Archive for August 2008

Fox, Samuel Ethan, “The Relationships of the Eastern Neo-Aramaic Dialects,” JAOS Vol. 114, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1994): 154-162.

August 15, 2008

The Northeast Neo-Aramaic (NENA) dialects were spoken by the minority population of Jews and Christians in the area covering southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and western Iran. The Muslim population of this same area spoke Arabic, Turkish, and Kurdish. Unfortunately, since 1915 these NENA speakers have been uprooted and dispersed. NENA is not a descendent of Syriac, but a sister dialect. Since there is no attestation of the proto-NENA dialects, it is analyzed in respect to three earlier dialects of Eastern Aramaic: Syriac, Babylonian Talmudic (BT), and classical Mandaic. However, Aramaic was the dominant dialect of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria before the Arab conquest, thus there must have been a large continuum of dialects about which we know nothing. This article explores whether the NENA dialects should be taken as a single unit with a single source, or whether they may represent the early spectrum of dialectal diversity.

For the comparison, Fox selects 11 dialects: Hertevin, a Christian Anatolian dialect and the most western of the group; Zakho Jewish, a Jewish dialect from northern Iraq; Aradhin, a Christian dialect from northern Iraq; Tisqopa, a Christian dialect from the plain of Mosul; Jilu, from southeast Turkey; Tkhuma, also from southeast Turkey, Sanandaj Christian, a Christian dialect from Iranian Kurdistan; Urmi, the dialect of the Christians from Urmi; Koy Sanjaq, the language of Jews from Koy Sanjaq who now reside in Israel; Azerbaijan, the language of Jews from Azerbaijan; Halabja, a Jewish dialect on the Iran-Iraq border. Fox also compares these to the eastern Aramaic dialects of Turoyo and Mandaic. The analysis is based on 24 phonological, morphological, morpho-lexical, and lexical features.

For instance, in the case of phonology Fox notes that the alternation of plosive/fricative t/θ, conditioned by a preceding vowel, is no longer regular. Rather, the form has been lexicalized so that one or the other spreads through the whole paradigm of a verb. Further, the phoneme θ has undergone further shifts in some dialects to s, l, or even h. For instance, the word for house occurs as be:θa (Tkhuma), biya (Jilu, θ > h, which becomes a glide y), belá (Halabja), and bēsa (Sanandaj Christian).

The development of the verbal systems is also quite interesting. First, NENA has dropped the passive -t- forms and reduced the three base stems of Syriac – peal (G-stem), pael (D-stem), and aphel (C-stem) – into two. Stem I is descended from the peal and follows the pattern CCaC- (e.g. Urmia ptaxa ‘to open’). Stem II collapses the pael and afel following the pattern CaCoC- (e.g. Urmia šadure ‘to send’). However, in some dialects (Jewish Azerbaijani, Halabja, and possibly Koy Sandjaq) the choice of Stem I or Stem II no longer follows historically from the lexical meaning of the verb, but depends on its consonantal shape. Strong verbs use Stem II, while middle-weak verbs use Stem I.

Second, Syriac, BT, and Classical Mandaic all developed a form for the past tense using the passive participle followed by the preposition l with a pronominal suffix agreeing with the agent, eg šmy’ lh ‘it was heard by him’ = ‘he heard’. In all the NENA dialects, this has become the normal preterite, displacing the old suffix conjugation. In fact, it is even used for intransitive verbs such as qimli ‘I stood up’. However, in Halabja intransitive verbs are distinguished from transitive in that they attach a different set of pronominal suffixes directly to the participle, qīmna ‘I stood up’. Hertevin goes a step further, using both constructions. The form attaching the pronominal suffix directly to the participle conveys the relevance of the action to the present. Thus, qímat ‘you (f.s.) have risen’, but qimlxun ‘you (c.p.) rose’.

Lastly, the affix -wa (from hwā ‘he was’) is used generally to add a past meaning. For instance, it shifts the general present to past continuous and the perfect to pluperfect. Thus from Aradhin ipalxin ‘I work’ but ipalxinwa ‘I worked (durative)’. Also, plixli ‘I worked’ but plixwāli ‘I had worked’. The future is expressed generally with the prefix b-, bāmir ‘he will say’. The general present is also expressed by a prefix, either k- on all verbs, k- on some forms, or i- on all forms.

Fox concludes that the dialects of NENA form a ‘strikingly coherent group’ and share many distinctive features against Turoyo and Mandaic. Thus, they seem to be derived from a single dialect or a group of closely related dialects. The article ends with a helpful chart of all the features by dialect.

Wright, Richard M, “Further Evidence for North Israelite Contributions to Late Biblical Hebrew,” Pages 129-148 in Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology Edited by Ian Young. London: T&T Clark, 2003.

August 15, 2008

Wright’s is the last essay in the first section of the book, and it further summarizes the methods of Hurvitz and Rendsburg before discussing the relationship of Israelian Hebrew (IH) to Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH). Hurvitz has given three criteria for identification of a feature of LBH: it must occur exclusively or predominantly in texts which are undisputedly post-exilic in date, ‘linguistic distribution'; it must have a counterpart in earlier biblical texts which is used in the same contexts and carries the same meaning, ‘linguistic contrast'; and it must occur in extra-biblical post-exilic sources such as Ben Sira, Qumran, etc, ‘extra-biblical attestation’. The second criterion ensures that a feature is not missing from earlier texts merely because they had no reason to use it, while the third ensures that the feature is more widely part of the language, and not merely the writer’s individual style. To these, Wright adds that a text should display multiple characteristics of LBH before it is to be considered late itself, ‘linguistic concentration’.

Rendsburg adapted this methodology to the study of dialectal variation, specifically the distinction of northern IH from Standard Biblical Hebrew (SBH), the pre-exilic dialect of Judah and Jerusalem. For a feature to be considered IH it must: occur exclusively or primarily in texts deemed by scholars to be ‘northern’ or non-Judahite, ‘linguistic distribution'; it must have a counterpart in SBH, ‘linguistic contrast'; and it should have a cognate feature in one of the languages used outside of Israel and Judah, such as Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, or the Transjordanian dialects, ‘extra-biblical attestation’.

There are four common reasons why dialect variation may occur: 1) Non-standard forms may represent the spoken form of the language rather than the literary dialect, ‘diglossia'; 2) IH features may represent the regional dialect of the writer; 3) An Judahite writer may use IH features to represent the speech of a non-Judahite character, ‘style-switching'; or 4) A Judahite writer may use IH features to represent the speech patterns of the group to whom the text is addressed, especially in prophetic oracles to Israel’s neighbors, ‘addressee-switching’.

Wright suggests six items which are characteristic of LBH, but also occur sporadically in early texts which also display features of IH. They include: 1) The plural עולםים used for the singular עולם ‘eternity’ which occurs most notably in 1 Kgs 8:13; 2) The expression X-ו X כל ‘every X’ in Ps 45:18; 3) The verb כנס ‘to assemble’ in contrast to אסף or קבץ in Is 28:20; 4) The piel verb קבל ‘to receive, take’ instead of לקח in Pr 19:20; 5) The term מערב ‘west’ rather than ים or מבוא in Ps 107:2 and Ps 75:7; 6) The verb בהל ‘hasten’ instead of מהר or חפז in Ps 48:6 and Prov 20:21.

In all of these cases there is a correlation between a feature which is predominantly LBH in a text with a concentration of IH features. This seems to support the notion that the ‘northern’ dialect(s) influenced post-exilic Hebrew. This may be due to the ‘reunion’ of the newly captured Judahites with the already exiled Israelites in Babylon and Persia, providing opportunity for more contact between the dialects. On the other hand, it may reflect the consequences of the political upheaval following the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and subsequent exile of the political and social elite from Jerusalem, allowing regional and colloquial dialects to assert themselves more strongly.

Khan, Geoffrey, “Some parallels in linguistic development between Biblical Hebrew and neo-Aramaic,” Pages 84-105 in Semitic Studies in Honor of Edward Ullendorff. Edited by Geoffrey Khan. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

August 13, 2008

The neo-Semitic languages are interesting because they provide many historically documented examples of developments that parallel those in the classical Semitic languages. Even if these parallels are only typological, Khan argues that they have heuristic value for understanding the history of classical Semitic since we so often must appeal to hypothetical reconstructions. In this article he gives examples of such parallels between Biblical Hebrew and neo-Aramaic.

He begins with the issue of the BGDKPT consonants. There are many exceptions to the general rule that these letters are plosives after consonants, but fricatives after vowels. Some of these exceptions can be accounted for by general rules. For instance, in the case where the preceding word ends in a vowel, a BGDKPT letter beginning a word is plosive if the preceding word is marked with a disjunctive accent (Gen 12:11 וַיְהִ֕י כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר), but fricative if it is marked with a conjunctive accent (Neh 4:1 וַיְהִ֣י כַאֲשֶׁ֣ר). However, what of cases such as מַלְכֵ֥י (Gen 17:16) and שִׁכְבַ֣ת (Ex 16:13), where a fricative occurs after a silent shewa? Conversely, there are cases where a plosive occurs after a vowel such as the 2fs perfect of final guttural vowels like לָקַ֣חַתְּ.

Khan suggests that this reflects that the ‘rule’ of BGDKPT is no longer operating in the phase of Tiberian pronunciation that is reflected in the Masoretic vocalisation. Where a vowel has elided before a consonant after the rule stopped working, the consonant generally remains a fricative. In a living language, further developments would occur to resolve the problem. For instance, it is possible that the fricative and plosive allophones would obtain independent phonemic status. Indeed there may be a few minimal pairs to suggest that this was beginning to happen, such as לָקַ֣חַתְּ, ‘you (2fs) took’, versus לָקַ֣חַת, ‘to take (inf)’.

In Aramaic there is a similar development. The distinction between fricative and plosive was originally conditioned by the preceding vowel, but eventually this rule ceased to operate. In literary dialects such as Syriac there is evidence that the two allophones began to attain phonemic status, such as garḇā ‘scabies’ but qarbā ‘scabious’. In neo-Aramaic this has come to its logical conclusion so that the variants have become independent phonemes which contrast in many minimal pairs: šāta ‘year’ – šāṯa ‘fever'; marta ‘saying’ – marṯa ‘mistress’ (don’t mix that one up! There was this marṯa I used to know…). Further, in verbal roots the plosive and fricative realizations of a root consonant no longer vary among the various inflections, but one is chosen which occurs consistently. For example, kṯw ‘to write’ (< *ktb): kaṯwa ‘she writes’, makṯōwə ‘to register’, kṯāwa ‘book’.

After next discussing the gutturals, Khan moves to issues related to vowel length. In Tiberian Hebrew, there was a tendency to lengthen vowels in stressed syllables. There seem to be two historical periods of lengthening, and between these two periods various changes in quality occurred such as the shift from ā to a rounded back vowel å. In the first period, a in an open syllable was also lengthened. Thus (disregarding the phenomenon of pre-tonic lengthening):

*dabáru > *dābāŕu > *dāḇāŕ

Next is the shift in quality:

*dāḇāŕ > *dåḇåŕ

On the other hand, the vowel of a segholate was not lengthened since it was in a closed syllable, and therefore did not undergo the shift of quality. However, after the epenthetic vowel was inserted, the first syllable was opened. Therefore the vowel was lengthened during the second period, but after the change in quality had already occurred. Thus:

*náˁru > *náˁr > *nāˁar

Parallels to these developments can also be found in neo-Aramaic dialects where an a vowel in an open stressed syllable was similarly lengthened. However, if an originally closed syllable becomes opened, the a does not immediately lengthen.

Khan also addresses the question of why there is a pataḥ in the final stressed syllable of the 3ms perfect קָטַל, but a qameṣ in the final stressed syllable of a noun דָּבָר. Should they not have followed the same pattern of development? That is:

*qaṭála > *qāṭāĺa > *qåṭåĺ

Somehow the usual rule of vowel lengthening was blocked in the verbal form *qaṭála. Some have suggested that this is because the final vowel of verbs was elided before the final vowel of nouns, thus the last syllable would be closed rather than open. However, from neo-Aramaic, Khan suggests that the short vowel comes from analogy to the rest of the paradigm. For instance, in neo-Aramaic the present verb is built on the participle qāṭil, which is inflected with a series of suffixes expressing the pronominal subject. Most of these suffixes begin with a vowel, which causes the vowel in the second syllable to be elided, closing the first syllable and shortening the long ā. For example:

qāṭǝl + a > qaṭla ‘she kills’
qāṭǝl + i > qaṭli ‘they kill’

What is interesting is that in some dialects such as Jewish Arbel, the long ā in the base 3ms form qāṭǝl is also short: qaṭǝl. There is no historical reason for this vowel to be short except for analogy. Thus, in Hebrew the the vowel in the second syllable of the 3ms perfect may also have remained short by analogy to the rest of the paradigm.

Millard, Alan R., “Cognates can be deceptive: some Aramaic distinctives,” Pages 145-149 in: Studia Aramaica. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

August 12, 2008

In this short article, Millard discusses the phenomenon of divergence in the meaning of cognate words in kindred languages. He begins with a modern example from British and American English, warning American visitors to London to always walk on the pavement. In British English, ‘pavement’ refers to the part of the street called the ‘sidewalk’ in American English, while ‘pavement’ in American English refers to the part where cars drive. Millard discusses cases where Aramaic shares cognates with Hebrew and/or Akkadian, but diverges in meaning from one or both languages.

Often Aramaic agrees with Hebrew, against Akkadian. For instance, Hebrew and Aramaic אמר, “to say”, but Akkadian amāru, “to see”. Another example is Hebrew and Aramaic ספר, “writing, book”, but Akkadian šipru, “task, message”. It is interesting to note that Ugaritic sometimes goes with Akkadian, ‘mr, “to see”, but sometimes with Hebrew, spr, “document”.

On the other hand, there are also cases where Aramaic shares meaning with the Akkadian cognate against Hebrew. Note that these are not loan-words, but true cognates (as best as we can tell). For instance, Aramaic סחר and Akkadian saḫāru, “to go around”. Hebrew, however, uses סבב more commonly to express “to go around”, reserving סחר for the more specialized use “to go around on business, to trade”.

There are many cases where Aramaic has its own word while Hebrew and Akkadian share cognates for the similar concept. For instance, Aramaic אתא, “to come”, in contrast to Hebrew בוא and Akkadian bā’u; Aramaic נחת, “to go down”, in contrast to ירד and arādu; Aramaic נפק, “to go out”, in contrast to יצא and aṣû, etc. Some of these Aramaic words have cognates elsewhere, such as nḥt in Ugaritic.

Lastly, there are words where each language goes its own way. For instance, Aramaic מלל, “to speak”, in contrast to Hebrew דבר and Akkadian qabû. In conclusion, Millard points out the importance not only of studying common terms and features between languages, but also the individual peculiarities of each language.

In his דמות and צלם, Part 3.

August 11, 2008

Begin with Part 1 here and then Part 2 here.

To this point we have looked at the distribution of דמות within the Hebrew Bible, as well as the morpheme וּת-, in order to determine whether this could be an Aramaic loan or an ‘Aramaism’, and if so, whether it reflects the late influence of Aramaic. Since Hebrew and Aramaic have a long history of contact, Hurvitz argues that it is not sufficient to merely identify something as an ‘Aramaism’ and conclude that it was borrowed late, but you must also consider its usage within the Aramaic dialects to provide a reasonable path for the borrowing. This is where the study gets a bit more interesting.

Unfortunately, there are actually very few attestations of דמותא in Old or Imperial Aramaic. It only appears once (that I could find) in Imperial Aramaic (the official dialect during the Persian period), but this is in the phrase לדמות ד, “in accordance with”, where it is being used as part of the compound preposition rather than as a substantive. In later dialects it is used quite often as part of a compound preposition as well.

On the other hand, it appears in two Old Aramaic inscriptions where its usage is quite interesting. The first is a broken inscription from the so-called Tell Halaf ‘Altar’ which dates from c.900 BCE. The second, and more important, is the Tell Fakhariyeh Aramaic-Akkaidan bilingual inscription which is also from the 9th Century BCE. דמותא appears twice in this inscription, as does the synonymous term צלם:

(1) דמותא זי הדיסעי זי שמ קדמ הדדסכנ

(1) The ‘likeness’ of Had-yiṯ’i which he set up before Hadad of Sikan

(12) …צלמ הדיסעי (13) מלכ גוזנ וזי סכנ וזי אזרנ…

(12)…The ‘image’ of Had-yaṯ’i, (13) king of Gozan, and of Sikan, and of Azran…

(15)…דמותא זאת עבד…

(15)…he made this ‘likeness’…

(16) …צלמה שמ…

(16) …he placed his ‘image’…

The inscription is on a life-sized standing figure of a certain Had-yiṯ’i, and this statue is the referent of both דמותא and צלם, which seem to be used as synonyms. To this point, we have only been discussing דמות, but it should be noted that צלם is a perfectly good Aramaic word as well. In fact, it is a good Akkadian word, ṣalmu, which seems to be perfectly cognate to its Hebrew counterpart (see Randall Garr, In His Own Image and Likeness, Brill, 2003, 137-138). That is, it is used in the same contexts and refers to the same types of objects. And the main referents of ṣalmu are statues, mainly of deities and royal figures.

Such images have a long history in Mesopotamian art, and Garr even suggests that the Assyrian-like statue at Tell Fakhariyeh may indicate an avenue by which the Mesopotamian style and concept of the ‘image’ was moving west. This would be interesting if it provided a background for Genesis 1 since we generally think of the ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of God in less physical terms than a statue. However, the statues are considered both representations and manifestations of the persons they represent, so this certainly could include the moral and functional roles theologians tend to attribute to the imago dei.

Regardless, we have here the use of דמות as a synonym of צלם in the 9th Century BCE. Unfortunately, we have no other evidence of the use of דמותא as a substantive from Imperial Aramaic to compare its distribution. Still, it seems quite reasonable that דמות could have been borrowed early just as easily as late (if it even was borrowed). The linguistic evidence here is just inconclusive, and the lesson, of course, is that ‘Aramaism’ does not necessarily equal a late date.

Rendsburg, Gary, “Hurvitz Redux: On the Continued Scholarly Inattention to a Simple Principle of Hebrew Philology,” Pages 104-128 in Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology Edited by Ian Young. London: T&T Clark, 2003.

August 11, 2008

Gary Rendsburg is best known for his attention to the northern Hebrew dialects within BH, what he terms Israelian Hebrew (IH), by extending Hurvitz’ method of analyzing ‘Aramaisms’ to possible dialectal differences between the northern Israelian dialect and the southern Judean dialect. In this article he summarizes Hurvitz’ method, adds some of his own points, and then interacts with three articles in which scholars have attempted to demonstrate the late date of a text based on linguistic features.

Hurvitz had listed four specific settings where Aramaic-like features tend to appear in pre-exilic texts: 1) Poetry, since poets tend to have larger vocabularies making use of rare and archaic words; 2) Wisdom texts, such as Job and Proverbs, which may have Aramaic roots; 3) Narratives set in northern Israel, whose dialect contains isoglosses with Aramaic; and 4) Stories in which Arameans play a prominent role.

To these Rendsburg adds three more settings: 1) Texts which are not explicitly set in northern Israel, but may have their provenance in the North nonetheless, and thus reflect the IH dialect (he identifies several Psalms in this category); 2) Cases of “addressee-switching” where the author is addressing an audience who speak Aramaic, such as classical prophetic texts addressing Aram, or even Babylon and Assyria; 3) Use of Aramaic words for alliteration, especially in prose texts (to differentiate this from category 1 above), such as the use of מלל in Gen 21:7 in close proximity to מול and גמל.

After briefly discussing the cases of Genesis 24 and 1 Samuel 2:27-36, which he has treated more thoroughly in a previous article, Rendsburg interacts with articles by Michael Barré on Psalm 116, Alexander Rofé on 1 Lings 21, and Michael Waltisberg on Judges 5. In each of these cases he seeks to explain Aramaic-like features not as evidence of Aramaic influence, and hence a late date, but as features of IH. For instance, 3x in Psalm 116 the 3fs suffix כי- is used. Rendsburg points out that this form also appears 4x in the ketib of 2 Kings 4 where it is placed in Elisha’s mouth, who likely hailed from Gilead.

Rendsburg concludes by lamenting the lack of attention payed by most minimalist scholars to the linguistic evidence in the attempt to date biblical texts to the Persian and Hellenistic periods. As for his own methodology, he concedes that he assumes Aramaic-like features in the above defined contexts are early, unless other evidence in the text points to a late date, while other scholars may tend to assume that such Aramaisms are late unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

In his דמות and צלם, Part 2

August 10, 2008

Start with Part 1 here.

How can we determine whether דמות is a rare word, an ‘Aramaism’, or an Aramaic loan? First, let me explain the slight difference I’m making between an Aramaic loanword and an ‘Aramaism’. A loanword is what it sounds like, an entire word borrowed from Aramaic. An ‘Aramaism’, on the other hand, is the influence of Aramaic phonology, morphology, syntax, etc on the Hebrew language.

There are two basic reasons why one language would borrow from another (actually languages don’t borrow, speakers borrow): need and prestige. If there is no existing word for something (whether a concrete object, a concept, or a slight nuance you wish to make) then it is common to borrow a word. Campbell gives the example that in most languages an automobile is called something like ‘automobile’ or ‘auto’ (Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, 2nd Ed, MIT Press, 2006). Prestige is when a certain language is, frankly, “cool”. For instance, English has borrowed many ‘cuisine’ words from French, such as ‘beef’ and ‘pork’. It is in the post-exilic period that Aramaic enjoys high status as a prestige language, thus its influence can be seen on other languages during this period.

Usually you can spot a loanword by phonological or morphological clues. A word may break a phonological rule in the borrowing language or betray a sound change that had already occurred. Or a word may be considered as one morpheme in the borrowing language when it was really two in the source language. Campbell gives the example of ‘alligator’ in English from Spanish ‘el lagarto’. This is obviously difficult with Hebrew and Aramaic since the languages are so close. Further, borrowing usually happens in bilingual situations where the speakers are aware enough to accommodate the Aramaic phonological patterns to Hebrew. There is a third semantic clue that can also be used – if a word maintains the same basic semantic range in the borrowing language as it had in the source language, or a certain specialized meaning, etc.

I don’t have Wagner’s Die lexicalischen und grammatikalischen Aramaismen im alttestamentlichen Hebräisch here at home, but looking at HALOT (which seems to list all words Wagner marked as Aramaic loans), it doesn’t appear that Wagner suggested דמות as an Aramaic loan, though Wellhausen may have had a question about it. דמות is formed from the root דמה/י “to be like”, which seems to be a good Hebrew root occurring 44x in the Bible. Though, of course, it is hard to tell if it is an old Hebrew root or if it came into the language later. It is common in Mishnaic Hebrew, but I didn’t find the verb in any Hebrew inscriptions. In fact a quick CAL search suggests that the it doesn’t show up in Old or Imperial Aramaic either. But is this a good representation of the contemporary vocabulary, or merely a function of the haphazard collection of extant texts?

So is it an ‘Aramaism’? I think it is probably the ending ־וּת that suggests Aramaic influence. ־וּת is used to create ‘abstract’ nouns. This is also found in Akkadian (e.g. šību ‘a witness’, šībūtu ‘testimony’ attested in OA and OB) and perhaps Ugaritic (e.g. kst RS 1.119:I:36,47, presumably כְּסוּת ‘covering, clothing’ from כסה). So the morpheme has a wider distribution in Semitic beyond Aramaic and Hebrew. Of course, ־וּת seems to be much more common in later Aramaic, and GKC §86k suggests that ־וּת is a more common Hebrew morpheme in the later books (presumably due to the influence of Aramaic).

Another quick Accordance search shows that ־וּת words occur only 14X in Judges – Kings in marked contrast to the obviously post-exilic books (Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles) where they occur 72X. Then again, 62 of those are one word, מלכות, ‘kingdom’. The great mass of ־וּת words are in Isaiah (23 representing 14 different words), Jeremiah (41 representing 13 different words), and Ezekiel (59 representing 9 different words). Now, what can we conclude? Well, certainly these books are later, but I have to wonder if the increase in ־וּת has as much to do with content as chronology. That is, these are all prophetic books, writing poetry, as opposed to the historiographical books.

Another interesting fact is that one of the ־וּת words shows up in the Song of Deborah:

Judg. 5:26 יָדָהּ֙ לַיָּתֵ֣ד תִּשְׁלַ֔חְנָה
וִֽימִינָ֖הּ לְהַלְמ֣וּת עֲמֵלִ֑ים
וְהָלְמָ֤ה סִֽיסְרָא֙ מָחֲקָ֣ה רֹאשׁ֔וֹ
וּמָחֲצָ֥ה וְחָלְפָ֖ה רַקָּתֽוֹ

She stretched out her hand for the peg,
and her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
And she hammered Sisera, she shattered his head,
she smashed and pierced his temple.

Here הַלְמ֣וּת is used right next to the verb from which it is derived, הלם. I found no Aramaic root הלם in the CAL, and this song is generally taken to be some of the oldest poetry in the Bible. Thus this should provide some evidence that ־וּת is productive in early Hebrew, even if its use does increase in later periods.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Great, this is going nowhere. Maybe its a loanword, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s late, maybe its early.” Well, that is kind of the point. It is just difficult to tell since we have such little evidence. However, I promise that it will get a little more interesting in the next post (if not any more certain). Next we will look more closely at some of the extra-biblical textual evidence…


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