[b-hebrew] Masoretic Pointing and CV-syllables

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 17:06:47 EDT 2007

Dear Karl,

You recently wrote in the other thread:

> I recently read "Nineveh and the Old Testament" by André Parrot, and the
> transliterations of Hebrew names from Nineveh seem to indicate CV syllables.

The book you quote is published 1955, 52 years ago, and even that is a
translation from 2 years earlier.  I shall therefore correct myself from "60
year old book" to "54 year old book":

I offered -
> From Gershon Galil's Israel and Assyria (2001, but awarded a 1998 Dan
> Bahat prize?), we have the following transcriptions - Omri = hu-um-ri-i,

Now, perhaps you don't view the Biblical Omri as an Hebrew name, but to
me it appears to be just as good an Assyrian transliteration of an Hebrew
name as anything you can provide from your 54 year old book on Nineveh
and the Bible.  You didn't give specifics of your "evidence" so it is hard to
know what you mean.  What is clear, however, is that when I provide such
evidence, you discount it not on account of any counter evidence, but
simply because you don't seem to view it as evidence:

> I am open to evidence. But if all you have to present is like what was
> in your paragraph above, don't even bother writing it, because I won't
> respond to it.

(Or am I wrong to read the above statement as an intentional attempt
to refrain labeling what I presented as "evidence"?)

Pretty much all the above is to be expected, and it will provide Peter an
example of everything I wrote earlier.  The only thing unexpected is that
now you are claiming that there are Assyrian transliteration of Hebrew
names that prove your point, and using them as evidence (even though
you haven't given examples that can be directly countered), while it
remains non-evidence when I provide direct counter-examples from the
same body of evidence that you gave.

In any case, the above is a long drawn out example of what I wrote here:

> ...  He now brings evidence from Akkadian, albeit from a
> 60 year old book with Akkadian transcriptions, but this is still
> significant because he has consistently denied the validity of
> transcriptions in cognate languages as evidence.

To which you wrote, only:

> This is an out and out false statement.

Perhaps it is.  I evidently corrected the 60 year old figure.  But also, since
you are no longer consistent and I should add the words "when it proves
him wrong" to the above paragraph.  Also, in afterthought, I think the word
"cognate" is superfluous.  Transliterations in Persian, for example, are just
as good even though no cognate link is known (and probably will never be

You took a long paragraph to argue against what I wrote about
Tiberian Hebrew but it makes me feel that you didn't read very
carefully what I wrote.  I read every word you write when I respond
while you have admitted in the past that at times you choose not
to do so, to skip parts of my mails or to ignore them altogether.
You are certainly free to do so if you wish, and even respond after
having only read parts of what I wrote.  I think though, that it will
end up looking silly, as would the following quotes from you:

> While [Tiberian Hebrew] it gives clues as to how Hebrew was
> pronounced according to the Tiberian tradition as it existed at that
> time, transcriptions of names and words into other languages from the
> preceding centuries indicate that the pronunciation traditions had
> been in flux, so the probability that it was an accurate rendition of
> Biblical Hebrew as it was spoken in Biblical times is practically nil.

and me (answer Joel who took me up in a different thread):

> Tiberian Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew.  When people study Biblical Hebrew,
> grammar and phonetics, they study the grammar of Tiberian Hebrew.  But
> sometimes they think they study Ancient Hebrew or they want it to be
> Ancient Hebrew.  Tiberian/Biblical Hebrew is not Qumran Hebrew, it is not
> the Hebrew of the Siloam inscription.  It is a much later vocalization.

I chose the word "authentic" carefully, as I chose the above examples of
Qumran and Siloam with care.  You follow the above with a short statement
that every time I discuss what you write, I "either a) make an ad hominem
attack, b) misrepresent what [you] say, a straw man logical fallacy, or c)
let logic fly out the window."  Now, I have just as much right to write as
you do.  The rest of the readers can judge which of us makes ad hominem
attacks, who misrepresents what the other says, who lets logic fly out the
window, or if neither of us are guilty of the above.  I am not going to ask
you or invite you not to respond, as you have so courteously invited me,
but I think it would be just to ask you to refrain from making statements
like the following:

> my knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is better than yours.

If you have specific examples of your superior knowledge, please do provide
them as I would love to learn.  If you have no specific examples, then it is
also a logical fallacy, and I think places you in a somewhat negative light in
the end of the day.

Perhaps when you studied, learning Ugaritic or Aramaic or other
languages was hard to do, but we live in a different age -- one where
these resources are available online.  I had provided you online resources
to learning Ugaritic -- another reader when I gave him these resources
wrote me a thank you letter off-list -- but you have refrained from
studying them, despite the relevance they have for learning Tiberian
Hebrew as well as more ancient forms of Hebrew.  It is no longer an
issue of circumstances, and it is even likely that, if as you claim, you
had read the Hebrew Bible through several times already, you would
have much to gain from reading scholarship into cognate languages
related to Biblical studies -- and Aramaic and Ugaritic are prime
examples.  "Nineveh and the Old Testament" is a good step in that
direction and I commend you for reading it, but I should note that a
1991 Hebrew book on Semitic languages I have notes that there are
Akkadian words that used to be read one way and meanwhile it has
been found that the correct reading is somewhat different.  Therefore,
old transcriptions and dictionaries should be used with care, and I
had since found cases where more recent scholarship differs from
this book on various other matters so that even this book I now
consider it a dated resource.

Yitzhak Sapir

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