[b-hebrew] historical question with linguistic import

Dave Washburn davidlwashburn at gmail.com
Sun Jul 15 02:44:39 EDT 2012

On Sat, Jul 14, 2012 at 2:30 PM, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com> wrote:
> Thank you, Dave:

> I see what you mean. If it were a complete syllabary, it would have a
> different symbol for each of the consonant - vowel pairs. Just like Hiragana
> in Japanese. As it is, it is an incomplete syllabary, listing only the
> initial consonants.

Exactly. I suspect that ancient Hebrew had more than 22 C-V sounds.

> Similarly, if it were an alphabet, it would list all the sounds, including
> the vowels. But as the vowels were added as an afterthought, a thousand
> years after Hebrew ceased to be used in daily life, it could not be called
> an alphabet as well. At best maybe an incomplete alphabet.

I'm not so sure about this. There are lots of other languages whose
written representations only
cover the consonants. Arabic comes to mind, as well as Ugaritic.

> Of the two possibilities, an incomplete syllabary appears more and more
> likely to have been the case. And with Thutmosis III identified as Shishak,
> that would include the Hebrew spoken up to the time of the Babylonian Exile.

I don't really have an opinion on this. My goal was just to answer the
question about vowels etc. :)

Dave Washburn

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