Defective spelling in manuscripts of the Mishnah: A proposed explanation

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This article reconsiders the explanation for the defective spelling of the long /o/ vowel in Hebrew in MS Cambridge of the Mishnah and other rabbinic sources in a number of morphological categories: the active participle, plural feminine forms, the suffix -on, the numerals šemonah / šemone and šaloš and their inflected forms, and inflected 'et. If the prevailing explanation attributes this anomalous defective spelling in Mishnaic Hebrew manuscripts to the influence of defective biblical orthography, the article suggests that another factor should be taken into consideration: the living interlingual contact between Aramaic and Hebrew in the early first millennium. It proposes that the defective spelling of /o/ reflects the realization of the long /a/ vowel preserved in Aramaic and that the familiarity of speakers with both phonological alternatives in similar morphological structures facilitated exchanges between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 2021.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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