[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Mar 6 18:56:56 EST 2004

On 06/03/2004 14:08, Dave Washburn wrote:

>On Saturday 06 March 2004 14:28, Peter Kirk wrote:
>>On 06/03/2004 12:26, Ken Penner wrote:
>>>Blau probably is the main representative of the view that QH was not
>>>spoken. His article in _Diggers at the Well_ concludes,
>>>"The analysis of the various items in which Qumran Hebrew
>>>differs from biblical Hebrew has demonstrated that no proof
>>>exists that they reflect a spoken Hebrew dialect used by the
>>>members of the Qumran sect. Comparison with Middle Arabic
>>>texts shows that these deviations may as well be due to changes
>>>that occur in literary texts written in a literary language, no
>>>longer spoken, owing to various traditions, genres, fashions,
>>>scribal schools, and personal inclinations. Accordingly , there is
>>>no justification in abandoning the prevailing view, which explains
>>>in the simplest and the most convincing way all the details, that
>>>the main current of the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls reflects
>>>basically the latest stage of biblical (literary) language, exposed
>>>to the influence of the spoken vernaculars, viz. Aramaic and
>>>some sort of Middle Hebrew , which later crystallized as Mishnaic
>>Thank you, Ken. But note that Blau is NOT saying that Hebrew was a dead
>>language at the time, and so he actually SUPPORTS my position. He
>>accepts that there was at the time and afterwards a spoken language,
>>"some sort of Middle Hebrew, which later crystallized as Mishnaic
>>Hebrew", and that the Hebrew of the DSS was influenced by this Hebrew.
>>I never did claim and never would claim that QH was a spoken language,
>>simply because rarely if ever is a written language identical to a
>>spoken language. I didn't even claim that the writers of the DSS were
>>mother tongue speakers of Hebrew. My claim was simply that QH provides
>>evidence for contemporary use of Hebrew as a mother tongue, because it
>>was influenced by it. And so I am in complete agreement with Blau.
>Could you clarify the difference, in your view, between a "spoken language" 
>and a "mother tongue"? ...

Well, here are definitions off the top of my head, although I wasn't 
trying to use terms in a closely defined way. A spoken language is any 
language which is used regularly in a spoken form (and so would exclude 
biblical Hebrew today). A mother tongue is a language which is the first 
language learned by members of a community. A mother tongue is always a 
spoken language. Usually a spoken language is someone's mother tongue 
(though often of a smaller community than speak it regularly), but there 
are pidgin languages which are spoken regularly but are no one's mother 

>... Even supposing that a written language tends to be 
>somewhat different than a spoken one, I would think that certain elements, 
>especially grammatical and lexical, would generalize across both the spoken 
>form and the writen form. ...

Absolutely. There may be a 95% overlap between written and spoken 
language, as perhaps between the spoken language of some educated 
English speakers and their informal writing. But there are usually some 
minor differences as well, enough that the two can be distinguished as 
different language varieties.

>... I get the feeling I'm not fully understanding some 
>of your terms here, which is probably my fault...
Maybe your problem is that you think I am writing something profound in 
the formal written English of academic papers, whereas I am writing some 
rather over-simplified thoughts in a style much more like spoken English.

To make the point more clearly: I think the following, and it seems to 
me that Blau agrees: There was a community of mother tongue Hebrew 
speakers, primarily speaking Hebrew and passing it on from generation to 
generation, until after the time of writing of the DSS. The writers of 
the DSS were in contact with this community, although we don't know 
whether they were members of it. The Hebrew in which the DSS was written 
(i.e. QH) is intermediate between BH and the language of the mother 
tongue community at that time. The differences between QH and BH may be 
accounted for, at least in part, by influence from the primarily spoken 
Hebrew of the mother tongue community.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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