Geoffrey Khan

Published On


Page Range

pp. 203–242

Hebrew Vocalisation Signs in Karaite Transcriptions of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic Script

In the 10th and 11th centuries CE many Karaite scribes in the Middle East used Arabic script to write not only the Arabic language, but also the Hebrew language. Such Hebrew texts in Arabic transcription were predominantly Hebrew Bible texts. The transcriptions reflect the oral reading tradition of the biblical text. Most manuscripts reflect the Tiberian reading tradition.
Some reflect an imperfect performance of the Tiberian reading tradition. This imperfect performance may be attributed to the impact of the phonological system of the vernacular language of the scribes. In this paper I discuss aspects of imperfect performance discernible in the distribution of Hebrew vocalisation signs that are used in the manuscripts. The paper focuses in particular on (a) deviations in the distribution of vowel signs that reflect imperfect performance of Tiberian vowel qualities and (b) deviations in the distribution of shewa and ḥaṭef signs that reflect imperfect performance of Tiberian syllable structure.