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The Origin of the JewsThe Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age$
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Steven Weitzman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174600

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174600.001.0001

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Roots and Rootlessness

Roots and Rootlessness

Paleolinguistics and the Prehistory of the Jews

(p.63) Chapter Two Roots and Rootlessness
The Origin of the Jews

Steven Weitzman

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the use of etymology, the study of the origin of words, as a way to elucidate the prehistory of the Jews and thus their origins. Roots are particularly easy to recognize in Hebrew and other Semitic languages because they usually take the form of three consonants that carry the basic semantic meaning of the word. The chapter first provides an overview of the connection between etymology and genealogy before discussing the prehistory of the Hebrews. It then considers how the concept of prehistory reshaped the way scholars approached the question of Jewish origins by focusing on a group of proto-people known as the Habiru. It also explores Ferdinand de Saussure's critique of paleolinguistics and the implications of the turn from paleolinguistics as a means to investigate the prehistory of the Hebrews.

Keywords:   etymology, Jews, roots, genealogy, Hebrews, prehistory, Jewish origins, Habiru, Ferdinand de Saussure, paleolinguistics

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