[b-hebrew] Matres Lectionis and critical analysis

Peter Bekins pbekins at fuse.net
Wed Aug 29 13:16:25 EDT 2007


 >>Not only do we not have that many inscriptions,
 >>but there is also the question if monumental texts,
 >>i.e. those that would be inscribed on stone, would
 >>follow the same orthographic rules as those written on
 >>ostraca or on parchment? Also would monumental texts
 >>tend to resist change more, i.e. deliberately contain
 >>more archaicisms?

I almost brought this up, but decided not to complicate my argument.  
However, it does relate to the issue of stammbaum vs wave theory.  
Very often formal written dialects begin to distinguish themselves  
from contemporary speech by maintaining the older rules of phonology/ 
orthography while speech dialects are slowly changing. In my opinion,  
it is usually not the case that the writers are deliberately trying  
to "archaize" (unless they are really reaching back into history to  
create an artificially old looking document) but that these older  
forms are maintained as the standards of the literary dialect as they  
fall out of use in everyday speech. These older forms can also enter  
back into the speech dialect for use in higher registers of  
politeness, etc. So even within the same speech community you have  
tension between higher/lower dialects which complicates the issue  
more. The same types of processes affect both epigraphy in the shapes  
of letters used and orthography. The Phoenicians rigorously  
maintained pure consonantalism long after vowel letters had been  
introduced in the other scripts, it seems to me that this was a  
deliberate decision because they felt pure consonantalism was more  

 >>...However, some words were always written certain ways,
 >>e.g. )LHYM always includes the yod, the same with )Y$...

Barr and Anderson-Forbes both include lists of words with  
standardized spelling. I would also add that certain morphemes are  
always spelled plene such as the masculine plural noun marker -YM. So  
there was a certain amount of standardization. But for most words  
that could possibly have a mater (or two) in a medial position there  
is no discernible "system".

 >>While the DSS are physically older, do they really represent
 >>an older text than the MT?...

This is not my area, so I really can't comment, though it is a fair  
question and again relates to the issue of linear development vs  
cycles of diversity and unification. A text may be older  
chronologically, but may also be farther from the influence of the  
main text tradition so that it does not necessarily represent the  
parent text.

Thus, the heart of my position is that I would be interested in  
seeing exactly how much ambiguity is introduced by pulling off matres  
and removing the word division (my instinct is not much), but to  
create such a pure consonantal text from the Aleppo or Leningrad  
Codex is in no way a re-creation of the proto-text, which I think was  
your point as well.

Peter Bekins

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list