본문 바로가기
  • Home

Language Variation in Biblical Hebrew

  • Korean Journal of Old Testament Studies
  • Abbr : KJOTS
  • 2022, 28(1), pp.8-33
  • DOI : 10.24333/jkots.2022.28.1.8
  • Publisher : Korean Society of Old Testament Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Christian Theology
  • Received : January 31, 2022
  • Accepted : February 17, 2022

DONG-HYUK KIM 1

1연세대학교(원주캠퍼스)

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The present study explores language variation in Biblical Hebrew from a sociolinguistic perspective. Language variation refers to the situation in which the same linguistic or grammatical meaning is realized by two or more forms (e.g., both mamlākāh and malkût in Biblical Hebrew mean “kingdom” or “reign”). So far, language variation in Biblical Hebrew has been studied mainly in the context of the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch. However, a field that focuses primarily on this phenomenon is sociolinguistics. Thus, upon defining language variation, the study surveys how linguists of the past regarded it as unimportant and arbitrary and how contemporary sociolinguists consider it foundational in understanding language. Language variation includes historical (or chronological) variation, regional variation, and social variation. The study examines the cases in Biblical Hebrew which represent these three kinds of language variation. First, mamlākāh and malkût (“kingdom”, “reign”) are an exemplar of historical variation, the choice of which in the Hebrew Bible is best explained by chronology. Second, the two relativizers ’ăšer and še- and the near homonyms šibbolet and sibbolet each illustrate regional variation. The first pair shows the contrast between the southern Judahite Hebrew and the northern Israelian Hebrew. The second pair discloses the difference of the consonant repertoire between the Gileadites and the Ephraimites. Last, in referring to oneself, the Biblical Hebrew speaker could choose from the first person singular pronoun and ‘abdĕkā/’ămātĕkā/šipḥātĕkā (“your servant”). The choice is conditioned by factors such as situation and the social statuses of the speaker and the addressee. Through studying language variation from a sociolinguistic perspective, we will have a deeper understanding of the language of Biblical Hebrew, the literary strategies of biblical writers, and the world of the Hebrew Bible.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.