Etgar shows the repaired speech balloon.Tiqwah connects the dalet to the alfon to make new letters appear on the aural grid.A mysterious seal appears and brings the Deli urn with it.The revived Deli greets Tiqwah. [wpedon id=”9536″]

Davar and dever: Hebrew and the plague

It’s a bit off-topic from “Milhamah” stuff, but the coronavirus inspired some recent articles on Hebrew and plagues. The connection makes sense, as the word davar (for “word” or “thing”) shares the same ד-ב-ר root as dever (“plague”). The root already debuted in the “Milhamah” comic. But David Curwin, author of the Balashon Hebrew blog, writes that the two words’ origins differ despite the common root:

More surprisingly, it is not cognate with the word hadbara – “extermination.” That word comes from a third Hebrew root, which meant “to follow behind” or “to push forward.” This meaning led to the word midbar – “desert,” which was a place where cattle were pushed forward to graze. In the more intense hifil form of the verb, hidbir, “pushing forward” became “subdue, overwhelm,” and from there came the meaning “to eliminate, exterminate.” (“Yadber sonenu,” we recite in the Prayer for the I.D.F., asking God to “subdue our enemies.”)

Meanwhile, Daniel Kennemer writes in The Times of Israel about the etymology behind the root ר-ש-ף. It can mean fire, plague, birds, demons and even a Canaanite god named Reshef or Rishpu:

“He spread epidemics and death. […] He is represented with a shield, a club and a lightning bolt,” according to one summary.

Lastly, author Jeremy Benstein writes about the linguistics of infection related to the root ד-ב-ק, tying it to Deut. 28:21. He also notes the root’s sexual and secular meanings, as well as spiritual ones such as “spiritual closeness with God” and the antithesis of:

when an evil spirit clings to a person, a sort of demonic possession, known as a דיבוק dybbuk, made popular in the play by S. An-sky of that name.

Whether our modern anxieties call to plagues, pagan gods or demons, the sickness of our age is obvious. It’s all the more reason why we need heroes armed with candor and dedication.        

The urn returns in Episode 11 (Pt. 2)

While the battle continues, the evil urn Deli startles our heroes from behind. The villain seems to be reformed … but not in a good way! Will Tiqwah and Etgar find what they’re looking for in the aural grid before it’s too late? This is Part 2 to “Slaughter in the Water,” and you can see the earlier part here. Things get technical behind the scenes in this episode, as it starts to explain how the “Milhamah” characters weaponize their alfons to make blessing attacks outside of their own natural ability. Gradually readers will learn about these things over the next few episodes, but I’ll give a preview here. Basically, Tiqwah and Etgar connected the speech balloon and the foundation glyph to their alfons to make new letters appear in the aural grid. The aural grid shows sound frequencies, and Tiqwah and Etgar are looking for ‘Ivrit ones to do new attacks. The evil Bavel Empire try to scramble these ‘Ivrit frequencies to make it harder for the heroes to do this. (Though in Bavel’s perspective, they believe they’re actually unscrambling their own language!) Anyway, it’ll be up to our heroes to find the correct sequence of letters needed — a shoresh root — to code in an alfon attack, or a blessing. Will they do this next episode? Maybe…

Meanwhile, what is Deli doing?

Etgar shot the urn in Episode 9, but now the fiendish jar is back. Well, it used an Akkadian curse called walа̄du. Deli’s natural shoresh root is dalet-lamed-yod (דלי). He’s using a permuted power caused by switching the letters around, (ילד). This undergoes a consonantal shift, as in Akkadian the same Semitic root is spelled waw-lamed-dalet (ולד). The pink seal beneath Deli contains real Semitic letters and words. The Akkadian for walа̄du in the center. The Paleo-Hebrew and Ugaritic letters for (ילד) are in the middle orbit, plus the six different root permutations in Aramaic-style Hebrew script. The outer ring has the alef-bet. So as the comic says, Deli permuted or switched his powers around to heal himself through a rebirth. Of course, since he’s from Bavel, he does this through the power of trickery and evil. Next episode you’ll learn the difference between the Holy Tongue’s Society’s truth-guided blessings and Bavel’s manipulative curses, and why it matters.

A side note

Please take a moment to vote for Milhamah: Fighting Words” on the Top Webcomics site! The more votes we get, the more visible this comic becomes. Also, if you haven’t signed up on our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook pages, please take a moment to do so!

Grammar Part 3: Hebrew history

A screenshot of the Aqademyah's like of my praise for their services, which included a link to this site.
The Aqademyah likes me! They really like me!

 

After learning about Semitic languages in November, our journey through the Joüon and Muraoka book continues. This time we’re going specifically through the history of ancient Hebrew.

Biblical Hebrew is fairly consistent throughout the centuries. The Bible’s writers, from earliest to latest, differ most in vocabulary. Some of the syntax also evolves, though it’s not that significant. Morphology, or word formation, changed the least due to stable consonants.

However, Joüon and Muraoka point out that the following Mishnaic Hebrew era strays farther from the biblical style conventions. However, they speculate that some Mishnaic-era writers still wanted to write in the Bible’s older style and format.

And they say Mishnaic Hebrew started to form after most of the Tanakh (Old Testament) was finished. The Mishnaic era also covers the period of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jesus. 

Joüon and Muraoka divide the biblical language into two eras: a “golden age” before the Babylonian exile and an era afterward. The authors acknowledge that some scholars think the entire Bible was basically written after the exile. But Joüon and Muraoka point out linguistic differences, such as the Bible’s later books spelling “Jerusalem” and “David” in a way earlier biblical books didn’t.

Hebrew’s relationship to ‘Milhamah’

The “Milhamah” webcomic doesn’t glean too much from this history. However, the character of ‘Aravah ‘Ivrit, whom I unveiled last week for Hebrew Language Day, embodies the language. Some of the details are in that post.

My art drew quite a few people from Facebook to this website. I even earned a Facebook like from the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which chiefly promotes the holiday in honor of Hebrew revivalist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Their resources are a great help to my comic research, and I let them know that. 

All in all, it’s not a bad way to end the year!

Grammar Part 2: Semitic languages

As we continue last week’s examination of Joüon and Muraoka’s book “A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew,” the authors remind us that Hebrew is a Semitic language that is similar to neighboring tongues. For instance, Semitic languages’ shared traits include:
  1. Gutturals like ḥet (ח) and ‘ayin (ע)
  2. emphatics like  ṭet (ט), tzadi (צ) and qof (ק)
  3. Root sequences usually composed of three consonants that suggest specific motifs that are conjugated by adding vowels
According to the book, the oldest Semitic languages were born in the northeast, such as Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian) and Eblaite. Next the book says the South Semitic languages generally arose, such as Hadrami, Minaic, Qatabanic  and Sabean. The Southern family also includes Ge’ez, which South Arabian emigrants to Ethiopia spoke, according to the book. Finally the Central (or Northwestern) Semitic languages came to be, such as Canaanite, Aramaic and Arabic. While Hebrew was home to the land of Canaan, the book says proto-Hebrew and ancient Canaanite differed in some ways, like how they conjugated the qal passive verb. Hebrew is very similar to Moabite and also related to Phoenician. Ugaritic, spoken to the north of Canaan, is a separate language with a cuneiform alphabet. The Bible refers to Hebrew (‘Ivrit) as Yehudit. Besides the Bible, we know about ancient Hebrew through Babylonian and Akkadian documents. Ostraca and archaeological finds like the Gezer Calendar and the Siloam inscription offer more evidence. Other languages like ancient Egyptian and Berber have some things in common with Semitic languages, but not enough to part of the family.

Where the languages fit in ‘Milhamah’

As “Milhamah: Fighting Words” begins its first year, expect to see Hebrew explained in depth, along with a smattering of Akkadian. In our fictional world, several other languages have their own insurgencies and resistance movements against Bavel too. While virtually all of these movements are (at least temporary) allies of the Holy Tongue Society, their activities happen off-camera. “Milhamah” will only deal with Semitic languages, and specifically ones that I study in great detail. Why Semitic languages? They have features that inspire artistic creativity and make good gameplay mechanics. For example, look at the trilateral shoresh roots, in which three consonants combine to make words with similar meanings. This concept will make more sense in the weeks to come. The comic’s Episode 9 will be released Tuesday, and I hope to begin showing very early development screenshots or videos of the roguelike game in December. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!