• TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Tetragrammaton

    The Tetragrammaton (/ˌtɛtrəˈɡræmətɒn/) or Tetragram (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning "[consisting of] four letters") is the four-letter Hebrew word יהוה‎ (transliterated as YHWH) — Wikipedia

    Ancient Hebrew was written without vowels, so that the god's name is only known as YHWH. — Wikipedia

    From the little that I know, some ancient languages (Egyptian and the Semitic language family), the written words generally are missing vowels.

    Three possibilities:

    1. It was assumed that the correct vowels were universally known. Ergo, there would be no confusion.

    2. Written work were actually not meant to be understood by everybody. The missing vowels make words ambiguous e.g. sn could mean sun, sin, son, soon, you get the idea. In other words, books in those days were a simple way of sending coded messages (cryptography).

    3. The vowels didn't matter e.g. God = Good = Guard = Goad. They all meant the same thing.

    I might've missed a spot.

    Please discuss.
  • Hermeticus
    108
    This was basically the standard some thousand years ago. The Greek changed this system because apparently, the words they were using would have been too disambiguous.

    This system of writing is generally called abjad.

    Keep in mind that only scholars knew how to read and write. It's not that written works weren't meant to be understood - but a majority of people simply couldn't.

    Either way,
    1. It was assumed that the correct vowels were universally known. Ergo, there would be no confusion.TheMadFool
    this was certainly true. Until we got ourselves a few words too many at least.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    So, you're saying the correct vowels would be inserted by the reader who would know that based on...???
  • tim wood
    7.9k
    So, you're saying the correct vowels would be inserted by the reader who would know that based on...???TheMadFool

    C'mon, MF. Think a little bit. English is spoken even as a first language around the world, so what is the correct pronunciation of "schedule"? Or "controversy"? And so on. And can you understand it as it's spoken around the world? I cannot. And never mind where it's spoken as a second or third language.

    Ancient Greek was a lingua franca of the ancient world from west of Sicily to the border of Afghanistan. Do you imagine in that world it was pronounced the same from one end of that world to the other?

    However yhwh was pronounced, on those occasions when it was pronounced (which was when, according to your sources?), would have been correct.
  • Hermeticus
    108
    So, you're saying the correct vowels would be inserted by the reader who would know that based on...???TheMadFool

    Based on the spoken word.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    C'mon, MF. Think a little bit. English is spoken even as a first language around the world, so what is the correct pronunciation of "schedule"? Or "controversy"? And so on. And can you understand it as it's spoken around the world? I cannot. And never mind where it's spoken as a second or third language.

    Ancient Greek was a lingua franca of the ancient world from west of Sicily to the border of Afghanistan. Do you imagine in that world it was pronounced the same from one end of that world to the other?

    However yhwh was pronounced, on those occasions when it was pronounced (which was when, according to your sources?), would have been correct.
    tim wood

    There are various, regionally peculiar, ways of pronouncing words but the issue I've raised is specific to ancient languages in and around the middle east in which case your comment is irrelvant. Too, I'm not talking about pronunciation per se (spoken word), my question is about books/documents (written word).

    Based on the spoken word.Hermeticus

    Seems impossible.
  • jamalrob
    3.1k
    my question is about books/documents (written word)TheMadFool

    But vowels and consonants are by definition speech sounds, and written letters represent them. If there's no need to represent speech, neither consonants nor vowels are required in the alphabet or whatever.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    But vowels and consonants are by definition speech sounds, and written letters represent them. If there's no need to represent speech, neither consonants nor vowels are required in the alphabet or whatever.jamalrob

    Speech is being rendered into words but...a key component of speech - vowels - that seem to me absolutely necessary to distinguish words with identical consonants are missing. Why?
  • jamalrob
    3.1k
    You weirdly rejected Tim's answer so I won't attempt one myself. In any case, it's an empirical question for historical linguistics and I'm not sure where the question is coming from.
  • jamalrob
    3.1k
    BTW there are other ways of indicating vowel sounds in writing, without using separate letters. I think modern Hebrew does this, though I'm not sure.
  • Hermeticus
    108
    Speech is being rendered into words but...a key component of speech - vowels - that seem to me absolutely necessary to distinguish words with identical consonants are missing. Why?TheMadFool

    It worked to some degree. Not perfectly though - that's why in this day and age most of these languages use some form of indication for what vowel goes where. But you can't compare it to the english language. For starters, there are far fewer words with identical consonants and when they are the same, they're usually somehow related to another.

    Have a look at semitic roots.
    Most hebrew words have a triliteral root consisting of three consonants.

    Here's the K-T-B root so you get an idea what this looks like in praxis. Note the similarity between them.

    Also there's the aspect of context. I can even _____ out whole _____ and you'll still ____ what I'm saying.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    It worked to some degree.Hermeticus

    :ok:

    Not perfectly thoughHermeticus

    So, not perfect but good enough. How exactly? An illustration please. Thank you.

    Also there's the aspect of context. I can even _____ out whole _____ and you'll still ____ what I'm saying.Hermeticus

    The problem with that is one has to first have a context and for that some words have to be understood but then that's precisely the problem. See below:

    1. Rd Ppl = Red Apple OR Rude People.
  • Hermeticus
    108
    So, not perfect but good enough. How exactly? An illustration please. Thank you.TheMadFool

    I've given you the example of the K-T-B root in Hebrew. If that doesn't help illustrate how the whole concept works, I don't know how to help you.

    The problem with that is one has to first have a context and for that some words have to be understood but then that's precisely the problem. See below:

    1. Rd Ppl = Red Apple OR Rude People.
    TheMadFool

    Again: This does NOT work with the english language. You're completely overlooking the radical differences between language systems as well as the lack of vocabulary in ancient language. The Tanakh only contains about 8700 distinct words and about 2000 roots. Modern hebrew has about 33.000 words.

    English in comparison is estimated to historically have over a million word definitions. About 170.000 words are currently in active use.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    I might've missed a spot.TheMadFool

    I understood that the point is that it is a name that could not be spoken, because to speak the name was to profane it.

    Observant Jews and those who follow Talmudic Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה‎ nor do they read aloud proposed transcription forms such as Yahweh or Yehovah; instead they replace it with a different term, whether in addressing or referring to the God of Israel. Common substitutions in Hebrew are Adonai ("My Lord") or Elohim (literally "gods" but treated as singular when meaning "God") in prayer, or HaShem ("The Name") in everyday speech.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Again: This does NOT work with the english language. You're completely overlooking the radical differences between language systems as well as the lack of vocabulary in ancient language. The Tanakh only contains about 8700 distinct words and about 2000 roots. Modern hebrew has about 33.000 words.

    English in comparison is estimated to historically have over a million word definitions. About 170.000 words are currently in active use.
    Hermeticus

    I see. People those days had a limited vocabulary. So with the possibility space for words being small, it wasn't really that hard to guess the correct vowels to be inserted/affixed/suffixed into/to a given combination of consonants. The natural question then is why adopt a more complicated writing system when all that guessing & extra layer of context hunting could be done away with a single stroke - writing down the vowels? Were ancient writers über geniuses, one book, containing only consonants, could be multiple books, each narrative/account recorded a matter of inserting different, the right, vowel permutation?

    For example:
    Consonant permutation: Trn th thr chk

    1. Turn the other cheek [one book]

    2. Train thee their chook [another book]

    Many secrets maybe hidden in ancient texts. I know this is taking it a bit too far but what if all of science too is one of the books contained in ancient texts? We just need to find out the correct vowels to add to the consonants.

    I understood that the point is that it is a name that could not be spoken, because to speak the name was to profane it.

    Observant Jews and those who follow Talmudic Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה‎ nor do they read aloud proposed transcription forms such as Yahweh or Yehovah; instead they replace it with a different term, whether in addressing or referring to the God of Israel. Common substitutions in Hebrew are Adonai ("My Lord") or Elohim (literally "gods" but treated as singular when meaning "God") in prayer, or HaShem ("The Name") in everyday speech.
    Wayfarer

    Will get back to you later.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    no real need for that, it's really a simple point. I think the whole idea of the missing vowels being supplied by guesswork is blst though.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    blstWayfarer

    You forgot an "h"! :lol:
  • Hermeticus
    108
    The natural question then is why adopt a more complicated writing system when all that guessing & extra layer of context hunting could be done away with a single stroke - writing down the vowels?TheMadFool

    This is not adopting a more complicated writing system. I think it's actually more simplistic than our way of writing. What it's lacking is detail, which is why it evolved over time.

    I think you're looking at this from a far too modern perspective. We're literally talking about some of the first writting systems in the world here. They weren't thought through THAT well.

    Here's a historical angle that might get the whole principle of abjads across:
    The very first writting systems were all pictographical. Think of hieroglyphs. They were an immediate visual abstraction of a thing. Over time, these abstractions got more abstract.

    Let's have a look at the evolution of cuneiform for instance.
    mesopotamiacuneiform.gif
    Note how in the later cuneiform, the SHAPE of the pictogram is actually retained.

    Language back then was simplistic. Anything that could be associated with the symbol of the head was "SAG". Context is absolutely 100% essential here. "SAG" could be anything from "head" to "mouth" to "speak" to "person" to directions like "top" or "front". This is exactly the same as how the semitic roots - i.e. words with the same consonants in Hebrew all go in the same direction. Rather than "not being hard to guess", seldomly there was any guessing at all. The question only was in which context a specific symbol had to be understood.

    What I'm ultimately trying to say, instead of looking at a word, consider it as looking at a pictogram.
    To use the K-T-B root example again:

    כ-ת-ב
    Indicates ANYTHING that has to do with writting. The actual meaning being derived by the content of the sentence.

    "I am כ-ת-ב"
    "You are כ-ת-ב"
    "The Tanakh has been כ-ת-ב around 1.200 BCE"
    "He works as a כ-ת-ב for the press."
    "The newspaper consists of כ-ת-ב"
    "Have you read Platos last כ-ת-ב?"
  • Hanover
    7k
    BTW there are other ways of indicating vowel sounds in writing, without using separate letters. I think modern Hebrew does this, though I'm not sure.jamalrob

    Not just modern Hebrew, but the vowel marks have been in existence for over a 1,000 years. For example, the word for dog is (spelled right to left) "כלב", which does not contain vowels. An exact transliteration would be KLV. However, if you added the vowels, it would look like this: כֶּלֶב, with those dots indicating it should be pronounced kelev. The dot on the inside of the backward "c" looking letter indicates it is pronounced like a K as opposed to that throat sound you hear in Hebrew, without which you wouldn't actually know how it is to be pronounced. It's sort of like the C in English, which is sometimes an S and sometimes a K (although the French use the C with the cedilla ç to clarify). Our G and J can be ambiguous as well, but that rarely poses any confusion for the native speaker.

    Even consider words like "thought" (and countless others) that are not phonetic, and even some Asian languages that are not phonetic at all, yet are easily read and spoken by native speakers. The point being there is nothing unusual about a written language not directly representing the sounds of the words when spoken.

    When Hebrew is written among speakers, they don't use the vowels because it's not necessary to be understood. For example, here is a Hebrew version of a newspaper and it does not contain any of those vowel marks: https://www.haaretz.co.il/ When they choose to insert them and when not, I'm not sure, but I would assume the less sophisticated writings would be more likely to include them, considering it can be generally understood without them.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Now it makes sense. The consonants had a prefix/suffix that was constant. So, for instance k could only be ka and never ke or ku or ki or ko and t could only be too and definitely not tu or ti or ta or to or te to use English vowels for demonstration purposes only. Thus the written word tk, no sweat, is to be read as took. No ambiguity at all.

    However,

    1) That means a very small word bank for ancient languages. I find that hard to believe but that's not an argument.

    2) It still seems very intriguing to consider my theory that a single book in an ancient language, containing only consonants, could be many books all at once, each book emerging from the same text by using the correct vowel permutation. Perhaps there's a key in these texts themselves.

    This hypothesis actually makes sense because most writing those days, those that were deemed important at least, were written on stone (walls/blocks/etc.). Space was at a premium. Ergo, my hunch, that one sentence of only consonants could convey more than one meaning, the right sequence of vowels revealing them. :chin: I dunno.
  • jamalrob
    3.1k
    :cool:

    When Hebrew is written among speakers, they don't use the vowels because it's not necessary to be understood. For example, here is a Hebrew version of a newspaper and it does not contain any of those vowel marks: https://www.haaretz.co.il/Hanover

    This is the main thing I wan't sure of, to what extent the vowel marks are used today. I'd guess it's similar with Arabic.

    But TheMadFool seems to be looking for something more mysterious.
  • Hanover
    7k
    2) It still seems very intriguing to consider my theory that a single book in an ancient language, containing only consonants, could be many books all at once, each book emerging from the same text by using the correct vowel permutation. Perhaps there's a key in these texts itself.TheMadFool

    If you're looking for a deep religious reason for why no vowels in the OT, see: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3087993/jewish/Why-No-Vowels-in-the-Torah.htm

    Choose to buy into that as you see fit.
  • Hermeticus
    108
    The consonants had a prefix/suffix that was constant. So, for instance k could only be ka and never ke or ku or ki or koTheMadFool
    No.

    1) That means a very small word bank for ancient languages.TheMadFool
    Yes.

    2) It still seems very intriguing to consider my theory that a single book in an ancient language, containing only consonants, could be many books all at once, each book emerging from the same text by using the correct vowel permutation. Perhaps there's a key in these texts themselves.TheMadFool
    Certain original meanings of certain words, sentences and phrases likely are misunderstood for this reason. I don't see the content of a book completely changing though. Ancient vocabulary wasn't extensive enough to pull a feat like that.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    You never know, you never know. Have you heard of OOP Art? We can't just reject theories out of hand. Mind you, I'm not trying to make a case for my hypothesis. G'day.
  • Gnomon
    1.7k
    1. It was assumed that the correct vowels were universally known. Ergo, there would be no confusion.TheMadFool
    I suspect that written language without vowels was only possible when the vocabulary was small. As writing and literacy and intercultural communication became more common, the sheer number of words would make a more explicit coding necessary. For example, the total number of separate English words is almost 200,000, and expanding every day. And a single person's vocabulary would be a fraction of the total. But, with vowels, we can sound them out, and perhaps guess at their meaning.

    Besides, even YHWH became a taboo word and the vowels for a different word (Adonai ; Lord) were substituted. So, the inherent ambiguity was convenient for coded messages and magical implications. And the Hebrews made liberal use of both. :smile:
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    YHWH became a taboo wordGnomon

    He Who Must Not Be Named



    WTF?
  • MAYAEL
    116
    My hypothesis is that it's not a name because that which has a name has a creator
    So instead it's 4 acronyms
  • tim wood
    7.9k
    The impression I have got from trying to understand (i.e., not just translate) ancient Greek is not that primitive speakers were unable to figure out vowels or nuance or complexity, but rather that language itself was incidental in conveying meaning and significance, those things being presupposed to be shared, particulars being communicated by reference to that which was shared. And these things being shared, the language itself could and did remain crude (by modern standards).

    An example: two officers overlooking a battle might well in any modern language have a somewhat long discussion of their present situation and what do do in it and about it. But I can well imagine two Homeric heroes, one gesturing. The other, "What?" The first, "That!" And the second nodding - conversation complete.

    And I can further imagine that the development of the literatures of the world led slowly and then increasingly to the showing in the language itself of what was once understood external to language, thus the words evolving from tokens that referred to actualities, knowledge of which presumed shared and effectively communicated by mere reference, to meanings transferred to language itself and thus conveyed no longer by mere reference but by the language itself. - How often do we read, in approaching ancient literature, even up through Icelandic sagas, that the audience - the ones hearing - were already long familiar with the characters and situations.

    Implicit is that the being-in-the-world, then mainly indistinguishable from just being, was both different and alien from corresponding modern experience. And that maybe Heidegger knew a thing or two.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Common substitutions in Hebrew are Adonai ("My Lord") or Elohim (literally "gods" but treated as singular when meaning "God")Wayfarer

    Apparently, Adonai comes from the root “dn” from which “adon” that can mean “lord” or (especially in the plural adonim) “God”.

    For example, Joseph is referred to as “adon” or “adonim” (Genesis 43:20; 44:5, 7-9, 18 -20, 22).

    Joseph is called “adon”, “lord” because he is said to be ruler over all of Egypt.

    The Egyptians had a God of the name Aten/Aton who was represented by the disc or orb of the sun.

    Aten/Aton was raised to the status of supreme or sole God by Pharaoh Akhenaten (c. 1353–1336 BC).

    Akhenaten also built a new capital city with a large temple to Aten/Aton and prohibited the cult of other gods and the use of religious statues.

    Akhenaten regarded himself as the son of God Aten/Aton, therefore he was both “lord” and “God”.

    The Hebrews lived in Egypt for some time before returning with Moses to Canaan.

    Could there be a link between Aten/Aton and Adon?

    [The name of Mose (Moshe) itself may be derived from or otherwise connected with Egyptian "mose" ("son") which occurs in the title of Egyptian kings like Thutmose.]

    See also Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism
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