Musings on ancient Hebrew versus Arabic

I am not an expert in Semitic languages – but I recognize depth of knowledge when I see it.  A commentator, who goes by the name of “Abu Rashid”, wrote in another topic:

Another thing maybe worth considering is that at least as late as the 3rd. century B.C.E Hebrew still distinguished at least a few more letters. This is known mostly from Greek transliterations in their translation of the Tanakh and also when compared with Arabic it seems to match up. The first letter is the ghayin. Ghayin is not actually an alternate pronunciation of gimel, but is a letter much like ayin, and which merged into ayin in Hebrew sometime after the 3rd. century B.C.E. I think any movement towards restoring Biblical pronunciation of Hebrew would need to take this into account. The problem is knowing which words actually use ayin and which use ghayin, most, if not all, of them could be discovered from Arabic and Ugaritic though. The second is the distinction between Haa and Khaa (both called Het in modern Hebrew). These two letters were still separate in Biblical Hebrew.
Of course there are many more letters that could be distilled back out to their original separate forms, but these two are well known to have been distinct to at least the very latest of Biblical times.

His reference to the third century B.C.E. is, of course, based on the famous translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek: the Septuagint.  There we find clear indications of the double ‘Ayin/Ghayin (ע).  For example, Gaza, which is  ‘Aza in modern Hebrew and Gomorrah, which is ‘Amorah in modern Hebrew.  Similarly, we find indications of the double Heth/Kheth (ח) there.  Both double versions are found in Arabic to this day.  Another double letter, found in Arabic but not in Hebrew, is the double Sad/Dad (ص‎, ض).  I am not aware of any vestiges of this double letter in Hebrew, even from ancient times.
These ancient double letters seem to be in conflict with some of the current double letters of Hebrew; our current soft Ghimel (ג) seems to be too close to the ancient Ghayin for coexistence.  Our current soft Khaf (כ) seems, likewise, to be too close to the ancient Kheth for coexistence.
The Book of Yesirah (probably of ancient origin) states (chapter 3):

Twenty two letters, the foundation of three nations, seven doubles, and twelve simple (letters)… (The) seven doubles are Beth, Gimal, Daleth, Kaf, Pe, Resh and Taw.

The identities of almost all these double letters are well established throughout the Jewish diaspora (with the exception of the Ashkenazi one, which lost the double Daleth long ago, and the double Gimal only about three hundred years ago).  The double Resh (ר) is the only one that no longer has any living tradition of its nature.  There are only a handful of instances where the Resh appears with a dagesh in Scripture.  For those of you familiar with Arabic, the dagesh (in its “strong” form) is the equivalent of the Shadda.  Among Yemeni Jews, these isolated dageshed Resh’s are actually pronounced differently:

ahothi ra’yathi yonathi thammathi shaRRoshi nimla tal… (Song of Songs 5:2)

… with a strong emphasis on the trill.  However, I am fairly certain that it is not those isolated dageshed Resh’s that the Book of Yesirah is referring to.  Instead, my hunch is that the soft Resh was pronounced much like the American “R”, while the hard Resh was flapped or trilled.  I noticed this double pronunciation among Iraqi Jews – though it does not seem to be an officially recognized distinction among them.  My late friend Ben Siyyon Cohen was of the opinion, for a while, that one Resh was supposed to be said near the teeth (as in Arabic and other Semitic languages) while the other with the glottis like most Israelis do now.  I convinced him of his error – fortunately before he wrote his books.  The glottal Resh is an abomination.
Be it as it may, I find it interesting (and somewhat disturbing) that the archaic double letters survived up until the Hellenistic period – and yet there seems to be no written record of any transition.  Surely there must have been some sort of lingering tradition of those lost double letters at the time of Hillel and Shammai.  The simplest explanation would be that the Mishnah mainly concerned itself with matters of Jewish law and did not delve into history or folklore except when it pertained to the law.  By the time it became fashionable to record folklore (as in the Talmud), those traditions had already been forgotten.
I may be way off base here, but there may be an indirect vestige of the ancient form of Hebrew – among Yemeni Jews.  According to their tradition, the letter Beth is called “Beh“, the letter Daleth is called “Dal“, the letter Heth is called “Het“, the letter Teth is called “Tet“, and the letter Samekh is called “Semak“.  There are other differences but these are the ones that interest us – for they all lack the final soft Thaw (or Khaf) at the end.  Is it possible that this is a relic from earlier days when the older double letter system was still in use and there was no distinction between Taw and Thaw or between Kaf and Khaf?
What Abu Rashid wrote about Arabic and Ugaritic is probably also true of Phoenician; for all practical purposes, the Phoenicians spoke a dialect of Hebrew.  I wonder how much of their language has been recorded in historical records.  As an aside, I think it is interesting that for all the effort the ancient Jews put into stamping out the cult of Ba’al, he still exists.  He exists in the modern Lebanese city of Ba’albek and he exists in Hannibal, which is actually Hen Ba’al = the grace of Ba’al.
But by far, the greatest resource we have in understanding ancient Hebrew is Arabic.  Classical Arabic, and it modern counterpart formal Arabic, is a living fossil.  For all its brutality, the birth and spread of Islam did have a silver lining in the preservation of Arabic.  Had Islam never been born, it is possible that the entire Semitic world would have succumbed to Greek or some other foreign tongue.  All that would have remained would be Amharic and maybe some holdouts in Yemen.  For all the destruction it wrought upon non-Semitic peoples, Islam was like Mount Vesuvius for the Semitic world – destroying and preserving at the same time.  It did replace Aramaic and perhaps some other North Semitic languages but this happened very slowly.  Christians cling to Aramaic to this very day.
My impression has always been that Arabic is far more conservative than Hebrew in its spoken form (as Abu Rashid, who is not a native Arabic speaker, says elsewhere).  But the Hebrew alphabet seems to be more ancient than the Arabic one.  The modern Hebrew alphabet is not even Hebrew.  It is traditionally called “Kethav Ashuri“, which means “Assyrian script” – a clear indication that it was adopted while in exile.  Nevertheless, it is of ancient Semitic origin.  While Semitic languages probably had their origins in the South, writing (at least our form of writing) had its origins in the North.
There are many words that are, essentially, the same in Hebrew and Arabic.  There are many other words that are quite similar – but it is not always obvious that this is so.  There are Biblical passages that do not seem to make sense without a knowledge of Arabic.  For example:

Yosef called the firstborn Menasheh, for God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.

The word for “made me forget” is nashani.  No Hebrew speaker would recognize this word if used in another context (unless he happened to remember this verse).  Hebrew uses an entirely different word for “forget” than this one.  But Arabic still uses the Biblical word to this day, in a slightly different pronunciation.
Every name has a meaning; people do not simply assemble random phonemes together and call it a name.  English speakers tend to lose sight of this because most of our names come from other languages.  When we look at the names of ancient Jewish kings, for example, many of them seem to have no meaning.  What does King ‘Omri’s name mean?  A Hebrew speaker would shrug his shoulders and say, “it’s just a name.”  But an Arabic speaker would recognize it as coming from the root ‘amr, which means “life”.  It is the equivalent of the modern Hebrew name Hayyim (and Arabic Omar). There are some very interesting and colorful names in Scripture.  Finding their meanings would be an interesting project indeed.  Arabic would be an essential tool for such an endeavor.  What about the name Abraham?

Abraham’s name first appears as Abram (Hebrew: אַבְרָם, ModernAvramTiberianʾAḇrām), meaning either “exalted father” or “my father is exalted” (compare Abiram). Later in Genesis God renamed him Abraham; the text glosses this as av hamon (goyim), “father of many (nations)”,[4] but it does not have any literal meaning in Hebrew.[5] Many modern interpretations based on textual and linguistic explanations have been offered, including an analysis of a first element abr- “chief”, but this yields a meaningless second element. Johann Friedrich Karl Keil suggests there was once a word raham (רָהָם) in Hebrew, meaning “multitude”, on analogy with the word ruhâm which has this meaning in Arabic, but no evidence that this word existed has been found;[6] and David Rohl suggests the name comes from Akkadian “the father loves.”[7]

It seems to me that there might have been an ancient plural form that involved adding an extra letter to the middle of the word.  This type of plural is foreign to Hebrew speakers – but quite common in Arabic.
The use of Arabic, as a tool to understand Hebrew, does have its limits.  The two languages split apart several thousand years ago and then flourished within completely different environments – for the most part;  in Medieval Andalusia, they reunited once again and the embers from that glow still burn.

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37 Responses to Musings on ancient Hebrew versus Arabic

  1. Very nice.
    I studied the Mongols quite a bit, and since they were an illiterate people, their stories were captured in Chinese, translated into Persian, then into German, then into English. At which point the narrative has been more laundered than was Greek Mythological violence by tasteful and imaginative Victorians.
    Spent a little time on ancient greek. A little more on early Cuneiform (Ashurnasirpal’s tablets). At which point I lost all sense of wonder at the words of the ancients. I can’t remember who said “What we know about the world prior to 700 BC is precisely nothing.” By which he meant, that the content of those languages is largely opaque to us.
    A friend of mine, working on his dissertation, translated an ancient greek letter from one man to another. And the meaning is almost impossible to discern. Although, while we are conditioned to listen to well written prose of hollywood script writers, listening in on most common conversations that take place among friends is an exercise in deduction. Perhaps we have not come so far.
    I only wish the early inhabitants of northwestern europe had not been so adverse to writing down their myths. That ancient cult and their world view is lost to us except as fragments captured in latin.
    Hebrew by contrast, (though the early practitioners applied the same reasoning that by requiring memorization of sacred knowledge, the wise men were self selected), the mythology was eventually written down.
    Beautiful things. Really. Time in a bottle.

  2. Patrick says:

    It’s interesting how in The Bible the names of people correspond to what their role is and their personal attributes, and if something about them changes so does their name. Often times when people are initiated into various spiritual mysteries they are given a secret name associated with that spirituality. Converts to islam are given a muslim name and converts to judaism are given a jewish name.
    Its also interesting how language is a defining feature of a nation. Often times subcultures develop there own slang so those subcultures can be said to be incipient nations. Often they feel pressure to abandon their slang and to speak the real language… but who determines what the real language is?
    People can determine social class in Britain by peoples accents, or at least at one time they could…. I don’t know if thats still the case and so that indicates Britain is a multi-tribal society and so the idea that that nation is a single tribe would be faulty.

  3. Abu Rashid says:

    Very enlightening reading JAY. The issue of the modern double letters being attached to letters which they don’t belong to etymologically, in comparison with other Semitic languages, is a perplexing one. The only explanation I can postulate is that in ancient times Hebrew was made up of a standard language and a number of regional dialects (much like Arabic and even Aramaic & Hebrew to some degree are today) and that the standard language merged these phonemes, whilst some dialects retained them. As the influence of the standard language began to drown out the regional retentions of these letters, they ended up being handed back to the standard language as a memory of an archaic pronunciation, perhaps during some kind of attempt to reform and preserve the language. This could well have occurred as Greek, Aramaic and other languages were beginning to encroach upon the dominance of Hebrew during the period in question, as mentioned in your post.
    Regarding the Arabic letter Dod (ض), apart from the Arabian peninsula there are no Semitic languages which exhibit any vestiges of this letter, apart from the fact they seem to have merged this letter into Tsade/Sod (ص) a very very long time ago. And it is for this reason that Arabic is known as Lughat ad-Dod (The language of the letter Dod) because this letter alone is unique to Arabic (and the other extinct languages of the peninsula). Ugaritic, the closest language phonetically-speaking to Arabic retains almost every single one of the emphatic Semitic letters, except for the Dod.
    Regarding the Arabic & Hebrew scripts, you are correct that the Hebrew script is older than the modern Arabic one, as the modern Arabic script is actually a descendant of the Hebrew one, however unlikely that seems when looking at them. More accurately both are descendants of two different variants of the Aramaic alphabet. Hebrew is obviously a descendant of the square script, whilst Arabic is a descendant of the cursive variety that developed through Estrangelo -> Nabataean -> Arabic. The ancient Arabic script though is a different story. This script fell into disuse in the Arabian peninsula during the Islamic period as modern Arabic (as mentioned above, a Northern Semitic descended script) supplanted it. The ancient Arabian script is a direct descendant of Proto-Sinaitic, the same script that Paleo-Hebrew/Phoenician descended from, and it’s similarity to those scripts is quite obvious when comparing quite a few of the letter shapes (noon, qof, shin, taw to name a few are almost identical). In fact I am of the opinion that the ancient Arabic script, along with Paleo-Hebrew actually formed a South-West family of scripts, which were slowly replaced by the North-East scripts. So whilst the modern scripts do have their origins in the North[-East], they were pre-dated by scripts that originated in the South[-West]. The modern Ethiopian script is the only script in use today that is based on this South-West branch of Semitic scripts.
    Todah Rabah for those examples of Biblical names & their etymologies. Although I have come across the one about Abraham, I had never heard about Menasheh. It is suggested by Arabic scholars that the Semitic word for human (ins in Arabic, ish in Hebrew) actually derives from this root, as mankind is a being that is inherently forgetful.
    Abu Rashid.

    • jewamongyou says:

      It’s interesting that Ethiopians are the only ones who continue to use the South-West script. Amharic/Ge’ez has always reminded me of the ancient Sabaean inscriptions. Some day I’d like to study Ge’ez; who knows what treasures lay buried within it.
      The word for “human” in Hebrew would be “anash” – retaining the nun. The word “ish” means “man”. To the best of my knowledge anyway. Interesting theory that “ins” is derived from the word for “forget”.
      If I compose a list of interesting scriptural names, would you help me try to figure out their meanings?

  4. Abu Rashid says:

    The Ge’ez script is indeed descended from the Sabaean script, but it has lost a few letters and added others. It also developed into an Abguida, a variation on the abjad, which is pretty much a consonant-only Semitic-style script, but with diacritics built into the letters, a very interesting development for Semitic scripts.
    You’re right about ish/anash, I mixed that up. Anash fits even better then, since it shows all the radicals of the root.
    As for figuring out the origins of the names, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to, but I’ll give it shot, list away.
    Abu Rashid.

  5. Shalomo Eliyahu Schorr says:

    ” Instead, my hunch is that the soft Resh was pronounced much like the American “R”, while the hard Resh was flapped or trilled. I noticed this double pronunciation among Iraqi Jews – though it does not seem to be an officially recognized distinction among them.”
    I have had a similar hunchthan you regarding the resh raphe in Tiberian Hebrew (that is an american r). You mentioned you have noticed this pronunciation amongst Iraqi Jews? According to Rav Saadiah Gaon (on his commentary on Sepher yetsira) the Babylonian Jews in his days (end of the 1st millenium CE) still differentiated between the two pronunciations of resh. I am interested in where you noticed this pronuncian: is it from personal experience, or is there another source?
    Thank you

  6. Shalomo Eliyahu Schorr says:

    I hope you do not mind me bugging you like this. Which type of personal experience did you mean (working in the field, personal aquantances, theoretical)? you mention that it isn’t an officially recognised distinction amongst Iraqi Jews…does that mean that it’s an anomaly in selected individuals, or is it wide spread, but just not recorded in previous literature?
    Thank you!

    • jewamongyou says:

      Oh, sorry about my short answer earlier. On the contrary, you’re not bugging me at all! It’s good to have you here my friend.
      When I lived in Jerusalem, back in the 80s, I had a friend who (though young as I was) had learned Iraqi Hebrew and traditional songs from the best of his community. I heard it from him, though I doubt he was aware of it, and from the hazan at Hakham Ya’aqob Mussafi’s synagogue in Geulah: Hakham Tufiq.

  7. Allen Rasafar says:

    I am so delighted to read this. it is a great pleasure to participate to learn deeper meaning of the origins of the languages.
    During my few trips to Holy land, Israel, my interest was prompted by shapes of the Hebrew letters, let alone the phonemes and pronunciation of the words. It was and is hard for me to make sense of the Hebrew alphabets, however your recommendation to learn Arabic is quite interesting. In my short journey, I have learned that pronunciation of some of Arabic letters are similar to Chinese as in letters Sad, Soft zad, soft Ta, and more. It seems that Root of both Hebrew and Arabic may go back to Chinese (Uighur) language as the father of Aramaic language but it takes some expertise to breakdown the Chinese words. What this linguistic relationship means in Historical, Political and Religious terms I am not the expert to elaborate on it.
    Raised in USA, my mother tongue is Azeri, and familiar with Armenian, Russian, Korean, Turkish, Chinese, some Japanese, some Persian and Latin, it is always so joyful to hear, read and learn that as a big family of Human beings, we are connected in so many ways, whilst parted and re united by our own choice of languages.
    Cannot resist to comment on effect of Religion on languages, though my most concern and interest is in how a great percentage of names and places are wiped out by Christian/Vatican domination as it was with other major historical events. I like to know names of places and people before it was over ran by Christians.
    As to Northern Europeans, whether it is Cyrillic, Swedish, German, English,… it is evident that they migrated from Sarmatia, as Sarmatians. I would like to learn how this word was composed, and what is root of this word and what was their language.
    Best Regards,

    • jewamongyou says:

      If you could show that the Semitic languages are related to Chinese, it would be quite an accomplishment. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    • Yirmeyahu says:

      I was reading this and didn’t care until you made the claim that hebrew is related to chinese. That doesn’t make any sense at all. Modern Hebrew has 22 letters. Biblical hebrew may have had around 30. Chinese does not use letters at all. They uses characters to represent different syllables, words, or even tenses of words. The average speaker of Mandarin chinese may know around 2,000 to 4,000 individual characters. A graduate in chinese letter may know double that, or up to 10,000 characters. Besides the obvious difference in the alphabet is grammar, culture, and context. Perhaps at the time of the tower of Babel they may have been dimly related, but by the time of Abraham or even modern day times they are completely unrelated. What you state has no basis in fact.

      • Allen Rasafar says:

        I will continue to learn from this discussion. You are right about the diffrence of order of magnitude in letters, expressions and words, in chinese verses Arabic, or Hebrew, however, as you mentioned, by the time of Abraham, the Aramic, Hebrew and Arabic languages were divesified and may have simplified and changed to a large degree. But again, the original meanings of the some clasical words and names in bible, and in arabic texts makes more sense in Chinese and Korean translation than in Arabic or Hebrew meanings.
        Best wishes,

    • Yirmeyahu says:

      That does not make any sense. These texts were never written in the chinese language, by chinese people, from a chinese perspective. You are taking a text written by people who were dynamically different from the chinese and refabricating them to fit a people they never belonged to. If they do make sense in hebrew then you do not know hebrew very well. There is no Jarusalem in china, and not one name of a single Hebrew person means anything in Chinese. For example south in hebrew is darom, in chinese it’s nan, such as Nanjiang which means south capital. The language, people, and culture are completely unrelated. Stating they make more sense in a language and culture unrelated is foolishness. You obviously are not educated in hebrew or arabic. Hebrew, aramaic, and arabic are considered the oldest living languages in the world. This is a generalization based on the writing systems of these languages. Archaic chinese dates to about 1100 BCE. Hebrew dates to about, oh I don’t know 3,000 BCE. Aramaic itself dates to about 1100 BCE, it’s about as old as archaic chinese. Arabic is the youngest of these languages and it dates to about 500 CE. Not a single linguist, or scholar in his right mind would ever make the claim that the Semitic languages descended from chinese. Why on earth are you claiming such a thing? Is it because you prefer the chinese language? That would be the only valid consensus I could imagine.

      • Allen Rasafar says:

        Thank you for your complements, though we do not agree on the origins of the Hebrew and Arabic languages, it does not make me foolish, but rather an presenting another perspective to discussion. Obviously you are bias on historical issue is going too far. Hebrew language and Culture is not the oldest in the world, you can find it easily by looking up, Arkaim of Russia, Pyramids of China and Japan.
        I will continue to learn Hebrew, but I shall no longer participate in your rather unfriendly discussion. Just to add some depth to into this discussion, I know more about Hebrew and Arabic than you may know about classic Chinese, Korean or Uyghur languages.
        Thank you, Best wishes

  8. Yirmeyahu says:

    I was reading your article and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m not sure you know this but Ben Yehudah used the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew because he thought it was the most beautiful, but he also used Arabic to ‘glue’ the language together, probably because much of the language outside of it’s liturgical setting was lost. What I found humorous though is when you stated that the glottal Resh was an abomination. I could not agree more. Whenever I go to a synagogue ran by Ashkenazi jews it amazes me how different they pronounce their hebrew. I have studied various dialects of both Hebrew and Arabic and most of their pronunciations are identical, of course this is a generalization. Ashkenazi Hebrew seems to be the farthest away from the original hebrew spoken by the great patriarchs, however the Chabad, and even many modern Israelis seem to proudly wear it like a badge of honor. Let me ask you this; do you think this is due top modern day Jews trying to appear lest related our Arab cousins, or do think it comes from a genuine belief that they speak the same language as our forefathers. I’d love your opinion on the matter.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Thanks! As for your question, I’m pretty sure the average Israeli speaker gives not thought, whatsoever, to how he speaks. He doesn’t care – but he knows the Yemenite pronunciation is more authentic. He’s too lazy to do anything about it even if he cared. As for those who do give it some thought, yes I believe they do want to distance themselves from the Arabs. As for religious Ashkenazim, they can’t stand the thought of their rabbis having been wrong, so they emulate them in every respect, including their Hebrew accent.

      • Yirmeyahu says:

        Lol. That’s what I thought as well. If Ashkenazi Rabbis are incorrect reformed should be made. Israel is still a young country, and if we are not careful we will lose our language and culture again. I have been trying to learn the Yemenite pronunciation for a while now, however many of it’s sounds are foreign to me. The most difficult being Ayin. I doubt I will ever be able to pronounce it correctly. It is too difficult for me today.
        I always thought that the Hebrew people were close in culture to the Arabs. Perhaps not brothers, but definitely cousins. My ancestors were Sephardic jews. My grandmother told me we once dressed identical to the Arabs, but thanks to the Ashkenazi and other Jews of European descent we’ve lost most of our heritage. I wonder why the jews of modern Israel are so dead set against their obviously middle eastern origin.

  9. jewamongyou says:

    Re: Yirmeyahu,
    Yes, it’s a pity about losing the traditional dress. I tried to adopt such garb myself, on an experimental basis, while living in Jerusalem. People looked at me like I was a weirdo – and I was! But there were a few young Yemenites who wore traditional dress, and raised their families the same. Their’s is an uphill struggle. It’s all but illegal to do so in Israel.

    • Yirmeyahu says:

      It’s mind boggling to hear that. Most jews I’ve met were either of Sephardic or Temani descent, and those jews always dressed like their arab cousins. I do not think Kind David ever wore a long dress coat or a fedora. Those are distinct european styles and you would think modern Israelis would want to be traditional as possible, especially since it’s the first time in 2,000 years that we can finally to do so. I live in Florida, however I do try to emulate my ancestors as close as possible. I do not want my family traditions dying off only because they are not popular. My child is 3 years old and is already learning the Hebrew and Arabic scripts. I figured to start with those since she will be flooded with english and Western culture in school. What do you think of my decision?

      • jewamongyou says:

        I think it’s great that you’re raising your child in your own traditions. But if she attends public school, it might be very difficult for her to maintain them or respect them. It’s also, of course, very important to inculcate in her the importance of only dating boys of her own people. If you wait until she’s a teen, it’s be too late.

        • Yirmeyahu says:

          That is my concern as well. My wife was born to a secular family, but she likes my religion and culture very much. We are raising our kids jewish. However, I am afraid that they will date kids outside of our people and they will wind up not maintaining our traditions. People of the christian persuasion seem to want everyone to give up their traditions in favor of western culture. I’m hoping my kids grow to love who they are and where they come from. We are are even thinking of enrolling her into a private jewish school. Perhaps then it won’t be as large a concern.

  10. Aharon says:

    wouldn’t alveolar trill for Resh Deghusha and Alveolar tap for Resh refuyah be much more probable than the akward alveolar aproximant (which in some instances is almost retroflex) of English and some dialects of dutch?
    The tap/Trill contrast is found in Spanish for example. I don’t know any language that contrasts an alveolar aproximant with a tril or tap.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Actually that has occurred to me. The only reason I didn’t bring it up is that, as far as I know, there is no living tradition of such a distinction. If I had to re-invent Hebrew, that’s what I’d go for.

    • Yirmeyahu says:

      I would assume so. The only Jews that I know that use the English R are Ashkenazi, and Ashekenazi is obviously been highly influenced by the surrounding European people. Sephardic hebrews was mostly influenced by Arabic. However, Arabic descends from the same language tree as Hebrew anyways. It’s like Spanish to Italian. Arabic uses the trilled, or Spanish R. In Teutonic (which is the language that german, dutch, english, norweigin, etc.. you know, northern european languages.. descend from; they are not latin based as many people think.) the trilled r is actually maintained. Linguists have no idea where on the language tree it was dropped.

  11. Samer Jamal says:

    Salam, first of all I would like to thank you for this wonderful article, I am a native Arabic speaker and I am proud to speak it. I would disagree with you at some points in this article. I would like to give you the meaning of Abraham, which originally in AR pronounced “Abu Rahim” meaning ” the merciful father”…i would also like to add that Akkadian was Arabic written with akkadian alphabet, other alphabets wrot AR were nabtean and Canaanite as well as eremite/aramaic.

    • jewamongyou says:

      According to the Torah, “Abraham” meant “father of many nations”, though I suppose we can entertain any alternate theories we like. As for Akkadian being Arabic, this is an odd assertion to make. Arabic wasn’t introduced into that area until the Arab conquest hundred of years later.

    • Yirmeyahu says:

      Sorry, but I disagree with you, and I think JewAmoungYou would agree with me as well. Abraham according to the Torah does in fact mean ‘Father of the Nations’. Abraham is not an Arabic name. It’s Hebrew. While Hebrew and Arabic are closely related languages they still have their differences and are distinct from each other. You must also understand that Arabic did not develop until the ‘Common Era’. That would be during AD times. The earliest surviving writings are dated to 8th century CE. Scholars do not believe it’s any older then the 6th century CE. There is also the fact that most Arabic dialects are unintelligible to each other. Egyptian is so well known due to their position in the media. The earliest surviving Hebrew text may have been found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. It’s a piece of pottery written using the Oldest Hebrew alphabet known to man. It is form the 10 century BCE. The Dead Sea Scrolls themselves are at least 2,000 years old. As you can see Hebrew is plainly older then Arabic. It makes no sense that the Hebrew people would have borrowed from a language that did not exist yet.

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