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Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
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Abu Rashid Offline
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Post: #1
Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
The existence of the Samaritan people is one of the most interesting remnants of the Israelite culture that has survived (barely) to the present day. Almost like an alternative reality that has shadowed the mainstream Israelite culture, which evolved into the modern Jewish people, the Samaritans remained distinct, yet both Samaritans and Jews see themselves as Bene Yisrael (The Children of Israel).

One of the many ways in which the Samaritans remained distinct was their language. Although the Samaritans preserved a variety of the Hebrew language, the features of their dialect show some quite interesting differences to that of the mainstream Hebrew language. Some of these differences tend to hint at a stronger connection with Pre-exilic Hebrew than Jewish Hebrew, the latter becoming more influenced by Aramaic due to its development in Mesopotamia.

The Hebrew language as a member of the Canaanite sub-branch of the Semitic languages shares many of the same developments as the other Canaanite languages, Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite, Ammonite etc. (and even Ugaritic according to some), but one major area where it seems to differ is in the way the sibilants collapsed together. In the Canaanite languages, s¹ & s² (modern Hebrew's shin & sin respectively) had merged together, presumably prior to the advent of written records, due to the fact there is only one letter to represent them. In mainstream Jewish Hebrew s² merged with s³ (modern Hebrew's sin & samek respectively). However, in Samaritan Hebrew, the situation is exactly the same as in the other Canaanite languages ¹, the s¹ & s² merger is what took place. The situation of Jewish Hebrew on the other hand reflects the situation found in Aramaic, rather than that of the Canaanite languages, as we would expect.

The primary literary text of the Samaritan Hebrew language is the Samaritan Torah. Extensive comparisons have been carried out between this text and the standard Hebrew Torah, and between them there is roughly about 6,000 textual differences, many of them minor spelling variations. The comparisons have also revealed that the Samaritan text contains a greater degree of grammatical consistently than the mainstream Jewish version especially in areas such as gender agreement ².

There are several other aspects of the Jewish Hebrew language that appear to resemble Aramaic more than the standard Canaanite features, whilst Samaritan resembles the presumably Pre-Exilic Canaanite situation. The 1ps pronoun in the Canaanite languages is usually "anuki". In Jewish Hebrew, this form appears in the older portions of the Tanak, but the standard form resembles the Aramaic "ana/ani" ³. In Samaritan it is consistently "anuki". Jewish Hebrew usually exhibits the same spirantised lenition series as Aramaic (b>v g>ɣ d>ð k>x p>f t>θ), whilst Samaritan Hebrew does not.

Of course there are many other areas in which Jewish Hebrew agrees completely with the other Canaanite languages, and these points do not in any way suggest Jewish Hebrew should not be classified as Canaanite. It is quite interesting though, when we consider the Samaritan narrative of how they came to be distinct from the Jews, having been those Hebrews who remained in Israel during the exile.

¹ Samaritan Hebrew, Phonology - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_H...Phonology)
² The Samaritan Pentateuch - Mark Shoulson (http://shoulson.com/religion/torahcompare.php)
³ Canaanite Languages - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaanite_languages)
01-30-2012 10:33 PM
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bksphere
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Post: #2
RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
Thank you, Abu Rashid. Very interesting. The Samaritans are indeed a fascinating group, a sort of "time capsule" or as you put it "alternative reality".

I was going to create a separate post on the topic of spirantization of b g d k p t among the Jews being a phenomenon likely borrowed from Aramaic, but this seems like a perfect place for it.

This feature seems to me to be almost certainly a foreign Aramaic pronunciation (albeit by Jews themselves) of Hebrew, and not an original feature of Biblical Hebrew. It would have arisen only when Jews began to use Aramaic as their mother tongue, at the earliest in the period during and after the Babylonian captivity, or possibly even as late as a thousand years later when the Talmud was being formulated in the Aramaic language, and when the Aramaic-speaking Masoretes were first devising the niqqud system that gave written form to the phenomenon of spirantization, thereby formalizing it.

Just to go over the phenomenon, in the Jewish pronunciation tradition of Hebrew, spirantization of the sounds b g d k p t occurs (these correspond to the Hebrew letters בּ גּ דּ כּ פּ תּ), transforming them from plosives, in which air is held before release from the mouth, to fricatives, in which a continuous flow of air is allowed to exit the mouth.

Under certain conditions, b g d k p t transform as follows:

b > v

g > gh (as in Arabic غ ghayn, or as a French "r")

d > dh (as in English "the")

k > kh (as in "loch" or Arabic khaa' خ)

p > f

t > th (as in English "three").

In these "softer" versions, they are written without a dot in the center of each letter (ב ג ד כ פ ת).

(There are variants among Jewish communities as to their precise realization, and modern Israeli Hebrew has completely ceased to spirantize d g and t).

Spirantization of the exact same letters b g d k p t is a characteristic of the various forms of the Aramaic language as well. It has always seemed to me to be an odd thing that both languages should share this feature. Did it develop separately in each? Seems unlikely. If not, they would have to have both descended from a common predecessor that had this feature. Unfortunately, we do not have access to materials of a predecessor language, as writing itself (at least in the region) began at a point when the 2 languages had already split. More likely, one borrowed it from the other. Given that Aramaic was the dominant language in realms in which the Jews lived for 1,000 years or more, it seems to me that the burden of proof lies on the side of the Jewish Hebrew pronunciation tradition to show that it was not they who borrowed it from the Aramaic language.

Abu Rashid, your comments about the Samaritans and their non-spirantization of the letters בגדכפת seem to provide support for my suspicion. I myself am not a professional scholar of Semitic. For all I know, it may be commonly known for sure among scholars of North Semitic that Hebrew borrowed the feature from Aramaic,, but to my knowledge it is certainly not a view that is well-known among Jews themselves, I suppose because the Hebrew text of the Torah (and its formalized system of pronunciation) is considered to be holy.

Back to the Samaritans:
There is a wonderful tri-lingual (English, Arabic and Hebrew - both Modern Israeli and Traditional Samaritan) printed periodical, AB Samaritan News, edited by Benyamim Tsedaqa in Holon, whose content gives the reader a window into both the Samaritans' current situation in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & their struggle to increase their numbers (only 700 or so of them at present), and also to their ancient traditions, and current scholarly developments concerning them. Its great as well as a source for reading or practicing at least 2 different Semitic languages, and 3 or 4 different scripts.
01-31-2012 09:24 AM
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Abu Rashid Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
I think it's commonly accepted knowledge amongst Semitists that this phenomenon was a result of Aramaic influence in Biblical Hebrew.

The telling sign is the fact that these variations of the sounds actually seem to be a remnant of the phonemes that merged together in both Hebrew and Aramaic, at least in a few of the cases.

So d & dh merged together in Aramaic to become dalet and likewise t and th merged together to become taw. Aramaic, it is suggested retained the phonological difference but lost the etymological difference between them. However in Hebrew as we know, these two, dh and th merged with z and sh respectively.

Wikipedia has an article specifically about the spirantisation in which it states:

"Begedkefet spirantization developed sometime during the lifetime of Biblical Hebrew under the influence of Aramaic. Its time of emergence can be found by noting that the Old Aramaic phonemes /θ/, /ð/ disappeared in the 7th century BC. It persisted in Hebrew until the 2nd century CE. During this period all six plosive / fricative pairs were allophonic."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begadkefat_spirantization

The issue of holy languages is a tough one, but I think we all need to recognise that languages are human expressions, and so they are affected and influenced by humans. We all see and hear language developing and evolving around us day in day out. Even the most carefully preserved languages evolve. Languages are by their very nature passed on by "word of mouth". And each generation of people who pass them on may possibly modify them slightly due to their different pronunciations.

Regarding the Samaritans it is indeed sad that their language tradition will probably disappear very shortly. And ironically enough it will be due to their adoption of MIH over Arabic, which will eventually water down their unique variety of Hebrew, even if their religious and cultural traditions are preserved. I guess sound recordings could go some way to preserving a record of it, but it would be sad to see actual speakers disappear completely.
01-31-2012 09:14 PM
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bksphere
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Post: #4
RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
Your last post opened up numerous questions.


You (or wikipedia) are saying that spirantization is considered to have occurred first in Aramaic, and then in Hebrew (under Aramaic influence) -- in that order -- because of the fact that in Aramaic 2 (daleth and taw) of the 6 letters affected had at some point had those same spirantized sounds ("dh" and "th") merge and disappear "into" them. There being no such similar relation in Hebrew, it must be that these sounds are a remnant of the Aramaic merger.




Quote:The telling sign is the fact that these variations of the sounds actually seem to be a remnant of the phonemes that merged together in both Hebrew and Aramaic, at least in a few of the cases.





Its true that in Aramaic "dh" and "d" did merge into daleth and "t" and "th" merged into taw, and that both of these sounds, "th" and "dh", reappear later as spirantized versions of "d" and "t". But the idea of the "dh" sound and "th" sound being remnants doesnt quite sit right with me. Did "th" and "dh" first totally disappear and then later arise again? If so, then theres no connection between the two processes of disappearance and reappearance. Or did the process somehow occur seamlessly, gradually? I cant imagine how. Any suggestions as to how




Quote:Aramaic, it is suggested retained the phonological difference but lost the etymological difference between them.


would have occurred?



Also, in reference in particular to the following point,





Quote:...of the phonemes that merged together in both Hebrew and Aramaic,...



actually there are no instances among the 6 Hebrew letters that spirantize, of matching up between the variants and any phonemic mergers. In Hebrew, the spirantized variants of g, d, k, and t do match sounds that merged (in the days of ancient Hebrew, at least in writing - later, in pronunciation too):

gh, dh, kh, th. However, as we know, these sounds merged into different letters: gh > ע, dh > ז, kh > ח, th > שׁ.



In any case, for only two of the six Aramaic bgdkpt letters is there this situation where the merged sound reappears as, or transforms into, the spirantized sound. What about the other four? Is it being presumed that the taw and daleth changes somehow spread across (or were part of a larger phenomenon that spread across) the consonantal spectrum & caused the changes with beth, gimel, kaf, and pe as well? If so, any explanation why the changes didnt affect ṭeyth and qaaf, also plosives, as well?



Quote: Its time of emergence can be found by noting that the Old Aramaic phonemes /θ/, /ð/ disappeared in the 7th century BC.





How do we know when Old Aramaic phonemes "th" and "dh" disappeared? And how is it that this proves something related to the argument that begedkefet spirantization first emerged in Aramaic and then spread to Hebrew? Was Old Aramaic ever written in a Semitic alphabet of more than 22 letters, that we might observe th and dh?

Basically, what the Wikipedia article cites doesnt to me seem to prove anything, or even indicate the likelihood of anything, unless I am not understanding something. Of course, I have not read the detailed materials that the Wikipedia statements may be a distillation of.

(01-31-2012 09:14 PM)Abu Rashid Wrote:  I think it's commonly accepted knowledge amongst Semitists that this phenomenon was a result of Aramaic influence in Biblical Hebrew.

The telling sign is the fact that these variations of the sounds actually seem to be a remnant of the phonemes that merged together in both Hebrew and Aramaic, at least in a few of the cases.

So d & dh merged together in Aramaic to become dalet and likewise t and th merged together to become taw. Aramaic, it is suggested retained the phonological difference but lost the etymological difference between them. However in Hebrew as we know, these two, dh and th merged with z and sh respectively.

Wikipedia has an article specifically about the spirantisation in which it states:

"Begedkefet spirantization developed sometime during the lifetime of Biblical Hebrew under the influence of Aramaic. Its time of emergence can be found by noting that the Old Aramaic phonemes /θ/, /ð/ disappeared in the 7th century BC. It persisted in Hebrew until the 2nd century CE. During this period all six plosive / fricative pairs were allophonic."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begadkefat_spirantization

The issue of holy languages is a tough one, but I think we all need to recognise that languages are human expressions, and so they are affected and influenced by humans. We all see and hear language developing and evolving around us day in day out. Even the most carefully preserved languages evolve. Languages are by their very nature passed on by "word of mouth". And each generation of people who pass them on may possibly modify them slightly due to their different pronunciations.

Regarding the Samaritans it is indeed sad that their language tradition will probably disappear very shortly. And ironically enough it will be due to their adoption of MIH over Arabic, which will eventually water down their unique variety of Hebrew, even if their religious and cultural traditions are preserved. I guess sound recordings could go some way to preserving a record of it, but it would be sad to see actual speakers disappear completely.
02-02-2012 06:04 AM
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Abu Rashid Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  But the idea of the "dh" sound and "th" sound being remnants doesnt quite sit right with me. Did "th" and "dh" first totally disappear and then later arise again? If so, then theres no connection between the two processes of disappearance and reappearance. Or did the process somehow occur seamlessly, gradually? I cant imagine how. Any suggestions as to how

Well the only way I am able to imagine it, is to think about mergers currently taking place in colloquial Arabic.

We see for instance dh > d and sometimes dh > z in Arabic. Yet not all people merge them. You will always have some speakers who retain the distinction, because their dialect is a little more conservative, or because they're more educated and so on. So the common speaker hears both sounds being made and knows there's 2 distinct sounds, even though he may no longer know exactly in which cases they are meant to be used. And so he may establish his own rules for use of the different sounds that is not based on them being different etymological phonemes, but perhaps based on position in a word or when following certain letters.

(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  
Quote:Aramaic, it is suggested retained the phonological difference but lost the etymological difference between them.

would have occurred?

Well they obviously still have both sounds, they just no longer encode any actual information in them. Therefore they retained a phonological distinction, but not an etymological one.

(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  actually there are no instances among the 6 Hebrew letters that spirantize, of matching up between the variants and any phonemic mergers.

That's right, and this is why it is suggested that it was borrowed directly from Aramaic.

(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  In any case, for only two of the six Aramaic bgdkpt letters is there this situation where the merged sound reappears as, or transforms into, the spirantized sound. What about the other four?

Well in the case of ghayin, I think that as this sound becomes weaker, people pronounce it more like gimel. So that probably explains why it is linked to gimel and not ayin in the lenition series.

(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  Is it being presumed that the taw and daleth changes somehow spread across (or were part of a larger phenomenon that spread across) the consonantal spectrum & caused the changes with beth, gimel, kaf, and pe as well? If so, any explanation why the changes didnt affect ṭeyth and qaaf, also plosives, as well?

I really don't know enough about phonology (I know very little actually) to comment on that.

(02-02-2012 06:04 AM)bksphere Wrote:  How do we know when Old Aramaic phonemes "th" and "dh" disappeared? And how is it that this proves something related to the argument that begedkefet spirantization first emerged in Aramaic and then spread to Hebrew? Was Old Aramaic ever written in a Semitic alphabet of more than 22 letters, that we might observe th and dh?

Not quite, but in very old Aramaic, different letters from these ones doubled for sounds not present in the north Semitic alphabet. As it's extremely unlikely they merged, then unmerged, then re-merged with other letters, the best explanation is that there were previously some letters that had to do double work, but later as merges began to occur, the word shifted spelling to match its merged status.

So in old Aramaic, dh was written with z, th with sh. Also ض was written with q, but when it merged it merged with ayin. So when the shift in writing begins to occur, we can guess this is when the mergers were happening.

Imagine if Hebrew had not strictly stuck to its Biblical orthography, then we would probably find most words today with sin, being spelt with samek (instead of a modified shin), because these two merged. This did occur occasionally actually. And we could deduce from this that when the spelling shifted was around when the merging occurred.

Hope that clarifies a little.
(This post was last modified: 02-02-2012 09:41 PM by Abu Rashid.)
02-02-2012 09:37 PM
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bksphere
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Post: #6
RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
Quote:Well the only way I am able to imagine it, is to think about mergers currently taking place in colloquial Arabic.
We see for instance dh > d and sometimes dh > z in Arabic. Yet not all people merge them. You will always have some speakers who retain the distinction, because their dialect is a little more conservative, or because they're more educated and so on. So the common speaker hears both sounds being made and knows there's 2 distinct sounds, even though he may no longer know exactly in which cases they are meant to be used. And so he may establish his own rules for use of the different sounds that is not based on them being different etymological phonemes, but perhaps based on position in a word or when following certain letters.

Ok. I can imagine that happening. But we are talking about a 6 letter phenomenon. It doesnt say anything about the other 4 letters. And so to me the explanation/observation/analysis/theory doesn't seem to fit if it doesn't match all letters involved. 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.

Quote:Well in the case of ghayin, I think that as this sound becomes weaker, people pronounce it more like gimel. So that probably explains why it is linked to gimel and not ayin in the lenition series.

There doesnt seem to be any relation between gimel/ghimel and the ghayin that merged into ‘ayin. It is of course a curious thing that a "gh" sound disappeared in one place and reappeared in another, but I dont see any connection. Same for "kh" disappearing in its merger into ḥeyth, and reappearing as the spirantized kaf, "dh"'s disappearance and merger into zayin and reappearance as spirantized daleth, and "th" disappearing and merging into shin, and then re-appearing as spirantized taw. I would like to be able to offer some elegant explanation, to identify some relationship or process that would link these pairs of letters (ghayin and ghimel, dhaal and dhaleth, khaa' and khaf, and thaa and thaw), to explain how or why they would reappear like that, but I cant.

Quote:Not quite, but in very old Aramaic, different letters from these ones doubled for sounds not present in the north Semitic alphabet. As it's extremely unlikely they merged, then unmerged, then re-merged with other letters, the best explanation is that there were previously some letters that had to do double work, but later as merges began to occur, the word shifted spelling to match its merged status.
So in old Aramaic, dh was written with z, th with sh. Also ض was written with q, but when it merged it merged with ayin. So when the shift in writing begins to occur, we can guess this is when the mergers were happening.

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. 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. If they shifted like that in Aramaic, I wonder why they didnt in Hebrew. 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)?
02-04-2012 04:52 PM
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RE: Samaritan Hebrew & Aramaic influence on Post-Exilic Hebrew
(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 Smile

(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.
(This post was last modified: 02-05-2012 12:01 AM by Abu Rashid.)
02-04-2012 11:57 PM
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