[b-hebrew] Fw: Job 38:8 ??

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Wed Dec 5 19:15:15 EST 2012


On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 2:13 PM, Will Parsons <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu> wrote:

> On Wed, 5 Dec 2012 09:00:48 -0800, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >> …
> >> Curious, what is the evidence that the Samekh was like an "X"?
> >
> > The first evidences I noticed are that the Samekh is in the same place in
> > the alphabet in both Hebrew and Greek where the Xi has the “X” sound.
> > Secondly, both in archaic Hebrew and archaic Greek, the letter has the
> same
> > shape. Only later I noticed that the name Artaxerxes uses a Samekh for
> the
> > second “x” in Hebrew.
> >
> > Admittedly, these are not proof, but suggestive.
> As far as the position of xi in the alphabet corresponding to samekh,
> I think that *is* suggestive, but doesn't necessarily point to Hebrew
> (or really Phoenician) samekh having a [ks] phoneme.  More likely, the
> Greek sibilant phoneme(s) didn't match completely with the various
> Phoenician sibilants, and the Phoenician samekh struck the Greek ear
> as something whose nearest equivalent was like Greek /ks/.  (And
> apparently Phoenician shin/sin was the best fit for Greek /s/.)
> "Artaxerxes" is interesting, but it seems to me it has to be
> considered in conjunction with the even more famous Persian king named
> "Xerxes".  It's hard to look at these two Greek forms without thinking
> that "Artaxerxes" is an expanded form of "Xerxes", but the Persian
> forms they're based on, "Artakhshaça" and "Khshayarsha", are not so
> strikingly similar.  Of course the khsh (i.e., [xʃ]) sequence would be
> represented in Greek by xi, but it's interesting to note that the
> second [ʃ] in "Khshayarsha" was also represented by Greek xi.  I'm not
> sure what a "good" Greek rendering of "Artakhshaça" would be, but I
> can't help but think the actual form "Artaxerxes" has been assimilated
> in form somewhat to the more famous "Xerxes".

We’re speculating here, and are we even sure of Persian period
pronunciation? The Greek transliterations are suggestive, and may represent
an older pronunciation than what has come down to us through Persian

> > The Greeks got their alphabet from the Phoenicians, and admitted to that.
> > The Phoenicians from the Hebrews, so I’m assuming that in the borrowing
> > that the phonemes stayed the same, at least at first.
> I don't think that's a good assumption.

I think there’s a difference between adoption of an alphabet by a
government appointed committee, and the adoption of one by the man on the
street. And the Greek adoption of the alphabet mirrors more the adoption on
the street variety.

The Greek language had fewer consonants, so the man on the street writing
phonemically repurposed a few of the letters that had similar to vowel
pronunciation as vowels (I suspect that those “ gutturals” didn’t have
as guttural a pronunciation during Biblical times as later, when
pronunciation changed under Aramaic influence), but that took probably a
generation or three, and rather than changing the pronunciation of received
letters, dropped consonants for which there were no Greek phonemes, and
added consonants for consonantal phonemes not found in Hebrew or Phoenician.

(Adoption by committee seems more willing to repurpose letters to fit the
phonemes of the adopter language than as in ancient Greece to drop and add
letters so that the phonemes represented by the letters remain the same or
as close to the same as possible.)

>  I think it's safe to assume
> that when the Greeks got their alphabet from the Phoenicians, they used
> the Phoenician letters with values nearest to their own, but having
> quite different phonologies, the correspondence between the sounds in
> the two languages could be quite approximate.  (And of course, the
> Greeks were quite creative in re-defining some Phoenician guttural
> consonant letters as vowels.)
> Apart from what I've written above, I see as a more fundamental
> problem with a consonant cluster like [ks] acting as a single phoneme
> (and hence being represented by a single letter) in Hebrew (or other
> Semitic languages).  If samekh *did* represent a cluster, then I would
> expect to see at least some instances where samekh was used in words
> where /k/ and /s/ as separate sounds happened to fall together, i.e.,
> a parallel to Greek νυξ/nyx vs νυκτες/nyktes.

Why? I see no reason that would be the case. Just because it was found in
Greek doesn’t mean that it should be found in other languages. I don’t know
where that is found in any language other than Greek.

Do you find that with Tsada, another “consonant cluster”?

> --
> Will Parsons
> μη φαινεσθαι, αλλ' ειναι.

Karl W. Randolph.
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