Hebrew Vowels

HebrewLearner

New member
Dear Steven,

I have just today seen that you have mentioned me regarding Hebrew vowels. I have recently brought my findings up to date in a pause between book writing. Would you like to know how I am progressing? I am Public Domain so I do not mind sharing ideas. In preparation for an affirmative answer, I would like to say that I am most dissatisfied with modern evangelical enquiry into Hebrew pointing and their ignorance of fundamental linguistic principles. Please forgive me for being a little pedantic but, after all, I am a pedagogue by trade.

  • People keep referring to ‘the original Hebrew’ text. I tell them that if they bring it to me, I will study it with awe. Nobody has bothered! What on earth do they mean? Well, they suggest that Adam and Eve spoke the Hebrew of the Old Testament Canon as sanctified by God. However, Adam and Eve fell and their language followed them as sin marred all. The Word of God was always an inter-lingual matter and evangelicals, as I do still today, believed that the Word of God is the only language not marred by the Fall in whatever form it is put. The idea that Adam and Eve spoke a Biblical language centuries before it came into existence amongst the Jews is a futile, quite unnecessary hypothesis. God speaks through His Word whether He speaks to Chinese, Indians, Europeans, Jews of Christians in their own languages.
  • Evangelicals refer constantly to consonantal scripts and separate vowel scripts in Hebrew. Such scripts do not, and most likely never did, exist. One cannot divide the Hebrew script into different compartments as far as the signs are concerned. The Hebrew alphabet has developed as a meaningful whole.
  • So, evangelicals write of the development in depicting vowel values as if these occurred separately to the theoretical consonantal scripts. This was probably never the case but Semitic alphabets as full scripts were due to constant revision as they still are in both their consonantal and vocalic forms. Both Hebrew radicals and vowel alphabets, if you can call them that, went through continuous alteration and changes as in all related languages. According to Chomsky and Bodmer, that means the whole loom of language
  • Then there is the strange view amongst evangelicals that Hebrew consonant sounds are older than Hebrew vowel sounds. This has never been the case in any language as there is no language which is, or has been, vowelless and no language which has not shown this vocalisation via letters. Indeed, there are no non-vowel-carrying consonants and there has never been such a letter or radical as a non-vowel-carrier. Furthermore, in writing and pronunciation the two belong together. One can easily try this out by reciting the alphabet of any language you might know, including Hebrew, Arabic, Ugaritic etc. and then form words with them. Indeed, in European languages alone there are some ten so-called consonants used as vowels. Think of ‘w’, ‘y’ in English and the fact that several words have exchangeable vowels such as enquiry and inquiry. Many words start with a vowel sound in French but start with a consonantal sound in English though they are the same words. Think also of ‘light’ in English and ‘ljus’ in Swedish. They are from the same root but the English starts with a consonantal ‘l’ which we call, nevertheless, ‘el’, with a vowel, and the Swedish starts with the same letter though it is pronounced with ‘j’ as ‘iu’ as if it were a ‘y’ as in ‘yellow’ but not as in ‘day’. We otherwise give ‘j’ two vowels and call it ‘jay’, though the last vowel can be a consonant. And what do we make of ‘r’ in English as the letter has both consonantal and vowelised qualities? So, too, the length of a vowel is a meaning-carrier as in ‘wind’ that blows and ‘wind’ that turns. Sadly, this ignorance of long and short vowels as meaning-carriers is not only rampant in modern Hebrew teaching it is there in Latin, too. ‘Malum’ is now invariably pronounced with a short ‘a’, supposedly meaning ‘apple’. Actually, it means ‘evil’. The word ‘malum’, in order to mean ‘apple’ takes a long ‘a’. This is perhaps why many think Eva and Adam ate an apple when doing evil. This is not just playing with words but showing that there is no tight dividing line between consonants and vowels in any language, let alone Hebrew and the length of vowels is most important. They are all in the one sound system of human speech.
  • Then there is the oft heard tale that Hebrew is the oldest language in the world though the rapid development of Biblical Hebrew was obviously after the descendants of the inter-married international family of Joseph, and the other peoples who went down to Goshen for food, left Egypt. Over the century-long period of this sojourn in a foreign land, a language mixture would be inevitable, as has occurred in Great Britain since the Picts and the Celts. Who speaks Pictish or Anglo-Saxon nowadays in Britain? We have the Pictish language but nobody can decipher it!
  • This language mixture continued during the wilderness wanderings as often related in the Old Testament. The fact is that many different language speakers moved out of Egypt for Canaan and many Indo-Germanic nations merged with them from the start and on the way. Indeed, there are many ancient Egyptian elements in Hebrew as also many Indo-Germanic elements. Hebrew is a conglomerate language like English and perhaps all the languages of the world. The script which developed into Hebrew also developed into Greek, Latin and even English, not to mention the vast number of Asian languages. The Indo-Germanic proto-languages is not younger than the proto-Semitic but demonstrably older and is a progenitor of Semitic languages.
  • One of the principal enemies of the refugees from Egypt was Phoenicia which, however, thrust its script if not its language on to the emerging Hebrews. Phoenician was not a Semitic language but one of the mothers of that group of languages. Thus, Hebrew script is certainly Indo-Germanic in origin!
  • What puzzles me, is that those evangelicals who would learn Biblical Hebrew today, turn to Ivrit with her radical reduction of Biblical Hebrew syntax and grammar and an introduction of a background meta-language which has nothing to do with Biblical Hebrew. Ivrit has become a catalogue of non-Semitic loan words based on foreign meta-languages. Especially the most essential moods and the vowels have been greatly reduced. This can be compared to what is now called ‘Missionary Indian’ in India where the meta-language is Latin and the artificial scripts and fonts used by such as Carey left out former consonants and vowels and dumbed down the old inflected languages no end.
  • I remember trying to obtain a grasp of the six or so Sami dialects in Lapland whilst working as an evangelist and teacher there. I was told there were 28 cases. On seeing my eyes boggle, the Sami told me that they only used 16 of them in every day speech. Now the Sami are forced to teach a dumbed down common language forced on them by the various non-Lapp political authorities in Scandinavia which is neither the one language nor the other and the Lapps are cut off from their old culture. The new Lapp language seems to be based on northern dialects whereas the oldest Lapp languages are spoken southwards, for instance in Dalarna. Ivrit is doing similar dumbing-down work, even worse than the Indian and Lapp situation where a word for word, grammar for grammar and syntax for syntax translation of the King James’ Bible, rather than the Hebrew and the Greek texts, has also led to the further dumbing down of the old Indian languages besides the simplification of the grammar and vowel letters. I love the A. V. but not its misuse! The three-thousand-year-old, and more, Indian languages had around 35 cases and the arrogant British with their simple grammatical structures called Indian languages ‘primitive’ and ‘heathen’. Carey thought the Indians were primitive in their music as he had no ears to ear but they had thousands of tones in their ragas compared to the eight toned octave of Carey who felt his music was superior. Carey had no ideas of the beauty of Bengali and Sanskrit but began with the assistance of the British Government, to ‘simplify and Latinise it.
  • Because most schools were put in the hands of colonial missionaries, the Indians were trained in pseudo-languages in amateur translation that cut them quite off from their old literature and old creative 3,000-year-old speech. However, Bengali and most Indian languages including Sanskrit are now mostly in ‘easy reader’ forms. The work of the Serampore College and Fort William College pioneered this down-grading. Ivrit is a new kind of Esperanto or Ido and is little use for Hebrew Bible Study and research.
  • So, too, the constant argumentation that the Biblical Hebrew vowels were not meaning-carriers is beyond linguistic comprehension. The length and openness of Hebrew vowels indicated different meanings. When I ask Ivrit-speakers how they decide what their reduced vowels mean, they tell me the Rabbis can discern this but not lay people. What an insult to learning! When Hans Küng told the pope that the Holy Spirit was the sole interpreter of the Biblical meaning, the pope told him that this was not true, the task and duty were his (the pope’s) alone.
  • The careful understanding of Hebrew vowels reveals the fine distinctions, properties, attributions and tasks of both males and females. Do away with the vowels and we have done away with the relationships between men and women and the propagation of the human species, resulting in the end of mankind. We, as God’s true children via earthly fathers and mothers are chosen to see that the Biblical norm is maintained, not by works but by grace shown and implemented through Christ’s righteous Atonement. Dumbing down languages leads to dumbing down the gospel.
  • It was once taught that languages developed from grunts and groans to highly inflected texts. This is nonsense, as William Cowper showed. The older the language, the more inflected it is but these are being dumbed down until they are non-communicative. One often hears people telling others, for instance, to take the doodad to whatchamacallit to make the thingamabobs that whatshisname wants. They say with a vocabulary of 200 such substitute words you can go a long way! But to where?
 

HebrewLearner

New member
Dear Steven,
You may indeed. However, the problem of Hebrew pointing is on continuous debate and those who partake, including myself, are always updating ideas and learning new things. I have only in the last five years or so began to study Pheonecian, cuneiforms and Ugarit to broaden my search for information. Fading eye-sight (macular degeneration) makes this difficult as dear, industrious Jerome knew. This is no simple task as the pundits are far from taking a common line on the issue.

I have been trying to cut down my ideas for my web-site which has sadly been hacked out of existence by 'scoffers' but I am still faced with some 36 A4 pages, which is far too long to burden your site. Anyone asking for a copy will find me at ella@evangelica.de. I must kindly ask wranglers, not of the Cambridge kind, not to apply as my old, tender nerves have difficulty soothing people who call me names for my apparent stupidity and merely want to fight. We are all in the process of knowledge-engineering under the guidance of our God-Only-Wise so all of us should pull together.

Yours in the joy of believing,
George
 
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