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The Nature of Resh in Tiberian Hebrew

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2009

E. J. Revell
Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 1A1


Records of pronunciation from early stages of a language are studied both for their interest for its general historical development and also for the light they may throw on variations in spelling. Such records were, then as now, necessarily couched in rather specialized language, and, being of limited interest, tended to suffer at the hands of copyists. For both reasons they are likely to present problems to the modern scholar. The information on resh is no exception.

Research Article
Copyright © Association for Jewish Studies 1981

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1. This is more common in the earlier forms of Babylonian pointing than in the later. See Israel Yeivin, Masoret ha-lashon ha-ivrit ha-mishtaqqefel ba-niqqud ha-bavli (Jerusalem, 1973), p. 54.Google Scholar

2. Sefer Yesirah is quoted from Joseph Qafih, Sefer Yefirah im perush ha-gaon Rabbenu Saadyah (Jerusalem, 1972).

3. Shelomo Morag, Shevakefulot begad keferet in Sefer Tur Sinai (= Pirsumei hahevrah le-heqer ha-miqra be-Yisrael 8) (Jerusalem, 1960), pp. 207–42. Quoted below as Morag.

4. This commentary is quoted from Qafiljs edition (see n. 2) referred to below as Qafib. The passage of interest here is on p. 116.

5. See Nehemiah Allony, Eli ben Yehudah ha-Nazir ve-bibburo Yesodot ha-lashon ha-ivrit, in Leshonenu 34 (1970): 75–105, 187–209, referred to below as Allony.

6. As Allony points out (p. 105, n. 167), this and its opposite resh does not emerge can hardly mean that in one case a consonant is audible, but in the other it is not. One possible explanation (consistent with the suggestion below that one realization is dental/alveolar, while the other is palatal/uvular), is that since resh and ra were synonyms (as they are in this passage), what is meant is that the sound of Arabic ra (alveolar) is or is not produced. Allony remarks (Ibid., n. 164) that there may be a dot in the resh, characterizing this realization as dagesh but this would not explain the statement resh does not emerge which describes the other realization.

7. Allony, p. 104, 11. 51–56.

8. The pronunciation of resh when influenced by the eight consonants is designated this way to avoid the confusion of terminology in the sources (on which see below).

9. Allony, p. 188.

10. NB now xsnra pc jus. For the text see Allony, p. 189; Qafih, p. 116. The examples of the two consonants separated by a vowel include (Gen. 43:11), which would show that the two consonants must not be separated by any sort of vowel–if the example originated with Saadya, and if he pronounced the fade with hafef-qamef (as the received pointing). However the use of the term nan here might suggest that the basis for Saadyas work was not identical to that of the (early) Tiberian scholars, who would have used (cf. Allony, p. 105, n. 166).

11. The major differences not imposed by different arrangement are merely that Saadya described the two realizations as 3 rather than using the obscure , and uses for the vowel between the consonants, not .

12. Rusum would most naturally refer to a written formulation. Meanings such as usage are possible, but the choice of this root would imply usage based on a written statement

13. Allony, p. 189; Qafih, p. 79.

14. This must have been the Tiberian tradition as used in Babylonia, see Morag, pp. 233–34.

15. Saadya viewed the history of Hebrew since Nehemiahs time as a progressive decline (see N. Ailony, HaEgron, by Rav Seadya Gaon [Jerusalem, 1969], p. 158, II. 27–39, and my review in Journal of Semitic Studies 19 [1974]: 126). Consequently it is likely that if he thought the two-fold realization of resh to be a feature of the Tiberian biblical tradition, he would consider any evidence from daily speech irrelevant (Allony, however, does restore mention of the daily speech of Tiberias to Saadyas account on the basis of different assumptions, p. 189). The use of the daily speech of Iraq to restore biblical Hebrew is doubly unlikely, since it would have been Aramaic (see Morag, pp. 220–21). However, a two-fold realization of resh does not occur in the (Tiberian) biblical tradition of Iraq, so Saadya does, for completeness, mention its occurrence in the daily speech there. If his statement I searched is to mean that he studied this feature in Iraqi speech, then I did not find must mean that, despite his linguistic expertise, he was unable to describe it, which seems unlikely. If he merely meant that Iraqi usage did not fit the rules of the Tiberian masoretes, as suggested by Allony (p. 188), why did he not simply say it was different?


17. See the quotation in the next paragraph, and also Allony, p. 104,11. 47–48: AS for resh resh [the double realization is indicated in the same way in Sefer Yesirah 2:2], no sign or rule existed for any facet of it except in the language of the people of the place in their speech and discourse.

18. Allony, p. 102,11. 36–42.

19. It is argued at the beginning of Allonys article, that Eli ben Yehudah, who produced the earliest description of the double realization of resh, was Saadyas teacher. If this were so, it would not be unrealistic to suppose that Saadya obtained from him an oral or written statement of the rules, but not the details on which the statement was based (although it would be surprising, as Allony remarks, that he should give his teacher no credit). In fact, however, Allonys identification, though possible, is by no means firm.

20. If his source was some other work, the details of the reconstruction would differ, but not its main outline.

21. As Allony, p. 104, n. 162.

22. Dated 1010. A photographic facsimile, with introduction by David Samuel Loewinger, was published by Makor Press (Jerusalem, 1970). The notice appears on p. 313 of vol. 3, and is given in Allony, p. 192.

23. The Mahberet ha-tijan (see below) gives for the erroneous mnxn.

24. Allony (p. 192) suggests that the notice in the Leningrad Manuscript was translated from that of Eli ben Yehudah, but that the translator was influenced by Saadyas description because he mentions both Bible reading and everyday speech. However Saadyas description as we have it does not mention the everyday speech of the Tiberians, nor does it mention the speech of Tiberian women and children (as does L) even with Allonys restoration. The notice in the Leningrad Manuscript need be nothing more than an imaginative interpretation of that of Eli ben Yehudah.

25. See Allony, pp. 203–4. In the edition of this treatise by M. J. Derenbourg (Manuel du Lecteur, Journal Asialique, 6eme serie, 16 [1870]), the notice appears on p. 446.

26. The double parentheses enclose material present in the Leningrad Manuscript but not in the Mahberet; the boldface type marks material present in the Mahberet but not in the Leningrad Manuscript.

27. Allony, p. 204, 11. 9–12.

28. The familiar term tashdid is the masdar of the transitive stem (II) of SDD. The term irkha, which I do not know from elsewhere, is presumably parallel: the masdar of the transitive stem (IV) of RKHW.

29. Sibawaih categorizes the dental Arabic ra as shadid, and ghain, the nearest Arabic sound to a palatal r, as rikhwa. See Khalil I. Semaan, Linguistics in the Middle Ages (Leiden, 1968), pp. 43–44.

30. The clumsy caiques used here are preferable to the translation of the names of these articulation groups into modern technical terms, since they do not correspond. For SIbawaih, r, z, s, and s, are alveolar (articulated with the tongue at some point on the gum ridge) but shin is palatal, and we may note that Saadya found it natural to separate shin from the other members of this group (Qafih, p. 116). Dental, at first glance the obvious translation for teeth letters would, in modern terms, fit most comfortably d, /, /, «, t the tongue letters of the earlier terminology. I have offered a suggestion on the origin of this Hebrew terminology in The Diacritical Dots and the Development of the Arabic Alphabet, Journal of Semitic Studies 20 (1975): 186.

31. For the Arabic form of this treatise, see Bodleian MS Heb. e76, fol. 2r (introduction) and Cambridge University Library fragments TS Arabic 31:79, lrl 1, and TS NS 301:18a, \r2 (description of consonants). For the Hebrew form, see Bodleian MS Opp. 625, fol. 24 lv.

32. For the other four consonants, the rafe form is said to be articulated in the same position as the dagesh form, but to be distinguished by the fact that the articulators only touch lightly: .

33. Bod. Heb. e76, fol. 2r2–12 (and TS Ar 31:79, lrl–5).

34. Morag, p. 234. Aron Dotan suggests a date not later than the tenth century in Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), 16: 1475.

35. There is reason to believe that this was also true for the Hebrew of Qumran, see Elisha Qimron, A Grammar of the Hebrew Language of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 94–96.

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