Characteristically Late Spellings in the Hebrew Bible With Special Reference to the Plene Spelling of the o-vowel in the Qal Infinitive Construct

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Aaron Hornkohl



According to current scholarly consensus, the pre- and post-exilic strata of Biblical Hebrew differ sufficiently to allow for the relative dating of biblical texts on linguistic grounds. Challengers to this view have objected that the received orthography of the Hebrew Bible, which is fuller than that of any pre-exilic epigraphic source, shows that no pre-exilic biblical text escaped post-exilic spelling revision. Moreover, so it is claimed, susceptibility to scribal modification on the level of orthography implies susceptibility to scribal modification on the higher linguistic levels as well (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon), which would effectively obscure a text’s original linguistic profile. In the present article it is argued that the degree of scribal modification involved in the process of orthographical revision was not so great as to distort irremediably the picture of linguistic development seen in biblical literature, so that distinctively late linguistic features can still be distinguished from their classical counterparts. Significantly, as has been argued elsewhere, diachronic development is still discernible even in the domain of orthography, a fact demonstrated on the basis of several examples, including the spelling of the (li)qṭol-pattern qal infinitive construct.

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