Brian Gould wrote: ↑January 3rd, 2020, 7:50 pm
MAubrey wrote: ↑January 3rd, 2020, 4:40 pm
That depends. If the larger language community is using manuscripts with spelling such as these that overtly distinguish between the two pronunciations, then those communities would have also continued pronouncing Hebrew names as [ai] rather than [ε]. Conversely if the community is not using such manuscripts, then the pronunciation would have likely shifted to the standard [ε].
Yes, I think we are in agreement on the basic criterion, which boils down to a question of statistics. If a comparison of the different manuscripts leads to the conclusion that one pronunciation was statistically dominant, with only a small minority using the other pronunciation, then I would say go with the larger language community. Although Benjamin’s link doesn’t quote any statistics, this sentence gave me the impression—rightly or wrongly—that the diphthongal pronunciation |aï| was by no means in widespread use:
The evidence of early LXX and NT manuscripts suggests that this phenomenon was preserved to a degree—perhaps only among highly educated scribes and/or those with Hebrew/Aramaic knowledge—in the manuscript tradition all the way up into the Byzantine period. On the other hand, Greek speakers without such knowledge would be prone to pronounce αι in Semitic names just like everywhere else.
These are good questions. Unfortunately, I don't think we have enough evidence to come to any sort of statistical conclusions. We would want hundreds of instances of these names attested in manuscripts from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods to get an idea of how common each pronunciation was at each stage. Unfortunately, we have a small small fraction of what would be necessary to make any such claims in terms of the LXX/NT manuscript tradition
What we can say is as follows:
1) Already by the Early Roman period in Palestine (37 BCE-135 CE), Greek αι represented /ε(ː)/. Length was probably lost by the Late Roman period (135-324 CE) if not earlier. It is possible, however, that the change of αι = /ai/ → /ε(ː)/ had not happened for the earliest books of the Septuagint (e.g., Pentateuch).
2) Hebrew/Aramaic speakers in the Roman period would generally have pronounced -αι in Semitic names like -αϊ in Greek rather than like typical αι = /ε/.
3) To some degree
, the Hebrew/Aramaic pronunciation of names with -αι = /ai/ seems to have been preserved in the Greek manuscript tradition of the LXX/NT even into the Byzantine period.
However, your question really seems to be wanting more specificity to the to some degree
part in (3). As you mention, we really would need better statistics for that and I just don't think we have enough early manuscripts. If we put Hebrew/Aramaic knowledge on the side, the degree to which these pronunciations would have been preserved purely in the scribal tradition is not clear. We can only do our best to speculate at this point (which is what my final section of the post was trying to do).