As promised, here my comments concerning Duane’s discussion of the development of Hebrew with respect to Late Bronze Age Canaanite.
I probably was not as clear as I should have been with my statement:
I also agree with the largest changes in Hebrew occurring between CBH and LBH and Amarna Canaaniteâ€™s similarity to CBHâ€“especially in Amarnaâ€™s use of wawâ€™s.
which led Duane to say:
I have decided to reflect upon that issue here. Perhaps I am setting up a straw man but I think the underlying presupposition of this comment is that Classical Biblical Hebrew developed out of Late Bronze Age Canaanite. This presupposition is at best problematic.
I would not say that Classical Biblical Hebrew developed out of Late Bronze Age Canaanite. As Duane has discussed in his post it is very difficult to reconstruct the precise development of ancient languages. Furthermore, I agree with Duane that languages develop with a combination of many different influences, both internal and external. In my mind Hebrew is Hebrew (I get more specific than this, keep reading) and we can point to some particular analogues that appear in other languages, whether they are lexical or syntactical. These analogues might indicate some kind of contact, either direct or indirect, between these languages or these similarities could have arisen independently. Each situation needs to be judged on it’s own.
Therefore, I would rather treat languages as they stand and not say that x language evolved from x. I am very comfortable saying that x feature in x language has an analogue in x language, but except for certain instances, it is very difficult to trace the precise development of languages. Furthermore, I like to discuss languages–and title languages–based on geography. Even though ancient languages like Aramaic share commonalities amongst the various dialects and such, regions tend to have their own particularities. Furthermore, some languages have syntactical and lexical features of one language while it is written in a script that has similarities to another language. This adds another layer of complexity when we apply general categories to specific languages.
I am not saying that we never use general titles like “Aramaic” and only refer to specific geographic names, such as the language that is found in Sam’al and only refer to it as “Sam’alian” rather than “Aramaic.” But, the categorizations of these languages are still in debate and are not always clear-cut. It might be more cumbersome, but it is a bit “safer” to say something like–Sam’alian with analogous features to Aramaic. By saying this you are not committing yourself to implying that Sam’alian “developed” from or “is” Aramaic and you are also leaving open the possibility of other influences upon Sam’alian.
Even though this terminology might be more specific, it is awkward. The general categories of Hebrew, Aramaic, etc. can be retained but we should keep in mind the diversity and complexity that is involved in all these languages/dialects/idiolects, etc. Even for Hebrew, as Duane alluded to, there are various attempts to determine dialects such as Israelian Hebrew, Judahite Hebrew, etc. Even within Israelian Hebrew some advocate “sub-dialects” such as Ephraimite, Galilean, and Gileadite Hebrew.
I am very sympathetic for these movements, but I admit for example that it is sometimes hard to draw clear lines between Ephraimite Hebrew and Galilean Hebrew because we don’t have large amounts of a wide array of texts from these areas that include samples from many genres. For more on this subject, see Gary Rendsburg’s “A Comprehensive Guide to Israelian Hebrew: Grammar and Lexicon.”