[b-hebrew] Mishnaic Hebrew

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Nov 25 23:15:13 EST 2011


On Thu, Nov 24, 2011 at 7:13 PM, Chavoux Luyt <chavoux at gmail.com> wrote:

> Shalom Karl
> You wrote:
> > Those who have worked with immigrants and their children find that the
> > children generally have but a smattering of their parents’ languages, the
> > grandchildren almost none, unless the language is systematically taught
> as
> > a second language. In the latter case, the children’s primary language
> that
> > they speak in their everyday usage is the language of their milieu, their
> > ancestors’ language the second language.
> But my contention is that while the Jews who remained in exile can be
> compared to immigrants, the Jews who returned should rather be
> compared to the situation like Ireland...

As far as I know, the Irish were never scattered among an English speaking
milieu, to return to Ireland over two generations later.

> where although there was a
> strong influence of the second language (English in Ireland, Aramaic
> in Judah) even to the point of some no longer speaking their "native"
> language (e.g. in Ireland where some Irish are actually
> English-speaking), native speakers of the language never died out.
> They were back in the land, after all! Also, keep in mind that some of
> the poor people of the land did remain in Israel (cf. Jeremiah) and
> would have kept Hebrew alive.

Not true. According to Jeremiah, the “lowly of the land” totally abandoned
Judea of their own volition, so that there were none left. Because this was
done without the preplanning of the Babylonians, they didn’t prepare to
have immigrants from other areas of the empire come and replace those who
left, so there is no record of that having been done. There was no one in
the land to keep Hebrew alive.

> While there are linguistic changes between pre- and post-exilic
> writers, how are you going to see if it is simply the natural change
> in language or indicate that it was used as a second language (cf.
> Afrikaans that became a whole new language, but developed from Dutch
> through native speakers, even if there was some external influences -
> and has a much simpler grammar and spelling compared to Dutch - or
> even the development of American English compared to British
> English... once again mostly through native speakers, but it can also
> be argued as having simplified the language)?

I don’t know the details of Afrikaans, but in the cases of American English
and Cantonese, while the center of the language changed and simplified
(Mandarin, England) the periphery changed more slowly (U.S., Cantonese).
According to linguists who have studied those languages, mentioned in
classes I had many years ago, American English maintained some of the older
patterns dropped in England, and Cantonese maintained more of the older
traditions in Chinese dropped by Mandarin.

In the case of the later Biblical authors, their Hebrew on the whole is
simpler than similar writings from before the Babylonian Exile, in such a
was that fits the pattern of second language speakers.

> How will you distinguish between the two possible reason for the
> changes in Hebrew? Only once you have a method for distinguishing
> between normal change in language and changes due to it being spoken
> as a second language, can you apply it to biblical Hebrew and draw the
> kind of conclusion that you do.

I did. While I haven’t done an academic study on the subject, I have
noticed a pattern that I have also seen among children of immigrants who
still speak their parents’ languages. I noticed it among several language
groups, the same pattern, a simpler vocabulary and far less usage of
figures of speech. That, combined with the historical record, causes me to
conclude that those who moved to Judea under Cyrus no longer had native
speaking ability in Hebrew. And by extrapolation neither did those who
lived later as well.

> Regards
> Chavoux Luyt

Karl W. Randolph.

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