> pronounced in Hebrew oo and ee, and their latter variants O and E. Thus, the
> word נתיב=נת+היא+ב, has an inserted pronoun I, for which I wrote the Hebrew
> היא, referring to the object itself.

The feminine singular pronoun is [hi:] in Massoretic Hebrew.  Only in Modern
Hebrew does the [h] go away.  What has this to do with the word [nɔ:'ti:v]?

> The sound A in nAtIv is a mere vocal
> gap between the consonants. However, in the verbal form ניתבתי=נ+היא+תב+אתי

This word is not found in the Hebrew Bible.  It is a modern form that is
constructed based on the word as it appears in the Hebrew Bible.  We are
talking here about the Hebrew Bible.

> both היא and אתי mark the actor performing the act expressed by the root
> נתב.
>
> In their separate form the Hebrew pronouns are composed of the original
> universal pronouns U, O, I, E, augmented by existence markers. For instance:
> אני=אן+היא, or ani=an+I,

The word [?a'ni:] was originally [?ana:] as can be seen from its Aramaic form.
The [i:] vowel is a later development.

> and אנוכי=אן+הוא+אך+היא, or anoxi=an+O+x+I. In the

The word [?ɔ:no:'ki:] is a development from [?ana:ku].  The medial holam
is the result of the Canaanite shift a: > o, which can be seen all over
Hebrew.

> same way אנו=אן+הוא, or anu=an+U, and אנחנו=אן+אך+אן+הוא, or

While in Modern Hebrew Het and Kaf sound the same, this is clearly not
the case in Massoretic Hebrew.  In an earlier form of the language there
were two Het sounds, one of which sounded like a Het in Modern Hebrew
and one which sounds like the Het as it was pronounced in Massoretic
Hebrew and still is pronounced in the Oriental pronounciation.  Also, in
an earlier form of the language, the letter k was never fricative so it always
sounded like [k].  There probably was a time when the two Het sounds and
the two allophones of Kaf were present simultaneously.  However, in the
word [?a'na:xnu:] the Het was never equivalent to the fricative Kaf until
modern times.

If you do happen to open the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient
Languages, please also read the articles on Hebrew, Aramaic, North Arabian,
South Arabian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, the Canaanite dialects, and
Afroasiatic.

Yitzhak Sapir


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