[b-hebrew] Isaac Fried's Theory (was Karl's lexicon)

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Fri Aug 31 00:03:39 EDT 2007


You say "Grammar is induced by [a?] process of generalisation". OK.  
But what is being generalized? There is obviously a transmitted  
grammatical system [we need define grammar, but this is not for now]  
with some irregularities that are being instinctively, yet  
"erroneously", rectified by the young or the naive [or the well  
intentioned]. There is a darn annoying extra s in 'he stands'. Does  
this 's' mean anything, or is it just a dead appendix? If so why is  
it not removed by the wise men of England? I used to remove it in  
English class in school but the teacher became annoyed with me.
What is the point you are trying to make here? English is not Hebrew.  
English does not have a root system anymore, and its vowels are just  
empty sounds. Could you explain to me, by the way, what is the  
independent meaning of -ed in goed? Is this just a random syllable  
formed out of thin air and stuck there to indicate past action? I  
have said it earlier, I will say it again, I am not interested in  
English nor in Eskimo, only in Hebrew.
I am really put off by this techno-talk of hardweired brains. The  
human mind is not the motherboard of a digital computer. We have  
feelings and are inventive. What is, pray, "the mechanisms of our  
cognitive system"? is this just common linguistic bombast for  
'intelligence'? You say further "Shamarnu has very little meaning on  
its own but in a real phonetic string becomes far more meaningful".  
Sorry, but I do not understand this. Is "phonetic string" the same  
bombast for 'sentence'?
You go on to say "Any one hearing such a statement [namely SHAMARNU]  
would immediately wonder 'Who is the we?' and 'What did they guard?'  
Right!  This proves that SHAMARNU is meaningful since it engenders  
meaningful questions. SHAMARNU consists of two words that came  
together SHAMAR and NU. Moreover, I see NU itself as consisting of  
the two words N-U, with N indication existence, and U something that  
is noisy, like me.
You end by saying "Such is, after all, merely convention". True. But  
convention is set by people.
The issues before us are very simple and very well defined, and  
unique to Hebrew [or her Semitic sisters]. Hebrew is built up of  
roots---some 3500 of them. Each root consists [normally] of a cluster  
of three consonants, and is endowed with a meaning. Say the root GDL,  
which means 'large'. I know that meaning is vague and controversial.  
There are some 22 marked consonants in Hebrew, which can be arranged  
into seven groups. One group, for example, being B, V, W, P, F. The  
question now is this Is the root random or systematic? I hold to the  
opinion that the root is systematic with each contributing consonant  
being by itself a meaningful single-consonant root. Next, to the  
skeletal root Hebrew adds vowels to create pronounceable [pronounce- 
able] words. The question now is this Are the vowels empty sounds or  
are they semantically meaningful? I hold to the opinion that the A  
sound is just a phonetic ligature, but that the sounds U-O and I-E  
are identity markers. For instance, $AMUR, 'guarded', from the root  
$MR, is $AM-U-R with U referring to the thing, HU, being guarded.
Luckily our root system is transmitted to us from biblical times  
nearly intact, otherwise the linguistic barbarians would have ruined it.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

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