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Studies in the Living Traditions of Post-Biblical Hebrew / למחקר מסורות העדות בלשון חכמים

שלמה מורג and S. Morag
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך כו‎, חוברת א‎ (תשרי תשי"ז), pp. 4-16
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23588698
Page Count: 13
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Studies in the Living Traditions of Post-Biblical Hebrew / למחקר מסורות העדות בלשון חכמים
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Abstract

Whereas all Jewish communities ultimately accepted the Tiberian tradition and vocalization of the Bible, such is not the case with the post-Biblical Hebrew literature. Here no generally accepted vocalization exists; the language of this literature has been handed down to us in oral traditions. These traditions are still alive among various Jewish communities in their reading of post-Biblical texts (e.g. the Mishna and the Talmud). It is of the greatest importance to carry out a systematic project whose aim will be the gathering together of these traditions. Needless to say, this must be done during the present period of immigration into Israel, before the traditions lose their original features through intermingling, or cease to exist altogether. The significance of these traditions is manifold. Through studying them it will be possible to reconstruct, to a certain measure, Hebrew dialects which are relatively ancient; they greatly supplement our knowledge of the Babylonian and, to some extent, the Palestinian traditions of Hebrew as retained in manuscript sources; furthermore, they supply us with many important criteria which might be useful in determining the character of the Tiberian tradition and in establishing its place within the various Hebrew traditions. A few examples drawn from recorded Mishna texts (as recited by members of various Oriental communities) will serve to indicate the significance of the living traditions under consideration. These examples are of three grammatical categories: phonetic, morphological, and syntactical. The subject dealt with under the first category (which, it should be remarked, is meant to include only special features revealed in the pronunciation of post-Biblical Hebrew, since the essay does not deal with the general problems of the traditional pronunciation of Hebrew as retained by the various communities) is the gemination of the r. This phenomenon, which occurs very rarely in the Tiberian tradition of the Bible, is quite widespread in the post-Biblical Hebrew of a number of communities (e.g., the Jews of Iraq, Aleppo, Yemen and Morocco). In the domain of morphology, the existence of a new verbal form, nitpi'al, unknown but through the evidence of the oral traditions in question, is pointed out, and variations in the conjugation of verba primae laryngalis are described. The latter phenomenon is compared with the Tiberian way of conjugating these verbs and Kahle's theory regarding the Masoretic origin of the hatafim is also discussed. In dealing with syntactical matters, the writer points out that certain melodies employed by Mishna reciters of various communities reveal established syntactical pauses, handed down by tradition. It is highly plausible that a detailed examination of the nature of these pauses might shed light on the systems of notation found in certain Mishnaic fragments, and elucidate quite a few of the general problems related to the early history of the Biblical accents. The recitations of the Mishna in which these syntactical pauses exist, are not based on any system of notation which has been written down; therefore, it may be reasonably assumed that many of their principles are analogous to those which had prevailed in the reading of the Bible before the accents were introduced. The significance of the rich linguistic material preserved by the various communities is, the writer concludes, beyond doubt. The above-mentioned project of recording the oral traditions extant in these communities should therefore be carried out without delay and on a large scale. This project (which is to include also the Hebrew elements in Yiddish, Judaeo-Arabic and Judaeo-Spanish dialects, as well as the Aramaic of the Babylonain Talmud) will be amply rewarding. Not only will it yield many new data, but it is also bound to open new vistas for the researcher, in major chapters of the history of Hebrew and Aramaic.

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