Canaanite Shift
(465 words)

The ‘Canaanite Shift’ is the change of Proto-Semitic to ō, as in Proto-Semitic *salām- > Biblical Hebrew שָׁלוֹם šå̄lōm ‘peace’; *ṯalāṯ- > שָׁלֹשׁ šå̄lōš ‘three’; *kātib- > כֹּתֵב kōṯēb ‘writer (masculine singular participle)’, etc. The feature is also found in other dialects of Canaanite, such as Phoenician, and is thus one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Canaanite group of languages.

The shift is attested already in Egyptian transcriptions from the early 15th century B.C.E., for example, ṯu-pi-r for /tsōpir/ ‘scribe’ (Hebrew סֹפֵר sōp̄ēr) from earlier *tsāpir-, and in…

Cite this page
Huehnergard, John, “Canaanite Shift”, in: Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Edited by: Geoffrey Khan. Consulted online on 17 November 2018 <>
First published online: 2013
First print edition: 9789004176423

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