[b-hebrew] Karl and Jim debate and more

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Dec 12 19:55:39 EST 2008

I originally started writing this letter to you privately in response to a
private message from you to me, but now that you have made a public
statement, I think it is apropos to send it in response to this message

I got called on by the moderators for writing a bit more strongly than I am
wont to do because I was trying to grab Jim's attention.

I wanted to learn modern Hebrew, but never got the chance. Now I suspect
that that was a blessing in disguise, as when I think in Hebrew, I think in
Biblical Hebrew without any corruption brought about mixing in cognate
languages, like Arabic, Modern Israeli Hebrew or even Mishnaic Hebrew.

One of the things that reading the text in Hebrew did was to change the way
I was thinking. On the web, there is an article that sums it up pretty
well, http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Hebrew_thought . Hebrew though, which
is what the philosophers call it, emphasizes function over form, action over
repose, and it is while looking at the actions referred to by terms that
their relationships becomes clearer, or more clear that some words are
homonyms with no connections other than form.

As far as names are concerned, almost all have meanings. For example, my
first name means very similar to the Yiddish "Mensch", while both my middle
and last names mean "protecter" in different languages, but my parents knew
none of that when they named me. My parents named me after two of my uncles.
Likewise, when one looks in the Bible, though most names have a meaning,
most people were named after a family member, in remembrance to an event
that happened around their birth (Isaac, Samuel) or merely based on how the
parent felt at the time (Leah). Almost none of the names were prescient as
to the person's later role in life. Likewise most place names merely refer
to an event that happened there in the past, a natural feature of the site
or merely a name.

But to draw up a etymology, one needs a historical record of language
change. How much was there for Hebrew? If Hebrew was the language spoken in
the Garden of Eden, as believed by some, then it has no etymology and any
etymological lexicon is ipso facto false. There is no historical evidence to
say that Hebrew was not the original language. At the same time, other than
some hints in the Bible, there is no evidence that Hebrew was the original
language. All we have is the text as preserved in the Hebrew Bible which
shows almost no linguistic development. There is recognizable literary
development, but that is not the same as linguistic development.

But in one way Hebrew acts like other languages, is that people could make
nouns out of verbs, verbs out of adjectives, adjectives out of nouns, and so
forth. Those are grammar rules, not etymology.

In order to work out an etymological system, we need a recorded history.
Especially for something as complex as human language. We have that recorded
history for English, as anyone can see when trying to read Chaucer and the
literature from then to now. We do not have it tying Biblical Hebrew to any
putative ancestral language. Due to the complexity of human language, any
etymological system built without historical records to base it on, is most
likely in error and speculative. It is part of my mental makeup that
I abhor baseless speculation, hence my aversion to any system of etymology
that cannot be demonstrated by the surviving text.

In closing, if you want to make etymological speculations, that is
your prerogative. I am not stopping you. All I insist on is that we are
clear that this is speculation, therefore no one can insist that it is
accurate. By the way, I do not see the XB connection that you claim below,
not all the words you list for Hebrew are found in Hebrew, some of the
glosses you list are not strictly accurate and the actions are so different.

Karl W. Randolph.

Ps: There were certain rules that we developed to prevent bitter wrangling
on this list:
1) Don't insist that your view of history is correct. That includes your
view on how the Hebrew language developed outside of what can be
demonstrated by the surviving text.
2) Don't proselytize for your ideology. While I believe the Bible is
accurate history, hence my understanding of the dating, I have been careful
to limit my statements to "the text as written" which leaves the door open
to those who believe that the Bible was myth written much later with dates
inserted to make it appear much older, not accurate history.


On Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 12:16 PM, David Kolinsky <yishalom at sbcglobal.net>wrote:

> Dear David
> I personally do see a great connection between
> XBL (rope, group, twist / writhe in pain) and
> XBR (bind, join together)
> (perhaps not exactly as Jim does) as well as
> XWB (indebted (is bound))
> XBB (embrace)
> XB? (hide (emrbace oneself))
> XBSh (bind up, saddle, bind up in layers)
> XBS (crush under enormous pressure)
> XBTs^ (crowd, push, shove in Syriac) (beat into a pulp, scramble - Hebrew)
> XBT^ (beat out, thresh)
> XBK (Arabic - braid, plate, weave, knit, draw tight, bind, make firm /
> solid)
> XBQ^ (Embrace, fold hands)
> and I see great value in using cognates in the analysis of Biblical
> Hebrew.  They are not perfect, but they are tremendously valuable.
> Does no one on this list see that XB and its expansions means "to join
> and bind" and in some forms evolves bind up > crowd in > push together >
> beat together > beat apart
> Sincerely,
> david kolinsky

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