[b-hebrew] Scope of data for correctly appraising BH
kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 21:16:00 EDT 2010
This is to finish off on responding to your long post.
On Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 4:57 AM, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:
> >> or if one doesn’t
> >> recognize an infinitive absolute structure being used for a finite verb,
> > After reading the text and learning that many of the grammar claims that
> > I had been taught in class were wrong, I decided to put grammar on the
> > back burner and concentrate on vocabulary and meaning. I also noticed
> > times that the Masoretic points are wrong as far as vocabulary and
> > therefore untrustworthy. How many of the infinite absolute forms were
> > wrongly pointed as infinite absolutes when they should have been other
> > forms?
> > Also, because the grammar is different than what we expect from our
> > background in western languages, are we making expectations that Biblical
> > Hebrew doesn’t follow? (By “western languages” I include modern, Israeli
> > Hebrew.)
> There are several misleading points in the immediate comments above.
> Already on this list you were presented with
> Ecc 4:2 shabbeaH ani
In context this is a classic participle. Only the pointing “contaminates” it
to something else.
> and Esth 9:1 nahafox hu (vnhpwk hw’)
You need to look at this one in the context of the ending of chapter 8 (the
chapters and verses were added later) where this verse is the ending of that
thought. In this context, this is not an infinitive being used as a finite
verb, rather an infinitive indicating results of previous action. Don’t take
things out of context.
> and Est 9:5 ve-abbed (+ transitive objects). Plus others.
If you look at Est 8:6, this is a noun. and here in context it is also a
noun. It is connected with MKT that precedes it.
> Scholars learn from new information.
> May I suggest that you read your “friends” Gesenius 113 y-gg, Jouon-Muraoka
> 123 t-y where within 7 pages of discussion of the BH phenomeneon Muraoka
> adds, “The use of the inf. abs. in place of a finite verb is widespread in
> cognate Northwest Semitic idioms.”, or Sola-Sole’s L’infinitiv semitique,
> or Huesman’s articles in Bibica 37 (1956) 271-95, 410-434. This e-list does
> not need to repeat lengthy, published, conclusive discussions.
How much are these published discussions based on the Masoretic points,
which are untrustworthy? It doesn’t matter how well thought out an article
is, if it is based on a faulty premise, it’s GIGO.
> And the references to Western European languages is really an old dodge.
It’s no dodge, it’s a serious question. Even though the infinitive absolute
construction is not a Western European phenomenon, how much of the
understanding thereof is contaminated by Western European thought?
> The infinitive absolute construction in not a Western European phenomenon,
> it is not a modern Hebrew phenomenon, so it becomes a ‘red herring’ to
> suggest it as an explanation. But citing it does become evidence that you
> do not understand it and that your ‘thinking’ in BH is 'deficient', to
> be polite.
> Please note the consonantal texts above.
> Do you know le-shabbeaH as a qal verb anywhere?
I checked the consonantal text of Eccl. 4:2 in both WLC and Aleppo, both
have it written as ושׁבח, not לשׁבח as you have in your question above.
> I cite the above
> grammarians for you to learn that these are the tip of an iceberg and
> not an isolated phenomenon, not a Western European phenomenon, not
> a modern Hebrew phenomenon, and not an appeal to authority.
> Just the best readings of a lot of texts in BH, el-Amarna Canaanite,
> Phoenician, and the MT.
It is an appeal to authority when you mention them and not their arguments.
You don’t need to reproduce their complete arguments, a paragraph should
suffice to cover their main points.
And the majority of the examples brought up on this list so far have either
been required by grammar to be infinitives, as they are secondary verbs in
their sentences, or contextually other forms, only the Masoretic points
making them infinitives. Can we take these examples as just further reasons
not to trust the Masoretic points?
> > we have to drop all claims as “No one that I know, who is competent
> > to evaluate such data…”, “consensus”, “Hebraists”, “people who are so
> > acquainted”, and other arguments that you use. Those are all
> > ‘personality’ arguments. It is your reliance on personality arguments
> > that makes me think your position is weak.
> As I explained, if someone does not have the background to evaluate
> something, then they need to learn from those who do. A weak argument
> would be to admit that one does not have the background to evaluate the
> evidence AND that they nevertheless reject all testimonies from those
> who do.
OK then, bring up their arguments, not their personalities! As long as you
mention only their names, it is an appeal to authority and logically
> > Was Hebrew the language for which the alphabet was developed?
> The alphabet was most probably not developed for BHebrew, and is certainly
> not a good starting point for argumentation. But this is ultimately
> to the discussion, see your next comment cited immediately below.
> [[aside by RB: The ‘sin’-‘shin’ phenomenon relates to another
> phoneme that is also attested in South Arabic. I suggest reading
> Steiner on the lateral-fricative (1977) and later discussions.
> You will also want to read Blau on `ayin/ghayin, Het/khet.
> What I can agree with is that Hebrew agreed with Phoenician in collapsing
> *‘th’ and *‘sh’. Jud 5:11 yetannu appears to be a dissimilation referring
> to a dialect where ‘sh’ was not used. Since we know that ‘th’ was in the
> linguistic vicinity and in Aramaic of the time, the ‘t’ appears to reflect
> northern dialect of pre-monarchial Hebrew without ‘sh’ for this verb,
> otherwise, yeshannu would probably have been used. Assuming that that
> northern dialect was using ‘th’, we can conclude that Judean Hebrew (BH)
> did not have ‘th’. (I don’t expect to write the history of NWS languages
> on list in order to demonstrate the probability/possibility of this,
> just accept
> that at this point we agree on 'th/sh' merger.)]]
This whole section is based on two fallacies:
1) just because certain sounds, hence phonemes, are found in other, cognate
languages, therefore they were necessarily found in Hebrew as well.
2) it contradicts the written record concerning the development of the
language as presented in Tanakh.
Languages both lose and gain phonemes over time. That South Arabic is
particularly rich in phonemes can be attributed to phonemes gained through
contacts with Africa and points east in Asia.
> > If so, did the inventors of the alphabet follow the usual pattern of
> > making one letter for each phoneme, and no more than one phoneme per
> > letter?
> No, they didn’t. No vowels are written.
Oy! I didn’t expect that I would have to deal with nitpicking on this issue
too. I thought it was obvious from the context that I was referring to one
letter per consonantal phoneme.
> Yet at Ugarit, El-Amarna, and in
> Akkadian, vowels were written and are phonemic. The Semitic languages all
> had a minimum of three or more phonemic vowels. Therefore, your starting
> ASSUMPTION is misplaced, contradicts known evidence,
> and cannot be used as evidence or any kind of credible theory.
> It’s a "non-theory".
See above. You didn’t answer my question.
I asked a “what if?” question, and your answers are historically,
linguistically and logically fallacious. Hence you gave a non-answer to my
The reason for the “what if?” question is that, no matter what the answer,
it has implications for our understanding of Biblical Hebrew before and
during the First Temple era. I personally think the answer is “Yes.”
> >As the language changed, was the original pronunciation of the consonants
> >hard or soft?
> I assume that we agree on ‘hard’ begedkefet in First Temple Hebrew.
> > I also saw a few transliterations of transliterations of Hebrew
> > names from Ninevah that seemed to indicate that the names had CV
> > pronunciation.
> Why don’t you evaluate their transcriptional accuracy and probability?
Why do you think I wrote “seemed to indicate”? I don’t have the resources to
double check on this published source.
> > As for when Hebrew pronunciation changed, I think it occurred during the
> > second temple period, much of it happening before the LXX was written. If
> > true, that means that later data will not reflect Biblical Hebrew
> > pronunciation.
> Actually, even this is a linguistic mistake. Changes in a language can
> be studied and become evidence of the kinds of changes, the influences
> of the changes, the relative dates of the changes, and the predecessors
> of the changes.
OK, we have the historical predecessor and date of change in that the
population was removed from their land and scattered among other peoples in
Babylon. There the people had to deal with Aramaic language and culture. In
dealing with immigrant peoples, it usually takes one to two generations for
a people to lose their language, and the people in Babylon were there two
and a half generations.
There was no core group of Hebrew speakers left in Judea to preserve the
language in isolation, as all those who remained in Judea had fled to Egypt.
Within Tanakh we can see evidence of that change, as the post Babylonian
Exile books were different from the pre-Babylonian Exile books. The change
was more literary than linguistic, consistent with Hebrew learned and spoken
as a second language, not as one’s primary language. Because Hebrew was a
“holy language”, those post Exile writers refused to change spellings to
reflect the change in pronunciations. Or if the Aramaic pronunciations were
different from Hebrew and the alphabet was a poor fit to Aramaic, the
Aramaic speaking Jews used the Aramaic pronunciations for Hebrew letters and
> > A final piece of evidence is that when poetry is pronounced with a CV
> > pronunciation, including even the “materes lectionis” as consonants
> > with each followed by a vowel to make syllables, there is a rhythm
> > present that does not exist for other pronunciation schemes.
> One would need to follow this up and compare the cognate morphologies
> for such claims.
Absolutely untrue! That’s the way to avoid the claim, not check up on it.
If the cognate languages are so different that speakers of one could not
understand speakers of the other without translation or learning the other
language, how can one expect that cognate languages would show up something
as ephemeral as rhythm in other languages? Even to make such a demand is,
> > There are many ifs in the above scenario, but you can’t rule them
> > out.
> Like all historical research, one deals in probabilities. When something
> drops below a perceived 50% it is ‘possible’, but not ‘probable’,
> below 5-10% it becomes unlikely, below 1% it becomes an academic
> curiousity, etc.
> A CV, no CVC Hebrew, ranks down in the mists below 1%, even as a “proto-
> Hebrew” (earlier splits from before Hebrew is Hebrew already show CVC
> within the cognate languages).
And where do you find this “proto-Hebrew”? It’s not in Tanakh.
If you are talking about unobservable theorizing, I, as well as many others,
don’t accept unobservable theorizing as evidence.
> That is why it may be important to point out that (1) zero competent
> accept a certain position, and
> (2) the advocate of a certain position may not be competent to deal with
> the full scope of the evidence.
Another appeal to authority.
> And students need to know where certain claims for learning the language
> are historically unreliable.
I don’t see any logic in this sentence.
> Randall Buth
> Randall Buth, PhD
> randallbuth at gmail.com
> Biblical Language Center
> Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
> Whew! I hope I covered it all.
Karl W. Randolph.
More information about the b-hebrew