Why I do not believe in Edenics

· Etymology
Authors

Edenics, a theory postulated by Isaac Mozeson,  is the theory that European languages came from Hebrew. That may be an interesting theory to be held by those who believe in the literal account of creation as found in the Bible or Torah. I would also posit that it conforms to the theory which I was taught in the first year of high school (through a text authored by the Dean of Humanities of my future alma mater), that the region between the Nile and the Euphrates (more or less) was the cradle of civilization.

A 1988 Newsweek cover story (The Search for Adam and Eve, by John Tierney, found here  claimed to have found the original woman lived 200,000 years ago. Some herald this as a blow to the Biblical account. Furthermore, it stated that most of the evidence showed that she probably came from sub-Saharan Africa – but she might have been from Southern China. So much for the Cradle of Civilization, unless we stipulate that this was the place where we find something more than hunter-gatherers, and primitive farmers.

As far as written languages are concerned, (and relying only on Wikipedia), there is an argument to be made for these to have come from the “Cradle of Civilization”. But what we really need to know is where the original spoken language was found. For this, I had wanted to select a university website article by Edward Vajda, who states the “there are two main … beliefs. Neither can be proven or disproved …” . He mentions the belief in “divine creation” and “natural evolution”. This is not what is expected at a typical university, and only restates, in a certain way, what was already said above. But in order not to cite Wikipedia again (though it may be reliable enough on the subject), we will mention the reference made to the “Mother Tongue” theory, that there was an original language 150,000 years ago. He puts this as a thesis favored by linguists in the United States; I would place the theory with Nostratics, and Russian researchers.

This latter theory includes Semitic languages as those encompassed in those tongues that must be related (if the theory is correct). Some languages, such as Chinese, and original languages in Canada and the south-Sahara have not yet been found to fit the theory sufficiently.

Looking at the Nostratic Dictionary by Aharon Dolgopolsky can be quite challenging, as it is full of special symbols in an effort to suggest the correct sounds of languages, but a perusal by someone who might have a smattering of French, German, English, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic – just to name a few languages – does seem to suggest a reasonable presumption of truth to this theory of an original language.  It becomes interesting then, to think that Mr. Mozesohn can intuitively find roots that recognized experts could not.

So therefore, Nostratics does not suggest that the mother language is Hebrew, which itself grew out of its environment.  The very account of creation, as understood in the Anglo-Saxon world, mitigates against it.

One on-line source, The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Of The Bible, by Jeff A. Benner, argues that Hebrew, to be properly understood, should not be analyzed as a Western European Language, but from the ideas suggested by the pictographs which that language used before it adopted an Aramaic-type script.  The argument is made that no words must be abstract, an example is our non-concrete noun, anger, which in the old Hebrew pictorial script, in this author’s rewording of the original text, is suggested by the snorting to an angry bull ready to attack a matador.  In fact, the pictogramps are an ox’s head (aleph) – which we may take as a bull, and the letter “pe”, mouth. Taken together, this means “nose”, which helps to form our image about the bull.  If Mr. Benner is correct, the analysis of which letters can be matched in our European languages and Hebrew are completely wrong, because the formation of ideas based on concrete representation of a word through image-like characters has been lost.  The only way out of this conundrum is to imagine that somehow the European languages have retained, within their vocabulary, vestiges of archetypal images in their vocabulary.

Another source this writer accidently came upon (while looking for references to himself!) in found in Zaidan Ali Jassem’s The Arabic Origins of Verb ‘To Be’ in English, German, and French: A Lexical Root Theory Approach, (one of at least two of his available articles on the same line of thinking).  The argument starts with a general premise, that numerous European words have Arabic origins, including “Judaism” and “Christianity”, and that “hallelujah” is a derivation of “la ilaha illa Allah” written in reverse.  While there is no point in disagreeing that Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic, and that “hallelujah” is a Semitic word – sources give it as Hebrew – it is rather hard to see pre-Mohammedan Arabs pronouncing Koranic words.  That is not to say that there is no value in the document – but this writer believes that the professor from Qassim University (Saudi Arabia) is arguing the same thing as Mr. Mozeson, perhaps having based his own ideas on the latter’s 1989 book with 22,000 English words traced back to Hebrew.  Z. A. Jassem’s paper, in contrast, was published in 2012.

There is a Biblical word in the account of creation as it is often related, that Adam and Even lived in Paradise – a word often used in English instead of Eden. Even this latter word, according to our web search, is was originally of Sumerian coinage. (Strictly speaking, if there was ever a common language, the preceding statement is incorrect.  Furthermore, by not referring to the Hebrew text, one may mistake the word to be of the same root as “Adon”, as in Adonai, which would substantially change everything – the suggestion comes to this author of a temple, through the meaning with columns on pedestals.)

Unfortunately for the theory in favor of Hebrew, even bilingual dictionaries for this language in its Biblical usage suggest that the word sounding like Paradise is of Persian origin.

Cognates of this “Paradise” are found in Austrian-German, where it may be seen as Paradeiser. It refers to tomatoes, and originally called the Paradeis-Apfel, the “Paradise Apple”.

This word was criticized by this writer’s parents as incorrect, and belonging to Germans from Yugoslavia (and I do know at least one person who used this). Our cited source mentions someone living along the Danube, and gives further cognates in Hungarian and Serbian.

A further German word is Pfirsich, which the German Wiktionary defines as coming from “Middle Latin”, persica, meaning Persian (fruit), because the tree came over Persia to Europe. This writer originally had this information from an etymological dictionary by Wasserzieher*. We prefer the general reader to be able to access proof through the web, which is why common sources are given.

Pars, or Fars, refers to a province of Iran, Parsi, more commonly Farsi, is the Persian language.

Every other consideration that I would like to give to Persia, now called Iran, is fraught with political questions. But linguistically it would seem to be a geographical bridge between India and Europe in the formation of the Indo-European languages.

Modern Persian, was renamed Iran, and this was, according to some sources, Nazi inspired.  In this sense, it may be noted that the words Iranian and Aryan are closely related.

A mild suggestion to solving the crisis there would be to have the country again be called Persia, to remind us of Paradise, and less of Aryans – which would seem to fit it with some modern tendencies in academic circles.

This detour from why I do not believe in Edenics was inspired by our tracing of the root of the word Paradise and its cognates to Persia. Therefore, scholars of the Hebrew language should never have said that the Bible had Persian words, if Hebrew were the original language. Its oxymoronic.

It also casts some doubt on the Tower of Babel story. Does the confusion of languages punishment mean that the world was no longer to be able to see any clear relationship among the languages of the world, or was there to be enough of such a relationship to be left, that the original language, by which I would suspect some Semitic language, to have been unidentifiable even to future researchers, and thus the strands between them to be left in mystery? [As an aside, a book by Wolf Schneider, Überall ist Babylon. Die Stadt als Schicksal der Menschen von Ur bis Utopia, points out that Babyon already had peoples of several languages before the tower was ever built. (The book is available in English as Babylon is Everywhere.)]

I offer these thoughts because I may have given the impression elsewhere (in an attempt to suggest that Silvia and Flavia are names of a common origin) that I believe in Edenics. I do not, though I would not denigrate its author.

I suggest that it may be looked at, and studied to see how it agrees with the Nostratic Theory. Beyond that, it may be useful in word-association games and the like. On the other hand, in a post by Isaac Moseson, the founder of Edenics, in an article titled “Hebrew’s Got Your Goat“, there does seem to be at least superficial evidence that his work is similar to that of Dolgopolsky.

I do not have the time to verify the claims on that page.  The accusation is made that any flimsy word association becomes an argument for his thesis, without back-up by accredited linguists. The curious might like to look at it; it is certainly easier to read than Dolgopolsky.

I have stated elsewhere that what Mr. Mozeson does is something which may be useful in forming mnemonics in the learning of a new language. A major criticism that we would make is his placement of any consonant-vowel-consonant in any combination at all (metathesis), something that should occur only rarely, such as in the English BoaRD from German BReTT. Would we say that flatBReaD was from the same root, because it might, if cut rectangularly, remind us of a board?  I think not.  And while the theory has existed that the word Britain comes from Hebrew, because “brit” means covenant, I could counter, it’s from BReTT, and means Flatland!  This should make clear the care that must be taken in etymology.

If the reader has noticed that I gave an assumed etymology of Britain from the wrong word, “flat” rather than “BReTT” or “BoaRD”, we can further argue that the authors who have argued in favour of our language coming from one or the other Semitic roots are wrong, because the following is what they do (and we ourselves apply the technique in our article on Flavia and Silvia, but with an attempt at stronger support for the arguments given, or an insistence on our declarations as mere postulates): We take B to be related to F, R to be comparable with L, and T with D. All vowels or diphthongs are replaceable by others. Hence, “Brett” or “Board” are of the same root as “flat”.  This idea is enhanced by the idea of flatbread.

Given the preceding, why do we insist on pointing out that it is wrong?  Simply this: although we find some amusing further arguments that the argument should not be impugned, such as a root of “flat” – flezzi – means “floor” and looks like “flour”, and that flat means level, and might just suggest “leaven”, expert evidence does not allow it – and the etymology of leaven and flour are further proof that the ideas cannot be related.

Sources: 

Ali Jassem, Zaidan. The Arabic Origins of Verb ‘To Be’ in English, German, and French: A Lexical Root Theory Approach. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 7, p. 187-198, nov. 2012. ISSN 2200-3452. Available at: <http://www.journals.aiac.org.au/index.php/IJALEL/article/view/830/762&gt;. Date accessed: 24 feb. 2018. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v.1n.7p.187.

Brenner, Jeff A. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Of The Bible.

Feyerabend, Karl.  Langenscheidt Pocket Hebrew Dictionary to the Old Testament Hebrew English, 15th ed., Langenscheidt KG Berlin n.d (hard copy) and older on line copies.

Gesenius, Wilhelm, trans. Robinson, Edward. A Hebrew and English Dictionary of the Old Testament. [Oxford, 2906]. (online).

       Wasserzieher, Ernst. Woher?   [Bonn: Ferd. Dümmler Verlag, 1974].

February 8, 2018.

© 2018, Paul Karl Moeller

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