Ephraimite


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Ephraimite

a member of the tribe of Ephraim
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This point is to some extent equivocal, however, because of Faber's first alternative, which allows that the entire difference between the Gileadite and Ephraimite pronunciations was too subtle for the Ephraimites even to detect (an alternative to this is that they heard a difference but were too stupid to try to imitate it).
This contrasts with biblical ba'alis and Ephraimite sibbolet, both of which have a high vowel adjacent to the sibilant.
We can now appreciate that the phonological structure of the Gileadite test word was particularly appropriate for the purpose of the test since, as the Gileadites must have known, it presented the problematic sibilant in an environment of maximum contrast between their own and the Ephraimite realization of it.
But the Gileadites would recognize that the Ephraimite response did not contain a fully wide-groove articulation.
For example, if affricate samekh is insisted upon in both dialects--preferably narrow-groove laminal in both--both dialects can still have narrow-groove sin, apical in one, laminal in the other, and the choice of Gileadite versus Ephraimite assignment will still be completely free; but as usual one scenario will have the Ephraimites simply responding with their own sin, while the other will have them cannily responding with their nevertheless inadequate samekh.
No doubt the Gileadites would have been equally unable to mimic successfully the Ephraimite pronunciation, but the Gileadites were not the ones being put to the test.
Its rarity is such that is seems not to have been achieved by any Ephraimite in the story--certainly we are not told of any.
1] retained in Ephraimite (Faber 1992)" appears in a column headed "Phonological mergers"; and twice in the text, the precise misstatements being "Blau and Faber posit different phonological mergers involving *s in Ephraimite and Gileadite Hebrew" and, equally wrongly, "Against Blau and Faber, there is no evidence outside their theories of sibbolet: sibbolet for differing phonological histories of the phoneme s on the two sides of the Jordan.
A possible difference here is that Gileadite and Ephraimite seem to have been mutually intelligible dialects, which is not, I think, the usual view of Dutch and German.
1] into wide-groove /s/ in various Semitic languages (5) was underway in Hebrew at the time of the shibboleth incident in such a way that the Gileadites already had the wide-groove sin /s/ while the Ephraimites still had the narrow-groove version.
This, after all, might well suggest that the Cisjordanian Ephraimites substituted affricate samekh for Gileadite fricative sin, yet the Transjordanian Gileadites must have heard this as their own fricative samekh if they imagined that this sound could be substituted for another fricative.