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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Modern Hebrew Words


By Jeff A. Benner

Many Modern Hebrew words are transliterations of European words. For instance the Modern Hebrew word for “telephone” is טלפון, which is pronounced telephone. The Modern Hebrew word for a “jungle” is ג'ונגל, which is pronounced “jungle” (the letter ג is a “g” sound, but when followed by the apostrophe it takes on a “j” sound in Modern Hebrew). This Modern Hebrew word is a transliteration of the European word “jungle,” which is found in English, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish and French.

According to Isaac Mozeson, world renowned for his work in Edenics, the study of Semitic/Hebrew origin to words around the world, the word jungle comes from the Semitic/Hebrew word יער (ya’ar, Strong's #3293). At first glance there does not seem to be any connection between this Hebrew word and “jungle,” that is until we examine the sound shifts that have occurred over time. When a word is transferred from one language to another the sounds of letters are swapped for other letters of similar sound. For example the Latin word for foot is “ped” (where we get our words pedestrian and pedal). The “p” is exchanged for the “f” (both sounds being made at the lips) and the “d” for “t” (both sounds being made at the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth) and the word “ped” becomes “fet” or “feet.”

In the case of the word יער, the י (y) is exchanged for a “j,” the ע (a guttural stop) for an “ng,” and the ר (r) for an “l” and יער (ya’ar) becomes JuNGLe. The Ancient Hebrew יער traveled through many different other languages to become the European word jungle, which was then transliterated back into Hebrew as ג'ונגל. Interestingly though, the Modern Hebrew word for a “forest” is the Ancient Hebrew word ג'ונגל.

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