Walking to Jerusalem, or On Hidden Hebrew and The Origin of Words tells the story of a journey, indeed a field trip, around the shores of the Mediterranean, and one which arrives at the conclusion that the languages of Europe are overlapping dialects of a single language, that language being the Hebrew of antiquity. Many will be surprised to learn that this abjadic language, in which the foundational texts of European identity were once composed, is written in consonants alone, with no spaces between the words, and from the right. By reformatting alphabetic text, whether English, French, Polish, Spanish, German or Latin in the same abjadic manner, Walking to Jerusalem reveals that the modern languages we speak today are the pre-Masoretic Hebrew of three thousand and more years ago. We are all Hebrew speakers now. Walking to Jerusalem or On Hidden Hebrew and The Origin of Words will appear in bookshop soon, but for those who would like a preview, the Introduction, which describes the origins of this quest, is below.
Walking to Jerusalem
On Hidden Hebrew
The Origin of Words
An introduction to a book is an opportunity for a writer to take stock. For the reader, on the other side of the equation, the same introduction posits the inevitable why question. Why do I need to read this book? I, as the impoverished writer, will assure you that Walking to Jerusalem, or On Hidden Hebrew and the Origin of Words, is an essential addition to your bookshelf, for it confronts us with the fundamentals of alphabetic text, the mitochondria of the language we use every day, and concludes that we are all Hebrew speakers now. It extends beyond the question of whether English comes from India, Babylon, Iraq, The Rift Valley or The Garden of Eden, all of which have their separate claims, but to whether all alphabetic text, or modern languages, does. When I set out on this journey I had no expectation that Hidden Hebrew, as it then was, would evolve beyond a certain curiosity about my own language. In the event it has been a much longer journey and one which began in earnest in 1966, when I left school. With nothing better in mind I had decided to walk to Jerusalem, from London, around the Mediterranean, a sort of Darwinian excursion into the origins of language, although I didn't know it at the time. Walking To Jerusalem tells the story of this journey, and its dramatic conclusions.
That alphabetic text should be encrypted abjadic Hebrew seems obvious in hindsight. The earliest Hebrew text consists of consonants alone, with vowels only later added by mediaeval Masoretic scholars. Once we reformat alphabetic text in the pre-Masoretic, abjadic manner, without vowels, and from the right, we find Hebrew staring back at us in all the languages, or, as we now say, Hebrew dialects, of Europe. In fact we find up to five separately identifiable processes by which today's alphabetic text emerges from the abjadic Hebrew of antiquity, being mediaeval and ecclesiastical encryption which we penetrate in later chapters. This journey, into the abjadic source of alphabetic text, began at school, but it would never have been necessary but for the determination of the early Church ro render the Hebrew invisible, being an aspect of our collective cultural heritage which we would now surely determine as anti-Semitic.
Why are we considering matters of anti-Semitism in a book about linguistics? It never occurred to me to do so until this particular elephant strode into the room, for while anti-Semitism might seem an unfortunate footnote in the optimistic forward march of European history, the linguistics now suggest that European history is an incidental footnote to the optimistic, from the bishops' perspective, forward march of anti-Semitism. Hatred of Jews, initiated by the first bishops, Chrysostom and Eusebius, sits at the heart of the European narrative, driving contesting claims to the legacy of King David, the first king in scripture, from whom Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, was, allegedly, descended. This dialogue was, until recently, the abiding passion of Europe, and was one in which millions of Christians have lost their lives to each other, and millions of Jews to Christians. No aspect of alphabetic text remains unaffected by it and no history of Europe is complete without recourse to its complex landscape of hatred and dispossession, in Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens. It seems the origins of alphabetic text must also be approached from this same perspective.
On Hidden Hebrew and the Origin of Words began in 1966 on a portable typewriter, housed in a mock leather plywood case and manufactured by the Underwood Corporation of Harford, Connecticut, in the US. This venerable machine now pitched up on European shores, a message in a bottle from the future. It had been, according to my mother, a gift from Jean Paul Sartre to John Rodker, my grandfather, during John's final years in Paris and prior to his death in 1955. On it JR, as he was known, had battered out his English translations of the poetry of André Breton, for which, having transferred his publishing activities from English to French, he was awarded the Légion d'Honneur. JR's life and letters, his pamphlets, first editions, publications, poetry and memoirs, his Theatre Muet, are now archived in The Harry Ransom Research Centre at The University of Texas at Austin and it is regrettable that the reputation of this English poet, once thought the equal of Eliot and Joyce, should enjoy homes in France and the US, but, among the constellation of English literary figures of the period, many of whose reputations he created, as their publisher, should find neglect at home, for in his youth JR had been a Whitechapel Boy, being the name that history has bestowed upon those children, Clara Weinstein, Isaac Rosenberg, Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Joseph Leftwich, Jacob Kramer and Lazarus Aaronson, who first met in Whitechapel Library in London's East End, and who then emerged as writers and artists.
John's parents had escaped pogroms in Poland in the early 1880's, only to discover, as the captain sailed away, that the dockside on which he had deposited them was not that of New York, but of Grimsby, on the North Sea coast of Eastern England. Speaking only Yiddish, Russian and Polish they collected their cardboard suitcases and took a charabanc to that modest Jewish enclave known as Cheetham Hill, by the Manchester Ship Canal. Later they moved to Shoreditch, in London. JR, now at the Jewish Free School and revealed as autodidact of the first order, had already found a readership for his poetry in The Little Review, whose editorship he later inherited from Ezra Pound. Leaving school at fourteen, and after evening classes in languages and science, he went on to translate and publish, often for the first time in English, Kafka, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Le Corbusier, Gaudier-Brzeska, Joyce, Pound and Eliot, and Sigmund Freud in German and Breton in French. John's Underwood typewriter, on which he had built his reputation, and which had served him well, now came to me, his grandson.
At the time Jerusalem, where I now found myself living, was divided along that informal partition known as The Green Line, with the Old City and the Temple Mount on the Jordanian side, and the remainder of the city on the Israeli side, the sea an hour's drive away. By chance I arrived in Jerusalem, having walked around the Mediterranean, at the one time of year when the Mandelbaum Gate between the two sides was briefly open, it being Pesach, or Easter, when tourists could cross both ways, unless they were Israelis. The city would not be reunified until the following year, when Jordan, an artificial entity created by the British in 1946, was defeated after a surprise attack on Israel, and thus lost the territory on which the settlements are located today, the land being retained by Israel as a defensive buffer. Had I arrived at any other time I doubt I would be writing On Hidden Hebrew today, as Jordan sealed the border for the rest of the year.
If the landscape was a revelation so too was the Hebrew language. Where have you been? We've been waiting for you and You're late, it seemed to be saying to me, because this allegedly foreign language from the far side of antiquity now seemed very familiar. This foundational orthography in which the European narrative is written, from Genesis, via The Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount, onwards, now seemed as familiar to me as it had, I suspect, to William Tyndall, sitting at his late mediaeval oak panelled desk, chatting to William Roy, the monkish assistant who sharpened his quills, and wondering aloud why the Hebrew in front of him seemed so easy to translate. The reason, as we will show, is that the one, indeed all alphabetic text, is a dialect of the other.
It will seem strange to many that the ancient scriptures, in which the foundational texts of Western identity were once composed, consist of consonants alone. As alphabet is composed of the first two graphemes of the Greek alphabet, so alefbeyt, is composed of the first two of the Hebrew, but this abjadic text (named after the first four graphemes in the alefbeyt), namely alef, beyt, gimel and dalet works with consonants alone, which come in critical groups of three, which we call triads, and which are known as shoreshim in Hebrew, a word which we might recognise, from the consonants alone, as source(s). Furthermore there are no spaces between these triads, which spaces we call diastemae, a term we have co-opted from dentistry. I mention this because I was now visited by these same triads from outside Hebrew, in my own language, English, and in all the languages I had met in my recent travels, suggesting that these allegedly modern languages must be dialects not of the Latin and Greek alphabets, but of their older precursor, the Hebrew alefbeyt, in that exclusively consonantal Hebrew writing system known as the abjad,
Now I wondered if alphabetic text, such as French or German, would work when reconfigured as abjadic Hebrew without vowels or diastemae, and from the right. Do abjadic Hebrew triads recur in Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch and Polish? Might modern languages be transliterations, transpositions, and transcriptions of an abjadic Hebrew once spoken across Europe, using consonants alone, with vernacular vowels as later, mediaeval, Masoretic, interpolations? The abjadic Hebrew triad, now encountered outside Hebrew, suggested that Hebrew was far from the isolated historical curiosity we might have been lead to suppose, but was the armature upon which all alphabetic text is suspended. That alphabetic text might have a single abjadic source now began to acquire a more distinct configuration, being an idea which had been finding unconscious momentum during my recent travels. The Hebrew abjadic triad turned out to be the key.
European languages which had seemed independent neighbours a few months before, now, with the telescope reversed, and through an abjadic lens, appeared in high definition as overlapping dialects of a single language, with a source not in Asia, but in aFRiCa, from the abjadic RL triad FRG, in pre-Masoretic Hebrew (pMH), or, when vowelised in Masoretic Hebrew (MH) the RL FeReG, meaning neck in LL English. Could the RL FRG (i.e.GeReF in the LL alphabet) have other African connections? Then I saw that FRG also suggested the land of that well known denizen of the aFRiCan grasslands, the eFaRiG, or, when transposed from the RL abjad to the LL alphabet, from east to west, so to speak, the animal with the long neck otherwise known as the aFRiCan GiRaFfe. (FRG/GRF). In aFRiCa we find this triad in its RL abjadic text direction, and in GiRaFfe we find the same triad in its LL alphabetic text direction. GRF was the first triad to surface in my single language hypothesis.
Yes, there is a transition between C and G, which we believe Grimm's Law, where graphemes on the same phonetic spectrum can replace each other in text, subject to dialect (and where, in the abjad, they often share the same grapheme). The Grimm in question was the elder of the brothers Grimm of Grimms' Fairytales, and while Grimm's Law pertains to a Germanic phonetic continuum, we now apply it to the abjadic Hebrew phonetic continuum. Consequently TaG on the mainland and DaY offshore, both a twenty four hour period, tell us that T and D, and Y and G, are interchangeable, and thus suggest that German and English might be the same language. But was Grimm at work elsewhere, driving the case for this abjadic pMH triad as a driver of AH, or Alphabetic Hebrew, otherwise known as modern languages. Indeed he was, for after some brief research GRF yielded the following neck related orthography: GiRaFfe, long necked, CaRaFe, jug with neck, sCaRF, of neck, sCuRF, of neck, sCRuFf, of neck, GRuFf, of neck, CRaVat, of neck, CuRVe of neck, CoRFu, neck of land, CoRFe, neck of land, and from the Hebrew right aCiRFa, another neck of land.
Other triads now began to suggest a single abjadic source, albeit one heavily modified by an encryption which we reverse engineer in later chapters, sometimes literally, by transposing the text from RL to LL, to reveal the pMH beneath. It seemed that I was standing on the edge of a realisation which had often been inferred, but little more, and while others, including Professor Isaac Mozeson (in English) and Dr. Alexander Armstrong (in Gaelic) have matched significant numbers of abjadic and alphabetic morphologies in the past, no linguist to my knowledge, has approached alphabetic text from the unique structural perspective offered by the pre-Masoretic abjadic triad, as in aFRiCan GiRaFfe.
I had evidence that alphabetic text might be encyrpted abjadic Hebrew, but proof would be another matter. I had opened the box, but now I could not close it, routinely waking up in the early hours with matching triads from allegedly different languages occupying my thoughts. Now I would keep a notebook to hand, finding myself still writing at dawn. However help would soon arrive from an unexpected quarter. America had begun the Apollo programme using the processing power of a hand calculator, we are told, yet soon we each had enough processing power on our desktops to launch our own moon landers. If an early home computer could launch a moon lander, surely it could launch On Hidden Hebrew, using abjadic triads as search terms in alphabetic text, I now reasoned.
It has taken a few decades more but we now find a landscape of abjadic triads widely encrypted in alphabetic text across Europe. This new, yet old, language we call Alphabetic Hebrew (AH), being so exclusively abjadic that little room remains for sources from elsewhere. The allegedly distinct languages of Europe are now revealed as a single language, graduated across the landscape by dialect alone, but otherwise being the transcribed, transposed, metathesized, and transliterated consonantal abjadic pMH triads of antiquity. The Hebrew abjad, the means of converting sound to text with triads, on a surface, whether stone, clay, papyrus, parchment, vellum, paper or screen, now ranks as the most significant achievement in the unfolding of alphabetic civilisation. With abjadic orthography, time, music, reason, drama and thought itself would now survive not as images, speech or memory, but as text, embedded in graphemes now accorded with a unique phonology invented by a dispossessed tribe of eccentric monotheists otherwise lost in the silent canyons of the Sinai peninsula.
According to Wikipedia, paraphrased here:…....alphabetic writing dates from the Semitic consonantal system used in antiquity. Most alphabets go back to this proto-Sinaitic script used by Semitic speaking workers.... This alphabet is the ancestor of writing systems found across Asia, Europe and Africa....which is agreed, but does Wikipedia speak Hebrew? Semitic speaking workers? Need Wikipedia be so coy? We never hear of Russian, Icelandic or American workers. We are, of course, talking about Jews. What is the difference between most alphabets and this alphabet, or, more precisely, most abjads and this abjad. to which the answer is surely none. This abjad is the Hebrew abjad, the exclusively consonantal writing system from which writing systems, found across Asia, Europe and Africa, including alphabetic Latin and Greek, derive, being the one used by Jews, whose language has penetrated every corner of the modern world, and who have been with us from the beginning, indeed, with their Ten Commandments, delivered from above, invented it.
The terms consonantal, Sinaitic and Semitic surely point to the Hebrew abjad, from the intersection of Africa, Europe and Asia, and, as a writing system, the source of what we now designate as vacancy, where vowels, diastemae and punctuation are omitted from the text, yet with no effect on sense. Most of this textual furniture had yet to be invented and we may reasonably ask, if it served no purpose then, does it serve a purpose now, many centuries later? Have vowels added to the sense of the text to any significant degree? Our findings suggest not, for alphabetic vowels are now so irregular, as a consequence of dialect and Grimm's Law that they merely compound the dilemma that they were once intended to resolve.
Israeli Hebrew has again reverted to abjadic vacancy. We now ask if those AH dialects known as PLSH, JRMN, SWDSH or SPNSH need vowels either. While we readily concede that correlation does not equal causation, the triad tables in Chs. 13-21 would appear to speak for themselves, indeed through a megaphone. These are tables of Alphabetic Hebrew, or AH, where the pMH triad of the abjad of antiquity drives the consonantal armature of alphabetic text today.
They say it takes twenty years to become an overnight sensation. If On Hidden Hebrew gains traction in the digital age it will have taken fifty, from that distant post war landscape of austerity and rationing, to the present age of the internet and social media, but such has been the journey which concluded with this title. Perhaps it is appropriate that a title which has taken so long in the gestation should propose the rewriting of history in the publication, for On Hidden Hebrew exchanges the Proto-Indo European linguistic certainties with which we are familiar for a pre-Masoretic Hebrew narrative, being one which proposes that modern languages are encrypted, transcripted, transposed, metathesized and transliterated versions, seasoned with dialect and Grimm's Law, of the abjadic Hebrew of antiquity.
On reflection my European excursion, where I walked around the Mediterranean, absorbing a vast array of languages, seems barely possible today, for few will stop for a dishevelled vagrant loitering at a crossroads. It was all a long time ago, but in the years since, and as the numbers of triads began to mount, I revisited many of the explanations for the origins of text, and found them wanting, for lack of Hebrew. The case for On Hidden Hebrew is both complex, across three alphabets, five versions of Hebrew, if we include Yiddish, and many generations of encryption, yet simple, once we see that the abjadic triad remains common to every generation, and every version, as our guide and mentor, and one which we have learned to trust. We, of course, can only speak for ourselves. You, our reader, must decide if you too can trust the abjadic Hebrew triad, this relic from the dawn of civilization, yet one which unites us in a common linguistic, abjadic, bond today. Either way it is you I have to thank, for I have learned as much from the text as from the phonology of the street, whether overheard in waiting rooms and hotel bars, at bus stops and railway stations or in schools and colleges.
Perhaps it was you calling your dog in Parque Centenario in Buenos Aires, in 2010, or you calling a steward on a flight to Beijing in 2008. Perhaps it was you remonstrating with a cyclist in London in 1983 or you reporting a football score on local radio in Mexico City in 2002. In each case your words illuminated another corner of the Alphabetic Hebrew conundrum, leading to the conclusion that we are all Hebrew speakers now. In these many ways your contribution has been paramount, and for this I owe you a considerable debt of appreciation. I very much hope you will find this debt repaid in the following chapters.