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.

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.

Explore posts in the same categories: Language Contact, Wright, Richard M

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