Pointing and canonical authority

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Tue Oct 31 11:02:46 EST 2000

Thank you, Henry, for this interesting point. But oddly enough it doesn't
affect my argument as much as one might think. For, since I am not a
phonologist like you, I am interested not so much in pronunciation as in
meaning. Meaning persists with the written form of the text even as
pronunciation changes. I understand that the pointing which we have in MT
represents the pronunciation at that late period. But the changes which led
to that pronunciation were part of a natural linguistic change, as you say,
and the meaning of the text would have been preserved through this change
even as its outward form developed.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Henry Churchyard [mailto:churchh at usa.net]
Sent: 30 October 2000 10:34
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: Pointing and canonical authority


The question of the authenticity of the pointing is a slightly complex
one.  I have no doubt that in the vast majority of cases the pointing
is "authentic" in the sense that even if not always ultimately the
correct reading, it does reflect an actual persisting tradition (as
opposed to Kahle's speculations about artificial self-conscious
Masoretic innovations).  However, there are some features of the
pointing which reflect a phonological situation which did not yet
exist at any time we would call "Biblical".  For example, the
segholate nouns -- here external transcriptions into other languages
abundantly reveal that while epenthesis in the unsuffixed forms of
certain CVCC-stem nouns (where the third consonant has much more
phonological sonority than the second consonant) may be somewhat old,
the phonological change which made epenthesis occur in the unsuffixed
forms of _all_ such nouns (regardless of the sonority relationship
between the second and third consonants) is very late, only occurring
in the A.D. period, and probably not in the first few centuries of the
A.D. period either.

This doesn't mean that I regard the change of the spread of segholate
epenthesis from a few CVCC-stem nouns to all such nouns as being in
any way linguistically unnatural, or "artificial" in the sense of
Kahle -- on the contrary, this is a very natural linguistic change,
which can be explained within Ito's 1986 phonological theory as simply
resulting from the change of one binary phonological parameter
("Word-level Extrasyllabic Licensing"), as explained in chapter 4 of
my dissertation.  However, the fact remains that when you pronounce
a segholate noun's epenthetic vowel, in the majority of cases you're
using a pronunciation that probably would have been unknown to anybody
at any time that anybody would call "Biblical"...

Henry Churchyard   churchh at usa.net   http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/

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