[b-hebrew] Pr 21:30 - `etsa

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue Dec 21 16:29:14 EST 2010

> In Is 47:13 we find noun (ACFTFYIK, your counsels (of a female).
> I do not understand why and how the plural (construct) of noun
> `etsa, counsel (Pr 21:30) takes a qamats in letter tsade and not a
> holam.
> Is this something usual (in the Bible) for this noun type? Is it an
> anomalous behaviour?
> And if this is a quite anomalous behaviour.... how can we distingish
> the normal from the anomalous?

Uri is correct that the form is anomalous.

The more interesting questions are explaining the form and then
explaining the processes of determining 'normal/good' from

As  Isaac alluded, the pataH-Hatuf (patach schva) appears in several
formations with first guttural consonants. One problem is the
qamats instead of an expected Holam. This is a shift that occurs in
Aramaic feminine plurals, so that one might call the form in Is 47.13 a
pseudo-Aramaic form. On the other hand, the vowels in the first two
consonants are expected in some forms of a singular noun, so that
the 'anomaly' is in joining a pluralizing suffix with a singular noun.
Such 'explanations', of course, do not explain why such a vocalization
was used. At that point one can only speculate.

the more basic question that has been brought up is how a person
distinguishes 'anomalous' from 'normal'. This is not as black and white
as some might suppose, nor do statistics tell the story by themselves.

Consider something that occurs once in the Hebrew Bible. It may be
there once because it is 'anomalous', a mistake, and unintended.
However, one may assume that many/most 'single occurrence' items in
the Hebrew Bible are only single occurrences because of the limited
size of the Hebrew Bible. If the Hebrew corpus were multiplied twenty
or a hundred times, most 'single occurrences' would quickly multiply
out of that category. One may not simply remove an item from what
is considered normal BH because it occurs once. We may assume
the opposite, many words, structures, and forms were part of the
language that are not attested in the Hebrew Bible--however, that
does not mean that any and all extrapolations are acceptable.

Instead, one must study the overall system of the language. Human
languages have a fairly limited number of processes that work on a
language and most processes and categories show up in more than
one place in a language. For example, a second person ending as
a suffix on a noun can be checked throughout the language to see
what happens in other cases. Then, if a noun turns out not to have
such an occurrence, one can still extrapolate and assume that the
form existed. When forms are found to vary, they can be studied to
see what is causing the change, to see what is consistently related
with the change. Finally, one will arrive at a layer where a form does
not seem to relate to anything else in the language. Those forms are
truly anomalous, but even they may have their story to tell.

Is the anomalous form an accident, a mistake, or is it on purpose, for
some literary purpose or perhaps from a specific historical stratum of
the language or a particular dialect? This is the point at which
specialists will often differ and produce different evaluations.
Good evaluations will be those that can take in the whole trajectory
of the language, within itself as well as in its relationship to its
external environment. Good explanations will be those that can
best explain how the form/structure developed, what influenced it,
what parallels it, and where that form has gone to.
As an easy and non-controversial example,
consider Greek phonology. If someone examines the "static"
of forms found in first century Greek, many different phonologies
could be proposed depending on which texts
were admitted into the corpus of study and whether non-sensical
'anomalous' forms were included. One of the 'tests' among
competing analyses would be which phonology most rationally lines
up with the known history of the language. We know where the
language ended up and we can also document stages along the
way. An analysis that fits the bigger picture(s) would be preferred over
the analysis that cannot be fit into such a picture or explain the form.
This is part of what is known as 'explanatory power' in linguistics.

So back to `atsatayik "your advice(s)" Is 47.13.
It is anomalous and is not standard BH.
Uri is correct. And we do not know of any dialect
where such a form would have fit in the history of the language.
(This does not deny that potential neutralizations sometimes occur
in a dialect, like dvarenu 'our word, our words'.)

However, I consider that question about whether this is an
accidental mistake or 'on purpose' by the Masoretes to be an open
question. I would put in it the list of forms with 'mixed'
vocalizations, the noun stem is vocalized as singular,
the suffix as plural.

My two cents from where I sit,
Randall buth

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
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