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Subject: orion-list Writing systems
Greg, you asked:
> (1) You identify longer spacings between letters with pronounciation
> phenomenae, i.e. a "held" sound on the 3rd m pl verb Waw-Yod-Aleph-
> Samekh-Pe---Waw, i.e. some ancient reader pronouncing something
> like "we-ya'sfooooooo", "and he addeeeeed..."
Not quite that long; the normal spacing between expressions is an
'ayin' ('o' in "Latin" fonts): - for convenience, say roughly an
1/8 note. So, if we looked at this in terms of notes, this is:
1/8 1/8 1/8 +1/8
bI ya' sfo o
Thinking in terms of notes is quite apt: we are *not* talking about
something that was meant to be read silently... this is an alterity
point of view that only dates back to the 17th century CE. Until then,
writing, ANY writing, was meant to be read out loud. In 1Sam 1:15,
praying silently earned Hannah a rebuke for being drunk! We cannot
overemphasize the importance of music and chants to the act of reading.
Chants are a mnemonic aid. Music/chant is an *integral* part of *any*
early text. Chant is an integral part of the transmission of religious
texts from Kesh on down to this day. Further, the same words sung to a
different chant do NOT have the same meaning in the sense of the overall
Back who knows when, the original reciter probably thought that the
point "and he gathered/assembled/collected" [the elders of the sons of
Israel] required emphasis; the chant would reflect this by a held note.
By the time of the DSS, the recitational chant for the books were already
firmly established. Although slight, there are variations in traditions;
however, the variations in the Torah chant are dependent upon musical
tradition, not upon melodic motif...
>Does it make sense that a narrative text would have these kind of
>oddball pronunciations, uniquely, marked in this manner?
Sure it makes sense. Just try to hold the attention of a lecture
audience if you speak in a monotone... how long would you be able to
maintain a child's interest in a bedtime story if you did NOT vary your
tone and emphasis. Listen to any storyteller in any language even today...
remember this is people *speaking* - and the words were recited to a
>And if it is not predictable, how can it be verified that these
>spacings, etc. are reflecting pronounciation at all, instead of
>routine scribes' variability in rapid writing?
a) This is a formal text... and not all that rapidly written.
b) Yes, it can be verified - and has been... but there is no room here.
> (2) Just to be clear, are you saying this type of marking of
> pronunciation was intended for an ancient _reader_?
Until the 4th century _CE_, silent reading was more than a little
aberrant - and called for amazed comment. As late as the first quarter
of the 17th century CE, reading out loud was the norm. There are very
good reasons for the liturgical practice of one person reading the text
out loud... to be sure to get the pronunciation of the sacred words right.
Wycliffe's 14th century translation of the Bible into English (MS. Douce
370) still uses variant forms and durational notation. The techniques were
not confined to the sacred realm; a royal messenger reading a new legal
statute reproduced the emphasis and durational characteristics of the law
giver. Elizabeth I of England still uses durational notation in her letters.
> That is, an ancient reader would see letters slightly apart and
> stretch out the sound, see letters jammed together and say the
> sounds quickly together, etc.
Definitely, and we have numerous authors who attest to this.... in fact,
the name of my book, _Absent Voices_, is a paraphrase of a comment made
by Isidore of Seville as to how writing literally permits one to *hear*
the 'voice of the absent'. It is a matter of training. Do not forget that
today trained musicians can hear the melody merely by reading the score;
in antiquity, the literate person could hear the voice of the speaker as
it was recorded in the text. It's the same thing, you know; modern musical
notation is merely the ancient trilinear > quattrolinear system with a line
added. The notes move up and down, emphasis varies, duration given, pauses
(rests) marked, and so forth.
> But when you and I read today, we recognize whole words. We do not
> stop to analyze, almost under a microscope, minutae of spacings
> between letters, and then alter pronunciation accordingly.
No, we do not - to our loss.
> Is this an effective system for telling ancient readers how to
Very, very effective...
(3) Do any of the books in your bibliography make the argument that
scribal spacing/jamming of letters in some other language are
routinely reflecting pronounciation phenomenae?
No. There are precisely five people who have examined the meaning of
the clumping and spacing at any length: Robert Stevick, Andre Crepin,
and Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe in Anglo-Saxon studies; Columba Kelly, in
Gregorian Semiology, and myself. (In AS studies, after reading my material
some people are now studying the MSS this way.) It is rather difficult
via e-mail to make DSS people understand the relevance of later MSS, such
as BN Lat. 8824, St. Gall 329, St. Gall 359, and BL CV A.xv to the texts
from Qumran... yet the connection is there and is very strong. In every
instance, these are people who understand the relevance of music/chant to
reading the old documents. To keep the size down, I am sending the bib
Once again, it is of critical importance to remember that the music is an
integral part of the documents.
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