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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Nov 27 20:02:57 EST 2006

On 11/28/06, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> Dear Peter,
> As the voice of moderation where you can see the evidence from both sides,
> let me ask you this question.
> It seems that the disagreement over the "shin," "sin," West Semitic,
> Biblical Hebrew, etc. is on what presuppositions come to the table?

Dear Bryant,

I know you asked Peter, but I just wanted to point out that Orthodox Jews
have always (or, in any case, for over a millenium), believed that the Torah
was given to Moses.  They may not have believed that it was at the dates
you quote as they had different traditions, but I don't think it is the exact
date that is of issue.  However, they also believed that the distinctions
between Shin and Sin were given to Moses along with the Torah and many
other if not all Massoretic marks.  Is there a Christian tradition that believes
the distinctions between Shin and Sin were not known to Moses?  I doubt
it, but you are free to correct me.  The question is not about whether one
believes the Torah (not Tanakh) was given to Moses in this date or that
date.  The question is whether one believes the following additional
1) The Torah was given to Moses in a 22 letter alphabet.
2) This alphabet was created by the Israelites.
3) The alphabet was a one-to-one match with the linguistic consonantal
phonemes identified by the Israelites.
While I can understand that traditional beliefs would accept (1) and (2),
statement (3) is the one that is problematic because it goes against the
traditional beliefs of Orthodox Jews, and probably most other ancient
religious traditions relating to the Bible.  Indeed, this is also the point
on which both Peter and I have concentrated most in this discussion
with Karl.

> For
> example, If I believe that text of the Tanakh (the Law of Moses) was written
> during the period of the Exodus of 1446-45 to 1407-1406 BC, then I believe
> that Biblical Hebrew began at THAT time. If I believe that Tanakh (Law of
> Moses) was not written until sometime later (usually after Rameses II), then
> I will include Biblical Hebrew as part of he West Semitic dialects including
> Ugaritic. Furthermore, whichever view I go with, these presuppositions will
> be reflected in the discussion of the comparative historical linguistics.

Comparative Historical Linguistics doesn't work from dates of attestations
but from similarities in morphology and phonology.  This is because, as
Peter noted earlier, different languages develop at different rates in different
directions, making the dates of attestations not as important as Karl makes
them out to be.

> It seems that Yitzhak and Karl need to step back and stop the name calling,

If there is any sentence which I have made that can be construed as name
calling, I will be interested if you would point it out as I try to
refrain from it.
(This doesn't have to be either off-list or on-list -- whichever you prefer).

Yitzhak Sapir

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