[b-hebrew] Transliterations from Hebrew to Greek to ? and theMassoretes

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Jun 20 06:39:56 EDT 2008

On Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 6:10 AM, Kevin P. Edgecomb wrote:

> I write:
> I don't think there is a precise example of segholization here in these
> lists.  I agree that the list from Epiphanius certainly appears to be better
> preserved.
> My point on long/short vowels is not related to vowel length so much as
> quality.  /a/ is longer, i.e. more open, than /i/ or /e/, which are shorter,
> or more closed.  There is a trend recognizable through the differently
> vocalized Hebrew transliterations in Greek and Latin which certainly points
> toward a vocalic shift from long/open to short/closed vowels, part of which
> is segholization.  It's a casual observation, but I'm sure that someone else
> has done a complete study on the matter by now.

What do you mean here by segholization?  In any case, when you speak
of longer vs. shorter, you seem to be invoking vowel length.  What kind of
shift are you speaking of?  Could you give examples of different long/open
to short/closed vowels?  Besides, how does an anaptyctic vowel (which
is what I assume you mean by segholization), have to do with this shift?

> It may be somewhat heretical, but I don't believe that the Masoretic
> vocalization is really much older than the sixth century, including verb
> paradigms, and so on.  I doubt that a first century hearer of Hebrew would
> recognize, say, eighth century Hebrew, either BC or AD, due to this
> continual shifting of vowels.

One has to differentiate between recognition and origin.  It is unlikely that
a reader in century X of Hebrew would recognize Hebrew vocalized
according to the conventions of century X - 2 or earlier.  It is also unlikely
that he could read it if it was written out in the local dialect.  But he could
still read the literary texts from that time, which appear to have remained
in use until today and are therefore part of the current literary language of
the Hebrew speaking community.  I don't view heresy as touching on this,
but I don't think that it is unreasonable to say that the Masoretic
vocalization preserves indeed a vocalization that in its current realization
dates no earlier than the 6th century.  It does preserve a vocalization that
developed from much earlier vocalizations, in the sense that it was taught
from teacher to student over centuries beforehand.  The vocalization
changed, but a qamats can still be traced to an ancient long a: in many
cases, for example.

Yitzhak Sapir

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