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Proto-Semitic s1, s2 & s3

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Abu Rashid, Feb 2, 2010.

  1. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    I am having some trouble understanding the relationship between these three letters, which seem to get a little jumbled between the various Semitic languages.

    Here is what I understand, and if I'm wrong, please correct me:

    Hebrew "shin" seems to be etymologically equated with Arabic "sin" in that words with the "sin" radical in Arabic will usually have the "shin" radical in Hebrew. Sometimes however in words like "Israel" the "shin" letter becomes "sin" (by positioning a dot over one of the 'teeth' of the letter), which seems to be etymologically equated to Arabic's "shin" in most cases. These letters also look the same, having three teeth pointing upwards.

    According to "Ancient languages of Syria-Palestine and Northern Arabia", when the Hebrews adopted the Phoenician alphabet, it did not contain enough letters for all of their letters, and so that's how sin/shin converged.

    Then there is samek(h), which I don't understand at all. It's sound today in Hebrew seems to be the same as "sin" in Arabic, and even words like "salam" I've seen translated into Hebrew as "samek, lam, alef, meem". Was it different in the past? Because it would seem to just be the same as "sin".

    Any light shed on the confusion I seem to having here would be good.
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    There are two different questions intertwined which might be the cause of your confusion:

    1. The letters Samekh, Shin and Sin:
    In Phoenician/Hebrew/Aramaic script Samekh and Shin/Sin are two (not three) different letters. In Hebrew writing with diacritic marks, Shin and Sin are disambiguated by a dot on the right above (Shin) and left above (Sin) the letter. The Arabic Sin and Shin are both derived from the Aramaic letter Shin/Sin. Arabic has no letter derived from Samekh.

    2. Development of sounds
    In Proto-Semitic, there were certainly three different sounds. The traditional assumption is that Samekh was , Shin [ʃ] and Sin [ɬ]. If I remember correctly, others reconstruct the origin of Samekh as [ts], Shin and Sin [tɬ]. But the only thing that matters is that the three were originally different. In Hebrew the sounds of Shamekh and Sin merged to while Shin remained/became [ʃ]. In other Canaanite languages Shin and Sin merged which explains that there is only one letter for both while Samekh remained separate.
    In Arabic Sin became [ʃ] while Samekh and Shin merged to . Some ancient Hebrew dialects must have shown the Samekh/Shin merger as well (see here).
     
  3. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    Add to the list the Hebrew letter "tzadi" which exists in Arabic but its Arabic pronounciation sounds like "sin" to the Hebrew ear.

    This is a problem for people called Tzartzur, a common Arabic name: "sarsur" in Hebrew means "pimp".
     
  4. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    But only to a modern Hebrew ear. The classical pronunciation was most likely [sˤ] (emphatic s) like in Arabic. Proto-Semitic also had [ɬˤ] (emphatic Sin, still present in South Arabian) which in Hebrew and other Canaanite languages merged with Tsade while it remained separate in Arabic, becoming the emphatic "d" (Ḍad, ﺽ).

    EDIT: The table here gives a good overview of the development of unvoiced Proto-Semitic sibilants. (I am not sure why they write צ and ץ for ṣ and ṣ´, respectively. In Hebrew they are just graphical variants of the same letter: צ=non final, ץ=final.)
     
  5. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    As far as I'm aware nobody would call himself this in Arabic because it means cockroach :)

    If you mean صرصور (sarsoor) that is.
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The ambiguity is to a modern Hebrew, not to an Arabic ear. Most modern Hebrew speakers ignore the difference between emphatic and non-emphatic variants of a consonant (like Kaph and Qoph).
     
  7. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    Yes. Wikipedia about the Arab Israeli MP Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsoor/Tzartzoor:
    http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%90%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%94%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%A6%D7%A8%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%A8

    He insists to be called Tzartzoor and not Sarsoor in Hebrew, apparently for the reason mentioned above. In Hebrew it [almost] means cricket, not cockroach (cricket = tzartzar).
     
  8. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    berndf,



    I don't think this is the cause of my confusion, but it could well be. I recognise there's obviously a difference between the sounds, which probably existed in most languages independant of any orthography that later developed, and the alphabets which were later used to record and represent those sounds.



    Does "sin" appear often in Hebrew? It doesn't seem so from the exposure I've had to Hebrew so far, which admittedly isn't a lot. I can only think of a few words in which it exists, like Israel and the word for ten, which in Arabic uses "shin". Also something else I thought of is that the Arabic letter "tha" is also mixed in with "shin" in Hebrew as well, so that further adds to the confusion.



    Why do you say that? Could it be that they were actually "sin", "shin" and "tha"?? I wonder if "tha" is etymologically equated with "samek" in any cases.



    I'm not quite sure exactly what those sounds equate to. Since I don't really understand the system you're using there (IPA i think?). I know the middle one is a "sh" sound, but that's about it. Is the the same as English "s"? and what is the last one like?



    Isn't there already a letter in Hebrew (tsade) with that sound??



    So Arabic has reversed the "sin" and "shin" sounds from the original Semitic sounds?




     
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    No. As you wrote before, "th" merged with Shin in Canaanite languages, e.g. Arabic thalatha=Hebrew shalosh.

    [
    ɬ] is like the Welsh double "L", something like a "sh" with a lateral release which makes it sound like a mixure of "sh" and "l". Search for the keyword "ɬ" in Wikipedia, there are samples. The Arabic ad, , which was originally an emphatic [ɬ] still has a lateral plosive release which sort of shows its origin.
    That's correct. But only represents the unvoiced "s" like in English "sun". The voiced "s" as in English "rose" is [z] in IPA.

    That's modern Hebrew.:) I am not quite sure where it comes from but probably from Yiddish. The German "z", pronounced [ts], is perceived as a "heavy s". This might be the origin.


    And, as I wrote, this is only one of the reconstructions of the Proto-Semitic sound.
    Probably rather Sin [
    ɬ] was simplified to [ʃ] producing the Arabic Shin. Samehk, however it was realized, merged with Shin, however it was realized, producing the Arabic Sin .

    Concerning the Hebrew Shin/Arabic Sin: It is unclear which one is the original and which one changed. The Proto-Semitic sound is usually transcribed "š" which suggests the pronunciation [ʃ]; but this was just the assumption of the 19th century scholars who created the system. It doesn't have to be like this.

    This table is a good synopsis of the various Semitic consonant-shifts. The Symbols used for the Proto-Semitic sounds are usally a fair indication how these sound were probably pronounced but strictly speaking they are just names for unknown sounds.
     
  10. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    This discussion is a bit difficult to follow for me (ignorant as I am). But just to put my modest grain of salt : the difference between Shin and Sin in (Biblical) Hebrew must have been there already if you refer to the story about Shiboleth and Siboleth ...
    Another example is the mention of "Shin" in the Bible (also read as "Sin") and [wrongly] supposed to have meant China (from Qin/Ch'in) in "the land of Sinim (Isaiah,49:12)", probably a region close to modern Assuan (in Egypt).
     
  11. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes, I mentioned this in #2 above (last sentence). From the Bible passage it is actually unclear whether only Samekh and Shin merged in this dialect or also Sin. In early Canaanite dialects different mergers seemed to have occured.
     
  12. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    (didn't see the here site)
    Is it really the Samekh merging into Sin ? Graphically Samekh and Sin/Shin are very different. I was once told that Tet and Samekh had a link. This is why Tet is used to transcribe Greek Theta (sorry, can't write neither Greek nor Hebrew here).
     
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The bible quotation suggests that Samekh and Shin (not Sin) merged phonetically in Ephraimite dialect. Spelling is an entirely different matter. The alphabet wasn't designed for Hebrew but for different Canaanite (Phoenician) dialects where Shin and Sin must have been merged.
    I am not aware of such a link. But this might well be my ignorance.


     
  14. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    What I meant was that Shin and Sin are the same letters (with a dot added) , whereas Samekh is graphically (in its Hebrew version) completely different.
    But then, the difference may not be so marked in the original Phenician version.
     
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Excactly what I meant. There must have been...
    Where "merged" means "pronounced the same way". This is the most plausible assumption why Shin and Sin are the same letter in the Phoenician alphabet.
     
  16. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    So in most Canaanite dialects, these letters were not actually distinguished between at all is what you're suggesting there?

    Only Hebrew (that we know of) distinguished between them, but Hebrew was using an alphabet which didn't have separate characters for them?

    Since these northern Semitic languages all seem to have some confusion regarding sin/shin I'm guessing then this must've been where the letters became swapped. Since all the southern Semitic languages seem to be the reverse, and they all distinguish properly both in writing and speech between sin/shin, meaning there's much less chance they could've easily have become reversed over time.

    Does anyone know the situation of Akkadian regarding sin/shin? Does it agree with the northern or southern languages? And does it distinguish properly in writing between the two?
     
  17. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    They only do now. In antiquity Arabic was written without any dots at all, so ب ت ث all appeared the same, and so did س، ش. The system of dots doesn't appear consistently until the 7th century. Besides, the Arabic alphabet is still ultimately descended from the North Semitic alphabet(s). The samekh just didn't give rise to any Arabic letter, but it was still used in Nabataean which is the alphabet from which Arabic was formed.

    In Akkadian, Hebrew sin and shin are both sh in cognates, so since it is just one sound there's no reason to distinguish (I suppose this is the same as what happened in Phoenician). Samekh is s in cognates. I assume these are distinguished in cuneiform, but I don't know enough about cuneiform.

    I also don't know what you mean by all the southern Semitic languages. What's the situation in Amharic, Ge'ez, Tigrinya, Modern South Arabian and Old South Arabian?
     
  18. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    With all this, it is still difficult for me to see (or understand) a graphical link between shin/sin and samekh.
    Especially when you take into accounts a few facts like these :
    .shin is a special letter (cf.shaddai), that appears on the mezuzah, pendants etc and is related to G.od
    . samekh may come from a graphic (hieroglyphic) representation of a fish (samak in Arabic), different from shin (a three teeth fork)
     
  19. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Why would you assume there should be a link or do I misunderstand you?
     
  20. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    True but obviously they were all preserved quite well. I think Arabic speakers tend to pride themselves on their very distinct ability to distinguish between different sounds, which may even sound similar to outsiders. And have made sure they preserved them quite well.

    I just can't imagine the two letters becoming completely reversed like that, so the only situation I can envisage here is of some languages losing the distinction between the two, and then regaining it, and they became mixed up in the process.
     
  21. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    I don't/cannot assume there is a link between shin/sin and samekh.
     
  22. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I didn't imply any numbers. I only said that in Central Semitic languages any two way merger of the original three non-emphatic unvoiced sibilants must have occured: Samehk-Shin (e.g. Arabic and some Hebrew dialects), Samekh-Sin (other Hebrew dialects including modern Hebrew), Shin-Sin (suggested by the fact that there is only one letter for both; maybe under Akkadian influence?).

    Those were different sound shifts, not confusions.

    I don't understand what you mean. Modern South Arabian realizes Samehk and Shin like Hebrew and not like Arabic and it still has /ɬ/ for Sin, i.e. it distinguishes all three sounds and not just two like Hebrew or Arabic.

    As clevermizo wrote, Shin-Sin are not distinguished but Samekh is distinct from Shin-Sin. This is the same situation as we find in the Phoenician alphabet.
     
  23. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Then why did you write "With all this, it is still difficult for me to see (or understand) a graphical link between shin/sin and samekh.", if you don't think there is or should be a link? I am not trying to be clever here. I am just trying to understand what your wanted to say.
     
  24. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    The whole discussion here (if I follow this well) is about a link between shin/sin (one letter) and samekh (another letter).
    Given the reasons I have tried to expose, amongst which :
    . graphic differences between shin/sin and samekh
    . shin/sin having a special religious significance in Judaism (not the case with samekh)
    it is therefore difficult for me to imagine that both letters have the link described here.
     
  25. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I see what you mean. It is not a question of creating two spellings for the same sound. All scholars agree that Samekh, Shin and Sin were originally three different sounds. Just, two of the three became over time pronounced the same. We have to assume that the /s/ in
    ספר and שר were once pronounced differently. There are analogies in other languages. In English /f/ in enough is spelled <gh> and not <f> as in fish. This is so because the spelling of enough corresponds to an older pronunciation ([eˈnoʊχ] rather than [ɪˈnʌf]) and the sound originally represented by <gh> disappeared in Modern English. In Hebrew the original sound of Sin (like a Welsh <ll>) disappeared and became pronounced the same way as Samekh.
     
  26. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English


    Couldn't it be possible that Samekh was originally Sin, and had the same pronunciation of 's' that it has today, but that in Phoenician and Hebrew for instance it became confused with Shin, whilst in Arabic it became a new letter Sin, which might appear like Shin, but doesn't necessarily have to do "descended" from it?

    Are there for instance cognates which have Sin in Arabic, yet Samekh in Hebrew?

    From what you've stated above, it would seem even the name "Israel" itself was not originally Israel but Illrael??

    It seems to me that you're creating a whole other pronunciation for Sin, which doesn't seem to exist in any Semitic language (does it??) just to explain why Samekh and Sin are graphically different.
     
  27. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    N.B.: Like the Welsh <ll>, not like the English <ll>.
    As I wrote earlier, it still exists in Modern South Arabian which is understood to be the phonetically most conservative living Semitic language.

    See here for a summary of the development in different Semitic languages.
     
  28. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Thank you for taking the trouble (so patiently) to give me such a thorough explanation.
    But given the fact that we are talking (to speak simply) about the sound s (I guess sh is excluded here), I don't see what other way to pronounce s there can be, even if some languages (like Chinese) do possess different sounds close (or derived) from s.
    I would tend to follow (with all due respect) here Abou Rashid :
     
  29. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    As I wrote before, the [ɬ] still exists in some Semitic languages and its simplification to [ʃ] as in Arabic and Phoenician is a very obvious development. In Hebrew the sound went in a different direction.

    This is a very well researched field in Semiticism and it is certainly not an Ad-Hoc assumption to explain a pecularity in Hebrew spelling. The reconstruction of Sin as [ɬ] was mainly driven from the analysis of Southern Semitic languages. And I am not aware of any scholar who contradicted this reconstruction ([ɬ] or possibly [tɬ]).
     
  30. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Yes I had a listen to it from the link you posted earlier.

    The link you provided says only in two dialects of MSA, granted they are the two largest dialects (if I recall correctly).

    Is it the MSA languages or the OSA languages which are supposed to be the most phonologically conservative? I always thought it was the OSA languages.

    As they say "The sound is conjectured as a phoneme for Proto-Semitic.."

    I'm not saying you're wrong. In fact I'm asking because I'm completely lost on this point, and it's abundantly clear you are much more knowledgable on it than I, so I am merely questioning you to try and find out more.
     
  31. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It also mentioned Mehri. The link was missing in the Wikipedia article. I added it.
    Every reconstruction is a conjecture. No-one who could testify today ever heared a Proto-Semitic speaker. In this particular case, I'd say quite a solid one. It seems pretty clear that there originally were three sounds. The only debate is how they were realized.
     
  32. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It might be of interest to you. I found here an article on the web explaining the history of Arabic sound shifts. Arabic Shin (=Hebrew Sin) you find on page 6. There are more indication why the original pronunciation must have been lateral.
     
  33. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Thank you for the link. Will require some time to digest but most interesting.
     
  34. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    This is a very romantic idea. However, the sound change we're talking about probably happened far into antiquity, and we have no idea what Arabic speakers thought of their Old Arabic languages back then, or how careful they were in preserving pronunciation. It might not have concerned them in the age before the classical pre-Islamic poetry. Certainly the preservation you mention becomes relevant in the Islamic period when the Arabic language became the religious language of Islam. You can't make a claim about how people felt about their language 2 thousand years ago based on this much more recent history. Unless one of those Old North Arabian graffiti says "WE LUV PRNNCING THNGZ RIGHT!"

    Basically we don't know which sounds were switched around first nor where, nor is there any logical reason in my opinion to assume one group has kept it right over another.
     
  35. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    I read it, but most of that linguistic jargon is a little over my head.

    But the general understanding I got from it is that they are trying to suggest that because some words with different letters have similar meanings, therefore one supposedly earlier form must've fused some of it's consonants to become the other. Seems quite a stretch to me. I dunno, perhaps if I understood the jargon a little better, I might be more convinced, it just sounds like a lot of guesswork and not much substance.

    They did confirm what I asked though:


    "Furthermore, the sibilant /s/ in Arabic corresponds to two different phonemes of Proto-Semitic, represented by /s/ (samekh)...".
     
  36. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    There are many ways to reconstruct historic sound shifts. The main "weapon" of the linguist here is to compare obvious cognates (i.e. words of the same origin, i.e. Hebrew Shalom and Arabic Salam). Comparing two languages is usually not enough, because this way you can e.g. not tell a merger in one language from a split in the other. Fortunately in language group like IE and Semitic we have so many different dialect and languages plus historical development stages of them that we usually can reconstruct the development. Sometimes these reconstructions only tell us about phonemes which must have been differentiated in a proto language without necessarily telling us how they were pronounced, like the famous h1, h2 and h3 sounds in PIE of which we don't know how they were articulated.


    As these reconstructions progress we also sometimes have to revise our original assumptions about cognates. E.g. knowing only German and Latin one would be led to believe that Latin habere and German haben (both meaning to have and both sharing the exact same stem hab-) were cognates. Knowing more about Proto-Germanic sound shifts allows we now believe that German haben is cognate to Latin capere (meaning to seize; with sound shifts /k/>/h/, /p/>/b/). It is a bit like with GPS navigation systems: The more satellites you receive the more precise your measurements become.
    Not quite. You asked about a single original phoneme ("original Sin") which split in Hebrew. The article talks about "two different" original ("Proto-Semitic") phonemes which merged in Arabic to /s/.
     
  37. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English


    I can appreciate a method like that, but it doesn't seem like they did that. It seems as if they just compared Arabic synonyms. Unless they left a lot of their evidences out.



    True, but I just worded my original question badly. what I really meant to ask was, the letter that is Sin in Arabic today was it related etymologically to Samekh in the old alphabets like Phoenician, Aramaic etc. since Arabic never inherited a Samekh, but all of a sudden had a similar sounding letter called Sin.
     
  38. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Sure, this isn't the whole story. I quoted the article mainly give a few…
    If the origin of the Hebrew Sin is both a sibilant and lateral everything points towards [
    ɬ]; that we find this very sound in South Arabian is then the icing on the cake.

    The correspondence of unvoiced sibilants to proto-language phonemes is of mainly derived by etymological comparisons. Because we have all kind of two way mergers and languages where the all three are distinguishable there is enough material to cross-check.

    Ok. I see. Now that we have explored the phonemic history, we turn to writing systems and their application to phonemes. This is indeed a different issue. This is mostly contained in previous posts of Clevermizo and myself but let me recapitulate.


    That in Hebrew spelling the use of the letters Samekh and Sin is etymologically consistent has something to do with the fact that the Phoenician alphabet is about 3000 years old and that Hebrew, as other Canaanite languages, started to use it that early. At that time Canaanite was most likely still a continuum of mutually intelligible dialects and the etymological correspondences were probably still obvious to people.

    On the other hand, when the Arabs crafted their own alphabet from the Aramaic alphabet (mainly from Nabataean but possibly with Syriac and Hebrew influences; all these alphabets only differ in letter shape and contain the same 22 letters in the same sequence as the original Phoenician alphabet), about one and a half millennia later, there was no reason why the use of letters should be consisted with etymology. Arabic took the letter ש, which became Arabic س, to represent both Arabic phonemes /s/ and /ʃ/, i.e. originally, the Arabic alphabet did not differentiate Shin and Sin at all. There was no use for the Samekh as a separate letter and it was simply dropped (see here).

    The separation of the original س into س andش was a second, independent development when diacritic markings were added to many letters to be able to differentiate all 28 Arabic consonants with an alphabet of only 15 distinguished shapes.
     
  39. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    Yes, I believe a fixed system of dots became especially important when necessary to read the Qur'an correctly - i.e., when there was a strong sociological reason to maintain correct pronunciation of symbols.

    Some reviews:

    Revell, E.J. The Diacritical Dots and the Development of the Arabic alphabet. J. Semitic Studies, XX(2): p. 178, 1975.

    Barud, BM. Arabic Alphabet, Scripts and Palaeography, in Gacek, A. The Arabic Manuscript Tradition, Ch. VI, 2008.

    Greundler, B. The Development of the Arabic Scripts: From the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century according to Dated Texts. Scholars Press, 1993.
     
  40. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    I just read a claim in the book "Ancient languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia" that Arabic up until the 9th. century actually had sin and shin reversed, the same as Hebrew, but then switched them in the 9th. century to how they are now.

    This claim sounds extremely unlikely, since Arabic has been very well documented since before this time, and also hundreds of thousands of people in each generation memorised the entire contents of the Qur'an, which would've made it pretty much impossible to switch letters like that. Also by this time Arabic had spread to such far flung corners of the world, that surely some strains with the supposedly original usage of sin/shin would've remained (since Arabic was spoken from Spain to Sindh).

    Does anybody have any information on this supposed switch in the 9th. century??
     
  41. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I sounds puzzling to me too. Are they talking about a real sound shift, i.e. was "Ismael" pronounced "Ishmael" as in Hebrew or are they talking about spelling only, i.e. "sh" without dots and "s" with three dots? Is it really talking about Classical Arabic of the 9th century A.D. or of Ancient North Arabian of the 9th century B.C.?
     
  42. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    It seems to be stating that sin was pronounced as shin now is and shin was pronounced as sin now is, and it mentions a third letter (I assume samek). It stated it occurred after the time Sibuwayh (died late 8th. century C.E) and claimed that in his writings he describes the letters being different to how they've been used after the 9th. century.
     
  43. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    If this is the case, I would imagin that this would have been common knowledge among the Arabs that that happened. Adding the dots to the letters was at an earlier time and we learn about it in the early years of school. Chaning the pronounciation of the letters is much more imporatant and I would imagin that it would have been taught to us.

    This is the first time I hear anything like that. I tend to agree with berndf that if this did happen, it would have more likely happend in the 9th cen. BC, not AD. It is still possible that Sibwayh mentioned that about something that happend 1700 years earlier, provided that he actually had access to such information of course - another possibility is that he was comparing Arabic to Hebrew, not Arabic to a previous version of Arabic.
     
  44. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    Or maybe to Nabatean Aramaic? Closer by geography and culture.
     
  45. mungu Senior Member

    Bulgarian
    I think a huge lot of the puzzles and misunderstandings in this thread are due to the fact that everybody is using the words sin, shin, and samekh without specifying whether he means sounds or letters. I'd recommend always saying "samekh/sin/shin letter" and "samekh/sin/shin sound". BTW, berndf, I admire your inexhaustible patience and balanced temper, I think you have the potential to be a teacher.
     
  46. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    PLEASE NOTE: ALL DATES I'M USING ARE C.E (Christian Era) NOT B.C.E (Before Christian Era).

    Maha,

    It's definitely talking about 9th century C.E and it's definitely talking only about classical Arabic. And it was claiming that what Sibawayh describes in his time (ie. in the 8th century C.E) about the sounds of the Arabic letters is the reverse of how we've known them since after his time (ie. from the 9th century C.E onwards). I will perhaps post the relevant passage from it when I get time. Anyway seems nobody else has heard of it. But I was sure I saw someone post something about this in another thread somewhere, I thought it was berndf, but maybe not.
     
  47. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Mungu,

    agreed 100%, perhaps because most of us are not linguists and therefore don't know the correct terminology.

    Anyway, the point here is that sin and shin sounds in Arabic and Hebrew are reversed to one another, regardless of the letters used to write them. For instance Shalom/Salaam type cognates show that the two sounds are reversed, and this is consistent in almost all cognates between the two languages. The book I was reading claims that in the 9th century C.E that Arabic reversed them, and prior to this they were the same as Hebrew. ie. Arabs prior to 9th century C.E said Shalaam not Salaam.
     
  48. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    "We know from the phonetic descriptions by the early Arab grammarian Sibawaihi (died c. AD 796) that in early Classical Arabic, س the reflex of Proto-Semitic */s/ + */š/, was pronounced something approaching [š], and that ش the reflex of Proto-Semitic */ś/, was pronounced something approaching [ɬ]. It was only subsequently that the pronunciation of س shifted to (sin), and that of ش to the [š] (šin) of later Arabic."

    It then provides a table which is something like this:

    Proto-Semitic___Arabic (before 9th. century AD)___Arabic (after 9th. century AD)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    */š/ }
    _____}______->________ [š] written س________->________ written س
    */s/ }

    */ś/_________->________[ɬ] written ش_________->________[š] written ش
     
  49. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    So it seems they're claiming that because sin and shin the sounds were written both without dots before 9th. century C.E therefore they were both the same sound, which was the current sound of shin. Then they shifted to the sound of current sin after this time.

    It would seem to me they're making these claims to try and "fit" Arabic into the way they already perceive Hebrew/Aramaic etc. So for instance, the word for sun in Hebrew is šamš, whilst in Arabic it is šams, therefore they assume in Arabic shin/sin must've been merged and become unmerged and confused so one took the first position in that word and the other took the last position, whilst in Hebrew it's the same letter in both positions.

    This seems to come from a position whereby etymologically Hebrew is considered older and therefore more correct, and the anomaly in Arabic must be due to a confusion of sounds.
     
  50. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Ok, that makes sense. Let me express this in my words: This quote describes the process of simplification of Arabic Shin from [ɬ] to [ʃ] which I explained earlier. At the time this happened "(after 9th. century AD)" the two Proto-Semitic sounds
    the reflex of which are Hebrew/Aramaic Semekh and Shin were already merged to a single sound [ʃ]. When the [ɬ] moved to [ʃ] the existing [ʃ] moved to , probably in order to keep the sounds distinct.

    So it is not two phonemes exchanging realizations but one sound moving to an already occupied position "pushing" the old occupant away to a third position which was previously empty.

    My own guess (which I can't prove, it is just a guess) is that the earlier realization of س was not exactly a [ʃ] but floating between and [ʃ] similar to the Greek Sigma or the Spanish <s>. When [ɬ] moved to [ʃ], the existing sound couldn't to pronounced so laxly any more and firmly became .
     

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