[b-hebrew] Consonant versus consonant clusters

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Mon Jun 14 15:38:24 EDT 2010

Dear Jim,

I understand your use of the English, but...

1.    The discussion is about "initial" consonant clusters, i.e. the first
consonant cluster in a word, not the second cluster in a word.

2.    The discussion is about Hebrew "initial" consonantal clusters not
Indo-European consonant clusters.

3.    So please confine your discussion to items 1 and 2 since that is what the
discussion is about.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2010 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Consonant versus consonant clusters

> James  Christian:
> To analyze consonant  clusters, let’s start with the first 10 words in your
> first paragraph that are 5  letters or longer in length in English:
> 1.  Promised
> 2.  Myself
> 3.  Involved
> 4.  Discussions
> 5.  Because
> 6.  Always
> 7.  Orienting
> 8.  Around
> 9.  Geographical
> 10.  Theories
> Only two have no  consonant cluster at all:  “because”  and “theories”.
> One more avoids a  consonant cluster by dividing two adjoining consonants
> into two different  syllables [where the W here is a true consonant]:  “always
> ”.  “Always” would be easy for a Hebrew to  pronounce, because the
> potentially difficult consonant cluster L-W is broken up  into two different
> syllables:  al-ways.
> Interestingly, only two  have the initial consonant cluster that this
> thread is focusing on:  “promised” and “geographical”.  [In the latter, it’s
> the second  syllable:  GRA.]
> The other five have  consonant clusters, but they’re not at the beginning
> of a syllable, so they’re  not directly relevant to this thread.  [Whether
> any one of more of –ns or –ng or –nd at the end of a word is or  is not a
> consonant cluster may be debatable, but that’s not directly relevant to  this
> thread.]
> Let’s focus on the  English words “promised” and “geographical”, which
> exactly represent what I am  talking about.  In Sanskrit, three  of the most
> common, basic, discrete syllables are PRA and GRA and SRA or $RA  [where the
> particular vowel sound involved is irrelevant for our purposes].  In all
> Indo-European languages, and in  Sanskrit-based names in Kassite and Hurrian,
> you are going to see PRA and GRA  and $RA, featuring an initial consonant
> cluster, out the wazzoo.  Those syllables are absurdly easy to say  in
> so that no English speaker would think to try to avoid such an  initial
> consonant cluster.  “Prod”  in English would not be easier to pronounce as
> Pa-rod, nor would “grit” be  easier to pronounce in English as ga-rit.  The
> same is true for all languages that have an affinity to  Sanskrit.
> By sharp contrast,  initial consonant clusters like that are difficult to
> pronounce in any Semitic  language, such as Akkadian or Hebrew.  I am  n-o-t
> saying that they are “impossible” to  pronounce in Semitic languages.  The
>  Hebrew word for “two” proves that the Hebrews could on occasion pronounce
> an  initial consonant cluster.  But such  initial consonant clusters are
> rare in Hebrew.
> So consider my homely  example of the odd proper name “Shrek”.  Though it
> sounds a little funny in English, it’s easy to pronounce, being  “shriek”
> with a short E instead of a long E, or “shred” with a final K instead  of a
> final D.  But a Hebrew could  have pronounced “Shrek” as a single syllable
> only with considerable  difficulty.  It’s not natural in  Biblical Hebrew.
> [Modern Hebrew may  be completely different, because modern Hebrew is
> heavily influenced by people  who often as children spoke European languages
> have a strong affinity to  Sanskrit.  I’m talking about  Biblical Hebrew,
> spoken by people with little contact, if any, with speakers of  Indo-European
> languages.]
> To a Hebrew in Biblical  times, Sha-rek would be easy to pronounce, but
> Shrek as a single syllable would  not have been easy to pronounce.  Same with
> Akkadian speakers in Kassite Babylonia.  By contrast, the Kassite ruling
> class,  being intimately familiar with Sanskrit-based names, could have
> pronounced Shrek  as a single syllable in their sleep.
> That’s my point.  Ka-$ra is real easy to say in Sanskrit,  Kassite,
> Tibetan, Hurrian, English, and all European languages.  But Ka-$ra is quite
> difficult to say by  a native Hebrew or Akkadian speaker, or in any other
> language, as long  as the Semitic speaker has had little exposure to
> Indo-European  languages.
> I fear that the  foregoing linguistic analysis may be ridiculed as being “
> kindergarten  level”.  Maybe so, but it’s still  accurate.  The Kassite
> ruling class  could say Ka-$ra [or Ka$-$ra] with no trouble at all, but it
> have been  difficult for Akkadian speakers or Hebrews to say Ka-$ra [or
> Ka$-$ra] with that  authentic Kassite syllable format.  Accordingly, we should
> be alert to the possibility that Ka-ra in the  Amarna Letters, as the first
> 2 Akkadian cuneiform syllables in the Akkadian  version of the Kassite name
> of Kassite Babylonia, may dimly reflect an original  Kassite pronunciation
> of Ka-$ra.  The Hebrew author of Genesis 11: 28, 31 may well have
> deliberately  declined to adopt Ka-ra from the Akkadian cuneiform of the
Amarna Letters
> for  the Hebrew version of the name of the Late Bronze Age country in
> southern  Mesopotamia, on the grounds that his Hebrew audience might thereby
> the  connection to the Ka$-$u people (the Kassites).  So the Hebrew author
> brilliantly changed  Ka-ra to Ka-$a in K$DYM.  That  Hebrew version likely
> is actually closer to the Kassite original than is the  Akkadian cuneiform
> version.  It’s  not a “mistake”.  And it’s not  coming from the 1st
> millennium BCE!  Nor does it have anything to do  whatsoever with the later
> Kaldu/Chaldean people [or with their name], or with  the blessed, post-exilic
> of Daniel, as scholars would have it.
> Jim  Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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