[b-hebrew] comparative historical linguistics was Re: Nun-Tav-Vet root

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Nov 26 19:48:11 EST 2006

On 11/24/06, K Randolph wrote:

> I don't know whether to answer you seriously, or just make mockery of
> your statements as did Isaac Fried.


I treat the Bible, and the language of the Bible with respect.  When I
examine its development, I try to use the most sound methodology to
investigate and understand it.  It's not a game.  It's not something to
be mocked, or something to use while mocking others.  When you
write something about Hebrew, I treat you with similar respect and
examine your arguments seriously.  Every link and every site you
provide, I look up and read.  Sometimes, albeit your rather unsound
methodology, you make statements that are correct or accurate.  My
only problem is where you present your personal unsound views on
the development of the Hebrew language as if it was fact accepted by
everyone.  For example, if you were to say, "linguists generally believe
that Hebrew did not require a vowel after every consonant, but I believe
it did because I can't pronounce Ayin or Alef unvocalized at the end
of the word," that would be a proper presentation of the situation.  It is
when you try to present your views as equivalent to standard sound
linguistic methodology that I really have a problem.  I therefore suggest
you refrain from mocking me, and that you treat the Hebrew language
of the Bible, and the arguments that either you or I make with the
respect that it deserves.  If you do what Isaac Fried did, you'll only be
making a mockery of yourself, just like he made a mockery of himself.

The exchange with Peter allowed us to review some of these points.
Therefore, I will relate only to the major points that have to do with
comparative historical linguistics and which received still no
response.  Also, it is in this mail that you start involving yourself in
making up the evidence.  I will therefore only show where your
evidence is without basis.

For example, as regarding the CV syllables, your "evidence"
brought in the past was that after concluding that the bgdkpt
consonants were all "hard", you decided that they can't be
pronounced by you unless Hebrew has a CV structure, and if they
can't be pronounced by you, they can't be pronounced by anybody.
But you just pointed out that people can learn to pronounce
phonemes of various sorts that they were unable to previously or in
their native language.  So what's the idea?  Now, ignore for a
moment that in some cases (such as that which I'm about to quote),
vowels dropped that were there originally.  Do you really intend to say
that you can't pronounce a word like [kɔ:tbu:] "they wrote" if there
is no intervening vowel as in [kɔ:tVbu:] or if some consonants aren't
"soft" [kɔ:θvu:] (the Massoretic pronounciation, although the [v] is
only because an intervening vowel was lost)?  I really don't see a
problem with pronouncing these unless the two consonants begin or
end a word, and in those cases a short vowel was usually added
because of this.  I doubt you have a problem pronouncing it yourself.

The other major point in discussion is the issue of the 22 letter
alphabet and Hebrew.  I had previously asked you how I could tell if
a language was Hebrew, if it was written in a non-22 letter script but
in an inscription dated to 1500 BCE.  You never responded.  As long
as you fail to provide a way to determine if the language is Hebrew,
your theory is not falsifiable.  It simply assumes that Hebrew is
always written in a 22 letter alphabet.  Any evidence to the contrary
is disregarded because it's not Hebrew in your opinion.  This is
circular reasoning at its best.

As for falsifying the theory relating to Shin and Sin, the theory behind
this conclusion relates to following observations:
1) Languages A and B are identified cognate languages, meaning they
appear to be genetically related based on a large set of words as explained
in the article I provided earlier.
2) Language A is attested twice, once (A1) with a writing system that
identifies X letters, and once (A2) with a writing system that distinguishes
two variants of one of the X letters (I'll call these variants L1 and L2).
3) Language B may be attested at approximately the same time as
attestation A1 historically or it may be attested later.  In both cases,
however, the language makes the same distinctions for the two
variants L1 and L2 in the cognate reflexes of those words where
L1 and L2 appear in A2.  Language B is not a development of A.

The theory suggests that while only X letters were written in attestation A1,
the two variants L1 and L2 are still distinguished by speakers of
the attestation A1 of language A.

Of course, the theory would explain Shin and Sin where A = Hebrew, A1 =
Pre-exilic archaeological attestations of Hebrew, A2 = The Massoretic
vocalization of Hebrew, B = Sabaean, Arabic or Aramaic.  However, this is
a general claim and theory and is not related to any particular assignment
relating to Heberw, Sabaean, Arabic, etc, and can be applied to any
language.  One can even choose a modern observed language where the
above observations are made and show that it does not occur in the
observed modern language, thus falsifying the theory.

Now, a little note on the nizkor site.  It would be wrong for you to
assume that I don't visit it, as you seem to suggest.  Like I said, I
always visit the sites you reference, even though it appears you do
not always do the same for sites I suggest and sometimes point it
flat out (such as the Ugaritic evidence).  Logic is more than
pointing out false conclusions.  Furthermore, identifying fallacies
should be correctly applied.  For example:

> Really, you ought to visit http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/
> for this is an example of the Ad Populum logical fallacy, otherwise
> known as the appeal to popularity.

No.  I am not saying your beliefs are false because people of a wide range
of theological beliefs approve of it.  I am saying the contrary position is not
dependent on any specific theological belief because we see that people
of a wide range of theological beliefs approve it.  For the record, your
beliefs refer to the statement that I made saying that "you are practically
the only person here who believes that the 22 letter alphabet was designed
from scratch for Hebrew to mark all consonants separately."


> > The statement I made is falsifiable.  And the only thing I have is an
> > explanation and supporting evidence that is acceptable to anyone but
> > you.
> >
> Really, you ought to visit the nizkor site. This looks like the
> Bandwagon logical fallacy.

The Bandwagon fallacy relates to assertions, not evidence.  If I bring in
evidence such as Ugaritic, or transcriptions of place names and words
in scripts dating to the 2nd Millenium BCE, and you say, "Well, this
is not evidence," that does not mean it's not evidence.  If you would like
to dispute its status as evidence, you'll need to bring in criteria for
determining whether or not it is evidence.

However, in contrast, the following paragraph is full of logical fallacies
and leaps of logic:

> Because Moses' use of writing dates from about the same time as the
> earliest attested use of a similar alphabet among southern Arabian but
> with 22 letters instead of the more numerous but mostly shared letters
> found among southern Arabians, that indicates that the 22 letters
> corresponded to 22 recognized consonantal phonemes of Biblical Hebrew.
> In other words, that the alphabet was developed, i.e. tailor made, for
> Biblical Hebrew.

And as for:

> > You now have the Great Isaiah scroll on the Israel Museum site.
> >
> Not yet in electronic form so I can read it on my PDA, as I can now
> read unpointed text.

Look, Karl.  You were first presented with evidence and scholarship but
unfortunately that scholarship was available only at Academic libraries.
You wanted something that wasn't at academic libraries.  You were then
presented with more popular books that provide the evidence but you
didn't have the money to spend on these books.  You wanted something
that was free.  You were then presented with online transliterations of
evidence but unfortunately, the evidence was in Ugaritic and you decided
a priori that Ugaritic was not relevant.  You wanted something that he
thought was relevant.  You were then presented with online transliterations
of Hebrew inscriptions and Biblical scorll fragments, but transliterations
was not enough.  You wanted to see for yourself.  You were then presented
with online photographs of the evidence but the photography was not of
sufficiently high resolution for your tastes.  You demanded high resolution
quality photographs.  You were then presented with high resolution color
photographs available online free of charge of a Biblical manuscript that
was sufficiently relevant to your considerations, but unfortunately, this
wasn't in PDA form.  What excuse will you find next?

Yitzhak Sapir

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