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From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 25, 2001, 0:56
    So, in my Pidgins and Creoles class (taught by John McWhorter whom we all
call the rock star of the linguistics department--he's the one that set me up
on that swell research study that starts this Wednesday [and if there's
anyone in the Bay Area that has nothing to do Thusday from 8-9 p.m., I'd
welcome more volunteers! ~:D]), there's a girl who's doing her semester
project on Noubi Arabic, and she knows absolutely NO Arabic (her response:
"Well, I was going to take Arabic next semester..."), so I said I'd lend her
my dictionary and textbook--both of which are VERY heavy.  And so she wasn't
in class today!  I was so pissed off...  Now I have to bring them back
Wednesday.  [Conlang relevance coming, I promise.]  So, in my year of Arabic,
we didn't completely finish the book (four or five chapters of 20+ at the end
we left), so in between classes, I started on the chapter where we'd left off
for funsies.  It happened to be the chapter outlining in detail the awzaan,
or verb/noun paradigms.  It got me to thinking (because I didn't do this for
my tri-consonantal language) that it'd be cool to do something like that, and
outlined about 16 such paradigms with the word "to write" rendering "to
dictate", "to record", "to author", "to write poetry" (from the paradigm
whose meanings are "performing x action with no purpose or direction"), "to
ignore", etc.  Anyway, if I ever do anything with this in a language, I'll
post that; this was just an idea.
    But, now I have a question which really has been teasing me for awhile
but which I never voiced.  What's the deal with Arabic and Hebrew and all
Semitic languages?  If we are to assume that Arabic did NOT descend into
humanity via Allah talking to Muhammad (and that, consequently, Hebrew and
Aramaic and all somehow arose from this), then how did the triconsonantal
system come about?  It seems so artificial and unnatural to me that people
naturally speaking language would sort of naturally decide that (a) it was
the consonants that were important as to specific semantic categories, and
(b) vowels moved in and around them in ways that unite semantic
specifications with syntactic and schematic/thematic patterns.  It seems like
it's a constructed language.  I mean, let's take w-l-d, for example.

walada=to give birth (I believe.  The verb is correct, but the form may be
something else...)

    Now, anyone can see how these semantic ideas are interrelated.  But in
any natural language are any of these all derived from the same word?  For
myself, I'm going to list some examples I know (you can ignore):

English: as above.

dar a luz (lit. "give to light".  Isn't that pretty?)


Russian (oh, and for native speakers, on any: you can correct me if there's a
better word for any):
matH (my interpretation of the soft sign after [t])

[Note: I notice there's an unrelated word for "childhood", "dyetstvo", just
as there is in Arabic, "Tafuulati" (in this case, "T" means pharyngealized
[t] not [T])]

filivs/infans [childhood=infantiæ]
partvrire/parere (not sure of this one)

accoucher de

(bal-)bacce (also means "family")
???  (Too complex for David!)

    I would venture a guess at other languages I'm familiar with, like
Hawaiian, but I don't want to do it wrong, so I won't.  But anyway, the
pattern with non-Arabic languages (and I haven't looked at Hebrew or Aramaic,
but I'd imagine they're like Arabic) seems to be that mother and father look
similar, though, obviously have different consonant make-up.  Children is
just the plural, and actually, looking at it, I probably shouldn't have
included the Arabic, since awlaad is simply the regular plural of walad.  I
was thinking that because "walad" also means "boy"...  And "to give birth" is
really different, not resembling any of the others (except maybe Latin...?
With "pater"?).  And, unwittingly, all my languages follow this pattern.  I
remember in specific reference to "mother/father", I objected strongly to
"patrino" being the word for "mother" in Esperanto when I was learning it,
and invented the word "matro", and yet it didn't even phase me that you got
"mother" from the word for "father" by adding the feminine ending "-a" in
Arabic.  (There is a term "umi" which is like "mom", though.)
    So, my big question is: What's the deal?  Has anyone done a lot study on
Semitic languages?  How did ordinary human beings naturally develop this
system and, what's more, preserve it?  It absolutely mystifies me.



Frank George Valoczy <valoczy@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Heather Rice <florarroz@...>
Fabian <lajzar@...>