I would like to first thank you for the opportunity to post in this forum and on this thread. I hope that those of you who are sincere about Truth and are serious students of linguistics, and Hebrew in particular will appreciate what I am about to share. I invite all the criticism you can muster on this topic, it has been a passion of mine ever since the "pictographiles" began to muster upon the World Wide Web. I apologize in advance if any toes are stepped upon; it is only my desire to separate Truth from False, and thereby help unsuspecting persons from being misled because of personal gain, and to attain true Biblical Insights.
There are groups of individuals who make the claim that there is a deeper meaning of the Ancient Hebrew based upon the suggestion that the original Hebrew script might have been pictographic. This is really a pseudo-science and poor scholarship. Those making the claim are not trained linguists, and have no clue how languages evolved or work.
The earliest languages recorded are the Sumerian and Egyptian Hieroglyphic. Both languages are infact hieroglyphic in nature, being that Sumerian is also based on pictures. In these most ancient of languages, which utilize pictures for letters, even these did not utilize the picture as any inner meaning to the word. Ancient Egyptian can demonstrate this easiest, as everyone is sure what the pictures are and represent; as opposed to the Sumerian Cuneiform, which has lost much of its original form.
The Egyptian writing method employs 134 Phonetic signs, and 180 ideographic and determinative signs. The phonetic signs are divided into: monoliteral, the sign represents one phonetic sound; biliteral, the sign represents two phonetic sounds; and triliteral, the sign represents three phonetic sounds. The entirety of Egyptian grammar is much like any other Semitic language. It uses the phonetic signs to build vocabulary, verbs, and is used in the same manner as the later alephbets are used. The ideographs and determinatives are only used to give a clearer meaning to the words built upon the phonetic signs. This is due to the fact that there are many words (in many languages) which are homophones. They are spelled and sound the same, but have different meanings. It is the ideographs and determinatives which give the reader the true meanings of these words. The Egyptian Phonetic signs are used identically to how we use our English alphabet. For instance, the phonetic signs for “i/y” is a reed, the “glottal stop ie. aleph and ayin” is a vulture, and the “w” is represented by a quail chick. Looking at them together they would be: a Reed, Vulture, Quail chick. No Egyptian would read this as having anything to do with a Reed, Vuture or Quail chick. They would understand that these are Phonetic symbols, here they are monoliteral, and represents the sounds I, 3 (glottal stop), and W or I3W. In Egyptian this can represent two different words. This is where the ideograph or determinative comes into play. The ideograph and determinative come at the end of each word to give specific meaning about the word represented by the phonetic symbol. A man leaning on his cain or staff would represent “old age”, a man standing with arms stretched toward heaven would represent “adoration/worship”. Hence, when you see the Reed, Vulture, Quail chick with a man leaning on a staff, it means “old, or olderly”, while the exact same signs with a man holding his hands toward heaven at the end would represent prayer, or adoration. Two different meanings and neither have anything in common with the actual picture representations used for the phonetic symbol. This same method is employed by the Sumerians, Akkadians, Hittites, and even the modern Chinese and Japanese.
The Hebrew language developed much later than the Egyptian, Sumerian or even Chinese. By the time the Semites developed their own alphabet, their language already employed the Cuneiform system of the Akkadians, which was a hieroglyphic type system, utilizing pictures to represent phonemes. Even if one could prove positively that the ancient Hebrew was indeed pictographic, these pictures were phonetic signs only, and the pictures had no significance to the meaning of the words in which they were employed. The names of the alphabet were used only to represent the intitial sounds. For instance, the letter Beth only represented the “b” sound, and did not have any meaning inherent in a “house” which was what the name Beth meant. This is known as acrophony: the naming of letters of an alphabetic writing system so that a letter's name begins with the letter itself. For example, Greek letter names are acrophonic: the names of the letters α, β, γ, δ, are spelled with the respective letters: ἄλφα (alpha), βῆτα (beta), γάμμα (gamma), δέλτα (delta).
Hebrew developed among the nations which utilized pictographic writing, Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Hittite, etc. It would stand to reason that if the ancient Hebrews did employ a pictographic language, then their rules would resemble those of the nations in which it developed. Indeed it does. Looking at these early languages we find that there were certain signs which were used to represent phonemes; the phonetic signs. In each of these languages, Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Hittite, etc. there are signs which represent consonants, and vowels (Egyptian excluded); these languages had verb conjugation, and noun declensions, prepositions, adverbs, participles, ect. There are strong verbs, doubling verbs, weak verbs, and doubly weak verbs.
Egyptian verbs work in a similar way to Hebrew verbs, mostly utilizing a triliteral root. For instance: SDMNF means “he heard”; which was written with the picture representation of: Bulls Ear, Owl, Water, Horned Viper (representing the “He” suffix pronoun). The perfect tense in Egyptian, like Hebrew is governed in the suffix. “I heard” in Egyptian would be SDMNI which would be written as: Bulls Ear, Owl, Water and a kneeling man (representing the “I” suffix pronoun). Hebrew works similarly to the Egyptian method. שמע Shama’ means “he heard”. It is written with the Shin (two front teeth) Mim (Water) and Ayin (Eye or Spring). “I heard” would be written שמעתי Shama’ti Shin (Two front teeth) Mim (Water) Ayin (Eye or Spring) Tav (an “x” mark) Yod (Hand). In Both Egyptian and Hebrew the 1st singular perfect is represented with an “I/Y”. Sedjemeni (I heard) Shamati (I heard).
One famous Egyptian word is MS which is written: Three Fox Skins, Piece of Cloth meaning “to bear/give birth”. This is found in famous names such as Tutmoses, and could also possibly be the origin of the name Moses. Notice the meaning of the word has no relation to three fox’s skins nor a piece of cloth.
The point I am trying to make is that even among those most ancient of languages which we all know to have used pictographs, these pictographs didn’t work the way many claim ancient Hebrew works in regard to pictographs. One final example.
In Egyptian Hieroglyphic there is no pictograph for a “dove” even though "dove" is mentioned earliest among the Hieroglyphs. The word for “dove” is PAT, which is written as a Reed Mat, Arm, Loaf. What then does a reed mat, arm and loaf have to do with a dove? Nothing at all; the glyphs only represented the phonetic signs to pronounce the word PAT.