Barr, James. The Variable Spellings of the Hebrew Bible: The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1986. Oxford: Oxford University, 1989.

Barr is interested primarily synchronically in the spelling practices found within the Hebrew Bible, and not in the historical development of vowel letters. He has gathered data on spelling manually using concordances and checking against the text, in obvious contrast to Forbes and Anderson with whom he has substantial disagreement. His conclusion is that there seems to be a small set of words whose spelling is basically fixed, but in general spelling is variable. The use of matres lectionis vary rarely seems to clear up ambiguity. In many cases of possible ambiguity no mater is used, while many simple and unambiguous words are often written with a mater. Barr argues that this is understandable due to the reading tradition which functioned basically as vocalization. Thus Barr concludes that the majority of variation in spelling as a scribal practice is due to style – scribes liked to vary spelling. For future work, Barr suggests that grammars should devote more space to spelling patterns and that more work could be done in describing the interesting patterns of variable spelling.

Explore posts in the same categories: Barr, James, Orthography

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