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
Finding relationships between similarly sounding words seems to be too easy for Mozeson. The real challenge for him is proving connectivity between words that at first glance appear to be completely different. He does this via some common phonetic techniques, despite his lack of official linguistic training.
“Metathesis is the action of letters changing places within words,” he explained. “This happens either because it’s easier for the speaker to pronounce the word in its altered form or due to some type of dyslexia. Examples of metathesis within English would include such words as: CaSe and SaCK, CaVity and VaCuum, FoRM and MoRPH, FoLio and LeaF; RoTary and TiRe and more. Metathesis between Edenic and English include such words as: BeSeeCH: BaCHeSh; DaRK: KeDaR; DeGRee: DaRGa.
“A second common phonetic technique is nasalization, whereby an N is added to a word. Applied to Edenics we get Datz (jump with joy): Dantz (Dance); AtiQ (old): AntiQue; Shoak (leg): Shank.”
For an obscure scholar with an abstruse theory, the ferociousness of the attacks against Mozeson seems disproportionate. His work has been called in academic and popular circles “a joke,” “pseudo-science,” “farcical regression,” “a disgrace,” “idiocy,” “blaringly ignorant,” “ludicrous,” and even “dangerous.” Reader reviews on Amazon have outright urged him to “stop his work immediately” and “leave linguistics to real linguists.” One even urged others to “Stay away! Tell everyone to stay away!”
“I’m not aware of any respected academics who accept the Edenics theory,” Mark Liberman, of the University of Pennsylvania Linguistics Department, wrote via email. Liberman dismissed Edenics theory as “crank etymology.” “His theory seems to be that God was a sort of weak cryptographer, who didn’t actually create any new languages after Babel but simply mixed up the old ones in ways that Mozeson has figured out how to decrypt,” Liberman added. “Mozeson is not the first person with eccentric theories of etymology. There’s Goropius Becanus, who theorized that Antwerpian Brabantic, spoken in the region between the Scheldt and Meuse Rivers, was the original language spoken in Paradise.”
For Liberman, the word connections that Mozeson finds are “mostly coincidences. For example, according to the OED, modern English ‘eye’ is from Old English éage, corresponding to Old Frisian âge, Old Saxon ôga, Old High German ouga, Old Norse auga and Gothic augo. Meanwhile, ‘fruit’ is from Old French fruit, Latin frūctus—*frugv root of fruī to enjoy. In those cases, the well-documented earlier forms are much less similar to the alleged Hebrew cognates. As for ‘wine,’ there may be a connection, but even if there’s a connection, the direction is not clear. There’s strong evidence from archeology and biology as well as from historical linguistics that Mozeson’s theory is not true.” Furthermore, Liberman said, “his methodology can be used to ‘prove’ that any randomly selected language is the parent of all other languages.”
Mozeson is hardly chastened by the attacks against him. “The extremes to which the academic establishment goes to hiding the Hebrew origin of words are often absurd,” he said, lashing out at his critics. “There are some English words that even the etymologists can’t deny have Hebrew origins—most of these have a Jewish religious context. Anything beyond this they can’t bear to admit. Take for example the word ‘amen’ (agreement or assent). The Oxford dictionary grudgingly admits,” he said, “that it originates from the Hebrew amen. Yet when it comes to the related word ‘amenable’ (open and responsive to suggestion), Oxford claims the source is from the Latin minari, to threaten. Who here is feeling threatened by whom?” He noted that Noah Webster, original publisher of Webster’s dictionary, included numerous Hebrew roots for English words, but most of these were later expunged in efforts to modernize the lexicon.
“Etymologists would have us believe that language was created via a process of evolution over thousands of years, even though no primitive languages have ever been discovered,” Mozeson, who disdains the academic establishment, told me. “It was none other than Noam Chomsky who famously proved that language had to come about spontaneously. In a 1998 New York Times interview,” he went on, “Chomsky explained his theory saying, ‘Imagine that some divine super engineer, in a single efficient strike, endowed humans with the power of language where formerly they had none.’ ”
And Mozeson can cite a number of leading academics who support somewhat related theories. These include Michael Astour, author of Hellenosemitica; Martin Bernal, author of Black Athena; William Worrell; French scholar Albert Cuny; Danish scholar Hermann Moller, and others.
Perhaps the strongest support for Mozeson’s own work came from world famous semioticist and ancient-language expert Cyrus Gordon (1908-2001) of New York University. In a personal note to Mozeson from 1987, Gordon wrote, “Your work is full of interesting comparisons—many of them new to me. The subject has a huge bibliography. … You must know that down to recent centuries, Hebrew as the original language and mother of all languages was a widely held view among intellectuals.” Incredibly, due the controversial nature of Mozeson’s theories, Gordon regretted that he could not publicly support Mozeson’s work, saying that such a move would jeopardize the careers of the students who received their doctorates from him. Mozeson says that for 25 years he agreed to keep Gordon’s esteem for his work secret so as not to harm the professor’s students. (A small portion of it appeared in The Origin of Speeches.) Only now that an entire generation of academics has passed, he said, did he agree to show the full letter.
In fact several academics who wrote approbations for Mozeson’s work in The Origin of Speeches and The Word refused to be interviewed for this article. Not everyone, however, has been apprehensive about speaking out about a link between Hebrew and Western languages. Martin Bernal (1937-2013) was professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. In his famous work Black Athena: Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization he wrote, “I found what seemed to me a number of striking similarities between [Hebrew] and Greek.” There is also the fact that, in 1982, a self-taught linguist Joseph Yahuda published a 680-page volume titled Hebrew Is Greek. The foreword of the book was written by Saul Levin, of the Department of Ancient Languages of New York University, who explained that “Yahuda’s book provides overwhelming evidence that biblical Hebrew is camouflaged Greek.”
While Mozeson is frustrated by the summary dismissal of his ideas, he told me he takes comfort in the fact that other major “unifying” theories bitterly opposed by the academic establishment gradually became accepted due to the weight of evidence. “Until a few decades ago most scientists were extremely opposed to the notion that all continents were once linked in a super continent. Now the idea of Pangaea is accepted. Scientists also long disputed that humanity had common ancestry, but new DNA evidence reveals that Homo Sapiens do in fact share mutual ancestry and perhaps even a mutual ancestor. Since we know all humanity comes from the same people it makes sense to assume we shared a common language too.” As far as Mozeson is concerned, the only issue that remains to be determined, he said, is: What was the structure of that primordial language?
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