Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Examining Edenics, the Theory That English (and Every Other Language) Came From Hebrew

An eccentric Jerusalem-based researcher believes he’s found the key to the origin of tongues—in the Bible

Print Email
Related Content

The Mystery Stone

Does a rock in New Mexico show the Ten Commandments in ancient Hebrew? Harvard professor says yes.

The New Jew-Speak, via Google

Sarah Bunin Benor’s new Jewish English Lexicon crowd-sources distinctive contributions to the language

Fat Man Saves Israeli Hip-Hop

How Itay Lukach and YouTube defeated the bombast of Subliminal to revive Israeli rap

What if one day, instead of speaking hundreds of different languages, all of humanity suddenly began speaking the exact same language? More incredibly—what if we already do? A new movement called “Edenics” makes the claim that modern day English is simply a derivative of biblical Hebrew. In fact, the proponents of this theory say that all human languages are simply offshoots of Hebrew and claim to have thousands of examples to back them up.

At first glance, the idea seems preposterous. English and Hebrew sound entirely different and almost every two equivalent meaning words are completely dissimilar. For example: Dog: Kelev; Cat, Hatul; Chair, Kiseh; House, Bayit.

Besides which, how could a modern European language created over the last millennia have anything to do with an ancient Semitic language from the Middle East, established thousands of years ago? English is a West Germanic language brought to Britain by German invaders some 1,500 years ago. German in turn comes from Latin, which is an Italic language derived from Greek and Phoenician. These, in turn, belong to what is known as the Indo-European superfamily of languages. Hebrew, on the other hand, is a West Semitic dialect belonging to the Afro-Asiatic superfamily of languages. In short, English and Hebrew come from two completely different sources.

On the other hand, if tiny little Judaism, a minor Eastern Mediterranean tribal cult in the days of antiquity, was powerful enough to spin off not one, but two major world religions, Christianity and Islam, then who knows? And indeed, a brief investigation of the relevant material seems to demonstrate that dozens if not hundreds of basic Hebrew and English words cited by the Edenicists do indeed seem to share an uncanny resemblance to each other.

***

According to the Hebrew Bible, all of humanity once spoke a single language, until God confounded their speech to prevent them from building the Tower of Babel. For the past century the linguistics establishment dismissed the idea of a single mother tongue for all peoples as myth and believed that different languages sprouted up independently of each other in different regions of the globe. But over the last two and half decades that has slowly begun to change.

The late Joseph Greenberg of Stanford University was the first to claim that hundreds of seemingly unrelated languages were actually just dialects of several huge language “superfamilies.” Then, in the late 1980s Russian-born linguist Vitaly V. Shevoroshkin, teaching at the University of Michigan, began propagating the idea that there was proof of a single primordial language from which all others derived. “Ultimately, all languages, with perhaps some little exceptions, are related,” he was quoted as saying. This became known as the Nostratic school of thought.

Recently a major study analyzing more than 500 languages was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supporting the theory. The study, co-authored by Dr. Quentin Atkinson, of Auckland University, and Dr. Mark Pagel, of the University of Reading, U.K., concludes that there is evidence for a single origin of language.

The guru of Edenics and self-declared “founder, chief researcher and editor of the idea” is Isaac E. Mozeson, an American-born lecturer on literature and Judaica who moved to Israel in 2010. “It was a little birdie that whispered the Edenic concept into my ear back in 1978,” Mozeson wrote, describing a time when he was a doctoral student of literature at New York University (he never completed the degree). “I was stuck with a boring linguistics requirement. One day our professor was demonstrating the genius of what he said was the Indo-European root for the generic bird word SPER. Suddenly my mind harkened back to my second-grade Hebrew class when I first learned a similar generic word for bird … TSIPOR.”

This chance event set off in Mozeson a train of thought that would consume him for the next 35 years as he came to believe—and set out to prove—that Hebrew was the root of all languages. The lack of approval from the linguistics establishment did not dampen Mozeson’s enthusiasm for his theory, and he went on to publish two books on the subject. The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Roots of English (1989), a 300-page book with some 20,000 English-Hebrew linked words, and The Origin of Speeches (2006), in which words from multiple languages are connected to Hebrew. Mozeson has also put out three CDs. In addition he has a website, blog, and all sorts of social media. The whole operation runs on a shoe-string budget, some part of which Mozeson claims is provided by co-founder of Skype and Kazaa, Kevin Bermeister, who is listed as a supporter of Edenics.

Ironically, for a man who seeks to revolutionize our understanding of language, Mozeson himself has a severe speech impediment. This incurred during a five-day coma and massive organ failure that he suffered following severe heat stroke in 1996. Yet Mozeson has succeeded in gathering a cadre of dozens of like-minded individuals, from all over the world and from a wide variety of languages and traditions. All of them believe in the Edenics theory and spend time searching out and publicizing what they believe are the Hebrew roots of their native tongues. Overall he and his team claim to have mapped out the Hebrew roots to more than 60,000 words from dozens of languages.

“There are hundreds of English words which have almost the exact same structure as similar-meaning Hebrew words,” he told me during a long interview in his Spartan apartment in downtown Jerusalem. “For instance: Eye: Ayin; Twin: Towem; Tour: Toor; Fruit: Feyrot; Evil: Avel; Cry: Kria; Lick: Likek; Piece: Pasis; Scale: Shakel; Earth: Aretz; Wine: Yayin; Direction: Derech. While it’s easy to assume the Hebrew words I just mentioned were inspired by modern English, they’re not. All these Hebrew words are found in the Bible, which means they are over 2,500 years old—far older than English.”

The bookish and wiry Mozeson elaborated on his thesis. “Since there are some 20 consonants in the alphabet, the chances that two words, with similar meaning, in two completely unrelated languages, would have the same three consonants are 1 in 8,000 (20 x 20 x 20). Still not convinced? Try these—Source: Shoresh; Idea: Yidea; Agony: Yagon; Mystery: Mistor; Regular: Regel; Dye: Dio; Ashamed: Asham; Boor: Baar; Yell: Yilel; Mirror: Marah.

He went on, speaking fervently: “Edenics works via word roots that are found over and over again in different words with similar connotations,” he said. “For instance, the Hebrew word for counting is MoNeh. The Mem-Nun (M-N) sub-root found here makes up a large word family, from every language, dealing with a MouNts. This includes MaMoN: MoNey; HaMoN: MaNy; the Hebrew word MiNyan and the English words MiNus; DiMiNish; NuMber and MiNi.”

And Mozeson expands his theory into other languages. “The Hebrew word DeRech (way/road),” he said, “with its DR root, is also found in DaRoga (Russian), DeRecho (Spanish), DuRch (German) and DoRo (Japanese). By the way, if you take the DR root of DeRech and reverse its order you get the English word RoaD. Can you see the Hebrew root from ShoMeR (guardian) in the Japanese word SaMuRai (the emperor’s royal guard)?”

1 2View as single page
Print Email

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Examining Edenics, the Theory That English (and Every Other Language) Came From Hebrew

An eccentric Jerusalem-based researcher believes he’s found the key to the origin of tongues—in the Bible