[b-hebrew] Xi and Samekh [was Job 38:8 ??]

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Dec 9 16:01:56 EST 2012


I think you seriously misunderstood my argument.  I want to wrap this
up so I'll not make any new arguments or re-hash old points, but will
summarize in one place what I've previously written as follows:

1) Just because Greek xi has its origin in Phoenician/Hebrew samekh
   and represents the cluster /ks/, doesn't necessarily mean that
   samekh was also pronounced [ks].

   o  Greek and Phoenician/Hebrew had quite different phonologies.

   o  One therefore shouldn't expect exact correspondences and read
      back into Phoenician/Hebrew the Greek values.

2) Use of a single letter to represent a phonetic sequence, such as is
   the case with xi, doesn't necessarily imply that the letter
   represents a single phoneme.  That [ks] was not a single phoneme in
   Greek is shown by:

   o  Internal evidence within Greek itself, e.g., helix (/heliks/)
      vs. plural helikes.  (Note there is no "sound change" involved
      here, xi didn't "turn into" kappa - the final /k/ of stem is
      unchanged in both singular and plural.)

   o  Explicit descriptions by ancient grammarians.

3) Greek is not unique in using single letters to represent sequences
   of phonemes.

   o  Coptic provides additional examples, similar in type to Greek,
      where internal evidence shows a single letter representing a
      sequence of phonemes across a morpheme boundary.

4) Unlike Greek Ξ and Coptic Φ or +, there is no internal evidence
   that samekh represented a sequence of phonemes.  (That [ks] could
   represent a single phoneme is itself unlikely, since I know of *no*
   languages where this is the case, certainly not either Greek or

   o  There are, for example, no examples of samekh representing a
      sequence of /k/ and /s/ that happen to come together in an
      internal cluster.  (Yes, I know *you*, Karl, do not think there
      *were* consonantal clusters in the interior of Hebrew words, but
      I, with most others, do.)

5) Conclusion:  There is little reason to think that samekh
   represented [ks] and good reason to think it did not.

On Sat, 8 Dec 2012 22:54:27 -0800, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com> wrote:
> Will:
> On Sat, Dec 8, 2012 at 5:52 PM, Will Parsons <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu> wrote:
>> Karl,
>> This will *probably* be my last post on this subject, since I fear
>> that we risk the wrath of the moderators for writing too much on Greek
>> and Coptic, and not enough on Hebrew...
> Yes, we are getting into the theoretical side of other languages, and not
> concentrating on those factors that are germain to the question.
>> On Sat, 8 Dec 2012 12:42:03 -0800, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> > Will:
>> >
>> > On Sat, Dec 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM, Will Parsons <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
>> >wrote:
>> >...
>> > Just because Dionysios Thrax who was trying to make a description of
>> > classical Greek for a Koiné speaking audience claimed that “ks” was not a
>> > phoneme, did the man on the street who was writing phonemically agree
>> with
>> > him? Or even the man on the street writing pre-classical Greek agree with
>> > him? I think not.
>> I haven't been offered a trip back in time in the tardis to interview
>> the "man in the street" in ancient Greece, so Dionysios Thrax is my
>> best approximation.  Speculating that the ordinary ancient Greek would
>> have seen things differently is, well, speculation.
> The important thing for this discussion, how was it pronounced? Even
> Dionysios Thrax indicates that it was the same as the English phoneme “X”.
>> >
>> > But it does represent a change in pronunciation, which argues against
>> your
>> > claim.
>> A change in pronunciation - how so?  There was no change in
>> pronunciation in going from /k/ + /s/ to /ks/.
> Then why did you bring up this side argument in the first place?
> Then this whole argument whether the Greeks considered this a phoneme or
> not is irrelevant to the question of whether or not Samekh was originally
> pronounced as an “X”. I thought the whole reason you brought up the
> question of whether or not the ancient Greeks considered Xi a phoneme was
> because you were making an argument that the pronunciation was changed. But
> if the pronunciation is unchanged, then that question is irrelevant.
> The same with the other letters representing sounds that were never found
> in Biblical Hebrew.

Will Parsons
μη φαινεσθαι, αλλ' ειναι.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list