[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Trevor Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Sat Mar 6 09:02:33 EST 2004

Peter Kirk wrote:

> I would be very interested in any counter-arguments, from those who are 
> actually aware of the differences between dead and living languages. I 
> presume that the changes between BH and Mishnaic Hebrew are not in 
> dispute (although their dating may be in dispute cf. your pilot 
> project). Has anyone given evidence of analogous changes happening in 
> dead languages?
As I recall (and I have no doubt that Ken is more familiar with this 
issue than I am), Qimron argues that in BH, QH, and RH, we are not 
dealing with three chronological stages of a single linguistic stream; 
rather, the evidence is best explained in terms of three different 
Hebrew dialects, each with its own history. I don't recall whether the 
idea is that they represent the dialects of three different regions, or 
literary vs. spoken, or exactly what picture he envisions. Perhaps it is 
not a settled issue, even for him. Nevertheless, I agree with Ken that 
it doesn't seem like there is consensus in the field on how the three 
dialects relate to one another.

At the same time, I don't know that this in any way weakens the argument 
for Hebrew as a living language around the turn of the era. Indeed, it 
may strengthen it. If QH and RH cannot be derived directly from BH, then 
it seems like we should be even more inclined to posit a living language 
community (or communities) that produced these other conventions. (The 
alternative would be to suppose that there were multiple literary 
traditions established at some point, say, more contemporaneous with BH, 
and we simply don't see them used extensively until later on. But why 
would any of them supersede BH, if they were all archaic conventions? 
Rendsburg, BTW, has tried to show in various studies, that much of this 
dialectal variation does go back to pre-exilic times, where he 
distinguishes "Israelian" from the Judahite standard.)

Anyway, that's my muddled two cents on the issue. I do tend to think 
that Hebrew was a living language for at least some segment of the 
population, but as far as trying to lay out the relationship between BH, 
QH, and RH, the best I can do so far is get a reasonable handle on the 
different arguments. Fortunately for me, that's enough for what I need 
to do right now. Ken's not quite so lucky, so when he gets it all sorted 
out, he can enlighten us :-)

Trevor Peterson

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