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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

Another resource which I am grateful to have found recently is the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures available online. I have become immersed in How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel, which is right up my alley in literacy studies.

Ultimately it was this article which I wanted to share with readers of the BBB.
Robert Holmstedt, Issues in the Linguistic Analysis of a Dead language, with Particular Reference to Ancient Hebrew

In a few short pages Holmstedt covers a broad scope beginning with a very general discussion on the difference between philology and linguistics and progressing to the details of the relative words שׁ and אשׁר.

He also discusses "Analysing No longer spoken languages", "The linguistic status of Biblical or Ancient Hebrew", and "Ancient and Modern Hebrew."

Of particular interest to commenters on this blog, Holmstedt places linguistics and philology on an equal footing but with different objects of study.
    To summarize, then, linguists have as their goal the system of language, whereas philologists have as their goal a better understanding of the meaning of the text being observed, and language is simply the primary means to that end. But is "text versus system" all there is to the distinction between philology and linguistics? Would that it were so simple.

    There exists yet another important axis by which we can distinguish the two disciplines—by their primary (but not sole) method of inquiry. Philologists primarily adopt an inductive approach in that they take a finite corpus and reconstruct the grammar of that corpus from within. In contrast, linguists, particularly within the generative approach,17 adopt a deductive approach in that they proceed from a small set of presuppositions about the human mind, "language," and attested language systems and use the data to test and refine these hypotheses.

    That this is to some degree a legitimate distinction between the two approaches is supported by the common criticisms leveled by each against the other. On the one hand, philologists often claim that linguists impose theory on the data; on the other hand, linguists often describe philological activity as little more than listing and categorization of forms (i.e., simple, and therefore mostly un-insightful, taxonomy).

    Perhaps it is personal bias on my part, since I have formal training in both philology and linguistics, but I refuse to think that there is no way around this animus. I prefer an approach that allows for a functional and productive working relationship between the two disciplines. In other words, let us allow that the tools may be the same for philologists and linguists, but that the goals differ. ...

      In this way, any Hebraist who investigates the linguistic features of a particular corpus, e.g., a passage or book of the Hebrew Bible, is engaging in philological analysis. In contrast, those who examine linguistic features in light of some linguistic theory in order to make sense of some dialect or stratum of ancient Hebrew as a system are engaging in linguistic analysis. And, those of us who examine specific texts or corpora as well as linguistic systems can identify ourselves as both philologists and linguists.
                From the linguistic status of Biblical or Ancient Hebrew,

                  For example, consider the case of the relative word שׁ. It is often identified as a remnant of both a northern dialect and a standard feature of Second Temple period Hebrew. Additionally, the cases of שׁ have been explained as instances of a Hebrew vernacular (and רשׁא would then represent the literary idiom), which increasingly exerted influence on the literary register in the later Second Temple period.
                  Such an explanation, that שׁ was originally the northern colloquial relative word, made its way south after 722 B.C.E, and infiltrated the literary register until it became the item of choice by the period of the Mishna, may account for many of the occurrences, but not all. In some cases, it appears that the distinction between אשׁר and שׁ was used as a literary device, specifically to create a northern Hebrew or "other" atmosphere. For instance, in 2 Kgs 6:11, given in (5), the שׁ is placed in the mouth of an Aramean king.

                HT: Tyler Williams


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