Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Tue Jul 30 16:32:36 EDT 2002

Hi Dave,

Akkadian regularly uses shu and shi; Syriac hu'a and hi'a; and the oldest
Aramaic inscriptions are all distinguished.  Old South Arabic, which is
throughout conservative, clearly regards the distinction as huwwa'/hiyya'.

As to my "jab," I see that you ignored it but the Hippopotamus apparently
did not.  I do not intend to harpoon anyone either way, but simply to note
that the confusion in orthography, which Randall and others have pointed out
correctly interchange YOD and VAV, is all late.  Again, I fail to see where
the hu/hi situation in the Pentateuch bears on the DH one way or the other,
and I have not weighed in on either side.  It is my observation that those
who think or wish it dead find evidence of its demise in a variety of
graves, while those who find it useful are still trying to modify it on a
case by case basis without abandoning it altogether.  That is ALL I meant by
"the eye of the individual beholder."  Show me a scholar who holds one
position strongly and yet sees the evidence as mixed and I will retract even
this statement that you take as a "jab."  If you wish to view Moses as the
author of the Pentateuch, by all means do so with my blessing.  I would then
merely ask how the great one himself could have been confused by so simple a
matter a personal pronouns.

In this regard, I think you are confusing orthography with grammatical
function.  That is, if the earliest Hebrew mss. wrote H) for BOTH, that does
not mean they were ever the same in function or pronunciation.  The VAV and
YOD were added much later to assist those who, lacking native fluency in the
language, could not make the distinction without such a crutch.  A similar
situation holds today in modern Hebrew.  In an unpointed text, the
ORTHOGRAPHY of "Pretty" is the same whether one reads YeLeD Y-F-H or YaLDaH
Y-F-H. A speaker of Hebrew knows instantly seeing the one that it is
pronounced YaFeH and the other YaFaH. This is clear not from the orthography
but from the word being modified.  Only Hebrew beginners would need to have
the points added to help them make the correct decision.  So in a
consonantal Pentateuchal text, BEFORE the addition of VAV or YOD as a
pronunciation guide to the perplexed, BOTH forms would be written the same,
but a native speaker would have little difficulty in knowing which was
which.  The point of the original question from Liz was whether the
confusion indicated an early or a late date.  Since the confusion is
essentially a Pentateuchal phenomenon and since all the evidence I have seen
here so far indicates that the confusion occurred late [surely your
strongest plea builds on the DSS chirography], at least AFTER the need arose
for helping vowel indicators, I still fail to see how an early date could be

Incidentally, since this is a list devoted to Hebrew LANGUAGE, I find it
interesting that the standard grammars of classical Hebrew routinely refrain
from offering an explanation about WHY the HW) confusion occurs.  Lambdin,
one of the better grammarians of our day in numerous Semitic languages,
simply says: "the reason for this is obscure" [p. 82].  Others that I have
checked adopt a similar cautionary note.  If this be so from the standpoint
of LANGUAGE, am I incorrect to observe that either argument [for late or
early provenance] must be grounded in something other than recourse to what
we know of the language as opposed to what we believe about literary

Be well, sus ha-ye'or,

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