waw and yod, confusion, dialect or what?

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Sean Ingham
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Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2016 1:41 am

waw and yod, confusion, dialect or what?

Postby Sean Ingham » Tue Apr 19, 2016 2:20 am

There are numerous instances of qere/ketiv pairs whose only difference is an alternation between waw and yod. Then there are other pairs, Pharisees and Perushim, Gennhsar (which M.Turnage, "The Linguistic Ethos of the Galilee..." in The Lang. Env. of 1st C. Judea Vol.2, edd Buth & Notley, sees as גניסר) and rabbinical sources give at times as גנוסר. I know of confusion in the DSS between writing a waw and a yod. Then at Qumran הוא and היא. I know that passive participles in Hebrew and Aramaic can differ with Hebrew going for a waw and Aramaic the yod. Is there some consistency here or are there different mechanisms at play: are scribes not paying enough attention to the lengths of their waws/yods? is that separate from Hebrew and Aramaic influence? is הוא and היא a diachronic issue? Why do we have Pharisee in English? Any thoughts on this widespread alternation?

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Re: waw and yod, confusion, dialect or what?

Postby kwrandolph » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:22 am

Sean Ingham wrote:… Any thoughts on this widespread alternation?

There are two main reasons that I can think of:

1) After Jews adopted the Aramaic alphabet, waw and yod are so similar that a sloppy writer could mix them up often by just writing them sloppily, or make it almost impossible to tell which was meant.

2) A well worn manuscript can end up with smudges and worn off letters, again mixing up the letters.

In both cases above, a later copyist would be challenged to decipher which was meant.

As for the Ketib/Qere, that was based on centuries later understanding by the Masoretes based on their dialectal form of medieval Hebrew. I often disagree with them.

I haven’t made a detailed study on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those differences were the result of Biblical Hebrew changing slightly over the centuries that it was written.

It would be interesting to see if others have other reasons, what I have here is just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.

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