[b-hebrew] mishnaic Hebrew + Deborah

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Nov 25 20:31:58 EST 2011


On Thu, Nov 24, 2011 at 2:14 PM, Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au>wrote:

> Karl,
> Just 2 points.
> 1) the Sinai inscriptions seem to have a larger than 22 letter alphabet,
> from memory.  As does Ugaritic.  That argues for the loss of sounds, not
> the development of sounds.

Were the Sinai inscriptions written by Hebrews, or members of another

When was Ugaritic written? I have read that it was concurrent with the
Ramasid pharaohs. When were the Ramasid pharaohs? I have seen two dates—one
concurrent with the Judges, the other with Nebuchadnezzar. Personally I
think the latter is more likely, which would make Ugaritic late, not early.

> 2) The major argument against Hebrew developing the shin/sin distinction
> late in history is that the same distinction is found in Ugaritic and
> the South Semitic languages.  I have read there is an 80%+ match between
> the two groups that have 3 'S' sounds (excluding emphatics).  It is
> unlikely that the match would be that high purely by chance, and there
> is little chance that the similarity comes from contact.  South Semitic
> was in contact with Arabic and Akkadian (and its descendents), both of
> which have 2 's' sounds, but not directly with NW Semitic.  To argue
> that Hebrew originally had 22 phonemes, and then developed some more
> that just by coincidence happened to match up with other branches of
> Semitic seems to be choosing the harder option when the simpler and more
> likely solution is that Hebrew retained distinctions that were not
> represented in writing.

Which is the harder option? Knowing how alphabetic systems were developed,
namely by assigning one phoneme to each symbol, makes it more likely that
the Hebrew choice of 22 characters for their consonantal phonemes indicates
that that was the form of the language at that time.

> Let's be traditional and go for three points.  Can you point to one
> writing system in the ANE, any time between about 2000BCE and 1000BCE
> that is not polyvalent?  If not, why assume Hebrew should or would be?

How many of the claims that the other languages were polyvalent were NOT
connected to an adoption of an alphabet from another language (e.g.
Phoenician) or connected to a reconstructed vision of how proto-Semitic is
believed to have affected the language?

> Kevin Riley
> Karl W. Randolph.

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