[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Nov 17 14:49:18 EST 2004


OK, OK, I should have written more concisely: "people on this list who insist that Hebrew was still spoken as a native or primary language in Judea as late as 100 CE or later." We've been through this debate so often that I thought it would be understood, but apparently I was wrong.

There's no debate whether or not Hebrew was a living language. What is debated is: was Hebrew a language with a pool of native speakers who both learned the language as their first language at home and continued to be their primary or only language also outside the home, or was Hebrew a living, breathing, developing language with no native and/or primary speakers in the same manner as modern Latin and Esparanto? I personally think that it was the latter, and the language war was already lost at the time of Ezra.

As for evidence of pronunciation shift, I noticed that the Byzantine tradition of texts of the New Testament preserved some indications in the transliterations of names that a shift in pronunciation had occured and come almost to completion. By the time of the texts that Nestlé is based on, that pronunciation shift was finished and those NT texts were cleaned up to reflect that.

The indications that I have seen point to the pronunciation shift starting possibly as early as the fourth century BCE, if not during the Babylonian exile itself. The Jews went into exile from a linguistically isolated community speaking only Hebrew, and came back speaking Aramaic as well as if not better than Hebrew. That can't help but have an effect, even on pronunciation.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Penner" <pennerkm at mcmaster.ca>

> To balance some statements made on b-hebrew:
> > I was being generous in saying that the samekh lost its 
> > differentiation from sin at about 300 BCE because of the 
> > people on this list who insist that Hebrew was still spoken 
> > in Judea as late as 100 CE or later. 
> The question of spoken Hebrew between the Bible and the Mishnah is no longer
> a real debate, since Segal's work on the Mishnah and the discovery of the
> Dead Sea Scrolls (especially the Copper Scroll, 4QMMT, and the Bar Kokhba
> documents). These texts show changes that are explicable as the continued
> development of a living language, not as an artificially revived Hebraised
> Aramaic. 
> > It is hard to say anything definite about pre-esilic 
> > pronunciation when the earliest hard evidence we have is from 
> > over a 1000 years later, namely the Masorites. 
> We have quite a bit of evidence beginning with the 3rd century BCE,
> especially from Origen's second column of the Hexapla. We also have the
> Samaritan text (which shows some interchange of samekh and sin, shin and
> tsade, tsade and zayin compared to the MT)? Even within the MT consonantal
> text, we find the same interchanges, in parallels and Ketiv/Qere.
> Ken Penner, McMaster/DSS
> Dead Sea Scrolls scholars' list owner,
> http://mailman.McMaster.CA/mailman/listinfo/g-megillot

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