Introductory Remarks: Historical Linguistics and the Dating of Hebrew Texts CA. 1000-300 B.C.E
Zevit, Ziony, Hebrew Studies Journal
In 1927, M. H. Segal's A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Oxford University Press, 1927, reprinted in 1958 with corrections and addenda) helped launch a new sub-discipline in historical linguistics: The History of Hebrew. In order for him to establish that Mishnaic Hebrew was a well-defined linguistic stage in the history of Hebrew meriting a description on its own terms, it was necessary to demonstrate the ways in which it was unlike Biblical Hebrew. He produced impressive lists of data illustrating that the differences between Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew extended to style of expression, vocabulary, and grammar, that is, phonology, morphology, and syntax.
His lists illustrated that of the 1350 verbs in the Biblical Hebrew lexicon, Mishnaic Hebrew lost 250 verbs while gaining about 300 new ones. Through analysis of its lexicon, Segal showed how Aramaic semantic calques on Hebrew changed the meanings of Biblical Hebrew words that continued into Mishnaic Hebrew or how Biblical Hebrew words were replaced by Aramaic words or how new Hebrew words replaced old Hebrew words.
Segal's research indicated beyond doubt that Mishnaic Hebrew was not a debased or slightly evolved form of Biblical Hebrew. The repertoire of its linguistic norms was not described in grammars of Biblical Hebrew while its lexical resources were larger and more diverse than those of Biblical Hebrew. From an historical perspective it had to be studied on its own because it was geographically discontinuous with most of Biblical Hebrew, because the linguistic environment in which it was spoken differed significantly from that of Biblical Hebrew, and because it was a few centuries younger than Biblical Hebrew but not necessarily its direct stemmatic continuation.
Historical linguistics begins by noting that living languages change. Their phonology changes as do their morphology and syntax and vocabulary when new words are introduced and old ones drop out of use or when the semantic load of individual vocables …
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Publication information: Article title: Introductory Remarks: Historical Linguistics and the Dating of Hebrew Texts CA. 1000-300 B.C.E. Contributors: Zevit, Ziony - Author. Journal title: Hebrew Studies Journal. Volume: 46. Publication date: Annual 2005. Page number: 321+. © 2008 National Association of Professors of Hebrew. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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