[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Oct 31 19:23:06 EST 2005

On 10/28/05, Karl Randolph wrote:

> First, you are the only person I have interacted with who
> makes the claim that "Biblical" Hebrew includes the
> Masoretic points.

You have a Biblical Hebrew grammar book without
Massoretic vocalization?  Biblical Hebrew is not the Hebrew
spoken during the Biblical period (only).  Biblical Hebrew is
a wide-ranging term that refers to the Hebrew of the Bible.
This is a layered construct of which one layer is definitely
the Massoretic vocalization.  In general, that is what most
people learn initially as "Biblical Hebrew."  Anyone who wants
to go earlier than that must deal with the DSS/Hexapla/LXX
variants and the epigraphic evidence from the Biblical period.
So the "Biblical" period is the period described by the
Bible, and  "Biblical Hebrew" is the language of the Bible,
which is why Biblical Hebrew contains Massoretic vocalization
that is actually later than the Biblical period.  But if you are
using the Massoretic text, you are very much effectively
bound to the Massoretic marks.  That way you know you are
using a complete system.  A different method would be to
analyze the DSS Biblical scrolls in their entirety.  That would
also provide you a rather complete system.  And a last
method is to accept all available evidence, including the
Massoretic text, but also its variants.  But a system that
simply arbitrarily ignores the Massoretic marks because of
the "DSS" while ignoring the rest of the DSS evidence is
methodologically flawed.

> The way I was taught is that the Masoretic points are
> merely study aids, and that the authentic way to read
> Tanakh, i.e. the way it was read in Biblical times, is
> without points. Hence synagog scrolls lack points.

The "authentic" way to read the Tanakh is to read it the
way it had been traditionally read.  That is, go to the
synagogue and have the Reader teach you to read it.
Originally, this was an oral tradition, but the Massoretes
put this tradition down in written form.

> > Can you cite a place where the spelling )$ is used for
> > man in the Bible? Or H) for "he"?
> >
> I just checked photos I have of both documents: where is
> H) used for "he" on either document? Does )$ on the
> Siloam stone refer to "man" or "fire" of an iron tool? Of
> course you can't leave out the )$ in 2 Samuel 14:19.

H) is used in First Temple period documents such as the
Mesha inscription among others.  It is not used just in the
Mesha inscription, but also in the Arad ostraca, so it is not
a "Moabite feature."  )$ in 2 Samuel 14:19 is best left out
since it is quite possibly a variant of "y$".  )$ in the Siloam
inscription refers to "man."   "Fire" is simply a forced and
incorrect reading, especially in light of such words as
"W)$ GD" in Mesha.

> > The Bible uses many expressions to describe the different times
> > of the day. Why never this particular term?
> >
> If there is no need to, why should it?

It seems unlikely to me that the Bible has many opportunities
to describe events of the day, and yet never has an opportunity
to use this term.  But proving that is admittedly hard.  So I'll
drop this part of the argument.

> > > > ... I am not at odds with tradition,
> > > > as you have suggested I am.
> > > >
> > > Where did I ever make such a claim?
> >
> > You wrote, among other places,  "It is your different set of
> > presuppositions that makes you value cognate language
> > study and diss the Biblical record."  Hopefully the links
> > here provided will prevent future questions such as this one.
> >
> Granted what you do here is the same as others: the
> Biblical record indicates that Moses wrote Torah around
> 1400+ BC. There is no record of him using a different
> alphabet than what we use today, other than a different
> font face. You diss that record in favor of Ugaritic.

Your above statement there regarding the Biblical record
is wrong, no matter how many times you claim it.  Rather,
the Biblical record, read with your personal interpretation,
indicates that Moses wrote the Torah around 1400+ BCE.
Tradition claims Moses wrote the Torah vocalized with the
Massoretic vocalization or their equivalents, including the
Shin/Sin difference.  If the Biblical record and archaeological
record can be said to not contradict Moses having written
the Torah around 1400+ BCE, it definitely can't be said to
contradict that Moses wrote the Torah around 1400+ BCE
and vocalized with the Massoretic cantillation or their
equivalents.  "You diss" the traditional claim, as well as
the linguistic claim, in favor of your own personal invention.

> The reason you do is because of philosophical presupposition
> that not everyone on this list shares,

No, there is an additional "philosophical presupposition" that
you make in addition to the one you stated above: "Moses wrote
the Torah in an alphabet that included only grapheme for each
phoneme that were to be pronounced in reading the Torah."
That is something most people in this list do not share, and at
least James seems to have been convinced by the evidence
I provided that this claim is false.  This claim of yours is not
shared either by any tradition, nor by any "authentic" reading
of the Torah or Tanakh.  One can agree or disagree with
Mosaic authorship or date, and still hold the Torah was not
written in an alphabet that included all phonemes.  This is
proven by tradition which claims exactly that.  This is why I
say I am not at odds with tradition in this respect.  But you are.

> > > > The unpointed text is not "Biblical Hebrew."  It is "half" of
> > > > Biblical Hebrew.  The other half is the Massorah.
> > > >
> > > The DSS show that the unpointed text *is* Biblical Hebrew.
> >
> > Can you cite an uncontroversial example?
> >
> See above.

The above does not cite an uncontroversial example.  Nor does
the above relate to the variants of Biblical books found amongst
the DSS along with their own particular Hebrew documents.

> Since I wrote the above, I realized that when you read the
> text with points, the points often mask spelling variations
> found in the consonantal text. So a Hireq can mask the
> fact that a masculine plural sometimes lacks a Yod, and
> you overlook that lack.

I tried to find an example of a word of the form: h???m
where ??? were the root used as a plural masculine
participle (such as hxcbm in the Siloam inscription) but could
not find one.  It is my impression that in those cases where
the -ym ending is missing in the Bible, it is perhaps because
the original intention might have been to read the last vowel as
a short i vowel instead of a long i vowel for -ym.  This is
because in many of the cases where I find it missing there is
an interword -y- that might suggest a long middle i vowel.  In any
case, the point is not that in some relatively rare instances the
Bible may preserve earlier spelling, but rather that the Bible,
including the Torah, usually contains later spelling.  The above
examples of )$ and H) were of relatively common words in
the Bible that in hundreds if not thousands of instances do
not have even one case where they are written without mater
lectionis, as )$ and H) are in the epigraphic record.  Comparison
of the Biblical spelling to the epigraphic record leads to the
conclusion that the Biblical spelling is, in the main, 6th century
or later, even if it at times preserves earlier spelling.  And
that claim is what started this particular part of the discussion.
Some of the cases where the spelling is earlier may point
towards an earlier time of composition.

> But when you read an unpointed
> text, you need to recognize that variant spelling for what
> it is and means. Other examples include that the Hiphil
> often lacks an internal Yod and a Waw can appear or
> disappear separated by only a verse or two in the same
> word. Thus the Siloam inscription contains no surprises,
> no spellings I had not seen elsewhere before.

I think you are the one who doesn't recognize the variant
spelling for what it is and isn't, as well as being not as
perceptive to the differences if you just think they are "the
same."  They are not the same.

> > Rather, how about you answer me two questions, which I
> > think may advance this discussion:
> >
> > 1) How is it that English originally had two different letters
> > for the two sounds represented by "th" as in "loath"/"loathe"
> > and yet, lost them and they are now represented by a
> > single symbol (ie, "th") for several hundred years.
> The printing press. As long as books were all written by
> hand, the letters remained in the English alphabet. But
> when presses made on the continent were imported, they
> lacked all the English letters. I don't know why the English
> lacked the gumption to add missing English letters to their
> type trays, instead for a while they used "y" for thorn, then
> later changed all to "th". Thus it was explained in a history
> of printing that I read.

The "printing press" does not explain why they chose to use
an overloaded form of the "th" combination, rather than using
something else, such as "dh."


"Back in the days when all alphabetic writing was done
phonetically, spelling was fluid and languages added and
dropped letters as they added and dropped phonemes;"

Note the following article: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=th-

How do you decide when writing was done phonetically in a
particular language and when not?

> > 2) You have evidently claimed that many words were
> > influenced by different words in Aramaic, so much so that
> > a whole new phoneme (&in) developed to represent some
> > words so influenced.

> Do you have any evidence against it?

First I need to have a clear understanding of how the influence
worked.  You tend to make rather generic claims without ever
providing details such as how Aramaic influenced Hebrew,
what words were influenced, by which Aramaic words, etc.  I
had previously asked for details (see link) regarding your claims
of relationship and Aramaic influence on the words $m (there)
and &m (put) but you failed to provide any.  How exactly did the
Aramaic influence the two words to "bifurcate"?


> > Now, first, in light of what you write above, can you either provide
> > evidence that Aramaic indeed "bifurcated" sin/shin?

> I have already indicated two, but let me repeat: 1) the
> number of times that sin and shin make phonemic
> difference is very rare, no more than for other letters
> where the same spelling has drastically different
> meanings, and 2) there are a number of words, where
> they are spelled once with a sin, another time with a
> shin yet the same word with the same meaning, or one
> derivative with a sin and another with a shin. The latter
> indicates that both were the same phoneme, hence most
> likely had the same pronunciation as well.
> With evidence that they were originally the same letter, the
> question becomes, what caused the bifurcation? If it was
> not Aramaic, then what? The time line is right for Aramaic.

There is no evidence they were the same letter.  You can't prove they
were the same letter if you start reading the Bible with the assumption
that they are the same letter because then you are going into a circular
reasoning loop.  The only way to prove they were the same letter is to
start reading the Bible with the assumption they are not the same letter
and come to the conclusion that this doesn't work.  Let us take the word
"mouth" and assume that "th" (dh) and "th" (th) are totally unrelated
phonemes.  However, because "mouth" and "mouths" are evidently
related -- I specifically chose to contrast singular vs plural rather than
verb vs noun since verb and noun may not necessarily be etymologically
related -- I may assume that there was some sound law affecting "th" in
this word.  I come to this conclusion even if I start  out assuming that
"th"/"dh" are not related by any sound law.  This doesn't show that all
instances of "th"/dh and "th"/th are related but it certainly shows that
some are.  Can you show similar evidence that &in and $in are the same
letter, starting from the assumption that they are not?

> > Second, it would seem to be the case that even if Hebrew originally
> > had one phoneme, but if it borrowed a great many words from cognate
> > languages, then the etymology of those words is no longer necessarily
> > related by root to one another and they may be etymologically unrelated.
> > That is, we still have to conclude that words do not necessarily have
> > "one meaning" as you have described your assumption earlier:
> >
> Do I need to go back to linguistics 101?

Going into a long discussion of homonyms is irrelevant.  The question
related not to homonyms, but to different words which you claim were
"bifurcated" due to Aramaic influence.  Let's assume for a moment
that somehow, for example, $am/there and &am/put (which are a minimal
pair in Massoretic Hebrew).  Now, you claim that somehow these
bifurcated due to Aramaic influence.  Aramaic always had the root
"tm" in the equivalent word for "$am" (there).  So how Aramaic influence
worked in these words is a question that I've asked you before in this
discussion and you ignored (see above).  However, let us go on.  Now,
evidently cognate words do not always have the same meaning.  Hence,
the Aramaic cognate for "$am" is not necessarily of the same meaning
as Hebrew "$am."  If Hebrew "bifurcated" $am into $am and &am because
of influence from Aramaic, how can I be sure that there wasn't also
semantic influence from the hypothetical "bifurcated" cognate word with
non-equivalent meaning?  If there was semantic influence, how can I still
connect the two words together, etymologically?

Yitzhak Sapir

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