April 21, 2004

Qesher Rishon

Amritas has linked to me. Amritas says:

I think the triconsonantal root of r-'-sh-w-n is r-'-sh as in rosh 'head' (as in r-'-sh h-sh-n-h: rosh ha-shanah, lit. 'head the-year'). Comics fans will recognize this root from the name of the Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul, lit. 'head the ghoul'.

It is! Arabic Ra's is the same as Hebrew Rosh. S in Arabic corresponds consistently to SH in Hebrew and vice versa. How did this happen? How can two letters switch places? The answer is that Hebrew has two S sounds: sin (שׂ) and samekh (ס), as well as an SH sound: shin (שׁ). What happened was this: Proto-Semitic sin, shin, and samekh were retained in Hebrew, but in Arabic shin became samekh (written with sin) and sin became shin (there is no samekh in Arabic). The proof is that Hebrew samekh corresponds to Arabic sin, not shin!

Here is another example of rosh: Rosh Hodesh (Head of the Month) - the first day of the month. Today is Rosh Hodesh Iyar - the first day of the month of Iyar.

Can you guess what Qesher Rishon means?

It means First Link. Literally, Qesher means connection, in Hebrew you wouldn't use the word link (as in link of a chain) in this context.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at April 21, 2004 09:28 AM
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