[b-hebrew] Language, Culture or Both? was Nostratic

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Apr 19 04:40:13 EDT 2007

On 4/18/07, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:

> I have questions based on what is found in the Bible (Genesis 10-11) First,
> are the different groups, Indo-European (Japheth), Semitic (Shem), and
> Afro-Hamite (Ham).

There is no "Afro-Hamite" language.  In particular, Huehnergard notes
that there are morphological features that indicate that Berber, Egyptian,
and Semitic may constitute a North Afroasiatic group.  Other branches of
Afroasiatic, such as Cushitic and Chadic, and perhaps Omotic and Beja,
are just that -- additional branches.  They do not together consitute a
separate branch besides Semitic.  A curious statement by Huehnergard:
"a language spoken by fewer than twenty individuals along the Woito
River in southwestern Ethiopia, called by themselves Ongota and by their
neighbors Birale or Birelle, has recently been described and claimed to
be the remnant of another distinct branch of Afroasiatic."  For a scholarly
discussion of Genesis 9-10, see the following lecture by Ronald Troxel:
http://imp.lss.wisc.edu/~rltroxel/history/Lect18.pdf (from the bottom of p. 9)
Stated in general terms, these chapters organize "the world
ethnographically and geographically, and he's tracing the ethnographic
links back via a genealogy."   They compare to works by Hesiod and

> Finally, on a historical basis is that the Medeo-Persian Empire was the
> first non-Semitic empire.

There was a Persian empire, not a Medeo-Persian Empire.  Also, there
was a Mitanni Empire, an Indo-Iranian empire centered in northern
Mesopotamia that flourished from about 1500 BCE to 1360 BCE.  I am
less aware of earlier times, but my guess is that there were earlier
empires as well.  Sumerian civilization may also qualify as an empire.
Who knows what politics went on in prehistoric times.  In general, these
terms denote language.  However, to the degree that indeed we can
reconstruct a language, we also assume that there was some people
who spoke the language, and then these people had a culture.
On Proto-Semitic culture see: http://www.bartleby.com/61/10.html
On Indo-European culture see: http://www.bartleby.com/61/8.html

Yitzhak Sapir

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