if at math.bu.edu
Sat Oct 13 20:15:49 EDT 2007
Hebrew [and its sister languages] are different from all other
languages of the earth [as far as I know] in that it is absolutely
predicated upon a root system. Every [almost] Hebrew word can be
traced back to a triliteral root. Here is something of mathematical
certainty---literally a machine language. Imagine this The entire
Hebrew bible with all its prose, poetry and prophecy is composed of
no more than 3500 roots, many of them essentially identical.
A word is just a trigger to excite the brain---within a context. In
this sense you are very right in your claim that the context makes
the wider-sense meaning.
It stands to reason that Hebrew was not "born" with a triliteral root
system, and that many roots are later additions. Indeed, there are
many basic Hebrew words consisting of only one consonant [ignoring
aleph and ayin], for example, AB, 'father, cloud', EM, 'mother', AX,
'brother', EL, 'god', AM, 'nation', EC, 'tree'. Some consist of
repetitions: GAG, 'roof', DAD, 'breast', XAX, 'thorn', WAW, 'peg',
CIC, 'shoot', SUS, 'horse'. Some consist of two consonants: XAM, GAL,
PAX, YAD, HAR, KAR. I suggest that all Hebrew roots are composed of
single consonant roots.
You are saying: "Under your system, it seems everything must have a
current significance". You are absolutely right.
You are saying: "(3) You appear to have discounted the translation
offered by others because it does not agree with your own
translation. This is not scholarly engagement." It is not clear to me
to what specific cases you refer, but I am surely entitled to my own
ideas. One can "scholarly engage" with someone else by not agreeing
with his ideas, even trying to refute his claims. Very often
controversy sharpens the understanding and deepens the insights.
I keep saying "my opinion" to make sure that the reader understands
that I am not quoting someone else. To put it bluntly I am not overly
impressed with all "mainstream views". I am not beholden to no one's
views, only to the truth as I see it. The people contributing to b-
Hebrew come from different cultural and ideological backgrounds and
have different views on different matters, and that's fine.
You are saying: "(5) Are you willing to admit that your opinion of
Hebrew represents a
minority view which does not spring from a trajectory of mainstream
research?". In fact, I am proudly willing to admit that my opinion
may often be just a one man opinion. Still, this does not mean I am
wrong, only that I am possibly more audacious, inventive, and liberal
in my thinking.
Now back to the "paragogic he". We have in Hebrew "he-hayediah", "he-
hashe'elah", "he-hamegamah", "he-hazeruz", and more he "prefixes" and
"suffixes". I think it is incumbent upon us thinking men [and women]
to at least try and explain this sudden versatility of letter he.
This is the essence of scientific thinking. There must be some common
factor in all these uses of letter he. What is it? Saying that it is
a "historical throwback" is an easy way out.
Isaac Fried, Boston University
On Oct 7, 2007, at 5:45 PM, George Athas wrote:
> Hi Isaac!
> I have a few observations to make on your recent comments:
> (1) Your view does not accommodate Hebrew as a literary language
> develops or is used differently by different people. Your view seem
> to treat
> Hebrew as a generated or artificial language, like a computing
> language. This
> would make it quite unique among the real languages of the world. Most
> languages work not purely at the level of grammar, but rather at
> the level of
> grammar and syntax. Meaning comes from how words interact. This
> allows for a
> wide parameter of possibility in the way a person can express
> themselves. In
> your system, there appears very little such room for expression,
> making it feel
> far more like a machine language than a human language. The fact
> that Hebrew is
> used to express such things as poetry and innuendo would seem to
> against your theory.
> (2) There is no such thing as an 'empty sound' in a language -
> has some kind of significance, even if that significance is
> superfluous. To
> call the particle -AH on the end of cohortative forms an 'empty
> sound' is to
> caricature it as random. This is not what is being argued, however.
> To say that
> the form is an historical throwback means that it had some
> significance at some
> point, but that original significance may no longer be valid
> anymore. Under
> your system, it seems everything must have a current significance.
> This view,
> however, does not allow for the development of language. There are
> plenty of
> languages even today which have such particles.
> (3) You appear to have discounted the translation offered by
> others because
> it does not agree with your own translation. This is not scholarly
> (4) You keep using the word 'opinion' when talking about your
> This, coupled with your reaction to the phrase 'insufficient
> suggests an unwillingness to engage mainstream views.
> (5) Are you willing to admit that your opinion of Hebrew
> represents a
> minority view which does not spring from a trajectory of mainstream
> Best Regards,
> GEORGE ATHAS
> Moore Theological College (Sydney)
> 1 King St, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia
> Ph: (+61 2) 9577 9774
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
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