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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Nov 28 22:48:36 EST 2006

On 11/27/06, K Randolph wrote:
> Yitzhak:
> Most of my response was on the level, with only a few statements to
> try to reveal to you the ridiculousness of your statements. You are
> one of the most dense people I have ever had to deal with,

I am considering whether answering other claims here will advance
the discussion as per historical comparative linguistics, which is what
the focus of this thread is about and I intend to stick to it.

I asked and you responded:

> > 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.
> >
> In order to show that an inscription were Hebrew though written with a
> different alphabet, you need to show a paper trail of the development
> of such writing, or a "Rosetta Stone" with both alphabets used to
> write the same message in the same language but with different
> alphabets. You have failed to show either. Your question is
> speculation.

This is not what I asked.  First of all, a "Rosetta stone" usually isn't
one language, two scripts -- it's two languages or more and probably
just as many scripts.   I had previously provided as example the
Fekherye inscription which is the oldest Aramaic inscription, but that
wasn't satisfactory.  Of course, showing that the "Rosetta stone" you
want has the same message in the same language assumes we know
how to tell that the two languages are the same, but this is the issue in
question.  Furthermore, I propose that there isn't any paper trail of Biblical
documents because I think that no Bible document was authored prior
to the 10th century BCE.  I am not forcing this opinion on you or asking
you to accept it.  What you're saying, however, is that I must accept a
Bible document was authored in Amarna Canaanite, for example, in
order to show that Amarna Canaanite is Hebrew.  We do have some
very suggestive parallels in Ugaritic, sometimes including verses and
very many elements of parallelism have parallels in Ugaritic.  An example
of a verse was provided in the discussion of the Leviathan, which I'll quote
again, with the parallel in Isaiah 27:1

1. ktmx'c . ltn . bt'n . brx              (l lwytn nx$ brx
2. tkly . bt'n . (qltn                       w(l lwytn nx$ (qltn
3. $ly+ . d. $b(t . r)a$m
4. tt'kx . ttrp . $mm . krs
t' = th, x' = khet (opposed to het)

An Ugaritic linguist, Dennis Pardee, is quoted as translating the above
passage as: "When you smite Lotan, the fleeing serpent / finish off the
twisting serpent / the close-coiling one with seven heads.'

The point here is to show the parallels between the use of lwytn nx$ brx
and nx$ (qltn in two consecutive legs, which match the Ugaritic ltn bt'n brx
and bt'n (qltn, with a change of word bt'n -> nx$.  What are the odds of
Isaiah coming up with such an exact match for the order of these words,
for the wording of the parallel, for a text that was written hundreds of years
prior to Isaiah and buried that many centuries in the ground?  In other
words, very suggestive parallels do exist, that suggest such "a paper
trail" did exist even if we don't have it today.  (Incidentally, bt'n was
borrowed into Hebrew from Aramaic ptn).

Furthermore, my question was more based in parallel to something like
Linear B.  It is generally accepted that Linear B is an early form of Greek.
However, there is no paper trail, no "Rosetta stone".  Does that mean we
can't identify Linear B as Greek?  How then, would we be able to see if
a language like Amarna Canaanite, or Ugaritic was an ancestor of Hebrew,
even though it wasn't used to write Biblical documents?  How would you
identify the possibility that Israelites speaking Canaanite much the same
as the Canaanites in the Amarna letters, but whose records from the
period didn't survive later developed this Canaanite language to become
the Hebrew of the later centuries with which we are so familiar?  This
explains more precisely my question: if I have two attestations, how do
I know they are the same language only in two stages of development,
even if there is no "paper trail" between them?

Yitzhak Sapir

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