Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Tue Jul 30 15:42:39 EDT 2002

> Dear Peter and Liz, et al,
> I believe Jouon-Muraoka is correct.  All of the Semitic languages that I
> know make a clear distinction between masculine and feminine singular
> independent pronouns from the earliest evidence we have of them.  

I'm not sure what languages you refer to, though I haven't checked 
Akkadian.  Ugaritic had HW for masculine and HY for feminine, but 
the Aramaic inscriptions listed in Donner-Rollig appear to use H) for 
both genders, and I couldn't find any examples of these pronouns in 
the Phonecian inscriptions from the same volume.

It would
> seem passing strange for Hebrew alone to fail to make this distinction at an
> earlier stage, only to add it rather consistently in later texts.  It should
> also be noted that the distinction does in fact occur eleven times in the
> Pentateuch itself.  

Indeed it would seem strange, unless Ugaritic was unusual in this 
regard whereas ancient Aramaic etc. either didn't make such a 
distinction or was somewhat lax in pronunciation.  The situation with 
ancient Hebrew is apparently less clear, since the pronouns don't 
occur in any of the inscriptions of which I am aware.

If we understand the final Alef to be radical rather
> than merely orthographic, presumably the pre-pointed texts would have
> rendered He-Alef for both, and I think this is the spelling found in the
> Mesha` inscription if memory serves.

H) appears 3 times in the Mesha inscription, all apparently with 
masculine referents, so here again we don't know the full story.

> Thus the addition of materi lectionis VAV or YOD would be LATE rather than
> early.  

Agreed about the addition of the ML's.  However, the question is 
whether they preserve a much earlier pronunciation tradition, or 
whether (as Randall Buth suggested to me privately, cited with his 
permission) the readings in the Pentateuch arose over confusion of 
WAW and YOD, since at times they were written identically (note 
this phenomenon in many of the Dead Sea Scrolls).  If the latter, 
then the phenomenon is essentially meaningless except for the 
curious fact that it pretty much only happens in the Torah.  If the 
former, the phenomenon could conceivably point to a very early date 
for the Torah, depending on how early this pronunciation tradition 
goes back.

I fail to see how any of this bears directly on the viability of the
> documentary hypothesis, although I am certain the eye of the individual
> beholder may discern evidence for ideas already closely held.

Ignoring that last jab, virtually every form of the DH says that large 
parts of the Pentateuch are either exilic or post-exilic.  If the pronoun 
phenomenon points to a pre-exilic, perhaps even very ancient, 
pronunciation tradition that died out or shifted before the writing of 
the prophets and the Deuteronomic History, then the Documentary 
Hypothesis essentially falls apart (or at least must be drastically 
rewritten so that all sources are pre-exilic and earlier than the 
earliest of the writing prophets).  If such a theory bears out, it gives 
the Mosaic-authorship camp a fair load of ammunition.  That's how 
the question bears on the Documentary Hippopotamus - uh, 
Hypothesis ;-)

Dave Washburn

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