[b-hebrew] Proverbs 26:21 alternate spellings?

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Tue Sep 30 14:28:45 EDT 2003


In French, there is a pattern of meaning so that a Frenchman knows when to use soir or soirée, matin or matinée and so forth, is there any such pattern in Biblical Hebrew?

For some of it, it is the difference between the male and female of an object, such that PRD and PRDH refer to a male and female donkey, the same pattern with N(R and N(RH.

For example, what’s the difference between )BR and )BRH, both meaning “wing feather”? What about )MR and )MRH referring to sayings? XQ and XQH both mean “statute for setting limits”? NTYB and NTYBH meaning “way, direction one should go, byway”? There are many other such words. Has anyone made a study to indicate when one should use a word with a final hey and without? Are we dealing with the masculine referring to the specific and the feminine to the general? Is there any pattern? Or is this merely acceptable alternate spellings? Are some merely a feminine noun written without the hey in the singular? There are examples much more complex than the ones given above.

Is this a publishable study?    ;-)

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>

> On 29/09/2003 20:45, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >Similarly, when reading through Tanakh, I noticed a certain amount of fluidity in spelling. Possibly the most common varient is that some nouns are written with a final heh, and a varient without the heh, but both from the same root with the same meaning. These appear to be varient spellings of the same word. Yet lexicographers list them with separate entries. I found myself asking “Why?” as I found example after example.
> >
> >While I don’t consider myself reductionistic, I wonder how many entries are duplicated just from variations in spelling?
> >
> >Karl W. Randolph.
> >
> >  
> >
> In such cases the different words have not just different spellings, but 
> also different morphology (the forms with final he generally have 
> construct in -AT and plural in -OT) and different gender agreement (the 
> forms with final he take feminine adjectives and verb endings). And 
> there is a real pronunciation difference, at least according to the 
> Masoretes, who never write a word final vowel on a noun where there is 
> no mater. This implies that we are looking at more than variant 
> spellings of the same word. And as they are different words they should 
> not be assumed to be completely synonymous. They might have broadly the 
> same meaning but with subtle differences. Compare French matin/matinée, 
> soir/soirée, an/année: each pair, which differ in suffix and in gender, 
> would by default be translated the same in English (morning, evening, 
> year), but there is a well known and rather subtle meaning distinction. 
> Just as these are separate dictionary entries in French, so do their 
> Hebrew equivalents need to be, at least unless it can be proven that 
> they are fully interchangeable.
> Cases where word medial vav and yod maters are either written or not 
> written are a different issue, because there is no known syntactic or 
> pronunciation difference. There are cases where different words are 
> distinguished by use or omission of such a mater, but the words are 
> homophones and essentially homonyms.
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
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