Samaritan Hebrew

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Samaritan Hebrew
עברית ‘Ivrit
Region Israel and Palestinian Authority territories, predominantly in Nablus and Holon.
Native speakers
none known; liturgical use[1]
Samaritan abjad
Language codes
ISO 639-3 smp
Linguasphere 12-AAB
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Samaritan Hebrew (Hebrew: עברית שומרונית‎), is a reading tradition as used liturgically by the Samaritans for reading the Ancient Hebrew language of the Samaritan Pentateuch, in contrast to Biblical Hebrew (the Ancient Hebrew language of the Jewish Pentateuch).

Ancient Hebrew as a spoken everyday language became extinct and was succeeded by Aramaic (see Samaritan Aramaic language), which itself ceased to be a spoken language some time between the 10th and the 12th centuries and succeeded by Arabic (or more specifically Samaritan Palestinian Arabic).

The phonology of Samaritan Hebrew is highly similar to that of Samaritan Arabic, used by the Samaritans in prayer.[2] Today, the spoken vernacular among Samaritans is evenly split between Modern Israeli Hebrew and Palestinian Arabic, depending on whether they reside in Holon (in what today has become the State of Israel) or in Schechem (i.e. Nablus, located in the West Bank, in the area known as the Palestinian Territories).

History[edit]

Orthography[edit]

Detail of Nabul Samaritan Pentateuch in Samaritan Hebrew.

Samaritan Hebrew is written in the Samaritan alphabet, a direct descendant of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, which in turn is a variant of the earlier Phoenician alphabet.

The Samaritan alphabet is close to the script that appears on many Ancient Hebrew coins and inscriptions of Ancient Israel.[3] By contrast, all other varieties of Hebrew, as written by Jews, employ the later 'square' Hebrew alphabet, which is in fact a variation of the Aramaic alphabet (more specifically, a form of the Assyrian script) that Jews began using in the Babylonian exile following the exile of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century BCE. During the 3rd century BCE, Jews began to use this stylized "square" form of he Aramaic alphabet that was used by the Persian Empire, which in turn was adopted from the Assyrians,[4] while the Samaritans continued to use the paleo-Hebrew script, which evolved into the Samaritan script.

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

Samaritan Hebrew consonants[5]
Labial Dental Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar~Uvular Pharyn-
geal
Glottal
plain emphatic plain emphatic
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless t k q ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced z ʕ
Approximant l j w
Trill r

Samaritan Hebrew shows the following consonantal differences from Biblical Hebrew: The original phonemes */b g d k p t/ do not have spirantized allophones, though at least some did originally in Samaritan Hebrew (evidenced in the preposition "in" ב- /af/ or /b/). */p/ has shifted to /f/ (except occasionally */pː/ > /bː/). */w/ has shifted to /b/ everywhere except in the conjunction ו- 'and' where it is pronounced as /w/. */ɬ/ has merged with /ʃ/, unlike in all other contemporary Hebrew traditions in which it is pronounced /s/. The laryngeals /ʔ ħ h ʕ/ have become /ʔ/ or null everywhere, except before /a ɒ/ where */ħ ʕ/ sometimes become /ʕ/. /q/ is sometimes pronounced as [ʔ], though not in Pentateuch reading, as a result of influence from Samaritan Arabic.[6] /q/ may also be pronounced as [χ], but this occurs only rarely and in fluent reading.[6]

Vowels[edit]

Samaritan vowels[7]
Front Back
Close i u
Mid e (o)
Open a ɒ ɒː
Reduced (ə)

Phonemic length is contrastive, e.g. /rɒb/ רב 'great' vs. /rɒːb/ רחב 'wide'.[8] Long vowels are usually the result of the elision of guttural consonants.[8]

/i/ and /e/ are both realized as [ə] in closed post-tonic syllables, e.g. /bit/ בית 'house' /abbət/ הבית 'the house' /ger/ גר /aggər/ הגר.[9] In other cases, stressed /i/ shifts to /e/ when that syllable is no longer stressed, e.g. /dabbirti/ דברתי but דברתמה /dabbertimma/.[9] /u/ and /o/ only contrast in open post-tonic syllables, e.g. ידו /jedu/ 'his hand' ידיו /jedo/ 'his hands', where /o/ stems from a contracted diphthong.[10] In other environments, /o/ appears in closed syllables and /u/ in open syllables, e.g. דור /dor/ דורות /durot/.[10]

Stress[edit]

Stress generally differs from other traditions, being found usually on the penultimate and sometimes on the ultimate.

Grammar[edit]

Parts of speech[edit]

Pronouns[edit]

Personal[edit]

I anáki
you (male) átta
you (female) átti (note the final yohdh)
he û
she î
we anánu
you (male, plural) attímma
you (female, plural) éttên
they (male) ímma
they (female) ínna

Demonstrative[edit]

This: masc. ze, fem. zéot, pl. ílla.

That: alaz (written with a he at the beginning).

Relative[edit]

Who, which: éšar.

Interrogative[edit]

Who? = mi. What? = ma.

Noun[edit]

When suffixes are added, ê and ô in the last syllable may become î and û: bôr (Judean bohr) "pit" > búrôt "pits". Note also af "anger" > éppa "her anger".

Segolates behave more or less as in other Hebrew varieties: beţen "stomach" > báţnek "your stomach", ke′seph "silver" > ke′sefánu (Judean Hebrew kaspe′nu) "our silver", dérek > dirkakimma "your (m. pl.) road" but áreş (in Judean Hebrew: ’e′rets) "earth" > árşak (Judean Hebrew ’arts-ekha) "your earth".

Article[edit]

The definite article is a- or e-, and causes gemination of the following consonant, unless it is a guttural; it is written with a he, but as usual, the h is silent. Thus, for example: énnar / ánnar = "the youth"; ellêm = "the meat"; a'émur = "the donkey".

Number[edit]

Regular plural suffixes are -êm (Judean Hebrew -im) masc., -ôt (Judean Hebrew: -oth.) fem: eyyamêm "the days", elamôt "dreams".

Dual is sometimes -ayem (Judean Hebrew: a′yim), šenatayem "two years", usually -êm like the plural yédêm "hands" (Judean Hebrew yadhayim.)

Tradition of Divine name[edit]

Samaritans have the tradition of either spelling out loud with the Samaritan letters

"Yohth, Ie', Baa, Ie’ "

or saying "Shema" meaning "(The Divine) Name" in Aramaic, similar to Judean Hebrew "Ha-Shem" .

Verbs[edit]

Affixes are:

perfect imperfect
I -ti e-
you (male) -ta ti-
you (female) -ti  ?
he - yi-
she -a ti-
we  ? ne-
you (plural) -tímma te- -un
you (female, plural) -tên  ?
they (male) -u yi- -u
they (female)  ? ti- -inna

Particles[edit]

Prepositions[edit]

"in, using", pronounced:

  • b- before a vowel (or, therefore, a former guttural): b-érbi = "with a sword"; b-íštu "with his wife".
  • ba- before a bilabial consonant: bá-bêt (Judean Hebrew: ba-ba′yith) "in a house", ba-mádbar "in a wilderness"
  • ev- before other consonant: ev-lila "in a night", ev-dévar "with the thing".
  • ba-/be- before the definite article ("the"): barrášet (Judean Hebrew: Bere’·shith′) "in the beginning"; béyyôm "in the day".

"as, like", pronounced:

  • ka without the article: ka-demútu "in his likeness"
  • ke with the article: ké-yyôm "like the day".

"to" pronounced:

  • l- before a vowel: l-ávi "to my father", l-évad "to the slave"
  • el-, al- before a consonant: al-béni "to the children (of)"
  • le- before l: le-léket "to go"
  • l- before the article: lammúad "at the appointed time"; la-şé'on "to the flock"

"and" pronounced:

  • w- before consonants: wal-Šárra "and to Sarah"
  • u- before vowels: u-yeššeg "and he caught up".

Other prepositions:

  • al: towards
  • elfáni: before
  • bêd-u: for him
  • elqérôt: against
  • balêd-i: except me

Conjunctions[edit]

  • u: or
  • em: if, when
  • avel: but

Adverbs[edit]

  • la: not
  • kâ: also
  • afu: also
  • ín-ak: you are not
  • ífa (ípa): where?
  • méti: when
  • fâ: here
  • šémma: there
  • mittét: under

References[edit]

  1. ^ Samaritan Hebrew at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:29)
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Samaritan Language and Literature". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  4. ^ A History of the Hebrew Language. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1993. ISBN 0-521-55634-1. 
  5. ^ Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:31,37)
  6. ^ a b Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:34–35)
  7. ^ Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:43–44, 48)
  8. ^ a b Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:47–48) (while Ben-Hayyim notates four degrees of vowel length, he concedes that only his "fourth degree" has phonemic value)
  9. ^ a b Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:49)
  10. ^ a b Ben-Ḥayyim (2000:44, 48–49)

Bibliography[edit]

  • J. Rosenberg, Lehrbuch der samaritanischen Sprache und Literatur, A. Hartleben's Verlag: Wien, Pest, Leipzig.
  • Ben-Ḥayyim, Ze'ev (2000). A Grammar of Samaritan Hebrew. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press. ISBN 1-57506-047-7. 

External links[edit]