• Nili Samet



The last decade has witnessed a lively scholarly debate regarding the diachrony of biblical Hebrew and the validity of the differentiation between CBH and LBH. Lately, two of the prominent challengers of the traditional views have criticised the diachronic school from a new perspective, arguing against the use of the Masoretic Text as a basis for the linguistic discussion. This paper seeks to establish the validity of the Masoretic Text as a basis for diachronic linguistic analysis from the angle of Tiberian vocalisation. Three case studies from the Book of Qoheleth are examined, each involving an LBH component whose existence in the text is revealed to us only through Masoretic vocalisation. The case studies include the assimilation of third aleph with third he participles; the use of the abstract nominal pattern qitlôn; and the feminine demonstrative ז ֹה .The case studies show that the Masoretes had preserved the difference between CBH and LBH pronunciations, although they were probably unaware of the historical nature of these different pronunciations and of their diachronic dimension. These findings testify to a strong and stable oral Masoretic tradition which accompanied the written one. Both were transmitted for many centuries, and they were, in many cases, precise to the extant they could reflect dialectological differences within Biblical Hebrew. The paper concludes with a comment regarding Masoretic anachronisms and their place in the overall picture of Masoretic traditions.


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