Sound Changes in the (Pre-)Masoretic Reading Tradition and the Original Pronunciation of Biblical Aramaic
Keywords:Aramaic, Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Historical linguistics
For nearly a thousand years, the texts of the Hebrew Bible were transmitted both in writing, as consonantal texts lacking much of the information on their pronunciation, and orally, as an accompanying reading tradition which supplied this information. During this period of oral transmission, sound changes affected the reading tradition. This paper identifies a number of sound changes that took place in the reading tradition by comparing their effects on Biblical Hebrew to those on Biblical Aramaic, the related but distinct language of a small part of the biblical corpus: sound changes that affect both languages equally probably took place in the reading tradition, while those that are limited to one language probably preceded this shared oral transmission. Drawing this distinction allows us to reconstruct the pronunciation of Biblical Aramaic as it was fixed in the reading tradition, highlighting several morphological discrepancies between the dialect underlying it and that of the consonantal texts.