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Damascus Document

(532 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
The Damascus Document was discovered by Solomon Schechter in the Cairo Geniza in the last decade of the 19th century and was first published in 1910. The Geniza yielded two manuscripts of the document, Ms. A from the 10th century and Ms. B from the 11th or 12th century. Also known as CD (Cairo Damascus) or the Zadokite Document, it contains the views of a sect that left the ‘land of Judah’ and migrated to the ‘land of Damascus’, in keeping with the sect’s interpretation of Amos 5.27. The first p…

Affixation: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(1,634 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Affixation is the addition of a formative to a morphological base. Traditionally affixes are divided into prefixes, suffixes, and infixes. Prefixes and suffixes are common in pre-modern Hebrew; infixes are rare. In the nominal system, prefixes may be found in some of the noun patterns (משקלים mišqalim; Mishqal ). The most frequent of them is -מ mV- ( a and i are the most common vowels), which marks nouns of location, e.g., מָקוֹם må̄qōm ‘place’, מִדְבָּר miḏbå̄r ‘desert’, instrument, e.g., מַפְתֵּחַ map̄tēaḥ ‘key’, מִזְבֵּח mizbeaḥ ‘altar’, and abstraction, e.g., מִבְטָח miḇṭå̄ḥ ‘trust’, מ…


(633 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Dissimilation is a linguistic process in which one of two nearby similar sounds changes with regard to one or more of these sounds’ shared features. While the inverse process of assimilation is phonetically motivated by ease of pronunciation, dissimilation is a conscious process intended to keep neighboring segments distinct. The most common type of dissimilation is ‘regressive’, i.e., the first of the successive sounds changes; less frequent is ‘progressive’ dissimilation, in which it is the second sound which is affected. Both vowels and consonants may dissimilate. 1. Vowel dis…

Dead Sea Scrolls: Linguistic Features

(5,008 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
1. Introduction In 1947 the first fragments of more than 900 manuscripts were discovered in eleven caves behind Khirbet Qumran at the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea. Most of the manuscripts were written in Hebrew in the Jewish script (Cross 2003; the Palaeo-Hebrew script is also attested), some were written in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. Approximately 25% of the texts are biblical (including all books of the Hebrew Bible with the exception of Esther), 38% are sectarian (e.g., the ‘Community Ru…

Assimilation: Pre-Modern Hebrew

(558 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Assimilation is a process by which one sound becomes similar (partial assimilation) or identical (total assimilation) to a contiguous or nearby sound. Both consonants and vowels may assimilate to other consonants and vowels. 1. Assimilation in consonants In Tiberian Biblical Hebrew the stops bgdkpt assimilate in continuity to preceding vowels and become the fricatives ḏḵp̄ṯ, a process known as spirantization or begedkefet/begadkefat. In Samaritan Hebrew, however, g and k were never spirantized (Ben-Ḥayyim 2000:34–35), so what at first glance appears to have be…


(557 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Cohortative is a term which designates the lengthened imperfect first-person form in Biblical Hebrew, e.g., ʾεqṭəlå̄, niqṭəlå̄ (versus regular imperfect ʾεqṭōl, niqṭōl). Sometimes the term is also used to refer to lengthened imperatives ending in - å̄ such as שובה šūḇå̄ ‘return!’ (Imperative and Prohibitive). There are rare occurrences of lengthened imperfects in the third person, e.g., Isa. 5.19: יָחִ֛ישָׁה yaḥīšå̄ ‘may he hasten’ and תָב֗וֹאָה ṯå̄ḇōʾå̄ ‘let it come’. With the exception of אֶֽהֱמָיָ֑ה ʾεhε̆må̄yå̄ ‘I moan’ Ps. 77.4, the cohortative suffix - å̄ is unattested on ver…

Imperative and Prohibitive: Pre-Modern

(1,852 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
1. The Imperative in Tiberian Biblical Hebrew The imperative is the second person command form. In Biblical Hebrew it is marked by the suffixes -ø (ms), - ī (fs), (mpl) and -nå̄ (fpl). The feminine plural has some variants: the Aramaic-looking suffix -å̄ is found on four verbs in Isa. 32.11: רְגָ֖זָה rə:ḡå̄zå̄ ‘quake!’, פְּשֹׁ֣טָֽה pəšōṭå̄ ‘strip off!’, וְעֹ֔רָה wə-ʿōrå̄ ‘and strip!’, וַחֲג֖וֹרָה wă-ḥăḡōrå̄ ‘and gird yourselves!’; a - Vn suffix is attested on שְׁמַ֣עַן šəmaʿan ‘hear!’ (Gen. 4.23) and קִרְאֶ֥ן qirʾεn ‘call!’ (Exod. 2.20). The synchronic bases of the imperative foun…

Pausal Forms

(633 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Pausal forms (in contrast to unmarked or ‘contextual’ forms) occur at the end of units of pronunciation in Tiberian Biblical Hebrew, usually with the major disjunctive accents silluq, ʾatnaḥ, and ʿole wə-yored, but sometimes also with the weaker disjunctive accents, in particular segolta, zaqef, and ṭippeḥa. Pausal forms may differ from the corresponding contextual forms in (1) vowel quality (e.g., contextual שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ šεmεš ‘sun’ [Josh. 10.12] vs. pausal שָׁ֑מֶשׁ šå̄mεš [Deut. 33.14]; יִשְׁמְע֣וּ yišmə ׀ ʿū ‘they will hear’ [Deut. 17.13] vs. יִשְׁמָ֑עוּ yiš ׀ må̄ʿū [Deut. 18.4]), and in (…

Moabite and Hebrew

(1,734 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E
Moabite belongs to the Northwest branch of the Semitic languages (Northwest Semitic Languages and Hebrew) and, along with Phoenician and Punic, Hebrew, Ammonite, and Edomite, is classified as ‘Canaanite’ (Canaanite and Hebrew). Of the Canaanite languages, Moabite is most closely related to Hebrew (Garr 1985:229). Rainey (2007) sees Hebrew and Moabite as Transjordanian languages within Canaanite. Segert argued that the similarity between the two languages stems from the possibility that the Mesha…

Sandhi: Modern Hebrew

(332 words)

Author(s): Fassberg, Steven E.
Sandhi, from a Sanksrit word meaning ‘joining’, is the modification and fusion of sounds at the boundary of grammatical units. Common tendencies of sandhi involve assimilation, dissimilation, and elision. In high registers of spoken modern Hebrew, the Biblical (and Mishnaic) Hebrew process of spirantization (with the bgdkpt consonants) is preserved with the stops b k p > fricatives v x f, respectively, on nouns following prepositions ending in a vowel, e.g., בבית החולים be-vet ha-x̱olim ‘in the hospital’ and בכמה מקומות be-xama meqomot ‘in several places’, though in lower reg…