In Hebrew and possibly other abjads, there is a concept called "gematria", which is, in short, that each letter has a numerical value proceeding linearly through the alphabet, such that א equals 1, ב equals 2, and so on.

This produces many classical commentaries on these numerical values, and there are many theologically significant interrelationships between words. As a very simple example, the sum of the values for the Hebrew word for father and mother is equal to the value of the word child, as below:

Father: אב, av
Mother: אם, em
Child: ילד, yeled

Av equals 3, em equals 41, and yeled equals 44.

There are many more examples, but this is one of the simplest. How could such a thing have arisen naturally? As far as I know it does not occur in other languages, and seems too complex to be coincidence.

  • For the record, although I am coming from a religious perspective, I am assuming that there must also be some naturally evident process at work. Therefore, I am explicitly not trying to proselytize or to hint that it must be any proof of Hebrew's divine origin. – yoel Feb 27 '13 at 19:32
  • We have been discussing the subject here. – yoel Feb 27 '13 at 19:42
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    Linguistics is not concerned with the order in which the letters of an alphabet have been placed. – Otavio Macedo Feb 28 '13 at 13:38

Complex relationships (e.g., Chaldean) are probably just chance. I don't accept the "too complex to be coincidence" argument. Given a large set of symbols of numerical (or other) value, connections are bound to occur. Not finding anything like this would be amazing.

Simple relationships, such as "Father + Mother = Child" could also be coincidence but they could easily have be designed or at least "encouraged". Considering the significance of numbers in religion, a connection like this could almost be required for such a fundamental statement. So, if it wasn't there already, synonyms could be encouraged or new words coined to make it true.

It would be interesting to know how many of these were purely by chance and how many were designed or encouraged. It probably wouldn't be possible to know for sure without a record of the words/letters before association with numbers. [Then we could see if the "coincidences" increased or remained the same.]

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    Do you have any data supporting this, such as patterns found in other languages? – Double AA Feb 27 '13 at 23:30
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    One alternative explanation apart from 'chance' is data dredging. Word combinations which yield meaningful results are chosen. Word combinations which do not are ignored. – jogloran Feb 28 '13 at 4:03
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    @jogloran: Yes, this is what I meant by "encouraged" but didn't know the term – igelkott Feb 28 '13 at 9:24
  • @DoubleAA: No, just using a general sense of mathematics. Would be interesting to know if this has been seriously studied in computational linguistics (rather than numerology). – igelkott Feb 28 '13 at 10:23
  • @igelkott: I doubt it! Great answer btw. – Cerberus Mar 1 '13 at 4:02

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