[b-hebrew] Last on list answer [was: WAYYIQTOL/YIQTOL/WEYIQTOL [was Kamatz katan; ...was: Translating]

rochelle altman willaa at netvision.net.il
Sat Oct 14 16:35:24 EDT 2006


I'll answer you on list this time, but I think it would be better to 
continue off list, if you wish to do so.

>First of all, I have to thank you for linking to articles that are
>open to all to look at. All too often on this discussion list articles
>are referenced, but when I click on them, I find them behind a
>firewall open only to those who are part of the academic system, which
>I am not.

You are welcome; I have learned that nowadays, one should try to give net 
access -- first. (No point in giving just hard copy books and articles 
unless further material is requested.)

>  >[snip]
> >
> > >Going back to the example of Latin, it is still a living language in
> > >that it is still spoken, literature is still written in it, including
> > >poetry. True, the uses of Latin are but a fraction of how it was used
> > >400 years ago, but even 400 years ago, no one learned Latin at his
> > >mother's knee, yet Latin was spoken, literature written in it, some
> > >international agreements were written in Latin, and if you go 200
> > >years prior to that, almost everything of importance was written in
> > >Latin and almost all legal, trade and scholarly discussion was spoken
> > >in Latin.
> >
> > Latin was the "lingua franca" in the West right into the 19th-century and
> > is still a required language in many fields.. You are comparing apples and
> > oranges.
> >
>That's exactly how I understand Hebrew functioned among the widely 
>dispersed Jewish population at least until well into the Talmudic period. 
>Thus it was a sign of an educated person that he use Hebrew in his 
>communications, even of a wife kvetching to her husband where the use of 
>Hebrew is more likely to grab his attention.

I'm afraid I do not follow your reasoning for concluding that it's an 
attention grabber. .When one is accustomed to polyglot families, it is is 
very obvious that they write to each other in the language that is the 
normal language of communication in the home. .  .

> > >Returning to Hebrew, in all of the examples you gave, which one cannot
> > >be an example of use the same way as Latin is used?
> >
> > To name just one among those mentioned: The Genizah documents - We can
> > hardly expect a wife to write a  letter to her husband complaining about
> > his lengthy absence in a dead language, now can we.
>Did I ever say that Hebrew was a dead language?

Yes. You refuted the idea of a "living language"

>Even among Christians, knowledge of Hebrew is considered a sign of a well 
>educated Christian
>(honored more in the breech than practice, even among theologians) as well 
>as koiné Greek, which would not be the case if Hebrew were a dead 
>language. The question is, did it live in the same manner as medieval 
>Latin, or learned at one's mother's knee?

Well, Medieval Latin was the language spoken by the people, so of course it 
was learned at their ":mother's knee." The local Latin dialects eventually 
turned into what are called the "Romance languages."

> > I have a complete > listing of all documents from the Genizah that are 
> in Hebrew or Hebrew and
> > Aramaic oi Aramaic. It runs abut 400 pages. If you want an exact figure 
> on > how many are in Hebrew, I'll be going over the list in about a week 
> or so and will be delighted to let you know when I have completed 
> compiling the > information that I need. I can run a check on the Hebrew 
> for you at the same time...
> > That would be appreciated, if not too much trouble.

All right. I'll make a second list -- of just the Hebrew.

> > >As far as I can remember, I have never said that Hebrew was not
> > >spoken, rather the evidence I have seen so far is that Hebrew was not
> > >taught at one's mother's knee, rather that those who spoke it, spoke
> > >it as a legal, high literature, religious, trade, etc. language, one
> > >that they learned at school, the same as medieval Latin.
> >
> > See the Genizah note.  Kvetching about a husband wandering about in a
> > personal letter is hardly "legal, high literature, religious, trade, etc.
> > language."
> >
>But it is the sign of an educated person. While I have not made a
>study of such, I have heard (hearsay) that similar examples exist in
>medieval Latin.

Writing at all indicates at least some education; it does not necessarily 
mean "educated" in the sense you seem yo be using the term. .Merchants and 
artisans received only a minimum education... but they could read and write 
Latin, certainly enough to write letters to spouses. Be careful; Medieval 
Latin is a mare's nest that you most definitely do not want to.get into.

>To give a similar example, for centuries official Chinese was written in a 
>language that no one spoke. Local varieties of Chinese languages developed 
>their own subsets of characters for words not found in that official 
>language, so, for example, it is possible to write complete sentences in 
>Cantonese using characters not found in Mandarin. But a well educated 
>person would consistently write in official language, even if she were a 
>woman writing to her husband.

Pre-Mandarin China also had prescribed forms for the way to write to a 
spouse as well as .to officials. Quite formal, BTW, kvetching not allowed, 
certainly not like that letter in Hebrew!


> > Second, the script design of the Paleo- frags is NOT an archaization; those
> > frags are actually archaic. That pushes their date back to at least the 5th
> > century and they may be pre-exilic "treasures" that had been safe-guarded
> > for centuries..
> >
>Though in one of your articles, you mentioned that that was improbable
>that they are pre-exilic.

That was 6 years ago and, while I think it is pre-exilic (did so even 
then), there is no way to demonstrate this, so... leave it at 5th BCE and 
"not likely." It's similar to the problem of the music of the psalms. I can 
demonstrate that the forms  preserved in that Psalter are second Temple, 
and while I cannot prove that they are First Temple, I suspect it is.But, 
if you can't demonstrate something, all you can do is state what can be shown.


> > Now, although the variant forms are relevant to the topic of this list --
> > after all, the Greek symbol assignments tell us what phoneme was attached
> > to what form, I am quite certain that list-members are tired of this
> > thread; shall we get back to B-Hebrew?
> >
>I still have some questions:
>Who had the alphabet first: the Phoenicians or the Hebrews?

The Phoenician alphabet (ca. 14th BCE) is made up of existing 
symbols..Paleo-Hebriac is borrowed from the Phoenician.

>If the Phoenicians, what writing system did Moses use when he wrote Torah 
>in the second half of 15th century BC? Is there any documentary evidence 
>to back up your opinion?

Hoo boy, talk about a subject that is up for grabs (and argued 
about)  Depends upon the date of the Exodus. If 15th, it would have been in 
some sort of Sinaitic; if 13th, it would have been Phoenician.
Whatever else, it most certainly would not have been in Square script (as 
some "authentic" examples have it.)

>I suspect that the Roman alphabet did not come directly from the
>Phoenicians, nor through the Greeks, rather theirs is a cursive that
>appears to have come from a different tradition than Phoenician.

The Roman alphabet is from the Phoenician via (generic) Etruscan...

>In particular the letters R and S give that impression, as they are
>closer to proto-Sinaitic examples than are those from Phoenician.

Phoenician is another generic term. Each city-state had its own little 
identifying distinctions..
Then, are you aware of the many forms used in BCE "Latin" scripts depending 
upon locale?

>I find that the Yadi example somewhat weak, as the lines are not
>straight nor evenly spaced.

Now you sound like that Renaissance Professor who, when asked by a student 
why the letters varied in height and width, answered that he should ignore 
them; it was only in the Renaissance that they were finally learning to 
write in straight lines and even letters.

>  There is also the question, languages that invent alphabetic writing 
> systems tend to have one grapheme per recognized phoneme, while those 
> that adopt alphabetic systems from
>other languages, even close cognate languages, tend to find the adopted 
>alphabet more or less an ill fit. So could what you see actually be 
>examples of evidences for an ill fitting alphabet that was
>adopted from another language?

No. The Northwest Semitic family adapted very well to the Phoenician 
writing system. Then, neither the Etruscans nor the Greeks had much 
difficulty in adapting the symbol set to their languages. Phoenician used 
variant forms, so borrowers already knew they could add or subtract 
symbols. In the case of Greek, where they had phones not used in 
Phoenician, they added the missing symbols. And because the Greeks 
heard  aleph, vocalic vav, heh, yod, and ayin as vowel sounds, they 
"created" the vowelled alphabet. Syriac, BTW, also added a few graphemes; 
they had an /ae/ phoneme, for example -- the graph is based on Greek graph 

>Again, in one of your articles, you claim that only a small portion of the 
>people went into exile but that the majority of Jews remained in Judea. 
>Where is your documentation for that claim? Contemporary documents that I 
>have seen claim that the land was completely depopulated, the elites to 
>Babylon while the poor of the land to Egypt. The contemporary documents 
>lend credence to my claim that it is very possible that those who returned 
>after the exile were more at
>home in Aramaic, even in their pronunciation of Hebrew, than pre-exilic 
>Biblical Hebrew. Thus post-exilic documents cannot give us a guide as to 
>how Biblical Hebrew was pronounced.

Just remember that history is written by the winners. The resistance to the 
returning elites that seeps through anyway is a warning sign that 
somebody's forcing the story into what they want it to be. Can you really 
believe that such a fertile area was not overrun if depopulated? J'lem was 
the entire country? That the J'lem area was swept clean is certain, but the 
rest pf the territory? No way. Further, Elephantine was a garrison, 
mercenary troops -- not "the poor people" -- but certainly people who were 
at odds with the elite of J'lem. (Shades of the DSS).

Think of the bad press given to the Northern Kingdom and the Samaritans. 
This is more of the same: oh, those people sent off to Egypt. were just the 
"poor" and uneducated am ha'aretz. Right.
The letters from Elephantine are concrete evidence that the total 
depopulation of the entire country and only the poor sent to Egypt is false.

I don't doubt that post-exilic Hebrew was influenced by the sojourn, but I 
also don't doubt that there were differences between Northern and Southern 
pronunciation of the MT before that. Think of the way the Yemenites still 
pronounce the gutturals.. "Living languages change.

>Karl W. Randolph



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