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Hebrew as a Descriptory System

 

Written languages originated from pictograms which described each object uniquely. Syllabaries recognized common phonetic elements of different words. Only one alphabet was developed – in Semitic languages.

Invention of alphabet is a formidable scientific task. Primitive people of the second millennium BCE were extremely unlikely to recognize the need of reducing the syllabary rather than extending it, as did the Sumerians. So huge reduction of writing language occurred never again in history. Significant reduction of language inventories was never a conscious concern before the computer input required it for Simplified Chinese.

Modern sign languages benefit from all the linguistic research available. They are intended for people with disabilities, and have to be simplified. Yet, signs generally mean words, not individual sounds or even syllables. The development of alphabet is not self-evident.

Phonemic errors in writing (pick – peek) show that mind operates with composite sounds of speech, not with letter sounds. Syllable is one sound. To recognize it as composite, and distill the basic sounds – especially vowels – from it, is not a task for primitive Egyptian farmers.

Allophony and pitch variation make distilling of letters from syllables all but impossible: LXX, admittedly late evidence, shows that Hebrew consonants were pronounced differently in different phonetic environments. Allophony exists even in the simplest CvCvCv words because consonantal sounds influence each other.

Though evolution from pictogram do syllabary to alphabet may be traced in the Egyptian language, written Hebrew sprung as alphabetical language without evolutionary development from syllabary. Lacking the burden of noun-oriented pictograms, Hebrew developed as verb-oriented language.

Hebrew words are strictly built on root cells which, in turn, form from individual consonants. Hebrew originated as alphabetic language, not evolved from syllabary.

Alphabet uniquely reserves a single meaning for each sign. Cuneiform, Egyptian and Chinese hieroglyphs, and words of modern languages all have multiple meanings. Disambiguation of signs is artificial; evolution of language only adds more meanings, thus appeared homonyms and begedkefet pairs in Hebrew.

Hebrew also broke away from the Egyptian morphologically by introducing simple and functional CvCv and CvCvCv patterns. While few other languages insist on open syllables, they do not usually limit the words’ length. Formalizing words’ structure and limiting their length are major inventions, not evolutionary developments.

Open syllables are perfectly suited for people with poor language skills. Syllables may be pronounced in staccato, and consonants are forcefully plosive.

 

Languages, as any descriptory systems, must describe the objects and their relations. In doing that, the languages arrive between the hammer of sufficiency and the anvil of excessiveness. Languages must have enough means to convey almost everything with little ambiguity. To achieve this, the first languages, as other primitive descriptory systems, are supra-sufficient. The ancients, unable to contemplate general laws of nature, saw a unique deity behind every event. Advanced descriptory system of monotheism reduced all the forces to one God. Several laws of celestial mechanics replaced numerous observational patterns. Good descriptory systems reduce the patterns to basic laws.

Most languages are greatly excessive. Many words written in English or Russian can be read even with several letters omitted or written incorrectly: tgether, togezer, togetha, tgthr are easily recognizable. Not so for Hebrew or seemingly any West Semitic language.

No consonant in Hebrew words is excessive. Already (late) biblical Hebrew writing system is insufficient: it contains many homonyms, sometimes contextually indistinguishable. Hypothetical pre-biblical Hebrew lacked the semantically related homonyms, and originally had only one sense for each word thus was sufficient as a descriptory system.

Non-excessive systems cannot plausibly appear naturally, but are the revolutionary products of intellect. Euclid based his non-excessive system of geometry on previous research, but consciously formulated it. Evolutionary development can refine systems, but their formalization is necessarily centralized, a product of a single person or a group of scholars. No scientific theory ever was arrived at evolutionary, but always invented by particular scholars.

 

 

The theory of proto-languages assumes that, for example, a tribe speaking proto-Indo-European populated most Europe and much of India. That is certainly impossible: millennia BCE, no nation could be that large. Population was dispersed, sparse, and lived in isolated enclaves. No way they could have a common language. If one tribe moved over vast territories in a migration of unimaginable and technically nearly impossible magnitude, the tribe’s passing influence would not compel the locals to change their language. The tribe, on the contrary, would assimilate many local linguistic influences, so that the proto-Indo-European in India would be completely different from the PIE in Northern Europe.

Some obvious sense behind the Nostratic hypothesis shows that very distant proto-languages are related. Are we to assume that one tribe moved from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe to Urals to America, and preserved its vocabulary over such time and distance?

If the Nostratic hypothesis were to some extent true, then the Nostratic spoken in dispersed communities would quickly break into very different dialects, and not offer the uniformity observed in the IE.

The only plausible way to account for vocabulary similarities among languages with different grammars and writing systems is to assume momentous instead of migratory influence. The language of migrants, slowly moving through unimaginably vast spaces, would change. The language of civilizers, visiting distant places, would not change.

The Tower of Babel account relates exactly that story: a civilization sufficiently advanced to reach the sky, suffered cataclysmic destruction. Its people left the place and went to distant communities. Whether or not the mention of them reaching the sky alludes to air transportation, they traveled fast. They settled in other communities, and created different languages based on their own. Many tribes were taught the IE simultaneously, and dialects appeared instantly.