[b-hebrew] Two X letters

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Oct 29 11:22:35 EDT 2007


On 10/28/07, Isaac Fried <if at math.bu.edu> wrote:
> George,
> The claim made [correct me please if I am wrong] is that once upon a
> time in the very distant and foggy past the ancient Hebrews, or
> ancient Canaanites [the mythical proto-Semites], had two close, yet
> semantically distinct, speech-sounds that merged into one sound that
> was eventually recorded by the inventors of the alphabet as the
> single letter X.

That is the claim. But there is no documentary evidence to back it up.

> This claim of the twin X seeks to draw its approval from its
> existence in Arabic, fortified by the assertion that the Arabs,
> conservative in their ways, have preserved the sounds of the ancient
> Semites.

Not only Arabic, but other languages as well.

> ... It is a plausible argument but like many other apparently
> logical arguments it may well be a dud..... the process may
> have well advanced in the opposite direction: in the beginning there
> was only one X, then later it branched into a pair of Xs. This is
> what might have happened in Hebrew, a single letter spawning, as the
> language grew and demand for finer semantic distinctions increased,
> the five equivalents G, X, H, K, Q now coexisting in it.

Now you are going to the opposite extreme. Could the truth be in the middle?

But remember, as I said above, there is no documentary evidence either
way, so any such claims, both yours and those for proto-Semitic, are
mere speculation.

> ....
> Being hardly a science [it is certainly not an exact science],

Are theories concerning proposed but unattested etymologies of
languages a science at all? Maybe in the post-modern sense where
theory is considered equal to if not more important than evidence
instead of as in modern science where theory is merely a possible
explanation of evidence.

> Linguistics thrives on consensus. Without this, much of it would have
> fallen apart and dissolved under the weight of internecine bickering
> and dissenting opinions of horrifying heretics questioning its
> fundamental premises. This is why Linguistics is so apprehensive of
> the fringe and holds so dear the "mainstream", making it largely the
> scholastics of the quote, "she points out in her paper, he says in
> his book, they write in their dictionary". It tends also, as in other
> sciences, to harden into universal truths obvious, self-serving,
> platitudes and fallacies, stifling thereby any attempt at innovative
> thinking.
There is an interesting article by Thomas Gold published in J. of Sci.
Exploration, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp 103-112, 1989 that explored this very

> Isaac Fried, Boston University
Because of the lack of documentary evidence, I have had to content
myself with what I can observe, namely the text itself.

Karl W. Randolph.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list