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Something that has always bothered me and I've never really understood is why Hebrew is so messy. If it is the language of G-d, the language in which the world was created and the language in which the Torah was written, then why is it so complicated and weird in some aspects. Let me explain with some examples:

  1. There are multiple letters for the same sound (sin and samech, vav and bet, tet and taf).
  2. There are multiple sounds for the same letter (vav can be an u, an o or a v).
  3. Some letters have subdivisions (shin and sin, bet and vet, etc).
  4. Just five letters have a sofit version.
  5. Two nikkudot can have totally different sounds but be written exactly identical (such as kamatz, that can be an a or an o).
  6. Many sounds aren't in the Hebrew alphabet (like g in george, ch in change, etc).

I know every language has its rules, but how can Hebrew seem so "un imperfect"?

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    I'm not sure what you are expecting of any language. Having a version with and without a dagesh (or mapik...I never understood) or having a final version just means "more letters" not "imperfect." And many would say that letters don't actually (properly) share pronunciations. We have conflated them, but that's our ignorance, not the language's imperfection. – rosends Jan 18 '16 at 13:43
  • @Danno, I have an Israeli friend who has studied the phonemic developement of Hebrew (his spiel is quite interesting). He also differentiates all of his בג”ד כפ”ת letters, א, ע, ח, כ, kamatz, and hei mappik. OTOH, I think that this question is off-topic as it is about Hebrew Language. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 18 '16 at 14:59
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    @NoachmiFrankfurt I don't really think this question is about the Hebrew Language in an off-topic way. It's asking for a hashkafic explanation for a phenomenon that happens to occur in the Hebrew Language. – Daniel Jan 18 '16 at 15:21
  • A yud too can be ee or y. – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 15:38
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    @DoubleAA messy means not aesthetically pleasing from a grammarians perspective. A hypothetically perfect language would have one symbol per phoneme, lack rule exceptions, have completely filled out pronunciation charts without empty spaces, have all verb forms for each root, etc. – ShamanSTK Jan 18 '16 at 17:06
5

Many of your point are only relevant to Modern Hebrew, which is a distinct language from Biblical Hebrew, only the latter being a holy language. In fact, many orthodox Jews distance themselves from Modern Hebrew (to the point of prohibiting its use in their synagogues) because of what is deemed to be its inherent un-holiness.

Nevertheless, let me address each of your points separately:

  1. There are multiple letters for the same sound (sin and samech, vav and bet, tet and taf).

In fact, each letter used to have a distinct sound, but over the course of history, much of such distinction has been lost. The best preserving dialect of Hebrew is probably the Yemenite, where there is a clear distinction between waw/veth and dteth/taw. I even heard from an authentic Yemenite source that in some Yemenite villages a distinction between sin and samach remains, the latter being about half-way between sin and tsadi.

  1. There are multiple sounds for the same letter (vav can be an u, an o or a v). Some letters have subdivisions (shin and sin, bet and vet, etc).

This could be in explained in many ways. Here is a simplified Kabbalistic explanation: God created the world through the 10 vowels and 22 letters. Each represents fundamental concepts and their connections. Each word consists of a collection of such concepts and connections that together form the meaning of the word. (E.g. Av = Alef + Beth = Master + House = Master of the house.) Some letters need to show different aspects of themselves to correctly bring out the meaning.

  1. Just five letters have a sofit version.

According to the first opinion in Sanhedrin (as it happens, this is the view held by archaeologists too), the Torah was originally in Ksav Ivri which does not have these forms. In the time of Ezra, the original script was replaced by Ksav Ashuris which has these alternate forms. A further indication of this is that Sefer Yetzira (by Avraham Avinu) never mentions the final forms.

  1. Two nikkudot can have totally different sounds but be written exactly identical (such as kamatz, that can be an a or an o).

This is not an anomaly. Just as with the letters, each vowel also variants. Most have two length-variants. (E.g. Chataf segol/Segol, Chirik katan/Chirik gadol, Shva nach/Shva na') Again, the distinction between many such pairs have been lost by various groups, and mostly preserved by the Yemenites.

  1. Many sounds aren't in the Hebrew alphabet (like g in george, ch in change, etc).

No language contains all sounds made by man. However, the ones included in Hebrew are the ones that were fundamental to the Creation. One could argue that all other sounds a made up of combinations of the 32 (including their variations) that we have. (E.g. George = D + Z + Sh, Change = T + Sh.)

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    Your argument in 2 would be much stronger if you could indicate an example where the letter variants serve a purpose. Right now you don't have any evidence of that. (In fact, it seems like your source argues against you by indicating only 22 letters were needed in creation instead of 22+sin+consonental-אהיו+bgdkpt not to mention 'hard r' (or chet-2 or ayin-2 or zayin-2).) – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 15:54
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    You mention one (fringe) source for "many orthodox Jews distance themselves from Modern Hebrew". For me, you need more support than that to claim "many". – Scimonster Jan 18 '16 at 17:00
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    @Scimonster It's polemic; don't worry about it too much. No one actually invalidates Chalitzot performed by speakers of modern Hebrew. – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 17:01
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    @NBZ Just because someone found a convention for indicating the sound J doesn't mean they are using a pure combination of traditional sounds in doing so. We can all decide that צ' means "ch" but that's just a convention. So too with your last name. It's a convention, not traditional Hebrew usage. (And I assume someone who thinks Modern Hebrew is a different language (!) would understand that nuance perfectly and think such a convention is a terrible terrible thing and stop writing their own last name as Yeihareig v'Al Ya'avor.) – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 17:42
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    @NBZ You should have finished that claim with "...but they'd be obviously wrong because numerous sounds in world languages such as the retroflex nasal click and voiced palato-alveolar sibilant cannot be constructed from Hebrew sounds." – Double AA Jan 18 '16 at 18:08
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The Hebrew language is considered the holy tongue, but not because it is ascetically pleasing from a grammarian's view point. It is holy because holy people use it to convey holy ideas, and it is ill suited (in its original incarnation) for speaking on profane matters. The Rambam writes:

I have also a reason and cause for calling our language the holy language--do not think it is exaggeration or error on my part, it is perfectly correct--the Hebrew language has no special name for the organ of generation in females or in males, nor for the act of generation itself, nor for semen, nor for secretion. The Hebrew has no original expressions for these things, and only describes them in figurative language and by way of hints, as if to indicate thereby that these things should not be mentioned, and should therefore have no names; we ought to be silent about them, and when we are compelled to mention them, we must manage to employ for that purpose some suitable expressions, although these are generally used in a different sense. Moreh Nevukim 3:8

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    So what is the meaning of the root שגל used in the ktiv (but not in the kri) of the tochacha? – Loewian Jan 18 '16 at 17:33
  • @Loewian it means queen. See Nehemiah 2:6, Daniel 5:2, and Tehillim 25:10. – ShamanSTK Jan 18 '16 at 18:36
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    @Loewian See here for an opinion that the verb שגל means "to sodomise". – magicker72 Feb 1 '17 at 23:33

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