(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: Ok. I can imagine that happening. But we are talking about a 6 letter phenomenon. It doesnt say anything about the other 4 letters.
That's right it is only based on the situation of two of the letters. It might well turn out to not be the correct explanation, but for the time being, it seems to be the one which best explains how it happened or why it happened the way it did.
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: If spirantization could have occurred in 4 Aramaic letters that didnt have mergers associated with them, then it could have arisen in all of them in that manner, whether or not mergers had in the past occurred. Or for that matter, it could have arisen in all 6 HEBREW letters first - a view I dont think is true, but Im just saying it to make a point.
Yes it could have arisen in Hebrew separately. It has arisen separately (it would seem) in one or two Ethiopic languages, so I don't see why not in Hebrew. I guess it just seems to be that several of these developments occurred in Hebrew around the same time Hebrew speakers were heavily influenced by Aramaic. So it appears they may have been carried over from Aramaic, as Hebrew speakers adopted Aramaic.
Arabic also became affected by Aramaic when northern Arabs such as the Nabataeans and Palmyrenes adopted Aramaic as their language of commerce. Although the influence was much more subtle, and was mostly restricted to word borrowings. Most Jews though abandoned Hebrew for Aramaic as their spoken language, also since Hebrew & Aramaic had evolved to a similar degree then it was easier for them to be influenced by it. But it's unlikely Arabs would begin merging sounds from Aramaic influence, when they already spoke a language with next to no mergers.
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: There doesnt seem to be any relation between gimel/ghimel and the ghayin that merged into ‘ayin.
Apart from the sound, this is correct. But imagine if a group of Aramaic speakers retained ghayin when the others merged it with ayin, and then people would hear this sound. They might associate it with gimel, as it sounds similar. This might lead them to modify the way they pronounce gimel sometimes in imitation of it. Or perhaps newer generations would hear their predecessors speaking about an old sound in their language which sounded like 'gh', and it became associated with gimel this way. Or maybe it was purely a stylistic thing that entered the language by chance.
To tell you the truth it perplexes me too
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: That is fascinating. From my knowledge of Hebrew (and Arabic) I always thought that at least some of the reason the extra South Semitic sounds went missing in Hebrew was because of the adoption by Hebrew of the 22 letter Phoenician alphabet that couldnt represent all the Semitic sounds.
I don't think alphabets have anything to do with it. The Arabic alphabet for instance was formed out of a cursive variety of Aramaic, and pretty much every single letter served for two or more sounds. Yet this did not affect Arabic phonemes at all. However, it does obscure our ability to know when/if mergings occurred in ancient languages though, as we would never know if it was merged or just one letter doing double work. Only through transliterations into other languages can we tell, like the Greek transliteration of Biblical names that you mentioned. Also if we think about it, the bulk of the people back in those times were illiterate, and so writing would've probably had little/no interaction with their language at all.
**Just a note, the sounds are not particularly South Semitic. They are Semitic, and must've existed in north and south sub-families, as Ugaritic retained almost all of them too.
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: Mergings took place in the case of every Hebrew letter that stood for more than one sound. Even Shin, which maintained separation between Shin and Sin, had thaa' merge into it. Possibly the mergers, or some of them, happened before the adoption of the 22 letter alphabet, but possibly the mergers were due to its limited number of letters. But what you are saying about Aramaic shows that the process of merging of phonemes is independent of the correlation by the ancient Aramaean & Israelite scribes of certain of the 22 Northern letters to more than one of the 29 Proto-Semitic sounds.
The general line of thinking is that the Phoenicians or some other early Canaanite group first developed the northern Semitic script, and in their dialect, mergers had already taken place which reduced the phonemes to 22, and so they created a script with the number of letters to match their phonemic repertoire. Then other neighbouring peoples like the Hebrews and Aramaeans adopted this script, but had to make some letters do double work, which wasn't so difficult as some of the sounds were quite similar sounding anyway. But other languages in the same area like Ugaritic adopted their own alphabet which had a separate grapheme for each phoneme.
In Eblaite, a language which used Sumerian cuneiform, they used a very cut down number of symbols. So the one symbol represented gimel, qof and kaf, and the one symbol represented dalet taw and tet, and the one symbol represented samek, zayn and sade, yet it doesn't seem that they ever merged these sounds together.
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: If they shifted like that in Aramaic, I wonder why they didnt in Hebrew.
Well each language has its own "tendancies". Again if we look back at the example of colloquial Arabic dialects, which I think represent a 'mini-world' of the Semitic languages, undergoing similar processes today as the broader Semitic languages did millennia ago, we could see how certain dialects seem to favour merging in either the Canaanite/Akkadian way, or in the Aramaic way. Some dialects tend to merge th with sin, whilst others tend to merge it with taa, some tend to merge dhal with zayn whilst others tend to merge it with dal.
(02-04-2012 04:52 PM)bksphere Wrote: Maybe that they didnt is an indication that most had already merged at the time of the adoption of the 22 letter alphabet? We do know that (at least) ḥeyth and ‘ayin were double letters from the Greek versions of Hebrew names, but maybe not the others (thaa' > shin, dhaal > zayin, ḍaad & ẓaa' > ṣadhiy)?
It would seem those mergers had taken place long before writing, as there's no indication in any early hebrew texts of them differing. But that's not set in stone. If Aramaic hadn't merged differently to how its alphabet doubled up letters, then we'd never have known that. Since Hebrew is a Canaanite language, then it was bound to merge like the other Canaanite languages, and so we might just never have known they still distinguished those sounds earlier on, even after the advent of writing.