[b-hebrew] COOKED UP ETYMOLOGY-- THE CASE OF B. H. [ 'ZN ]

Ishinan ishinan at comcast.net
Mon Jun 7 20:19:24 EDT 2010


[ISHINAN] - Randall,  I hope I am not putting words in your mouth, if I do 
please correct me.

Your following remark, in "the Fact of language?" thread, caught my eye:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[RANDALL BUTH] - We know heezin ????? 'listen attentively'. But we don't 
know if or what *azan might have meant, if it existed. izzen, ?????? on the 
other hand appears to mean 'balance/arrange'.
 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[ISHINAN] - I have seen a similar proposition expressed in Strong'setymologies # 238; 239; 241, and 3976, which when combined allude to aetymological linkage.IN STRONG'S:'azan: a primitive root (rather identical with ''azan' (238)  to broaden outthe ear (with the hand), i.e. (by implication) to listen:--give (perceive bythe) ear, hear(-ken). 'azan: through the idea of scales of a balance  as iftwo ears) .I believe a simple exercise involving comparing cognate languages can easilyshed light on this matter. Of course this works only if you are a Semitistand believe in the comparative method.  Against this, there are those whowill, off hand, strenuously disprove of the comparative method ofinvestigation. To them I say, there is no need for you to bother readingfurther.  Life is too short to get upset about such things as "cooked upetymologies" as discussed below.By "cooked up etymologies" I mean that there are a group of words inBiblical Hebrew as well in other languages that share the same spelling andthe same pronunciation (as in the case of `azan) which are concocted asbeing linked together through a nonexistent Proto Semitic trilateral root'zn  (aleph + zayn + nun).Yet here, this linkage made up by Strong or others, which denotes primarilythe sense 1) of ear to ----> 2) to listen . 3) through the idea of scales ofa balance as if two ears, is etymologically false, if one consider # 3 as aderivative.Anyone wishing to review the results of the Semitic data in regard to thesewords, is invited to review the following facts:In Ugaritic: in  M. Dietrich-O. Loretz- San-Martin, Die keilalphabetischenTexte aus Ugarit (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1976), Text (KTU 1.3:IV.lf.) The word'udn (pl. 'udnm),is literally "ear,"  see also Caquot, André & Sznycer,Maurice. Ugaritic Religion. (State University Groningen; Leiden: E.J. Brill,1980.) Pl. VII-X, XVIII, XIX.Ugaritic "udn" is the cognate of  B. Hebrew  'zn  which denotes in Deut.1:45; Isa 1:15; Jer. 7:16;  the sense of hearing  'zn;  to use the ear, tolisten. In all three Semitic languages Ugaritic , B. Hebrew, and Arabic themedial letter is respectively written as delta, zayn and dhAl.PHONOLOGY:The Ugaritic letter delta (IPA 104 + 408) is a voiced dental plosiveconsonantal sound.The Hebrew letter zayn (IPA 131) is a voiced alveolar fricative consonantalsound.The Arabic letter dhAl  (IPA 133) is a voiced dental non-sibilant fricativeconsonantal sound. (for those unfamiliar with Arabic this sound is found inEnglish, as in the words "those" or "then". In English the sound is normallyrendered "dh" when transliterated from Arabic.NB. The sound dhAl is lacking in Hebrew, words like  [dhi'b] 'Wolf' and[dhahab] 'gold' in Arabic are respectively cognates to Hebrew [zeh'éb] and[zahab].  The initial Arabic dhAl here corresponds to the Hebrew zayn.Meanwhile, in the world of the Ugaritic gods as among humans, the deitiesuse balances for weighing. When it has been decided that the moon-godyarikhu will marry Nikkalu, the father of the bride places the standard ofthe balance (msb mznm), the mother of the bride places the scales thebalance (kp mznm),and the sisters take care of the stone weights ('abnmznm). [mznm] is the cognate of BH mo'zn # 3976 root of 'zn cf. Arabic[MyzAn] balance root of [wzn]. In all three languages Ugaritic  B. Hebrew,and Arabic the medial letter is uniformly a zayn.The letter zayn (IPA 131) in Hebrew and Arabic or Ugaritic zeta is a voicedalveolar fricative consonantal sound.The forgoing phonological analysis and factual examples from cognatelanguages reveal an unambiguous discrepancy in the phonology of the Semiticcognate data. While this disparity of meanings combined with differentphonetic letters clearly means that we are not dealing with the same relatedwords.  H.B. 1)  [`azn] primary sense of ear ---> listen and 2) ['azn](denoting balance and/or weigh) are simply not connected in any shape orform. The proto Semitic root of the former is actually  ['dhn] while thelatter is [wzn/'zn.] The Hebrew examples are simply homonyms of the typeknown as homographs.Any doubt about this outcome can be easily dispelled if one consults theBrown Driver & Briggs; a Hebrew and English Lexicon  pp. 23, and 24. Thedictionary entries, show respectively, the various examples in cognateslanguages, which unequivocally support this conclusion.Cooked up etymologies are sometimes awkward, though just about alwaysinteresting to uncover. The B. Hebrew [`zn] here, is a classical case ofconcocting a simile of two unrelated things, in this instance such as earsand balance.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PS.  if any of you need to review the pertinent JPEGs of the data, alongwith the BDB entries discussed above, please contact me privately and I willoblige. Best regards Ishinan Ishibashi



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list