[b-hebrew] Noun accord. K. Randolph

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Thu Nov 29 22:37:30 EST 2012

Hi Karl,

On Thu, 29 Nov 2012 12:36:49 -0800, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com> wrote:
> Will:
> Good point.
> The question is: when did Hebrew pronunciation change from native
> Hebrew to bad Aramaic, i.e. Aramaic vowels and Aramaic consonantal
> pronunciation of Hebrew writing? I think it started during the
> Babylonian Exile, and largely reached completion before the LXX was
> written.

I tend to agree.  When looking at phenomena such as the epenthetic
vowel of segholate forms or the spirantization of BGDKPT letters in
intervocal positions in both Hebrew and Aramaic, it's hard to say for
certain whether these were parallel developments in two closely
related languages, or whether their presence in Hebrew was due to
Aramaic influence.

For parallel development, one can of course point to the lenition of
Latin intervocalic consonants (somewhat parallel to what happened in
Hebrew/Aramaic) that occurred in the various Romance languages.

Beginning with the Babylonian Exile, however, the position of Hebrew
with respect to Aramaic was not really parallel to that of the
emerging Romance languages.  The exiles in Babylonia would need to
become familiar with what was the de facto official language.
Probably a good portion of the Hebrew upper classes that were
repatriated to Babylonia already knew Aramaic as a second language,
and younger generations would naturally become bilingual in Aramaic
(or even learn it as their primary language as is common in immigrant
communities).  Those that returned to Israel after the accession of
Cyrus would still have to work in an empire whose dominant language
was Aramaic, and where many of the people already in the land
(displaced from other parts of the empire) were Aramaic speaking.

Under these conditions, it's hard to see Hebrew not being strongly
influenced by phonological innovations taking place in Aramaic.  But,
because changes such as the segholate epenthetic vowel or the lenition
of intervocal BGDKPT consonants have no representation in
Hebrew/Aramaic spelling, it's difficult to make firm conclusions.

> There are some very sparse clues that there was also a secondary change,
> one that started in the South (Egypt) probably during the time the LXX was
> translated, but did not reach all of Aramaic speaking Jews until centuries
> later, hence Peter’s accent and some of the spellings retained in the
> Byzantine transliterations in the New Testament.

I'm not so sure about that.  I would think that the centre of both
Hebrew knowledge and prestige would be in Palestine rather than Egypt,
and that the pressure would be for Alexandrian Jews to pronounce
Hebrew with a good "Palestinian" accent rather than the reverse.  But, I
will have to admit, that's based on what I would regard as a priori
probability rather than any real evidence.

Will Parsons
μη φαινεσθαι, αλλ' ειναι.

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