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

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 24 21:14:58 EDT 2008

Dear Isaac,

As you probably are already aware, any of the common BH lexicons is 
based upon a traditional understanding of phonemics: BDB, HALOT, etc. 
The results in these lexicons are overwhelmingly fruitful (of course, I 
am aware that the semantics of lexemes in the lexicons , and unlike your 
own approach which produces results which are downright wrong (in the 
case of pronominal compounding), entirely questionable (eg Gen 22:9), 
entirely subjective (how do "know" that G, H, X, K, Q are "equivalent", 
and not, say, G, H, P, R?), and for the most part gibberish (eg you 
"analysis" of various lexemes below).

A brief discussion of the study of phonemics in relation to BH in 
accessible works may be found in Joüon-Muraoka §5gb and Waktke-O'Connor 

It seems to me that your great error is having unwittingly attributed 
morphemic status to phonemes, and this is why the analysis and results 
are so confused (and confusing to everyone else). This also explains why 
the so-called "semantics" or "meaning" of your "phonemes" has to be, and 
is, so vague. Phonemes do not semantically mean anything, but rather 
contrast and distinguish meaning. It is morphemes which have semantics. 
This is where you have tripped up.

It also seems to me that you have avoided a response to my questions 
below, reput simply: Why can every other known language be analysed 
successfully using traditional phonemics, but BH is unique in that it 
cannot be? Crosslinguistic evidence would dictate strongly that you are 
more than likely wrong.

David Kummerow.

> David,
> It is your turn now to bring us some examples to what you call "phonemic 
> analysis" in Hebrew. But please, please, please don't send us to some 
> obscure paper in some forlorn festschrift of which there are only seven 
> copies in the entire world.
> Isaac Fried, Boston University  
> On Jun 24, 2008, at 6:12 PM, David Kummerow wrote:
>> Dear Isaac,
>> I'm afraid that your semantic analysis comes across to me as simply 
>> gibberish. The method is pure subjectivity. Like I said, we cannot 
>> discuss evidence such as Q$R and G$R before you accept the basics. 
>> However, you dismiss the basics of phonemic analysis. Phonemics is 
>> indeed a linguistic science despite your claim that it is not: it 
>> follows a clearly articulated methodology and produces results which may 
>> be reproduced and/or falsified. A textbook on phonemics or an 
>> introductory course would answer your question: "How can the elementary 
>> particle of language be defined in terms of this transcendental thing 
>> called 'meaning'?"
>> Every language that I am aware of may be analysed phonemically. Your 
>> claim is that BH cannot be. That claim requires substantial 
>> justification in the face of the overwhelming crosslinguistic evidence. 
>> In any case, BH has indeed been traditionally analysed following a 
>> method of normal phonemic analysis, the results of which produces a 
>> coherent linguistic system. I see no reason to abandon this in 
>> preference for a method which is entirely subjective, is relevant only 
>> for one language, and produces very questionable results.
>> Regards,
>> David Kummerow.
>>> David,
>>> 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
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