[b-hebrew] Interchange of L/lamed with R/resh in Biblical Hebrew

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Tue Jun 24 09:36:38 EDT 2008


I looked up 'phoneme' and this is what I find "In human language, a  
phoneme is the smallest posited structural unit that distinguishes  
meaning". Here lies the devil, in 'smallest', 'distinguishes', and  
'meaning', all barely definable or ascertainable. How can the  
elementary particle of language be defined in terms of this  
transcendental thing called 'meaning'? And, all in retrospect  
relative to its change? I am really terribly sorry, but this can not  
pass for science. I know that phoneme is a YSOD MUSAD in indo- 
European linguistics, but I truly believe that we should abandon talk  
about it in Hebrew.
In the indo-European languages "distinguishing meaning" may be  
passable but not in Hebrew. If the roots Q$R and G$R have the same  
meaning, then Q and G are here equal phonemes [but different  
phones?], but if the two roots differ only slightly in meaning, then  
Q and G are only barely distinguishable phonemes [something between a  
phoneme and a phone?]. In Hebrew it is not all-or-nothing. In any  
event, all this is too bewildering to me and I am afraid that you get  
yourself entangled in something not worth getting even close to.
This is why I prefer the use of 'equivalent'. The letters G, H, X, K,  
Q are equivalent in the sense that if you substitute them in a Hebrew  
root, the root retains its basic meaning. Thus, the Hebrew roots G$R,  
[H$R], X$R, K$R, Q$R are equivalent, spawning words of only finely  
differentiated meaning. The words QE$ER, 'knot, relationship' and GE 
$ER, 'bridge', are different words, yet they are still the same. A GE 
$ER is but something that M-QA$ER, 'connects', the two sides of a  
river. The root H$R is not in use, but one can not understand what X 
$R [see XA$R-AT MAYIM of 2 Samuel 22:12, and XI$UR of 1 Kings 7:33]  
means without understanding that it is but a variant of Q$R. Thus, XA 
$R-AT (ABIM, is but QA$R-AT (ABIM, clouds tying into each other to  
form an unbroken canopy. The root K$R spawned the more abstract KA$ER  
and KA$IR, 'fit', being but QA$IR, 'connectable'.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Jun 23, 2008, at 10:11 PM, David Kummerow wrote:

> Dear Isaac,
> The value of following the methodology of phonemic analysis is that  
> you
> are conducting linguistic analysis using the building blocks of  
> language
> rather than some other unsubstantiated construct. I say  
> unsubstantiated
> because the introduction to your book provides no interaction or
> critique of phonemics, and the subjective cause you follow is entirely
> divergent to phonemics without really a hint that what you are  
> proposing
> cannot be formulated using standard scientific linguistic methodology.
> We cannot discuss the sort of evidence such as (AQAD and )AGAD
> productively if you do not comprehend the basics.
> Now you did not actually say that Q=D or D=R explicitly, but  
> "replacing"
> them willy-nilly does not seem different to me. In your theoretical
> construct, cannot qof be "replaced" by gimel, qaf, he, and het because
> they all represent the same underlying phoneme with some very abstract
> semantics of "hugeness" or something? It does not seem very remote at
> all from what I said.
> I am confused: you say now that "[w]hat I said is that if you  
> replace D
> by R you get the OPPOSITE root", yet you said previously that "we
> replace the D by an R and have (AQAR, suggesting that all we can say
> about what Abraham did is that he held is son still [literally  
> "planted"
> him] upon the altar above the firewood." There's nothing about  
> opposites
> here. It reads to me like your saying that if we replace D with R  
> we get
> (AQAR which literally means "planted".
> Regards,
> David Kummerow.
>> David,
>> I a sorry but I am not sure what the value of this "established
>> scientific linguistic methodology of phonemics" is. It is also not
>> clear to me at all why I cannot relate (AQAD to (AGAD. If you say
>> that (AQAD is 'bind, tie together', than it is one and the same as )
>> AGAD.
>> I never said that Q=D nor that D=R. Never ever. I am afraid you are
>> not paying good attention to what I am saying. What I said is that if
>> you replace D by R you get the OPPOSITE root.
>> It is true that the Arabic dictionaries list (QD as 'tied', and so do
>> Hebrew dictionaries, the question is when did this meaning enter the
>> language. Unless we know this we should not use it.
>> Isaac Fried, Boston University
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