By William M. Schniedewind
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Additional info for A Social History of Hebrew: Its Origins Through the Rabbinic Period
60 Since then, some scholars have begun to plow this ﬁeld, but little work has been done to cultivate it speciﬁcally for classical Hebrew. The tradition of the ﬁeld of Semitic linguistics and Hebrew in particular has followed a descriptive and neogrammarian orientation, with its emphasis on morphology and phonology. This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the classic grammar of Hebrew, by Gesenius, Kautzsch, and Cowley, gives almost no attention to syntax. 62 A quick pe- Language, Land, and People 19 rusal of the main historical grammars and histories of the Hebrew language will not turn up anything like a prolegomenon to the study of language.
15 It is noteworthy that the alphabet (unlike other writing systems) was invented only once, and that all alphabets—including Hebrew—are adaptations from this original innovation. Greek and Latin sources almost universally attribute the invention of the alphabet to the Phoenicians. e. Greek historian Herodotus writes that “the Phoenicians . . taught them [that is, the Greeks] the alphabet” (Hist. V, 58:332), and later writers largely follow the account of Herodotus. e. 16 This account received credibility because of the antiquity of the ﬁrst alphabetic inscriptions as well as the location of their discovery.
Another problem stems from the representation of the phonemic inventory (that is, sounds) of the Hebrew language by only twenty-two graphemes (that is, letters). The choice of a twenty-two-letter alphabet to represent the Hebrew language reﬂected the inﬂuence of the Phoenician scribal schools in the early Iron Age (ca. ). Although transcriptions of Hebrew 22 Language, Land, and People into other languages such as Greek made it clear that the Hebrew graphemic inventory simpliﬁed the richer phonemic inventory, the constraints of the scribal traditions preserved this alphabet.
A Social History of Hebrew: Its Origins Through the Rabbinic Period by William M. Schniedewind