[b-hebrew] Asher again

Arnaud Fournet fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr
Thu Jul 15 11:34:49 EDT 2010

----- Original Message ----- 
From: JimStinehart at aol.com
To: fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr ; uzisilber at gmail.com
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2010 3:55 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Asher again

Dr. Fournet:

I must confess that I am surprised by several of your assertions.

1.  Richard Hess is the #1 scholar in the world for analyzing names in the 
Amarna Letters.  Many of those names are Hurrian names.  I cannot lightly 
dismiss a published analysis by Richard Hess of the Hurrian name Pi-ri-iz-zi 
attested in Amarna Letters EA 27: 89, 93 and EA 28: 12.  As I noted in my 
prior post, Pi-ri-iz-zi is a messenger of Hurrian King Tushratta of 
Mitanni/Naharim, so we would expect Pi-ri-iz-zi to be a Hurrian name. 
Richard Hess explicitly states at p. 125 of “Amarna Personal Names”:  “The 
language represented by this PN is Hurrian.  Pi-ri-iz-zi is a hypocoristic 
name, composed of ewri ‘lord’ and zzi, a (hypocoristic?) suffix.”

Yet you dismiss that entire scholarly analysis with a wave of the hand, 

“In all cases, Pirizzi and ebri/ewri cannot have any relationship.”

Well, I have not read Hess.
But in all cases, nobody mentions the existence of an hypocoristic 
suffix -zzi in Hurrian; nobody mentions the existence of a #piri- base in 
Hurrian; nobody mentions that the first syllable of a Hurrian word can ever 
be lost or muted out.
So the analysis proposed by Hess strikes me as ad-hoc and unsupported by 
anything we know for sure about Hurrian.
I maintain that Pirizzi and ebri/ewri cannot have any relationship and that 
Pirizzi is dubious as Hurrian in the first place.

2.  On a related issue, I was shocked to hear you say this:

“The idea that p and b could be interchangeable is completely inacceptable.”

Unless I am taking that statement of yours out of context, I do not see how 
your statement could possibly be true.  Here is part of what the 
Fournet/Bomhard website says about this matter:
(a)  At p. 84:  (i)  “Letter/Phoneme *b.  The phoneme */b/ is extremely 
elusive word-initially. The alternations in Hurrian between <b>, <w> and <p> 
make it possible to reconstruct *b (probably at the Proto-Hurrian stage). In 
the historically attested “dialects” of Hurrian, it seems that #b- fused 
with either *w or *p, in coherence with the general absence of voiced 
initials in Hurrian.”
That’s B being interchangeable with P.
 (ii)  And here are the first three entries under B at p. 84, with P being 
interchangeable in all three cases!

“*[baban] ‘mountain’.  EL pabani <pa-ab-ni, wa-wa-n> UG [p b n].
UR <baba>
*[babanγi] ‘mountainous’.  EL paban¯i <pa-ba-an-¯i> UG [p b n x].
*[baγ-] ‘to destroy’.  CA <pa/wa-a¯->.”

(iii)  P. 85 is more of the same:

“*[buru] ‘strong’.  CA <pu/wu-ú-ru>
*[burni] ‘house, temple’.  EL pur(u)li, purni <pu-ur-ni, wu-ur-ni>.
UR <purule>
*[buruγli-] ‘east or south’ (?).  EL wuru¯li <wu/bu-ru-u¯-li>
*[butki] ‘son’.  EL putki <pu-ut-ki, wu-ú-ut-ki93>
Subarean <pi-it-qu> *[pitku ?]”

Based on the Fournet/Bomhard Hurrian language website, P and B and W seem to 
be interchangeable on a fairly routine basis.

(b)  At p. 97:  “Letter/Phoneme *p.  It can be noted that initial #p- is 
rather rare and #pu- attested in only one word, which Neu (1988) writes with 
a #b-.”

That’s P being interchangeable with B.

(c)  At p. 43:  “…šän-a-b ‘your brother’…”  There we see a final B.  But 
“your brother” is attested in the Mitanni Letter [Amarna Letter EA 24] at 
line I 89 as $e-e-na-a-ap-pe.  Note the double P.  [Also note that the final 
i in the root word $ani or $eni changes to a with this suffix, which is why 
we have $N-)-B at Genesis 14: 2.]

E.A. Speiser in his 1941 classic “Introduction to Hurrian” states at p. 63 
regarding this general phenomenon:  “Now –b/w is a spirant….  The 
combination of two spirants (evidently voiced) yields the written form –pp-, 
a doubled sound (evidently voiceless stop).”

So once again, we see B being interchangeable with P.


what we have here is that Hurrian may have reduced a three-fold opposition 
between word-initial b / p / w into a two-fold opposition by fusing b either 
with p or with w.
Some dialects have B > w, some others have b > p.
In addition cuneiform is obscure and further compounds the issue.
In all cases Hurrian as we know it does not seem to have any voiced initial.
Word-initially B is not interchangeable with p because word-initial b is 

*       *       *

Given the above, I don’t see how you can make the following flat statement: 
“The idea that p and b could be interchangeable is completely inacceptable.”

Au contraire, P and B being interchangeable in Hurrian is attested out the 

No, I disagree.

(d)  Finally, here is a Hurrian analysis (from a website that, most 
unfortunately, is no longer operational):

“Ep-r'i-ba-ta. To explain the name Eprip-atal (or perhaps Ewrip-atal) is not 
easy. The sound element atal, is common at Nuzi; the first element, eprip, 
could be epri, Nuzian erwi, plus the suffix -p.”

So epri is viewed as being interchangeable with ewri or, reversing the 
consonants as at Nuzi, erwi.  That’s P being interchangeable with W.  As 
shown above, P and W and B are often interchangeable.  To quote the F/B 
website one last time, at p. 106:  “Letter/Phoneme *w.  Many words 
historically attested with <#w-> can be traced back to *b.”
I cannot comment on this.
It would require a reference to a cuneiform rough transcription.
i don't know what <Ep-r'i-ba-ta> stands for. It's not possible that ebri as 
a noun would receive the (archaic) verbal suffix -b.

3.  I myself see BR$( at Genesis 14: 2 as being the Hurrian common word 
ebri-ssi.  [We need to imply a Hurrian e at the beginning, by analogy to the 
word $M)BR at Genesis 14: 2, where the aleph there is telling us that the B 
is preceded by a Hurrian e, as the discrete Hurrian syllable 'eb'.] 
BR$(/ebri-ssi means “your lord” in Hurrian, and as such implies “Hurrian 
princeling”.  The early Hebrew author is telling us, by use of this Hurrian 
common word as an apt nickname, that this member of the five rebellious 
parties was a “Hurrian princeling”.  In fact, all four personal names of the 
defeated league of five rebellious parties at Genesis 14: 2 effectively 
mean, in Hurrian:  “Hurrian princeling”.  Historically, that matches the 
fact that in the Great Syrian War in western Syria in the mid-14th century 
BCE, a coalition of four attacking rulers of various ethnicities (including 
a mighty Hittite king) destroyed a league of five Hurrian princelings in the 
Orontes River Valley.  The pinpoint historical accuracy of the “four kings 
against five” at Genesis 14: 1-11 is stunning.  But to see that, one must 
recognize that all four personal names at Genesis 14: 2 are Hurrian common 
you repeat your original PoV and I have already stated that I consider 
impossible that the initial syllable of ebri or ewri could be lost.
In addition it runs against expectations that these people are referred to 
with Hurrian names when we expect Indo-Aryan sounding names.

As far as I understand your reasoning, you state that:

1. Hurrian names can be dated to the 14th century BCE
2. Some Hurrian names are attested in Genesis 14.

My Pov is that 1. is doubtless wrong (Hurrian survived much longer, maybe 
1000 years more) and that 2. is not supported by what these names look like 
(these names do not sound like possible Hurrian words).

I'll check what the T. oec. B. I have states about Genesis 14.

Best Regards

Arnaud Fournet

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