דימון (Isa 15:9) and להמנות (Qoh 1:15): On Dialectal Wordplay and Nasal Spreading in the Bible
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Scholarly article / Embargo to 2022
Biblical punsters occasionally moved beyond the confines of Standard Biblical Hebrew, producing dialectal wordplay. In a number of cases, the nonstandard form is a phonological variant from another dialect. The best-known examples of this type involve dialectal differences in diphthong contraction (monophthongization). Less attention has been paid to cases involving a phonological process called nasal spreading, known from Old Canaanite, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc. One product of this process is the toponym דימון in מֵי דִימוֹן מָלְאוּ דָם, “the waters of Dimon are full of blood” (Isa 15:9), referring to the Moabite town of Dibon. The form דימון was a phonological variant of דיבון, a dialectal form used in a prophecy against Moab to emphasize the appropriateness of the punishment. Another example is found in חֶסְרוֹן לֹא יוּכַל לְהִמָּנוֹת (Qoh 1:15), which means both “an incalculable loss” and “an irreplaceable loss.” In the second meaning, להמנות is a dialectal form of להמל(א)ות, “be made good,” a phonological variant produced by nasal spreading.
Steiner, R. C. (2021). דימון (Isa 15:9) and להמנות (Qoh 1:15): On Dialectal Wordplay and Nasal Spreading in the Bible, Vetus Testamentum (published online ahead of print 2021). doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685330-00001130
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