[b-hebrew] WHAT LANGUAGE DID ABRAHAM, FATHER OF ISHMAEL AND ISAAC, SPEAK?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 10:36:19 EST 2009


Ishinan:

On Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 9:45 PM, Ishinan <ishinan at comcast.net> wrote:

> SCENARIO #1 -- In Genesis, Abraham appears as a Hebrew speaker, an idea
> taken for granted by the compilers of Genesis with no linguistic self
> consciousness whatever.
>
> PROBLEM:  If Abraham spoke Hebrew and he was also father to Ishmael, the
> progenitor of the Arabs, then this would imply that the Arabic language is
> a
> dialect of the Hebrew language. How would we account then for this
> prospect,
> if we consider that the Arabic alphabetic inventory is much more developed
> (28 letters) than the Hebrew (22 letters).  In Semitic languages, only the
> Ugarit Alphabet surpasses Arabic with 31 letters (1500 BCE).   Hence, in
> terms of vocabulary, the Ugaritic language is older than Hebrew, and is
> considered closer to the Old Arabic.
>

This is the scenario presented in Genesis. The only opposition to this
scenario is philosophic, not linguistic nor historical.

The reason it is not historical is because there are no surviving historical
records other than the Bible that either corroborate or contradict the
Biblical record that a historical Abraham even lived in the early bronze age
when the Bible claims that he lived. Nor are there any historical records as
to when Genesis was written other than the Biblical claim that Moses wrote
it down in the 15th century BC, and internal evidence that Moses used older
documents to compile Genesis. And if he used older documents, did he update
the language to 15th century Hebrew or did he leave the documents unchanged?

The reason it is not linguistic is for much the same reason, namely that so
few records survive from the early bronze age that our understanding of the
languages spoken is very patchy at best. Languages both gain and lose
phonemes, therefore the number of phonemes a language has is no indication
of its age.

Your other claimed scenarios suffer from the lack of even a claimed
historical record (Bible) to back them up.

>
> Ishinan Ishibashi
>
>
Yigal:

Your claim that Biblical Hebrew had more phonemes than the 22 represented by
the alphabet has two problems: 1) if the Bible is accurate history, that
indicates that the Hebrews were using the 22 letter alphabet before the
Phoenicians, therefore the alphabet reflected the number of phonemes present
in the language at that time, and 2) our record of a greater number of
phonemes comes from a period long after Hebrew ceased to be the spoken
language of the street and hearth, therefore most likely was corrupted by
other languages. I include the sin-shin split, ayin-ghayin and other
distinctions as examples of that linguistic corruption.

Karl W. Randolph.



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