Talshir, David, “The Habitat and History of Hebrew during the Second Temple Period,” Pages 251-275 in Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology. Edited by Ian Young. London: T&T Clark, 2003.

In this paper, Talshir argues that the Mishnaic Hebrew of the Tanna’im (TH) did not descend directly from Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH), but developed independently out of Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH). From the Persian to the Hasmonean period there is evidence that the province of Yehud only extended west to the slopes of the mountainous region and was separated from the lowlands. This allowed separate dialects to develop in the two provinces. In Yehud, the language developed more slowly due to the conservative influence of the returning exiles. However, in the lowlands it continued to develop freely, gradually transforming into proto-TH. When the Hasmoneans, inhabitants of Modi’in in the lowlands, consolidated their rule over Judah, their dialect gained prestige and spread through the land. This may suggest that Qumran Hebrew (QH) indeed reflects a living language, the developed CBH of Jerusalem that was displaced by the proto-TH dialect of the Hasmoneans.

This explains why many linguistic features are shared between CBH and TH against LBH and QH. For instance, the verb זעק begins to displace צעק in LBH and dominates in QH as well. However, in TH צעק is the dominant form. There are also connections in orthography between TH and CBH, such as the PN יהושע against ישוע of LBH and QH. Further, with Talshir’s explanation, MH should not be seen as an attempt to imitate CBH, but as a true descendent of CBH. This explanation also contradicts Rabin’s idea, followed by Rendsburg, that MH descended from a northern Galilean dialect. Talshir concludes with a short excursus examining some of the alleged connections between northern Hebrew and MH, finding that many of these examples also occur in non-northern texts and thus should be treated as dialectal variations current in Judah. Even if they were originally northern, their Judean use could equally have influenced MH.

Explore posts in the same categories: Language Contact, Talshir, David

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