Scholars of Mishnaic Hebrew and its orthography posit a distinction between Babylonian and Palestinian text traditions, ascribing use of defective spelling to the former and plene to the latter. Using the vowel [i] as a test case, this article analyzes the occurrences of defective and plene spelling in Hebrew manuscripts of the Mishnah, focusing especially on MS Cambridge of the Mishnah, as compared to MS Kaufmann, perhaps the best-studied and most significant textual witness to the Mishnah. Intensive study of this western Palestinian manuscript showed a high percentage of defective spellings in various categories, including closed and open syllables, in MS Cambridge, raising questions regarding the accuracy of the ascription of plene spelling to this tradition. Furthermore, detailed study of MS Cambridge's use of defective and plene spelling revealed the existence of some rare morphological forms in MH, forms which were occluded and even modified due to the influence of more commonly used parallels. This study demonstrates the existence of greater variety in MH orthography than hitherto thought and the need to reconsider some of the prevailing scholarly assumptions regarding the nature of MH orthography.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Religious studies
- Literature and Literary Theory