©1989 Isaac Mozeson New York: Shapolsky Publishers
In the beginning were these words. Come with me on an archeological dig. Let us remove the sands of millennia. We are deep in the valley of Shinar, reconstructing the Tower of Babel -- one brick, one word at a time. Together we will change the way we speak about the way we speak.
Put away your dictionaries-with their charming, old-fashioned myths of standardized spelling and pronunciation, with their superstitious, tribal need to create a new language ("Indo-European") out of ignorance of the ancient one. Take out, instead, your Bible-and a pair of human ears.
The Word speaks to you. Don't worry if you've never read anything on language, or if you've never heard a Hebrew word. You will soon know that you've never heard a word that wasn't Hebrew.
Let the language of Eden echo in your soul like the sound of your mother's voice in a dream...calling you home from far away and long ago.
If you love words and truth, you'll bear with me. If you are a language professional, you'll need far more patience, even courage, to hear me out. Yes, I began from the Biblical given that Hebrew is the Mother tongue (Genesis, chapter 11). It seems to me that I have begun to prove that "all the earth was of one speech, with a unified vocabulary." (The more words have changed, the more they have remained the same.) The "coincidence" criers cannot be happy with the mathematical odds of my having compiled all this data. Hebrew vocabulary has as much affinity with English as it has with Arabic. More English words can be clearly linked to Biblical Hebrew than to Latin, Greek or French. Most known English words, or their cognates, appear in this book. (Check the Index). The English words that got away don't represent holes in my thesis. Many words have simply mutated beyond recognition, so the unused half of my files will wait for a later, bolder edition.
With all my idol breaking, I have remained too true to conservative linguistic rules to be iconoclastic. I am grateful for my brief training in linguistics, and for the century of research into Indo-European roots that often made my discoveries possible. I stand on the shoulders of giants - though some linguists wish 14 get off their backs.
It was only a century and a half ago when a few German scientists brutalized Mother Hebrew and ripped her children from her arms. Languages without blond hair and blue eyes were systematically banished from the Germanic realm, packed into carefully marked boxcars, and shipped eastward to overcrowded and undernourished departments like Near Eastern Studies. No longer would Near Eastern, Asian or African dialects be called a brother language. These tongues and their speakers were said to have evolved from separate -and, by inference, inferior-families of apes.
New laws were instituted against the age-old concept of a universal, primary language. The irritating Judeo-Christian myth about Hebrew was dismissed as a typical Creationist fantasy which could not stand up to the rigors of scientific regularity. The new linguists never bothered to scientifically disprove the time-honored belief in the primacy of Hebrew, because, like most scientists and atheists, they worked from deep religious convictions.
With a sigh of relief, German culture was declared Judenrein (Jew-free). Accepted into the Indo-Aryan axis of languages were Balto-Slavic, Celtic, classical Greek and Latin-with all their alleged offspring-and even Indo-Iranian. Despite Abraham and David's intimacy with Hittites in the Bible, Hittite (under the euphemism Anatolian) was allowed to hold an honorary seat at the same linguistic table as the Germanics. Hittite was long dead, after all, and who is to say that Hebrew itself wouldn't have been venerated if only the Jews were finally extinct.
But no, in search of an honorable ancestor for the Aryan race, the linguists developed a theoretical, prototype language that could even claim Sanskrit as a child. And so, for the past several decades Western historical linguists have been the proud Dr. Frankenstein ceators of a proto "Indo-European" language that curiously favors the Germanic element.
Who would research Hebrew as the root language when even the Ph.D's in Semitics hung Hebrew out on a limb called West Semitic? Nobody uncovered a clay tablet of Proto-Semitic, but surely, the argument went, Hebrew evolved from older more cumbersome languages. The de-evolution of words, and the ongoing corruption of humankind, was simply not considered.
The logic was consistent with Bible criticism. If the Babylonians and other peoples (including American Indians) all have a flood myth, then the Biblical flood must also be a myth borrowed from an older source (or a coincidental contrivance invented to explain a natural phenomenon.) It was out of the question to think that Noah's flood was a fact, and that only the God-given Bible got the facts right, uncolored by cultural corruption over the generations.
Returning to language, the Hebrews are not the only people said to have "invented the myth" of a primordial tongue. They are the only surviving human entity, however, to preserve that language and to study its boundless, superhuman profundity and engineering with lifelong joy. Hebrew was spoken long before there was a Judea or an Abraham, but Hebrew was too much associated with Jews to be tolerated.
The last group of Westerners to take up the lost paradise of Hebrew included 17th century Englishmen like John Milton and his Puritan counterparts in colonial America.
This book has roots in my own history in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a child I would take Sabbath morning walks to places where I read the Hebrew tombstones and diaries of pilgrims like William Bradford. Governor Bradford was a new Hebrew in the Promised Land of America. (He reverently desired to study God's word in its original tongue; I don't know why so many Christians and Jews have settled for less.) The curriculum of Harvard was full of Hebrew, and an early graduate thesis at Harvard concerned Hebrew as the Mother tongue. Noah Webster's etymologies (discredited for 200 years now) were full of English words traced to "Shemitic" sources. Most significant of all, if a vote in the Continental Congress had gone the other way, America and much of today's world, would now be speaking Hebrew.
Decades of reconstructing theoretical common ancestors of the Germans, Slavs, Italics, Hellenics, Indo-Iranians, etc. have ironically legitimized what Noah Webster and the Bible would call "Japhetic" language. The third son of Noah, Ham, is behind the generic term for African languages, and white gentiles in the linguistic community have no trouble with the evidence of a related Hamito - Semitic language family. Let the Blacks and Jews share the ghetto, whisper the professors, as long as Indo-European remains lily white.
It was a little bird that first whispered to me the obsessive dream that this book would be for me. (And the nightmare that The Word must be for anti-Semiticists.) That bird was the sparrow, whose Indo-European root, sper represents the oldest generic word for "bird" in Western languages.
I knew a TSEE-PORE (Hebrew generic term for bird) when I saw one. I promptly left graduate school and began treating the dictionary as though it were compiled by fallible human beings. I was, in the next decade, to learn things about Hebrew that, sadly, are never taught.
Like physics or biology, language (Hebrew) is another divine creation that dazzles the puny human mind with its complex simplicity and ordered chaos. The three-letter Hebrew root is a chemical element composed of and charged by the dance of a pair of two-letter roots exchanging electrons. Only the dynamics of Hebrew, with its built-in synonym and antonym system, explains why LeaF and FoLio (LF = FL) mean the same, and why BAD and BET(TER) are similar sounding opposites. Only the vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew contains the common denominators of otherwise unlinkable words-both within and without the traditional language families. Only after mastering Hebrew can a person fully understand words in English, Basque, or Swahili.
Because the majesty of Hebrew is only faintly visible in its offspring, it is no wonder that intelligent men can still maintain that most words are arbitrary and meaningless, or that language is the result of cavemen grunting. Of course, some of these same brilliant academicians will insist that a chimp at a typewriter will come up with a Shakespearian sonnet if given enough time (about eight billion years).
As far back as Biblical times the tribe of Ephraim (linked by some Christian theologians to the British royalty) pronounced Hebrew SHIBBOLETH as Siboleth. After THE WORD gets around it will no longer seem odd that Hebrew SHIM-SHONEcame to be spelled Samson.
You no longer have to be drunk to read SOURCE as "SHORE-ESH" (the Hebrew word for root or source). You need only be intoxicated with the truth, and to read The Word with a clear, unbiased mind.