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On Lips and Tongues in Ancient Hebrew

In: Vetus Testamentum
Author:
Yael Landman Yeshiva University ylandma1@yu.edu

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This article traces the semantic development of the words śāp̄ah ‘lip’ and lāšon ‘tongue’ through Biblical, Late Biblical, Qumran, and Mishnaic Hebrew. Two semantic changes occupy the focus of this analysis: First, by the time of Mishnaic Hebrew, śāp̄ah had lost its meanings related to the lip’s association with talking, so that it should not be translated ‘speech’ in ambiguous contexts. Second, the semantic widening of lāšon to include the meaning ‘speech’ began to take place in Biblical Hebrew in the context of words from the realm of deceit.

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