A Hermeneutic of Variation? The Orthographic Variability of the Hebrew Bible and the Larger Dead Sea Scrolls
Keywords:spelling, orthography, variation, heterogeneity, uniformity, quantitative linguistics
In this contribution, we investigate the distribution of variant spellings in the largest texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible using principles and methods from quantitative linguistics. The variability of spelling is widely accepted in the literature. To date, however, insight into the extent of said variability is limited. This article therefore quantifies orthographic heterogeneity within a corpus of Classical Hebrew using a computational approach. It introduces a measure for profile-based uniformity which has proven successful in variational linguistics. The aim is not to identify the causes of orthographic variation, but rather to investigate the phenomenon of variability in its own right. Understanding orthographic heterogeneity across texts influences historical reconstructions based on orthography, such as the use of orthography for the dating of texts, but it also affects the description of language change and the study of scribal practice.
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