[b-hebrew] Consonant versus consonant clusters

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Mon Jun 14 19:06:02 EDT 2010

Jim started the discussion, and he is using "initial" to mean "syllable 
initial" - which is not an unusual meaning for the term.  If the 
discussion is to be only about 'word initial'  consonant clusters then 
it has nothing to do with what anyone has been discussing.  It was 
clarified some time ago that it was syllable initial consonant clusters 
that were under consideration.  I don't believe his argument stands up, 
but I don't see any point in redefining the argument to exclude what he 
is talking about.

Kevin Riley

On 15/06/2010 5:38 AM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> 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 $RA, featuring an initial consonant
>> cluster, out the wazzoo.  Those syllables are absurdly easy to say  in
> English,
>> so that no English speaker would think to try to avoid such an  initial
>> consonant cluster.  “Prod”  in English would not be easier to pronounce as
>> Pa-rod, nor would “grit” be  easier to pronounce in English as ga-rit.  The
>> same is true for all languages that have an affinity to  Sanskrit.
>> By sharp contrast,  initial consonant clusters like that are difficult to
>> pronounce in any Semitic  language, such as Akkadian or Hebrew.  I am  n-o-t
>> saying that they are “impossible” to  pronounce in Semitic languages.  The
>>   Hebrew word for “two” proves that the Hebrews could on occasion pronounce
>> an  initial consonant cluster.  But such  initial consonant clusters are
>> rare in Hebrew.
>> So consider my homely  example of the odd proper name “Shrek”.  Though it
>> sounds a little funny in English, it’s easy to pronounce, being  “shriek”
>> with a short E instead of a long E, or “shred” with a final K instead  of a
>> final D.  But a Hebrew could  have pronounced “Shrek” as a single syllable
>> only with considerable  difficulty.  It’s not natural in  Biblical Hebrew.
>> [Modern Hebrew may  be completely different, because modern Hebrew is
>> heavily influenced by people  who often as children spoke European languages
> that
>> have a strong affinity to  Sanskrit.  I’m talking about  Biblical Hebrew,
>> spoken by people with little contact, if any, with speakers of  Indo-European
>> languages.]
>> To a Hebrew in Biblical  times, Sha-rek would be easy to pronounce, but
>> Shrek as a single syllable would  not have been easy to pronounce.  Same with
>> Akkadian speakers in Kassite Babylonia.  By contrast, the Kassite ruling
>> class,  being intimately familiar with Sanskrit-based names, could have
>> pronounced Shrek  as a single syllable in their sleep.
>> That’s my point.  Ka-$ra is real easy to say in Sanskrit,  Kassite,
>> Tibetan, Hurrian, English, and all European languages.  But Ka-$ra is quite
>> difficult to say by  a native Hebrew or Akkadian speaker, or in any other
> Semitic
>> language, as long  as the Semitic speaker has had little exposure to
>> Indo-European  languages.
>> I fear that the  foregoing linguistic analysis may be ridiculed as being “
>> kindergarten  level”.  Maybe so, but it’s still  accurate.  The Kassite
>> ruling class  could say Ka-$ra [or Ka$-$ra] with no trouble at all, but it
> would
>> 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
> miss
>> 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
> Book
>> of Daniel, as scholars would have it.
>> Jim  Stinehart
>> Evanston, Illinois
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