[b-hebrew] Initial "Beged Kefet" consonants always have a...

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Oct 24 05:42:41 EDT 2005

On 10/23/05, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:

> I pointed out that the evidence from the LXX is in general
> inconclusive, but it *does not* support the view that the Tiberian
> forms correctly capture the ancient Biblical sounds of Hebrew.

Isn't that a misrepresentation?  Linguists, and Hebrew scholars,
understand that over more than a thousand years Hebrew changed
greatly in pronunciation.  Some scholars have even attempted to place
when various changes took place.  The question then is not whether
Hebrew changed, but whether the changes were authentic phonetic
developments in the "Literary/Liturgical" Hebrew Phase after the
"Spoken" Hebrew Phase.  In other words, even after Hebrew ceased
to be spoken day-to-day it was maintained as a "spoken language" in
the liturgy.  As such it was subject to many of the same linguistic
forces that shape spoken languages.  So while Tiberian Massoretic
Hebrew was not the same as spoken during Biblical times, it
developed from such.  Certain elements in Tiberian Massoretic Hebrew,
the possessive singular masculine ending -kha for instance, is more
plausibly explained a remnant from Biblical times than a Tiberian
"invention" because even though it is not found in Greek and Latin
transcriptions, it is found in the DSS.  Similarly, because it is probable
that the original phoneme behind the letter Kaf is "k" as opposed to "kh",
we might suggest that Greek/Latin transcriptions recorded a dialect
which completely shifted the original "k" to "kh" while Tiberian
Massoretic Hebrew may have descended from a dialect in which this
change was partial.  This would make more sense than your statement
"The Masoretes invented this arbitrary inter-word rule (and, actually, for
all we know, invented the entire BEGED KEFET rule)."  In his book on
Textual Criticism, when he deals with the Greek and Latin transcriptions,
he concludes "In all of these details, the Tiberian vocalization reflects
forms that are later or dialectical but not artificial."

So, in short, simply pointing out that Tiberian vocalization may not
reflect original vocalization in some aspects is not enough to show
that Tiberian vocalization is artificial or arbitrary or invented.

> >some words.  If the second, could we not suggest the form of Rebeccah
> >might earlier on have been the same as "m:sillFh" (Isaiah 40:3) or
> >"c:biyyFh" (Song of Songs 3:5)?  It's possible of course that different

> Of course that's the most obvious conclusion.  The name originally had
> three syllables, and by the time the Tiberian Masoretes recorded the
> pronunciation, it had two.

If we go this route, we would conclude that the Massoretic bgdkpt rule is
not contradicted by these examples.  Rather, the Massoretic vocalization
of these specific words is later, perhaps after this particular Mishqal was
displaced by another in personal names.  Secondly, the Mishqal
represented in the words "c:biyyFh" and "m:sillFh" might be shown by
these examples to have existed in LXX times, in basically the same

> Of the other possibilites, the most likely
> is that the LXX does such a poor job recording transliterations that
> we should not draw any conclusions from it.  (In general,
> transliterations are terrible guides to language, as I discuss at
> length in my book, and as is well-known by linguists.  If people want,
> I'll try to post the evidence on-line.)

Can we relate to ancient languages by a method other than transliteration?
Is there a form of recording language in pre-modern times that can be
considered "non-transliteration"?  Am I not now, in a way, transliterating
English into Latin?  Did the Hebrews not transliterate Hebrew into
Aramaic?  and earlier, perhaps, Phoenician, or whomever they borrowed
the alphabet from?

Yitzhak Sapir

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