[b-hebrew] Assumptions about ANE ages that just don't work.

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Oct 24 11:47:52 EDT 2007

On 10/24/07, K Randolph wrote:

> There is no historical evidence that Biblical Hebrew, as opposed to
> post-Biblical Hebrew, ever had more than the 22 consonants as
> preserved in the 22 letter alphabet. Just because other languages had
> them does not mean that Hebrew ever had them. In view of the fact that
> other semitic languages had larger alphabets in ancient times with
> related alphabets, even in Egypt at the time of Moses, indicates that
> Hebrew did not adopt those larger alphabets because they did not have
> the same number of consonants, evidence against the argument that
> Hebrew once had a larger phoneme pool that was merged.

The double Het has been discussed at length before on the list, and it is
clear that Karl simply refuses to see the great amount of evidence that

However, another double letter, not previously discussed is the
emphatic p - aspirated p which were both transcribed as p in Hebrew.
This idea is (also) brought to you by Richard Steiner.  To summarize
a Hebrew article:

In Hebrew, p was aspirated which is why it was written as phi in the
Septuagint, and other Greek sources, and was not distinguished from
its fricative, f.  That is, the Hebrew p was pronounced as the p in the
English word "pin" and not in the English word "spin."  But the Old
Persian and Greek languages had a non-aspirated p.  For example,
the word ap(p)ada:na "castle" in Old Persian.  This word appears in
the Bible in Daniel 11:45, and in Jerome as "apedno" and is the only
place where Jerome writes p as opposed to ph or f.  This use of p can
be compared in Jerome's system:
gimel - g kaf - ch qof - c
dalet - d tav - th tet - t
bet - b pe - ph,f
That is, in Jerome's system a non-aspirated ch/th transcribes an
emphatic sound in Hebrew.  From Jerome's point of view, what was
significant here is that the p was not aspirated.  That it was
emphatic we can learn from Dunash ibn Tamim's commentary to
the Sefer Yetsira, who writes that his teacher Isaac Israeli pronounced
the dalet in this word  as an Arabic za.  This can be explained as the
result of the emphatic spreading to nearby letters.  This is a known
phenomenon in Arabic, and it also takes place in Hebrew, for
example - the word qtl becomes q+l.  Therefore, this pronunciation
of the dalet suggests that the p was also emphatic.  Saadia Gaon's
commentary on the SY also notes the additional letters pe and za in
this word as additional sounds in the Hebrew alphabet.  Hebrew
thus borrowed the non-aspirated p from Persian as is, and later
it made it emphatic because a simple non-aspirated non-emphatic p
was strange to Hebrew, but an emphatic non-aspirated sound filled
a hole in the phonetic system (as can be seen in the table above
of Jerome's system).  The pronunciation of this letter was preserved
by the reading tradition even as the word was not understood.  This
can be seen by the transcription of this word in transliteration in the
Greek translation of Theodotion (as phi, and in the Lucianic
recension as pi).

Yitzhak Sapir

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