[b-hebrew] Masoretic transmission of pronuncation

Kevin Riley klriley100 at tpg.com.au
Mon Jul 15 19:47:09 EDT 2013

On 16/07/2013 9:24 AM, Will Parsons wrote:
> On Mon, 15 Jul 2013 07:47:48 -0400, "Barry H." <nebarry at verizon.net> wrote:
>> ...
>> And, of course, the The Masoretic context could be quite different.
>> Wasn't a deliberate effort made to preserve proper pronunciation? When
>> did that start? But even today, Sephardic and Ashkenazi often sound
>> quite different.
> Indeed.  I don't know whether the Sephardic/Ashkenazic division has
> its origins in a time prior the Masoretic work or not, but the fact
> that these form two substantial dialect divisions not only is
> illustrative of the fact that internal changes to the vocalization
> still took place, but also is illustrative of the fact that phonology
> gets readjusted to more closely conform to the foreign milieu.  (With
> respect to the latter, I'm thinking of the elimination of distinct
> emphatic articulations for consonants and the replacement of [θ] with
> Seph. [t] vs. Ashk. [s].)
I think it is in Saenz-Badillos I first read that the earliest evidence 
form Europe (Italy, from memory) seems to suggest a Sephardic 
pronunciation of vowels.  I have read the same elsewhere since then, but 
can't recall where.  The difficulty of interpreting written evidence 
comes when there is no actual change in phonemes, merely in sounds.  
That is when we have to rely on accidental mistakes, and of course all 
scribes went to great length to avoid that when it came to writing 
Scripture.  I would say the Sephardic/Ashenazic division pre-dates the 
work of the Masoretes, and the division between the Sephardi/Ashkenazi 
and the Mizrahi goes back even further.  The Masoretic text of course 
overlays these divisions to various degrees, as does the Sephardic exile 
from Spain and there settlement around the Mediterranean.  It is a pity 
we have so little information on the Hebrew of Jews from the Iranian 
areas and central Asia.

Kevin Riley

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