Was Hebrew invented?
Do letter, number, and word-games in the Torah imply that Biblical Hebrew is an Invented Language?
AbstractIn this paper, I present a straightforward secular (non-religious, non-theological) theory: the Hebrew in the Torah is an invented language, akin to Klingon or Elvish, that was designed to write the Torah. Under this theory, the letters, words, grammar, and key terms and phrases of the Biblical language were selected, co-determined, and creatively bootstrapped as a sort of language game. The invented language may have been designed, like Esperanto or Basic English, to include elements in common with known natural languages; nevertheless, the details and final form of the language were bespoke and under the control of a creative author. In the invented system, some anagrams were defined to mean related concepts; letters were assigned number values so words and phrases could “add up to” interesting numbers (“Gematria”); and the author planned a text that would include a density of word-games like pangrams (sentences that use all letters of the alphabet), lipograms (sections of the text that are missing one particular letter), and particular numbers of letters and words throughout. However, all signs of seemingly deliberate language games might instead merely be the result of cherry picking of interesting findings. In this paper, I present analysis and new approaches that might help distinguish whether the apparent language games in the Torah imply an intentional invented language or, instead, only result from over-analysis and were not intended by the author to be present in the text.
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