Thursday, November 24, 2016

Canaanite, not Hebrew

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON: The Early History of the Alphabet and the Recent Claim that the Northwest Semitic Inscriptions from Serabit el-Khadem and Wadi el-Hol are Hebrew: Spoiler Alert, They’re Not. The discussion is technical, but here's an excerpt that sums it up:
In short, the things that Douglas Petrovich considers to be markers of Hebrew are, in fact, just markers of the Semitic languages in general. We even have a term of these sorts of words that occur in multiple Semitic languages. We call them “Common Semitic, because they are attested in so many languages.” In short, the only thing that can reasonably be said about the Early Alphabetic inscriptions from Serabit el-Khadem and Wadi el-Hol (etc.) is that they are written in a Northwest Semitic language and script. There is nothing in these inscriptions that is diagnostic for Hebrew. It would be interesting if there were features that could be considered distinctively Hebrew, but there are not. So, as has been the case for a very long time, we refer to these inscriptions as Canaanite or Early Alphabetic. ...
And Professor Rollston has a follow-up post here: The Problem with Reading the Word ‘Hebrew’ in Sinai 115: An Egyptologist’s Response.

Cross-file under Epigraphy.