[b-hebrew] Complexity and Dating of Hebrew Texts

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 00:17:58 EDT 2009

On Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 3:27 AM, George Athas wrote:
> Karl wrote:
> There is evidence even among Biblical books. Those that were written before
> the Babylonian Exile show a greater linguistic complexity than those written
> afterwards, e.g. the final three prophets, Haggai, Zakaria and Malachi used
> the language in a simpler manner, as befits those who do not have native
> fluency of the language, than their pre-Exile predecessors.
> ----
> Karl, I'm not sure how you're defining 'complexity' here, but I'd beg to differ on that one.

The "evidence" about language complexity is flawed in other respects,
even ignoring that it depends on subjective views of textual dating.
Consider the following study (a published, peer-reviewed one!):
Frank Polak reaches widely different conclusions about which texts are more
complex and which are not.

Finally, the basic assumption that simple language shows a misunderstanding
of the language and hence is not by a native speaker is wrong.  That may be one
reason, but simple language is often also connected with spoken language,
while complex is connected with literary language.  Literary language is more
complex because the eye can more easily analyze and break up the
sentence, and because it allows for complex richer situations to be described.
Someone whose knowledge is only of literary Hebrew will necessarily frame
the sentences in the more complex grammar of literary language.

Yitzhak Sapir

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