Textual Studies [ Research into aspects of the base biblical texts. ]
The Masoretes and the Punctuation of Biblical Hebrew
Author jonr
Author email jon.riding@plenumorganum.org.uk
Description Biblical Hebrew was the first classical language to be systematically
punctuated. In comparison with modern languages the system was very
complex: there are more commonly used punctuation marks in Hebrew than
there are letters in the English alphabet, and they are applied not only between phrases but to virtually every word of the scriptures, indicating very precisely each word’s relationship with others in a phrase as well as dividing each sentence into hierarchically ordered word-groups. This complexity, coupled with sometimes substantial orthographic variations between printed editions, has led many students of the language to neglect Hebrew punctuation entirely.
The advent of computer typesetting, and in particular the inclusion of these marks in the magnetic text of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, challenges scholars in linguistics and computation to cooperate in a more detailed analysis of this punctuation than has ever before been possible. But even without further research it provides the opportunity to analyse the logical structure of the Hebrew text by computer, and to apply the results to Bible translation and to translation checking. This paper is a preliminary attempt to stimulate such a dialogue, first by addressing in detail the historical background which gave rise to the distinctively Hebrew system of punctuation, and secondly by providing a brief account of the most common elements of the system.
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Date Thursday 21 February 2008 - 16:40:40
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