Alice C. Linsley
The Danish linguist Holger Pedersen (1867-1953) explained in The Discovery of Language that “Hebrew, Aramaic and Accadian languages had all undergone significant linguistic degeneration. Only Old Arabic, due to its relative isolation in the
The degeneraton of which Pedersen speaks is also due to a prevalent prejudice against exploration the Afro-Canaaite roots of many Hebrew words. Consider the word Dedan, as an example. Most commentaries explain that the terms Dedan/Dedanite are from ded'-a-nim/dedhan/dedhanim, meaning "low." This is an odd connection since the region of Dedan had a relatively high elevation and the Dedanites were known to dwell in caves at the top of ridges.
Genesis 10:7 provides the more accurate explanation that Dedan and the Dedanites are related to the Kushite ruler Dedan. The original context is Kushitic or Nilotic where the word Dedan means "red" and is a cognate to the Egyptian didi (red fruit) and the Yoruba diden (red).
Pedersen is correct also that old Arabic texts can provide the closest cognates to the older stratum, which is really Afro-Arabian, such as the language spoken by the people of Dedan, where the oldest Arabic texts have been found. It also has been noted that the oldest mosques triangulate to a point in the region of Dedan.
Dedan was the son of Raamah, the brother of Sheba and the grandson of Kush. This means that the peoples of the regions of Raamah, Dedan and Sheba were kin and Kushites. They spoke a North Arabian dialect which is sometimes referred to as Dedanite or Dedanitic. It has been grouped with Canaanite and Aramaic (Faber 1997).
The Dedanite alphabet consisted of 28 letters and resembled other dialects spoken on the Arabian Peninsula, though Dedanite is also distinctive. It is distinct from Southern Arabian in its use of the definite article h- or zero (a sun symbol) whereas Southern Arabic and the Arabic spoken today uses al-. (The Cambridge Encyclopedia of World’s Ancient Languages, Roger D. Woodard, Ed., p. 488). The frequency of the definite article h- or the zero in the words used by Abraham’s people indicates a Northern Arabian setting.
Since Dedanite is the language of the Arabian Kushites we would expect to find significant parallels to the Kushitic/Nilotic languages. This is evident in the Dedanite and ancient Egyptian use of the root MR. The Egyptian word for love is mer which is related to the word for mother ‘m in Egyptian and in Dedanite. In both languages the word for woman is mr’t. Mer is also the root of the name Meri/Mary.
Not surprisingly, Dedanite shares some features with Hebrew. For example, the final /a/ was represented by –h, as in Hebrew. So the bi-consonantal word Rama (RM) would be becomes a tri-consonantal word Ramah (RMH). In both Dedanite and Hebrew the final /u/ is replaced by –w.
More surprising is the evidence of a common Proto-language for the Nilotic, Dedanite, and Dravidian languages, further evidence of the Kushite expansion. This is seen in correspondence between Dedanite, the Nilotic Manding and the Dravidian first person singular pronouns. The first person singular pronoun in Dedanite is ‘n which corresponds to the first person singular in Dravidian an and to the Manding na.
To see a Family Tree of Ancient Semitic Scripts, go here, to page 8 and note that only one African language is included whereas many should be included. This area requires considerable future effort on the part of linguists and the work is long overdue. It appears that prejudice has contributed to the failure of scholars to correct mis-interpretations of many biblical words.
Related reading: The Afro-Arabian Dedanites; Thamudic Scripts; Ancient African Writing Systems; The Afro-Asiatic Dominion; What Language Did Abraham Speak?