[b-hebrew] Age of consonantal text, vocalization, and cantillation

Ken Penner ken.penner at acadiau.ca
Wed Dec 12 11:10:45 EST 2007


I'm sorry to say I don't understand what your point is this time; usually I do, and usually I agree!

I expect you agree that at the time the consonants were recorded, the divine name was pronounced.
At the time the vowel points were added, the divine name was not pronounced.
The tradition preserved the older consonants, but added the newer vowels.

I imagine you've read Kutscher's magnum opus (relatively affordable in its original Hebrew), so I don't need to defend the antiquity of the consonants in the MT on the basis of the matres lectionis.

I must be misunderstanding what you are saying.


Ken M. Penner, Ph.D. (McMaster)
Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software: 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org 
> [mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Yitzhak Sapir
> Sent: December 11, 2007 8:06 PM
> To: b-hebrew
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Age of consonantal text, 
> vocalization,and cantillation
> On Dec 11, 2007 1:37 AM, Ken Penner wrote:
> > Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> >
> > > I
> > > am not sure how you go about deciding that the vocalization 
> > > tradition is somehow not as earlier as the consonantal text.
> >
> > I would think such things as perpetual Qere, the 
> vocalization of the 
> > Tetragrammaton, and the vocalization of Qal Passives as Puals would 
> > indicate the vowel points are not as ancient as the 
> consonantal text. 
> > My work with Qumran texts has increased my confidence in 
> the antiquity 
> > of the consonants of the MT and decreased my confidence in the 
> > antiquity of the vowels.
> Hi Ken,
> It is reasonable that the Tetragrammaton was vocalized 
> earlier according to its consonants, although the process of 
> its replacement may have already begun during the Qumran 
> period.  This was a normal linguistic development during the 
> course of Hebrew as a spoken language.
> The vocalization of Qal Passives as Puals is also reasonably 
> explained as a normal linguistic development.  For example, 
> (basing myself mainly on Saenz-Badillos), RH lost the Piel as 
> well as the Qal passive.  It is reasonable that in such a 
> situation, the Pual and Qal passive would have been 
> maintained only in archaic use.  In such a situation, it is 
> easier to understand how the differences between them were 
> neutralized -- keeping the archaic use, but maintaining only 
> one form in such use.
> Furthermore, based on the comparison of lq+ in the Bible vs 
> lq+ in the Torah, if it works for other verbs as well, there 
> may have been a tendency to reallocate Qal verbs to the Piel. 
>  If indeed this was the case, for those verbs, a Pual may 
> have been likewise formed competing with the earlier Qal 
> passive.  This competition may have also led to the 
> elimination of other Qal passives in general in favor of the Pual.
> These are all linguistic developments.  They affected in this 
> case the vowels, but they could have easily affected the 
> consonants as well, especially matres lectionis.  Let me give 
> an example.  During the Second Temple period, final -n and -m 
> were neutralized.  We see this in the rise of Rabbinic Hebrew 
> -n plural endings, as well as in such words as ?dn "man" in 
> the Bar Kokhba letters.  It is also present in the 4th cent 
> BCE ostracon I quoted a few weeks back 'kkrn' loaves of 
> bread.  I believe this neutralization is a result of a mass 
> borrowing of words from Aramaic, that led to a competing 
> plural ending -n in Hebrew alongside -m.  This was analyzed 
> by speakers as an allophone and so was extended to other 
> words as well.  Another word that was apparently also 
> affected was &+n "to be at enmity with."  But unlike other 
> words, in this case, apparently the allophone &+m (compare 
> Gen 27:41) led to a new verb that had -m- even in non final 
> positions.  Compare Psalms
> 38:21 vs 55:4.  Now, it seems to me clear that probably most 
> cases of &+m must have been spelled originally &+n, and were 
> changed later.  But to what date do we assign this shift in 
> the text?  (This is one of the most fascinating examples of 
> this I found, and I am now wondering about other possible 
> examples -- so if someone has such I'd love to hear them)
> In contrast, most nouns end in -m, not -n, in the Bible.  
> This is to be understood as a feature of the written 
> language, that was based on the spoken language before the -m 
> / -n neutralization, but that did not adapt as quickly as the 
> spoken language.  In that sense, yes, the consonantal text 
> may be older due to historical spellings.  (The &tm / &tn 
> development apparently went in because it modified non- final -n).
> But this is not a consistent feature of all consonants.  It 
> is not possible to analyze, at least not in the state of 
> knowledge today, how often the consonantal text represents 
> historical spellings, and how often the vocalization 
> represents historical vowels.  I am not taking into 
> consideration here obvious changes in phonology due to 
> regular sound change, because it is clear to me that both changed, and
> that the vocalization was more susceptible to this.   More significant
> to me are natural linguistic developments not due to sound change.
> I do not know to say for a word, how likely it is that its 
> vocalization changed vs. how likely it is that its 
> consonantal representation changed due to non-sound change 
> linguistic developments.  As a result, the basic assumption 
> cannot be considered except as a guiding principle, and in a 
> specific case of a proposed correction does not have any 
> weight in deciding the likelihood of that reconstruction.
> To sum up, I can accept that written manuscripts could have 
> exerted a conservative influence in that regard so that the 
> content of written manuscripts would have been preserved 
> longer.  But I do not think that that influence is 
> sufficiently dependable to allow us to favor a correction 
> simply or even partly because it is only in the vowels.  I 
> also think that changes in matres lectionis were ongoing so 
> that matres lectionis are even less dependable than other consonants.
> Yitzhak Sapir
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