Dotan (Deutscher), Aron

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DOTAN (Deutscher), ARON

DOTAN (Deutscher), ARON (1928– ), Israeli scholar of the Hebrew language, the Masorah, biblical accentuation, and the history of Hebrew grammar. Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Dotan came to Palestine with his parents in 1934, and was raised and educated in Haifa. His academic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, begun in 1947, were interrupted by the War of Independence, during which Dotan served in the army and took part in battles in and around Jerusalem. He continued at the university after the war and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in 1963 for his study of Dikdukei ha-Te'amim le-Rabbi Aharon ben Moshe ben Asher (1963; see below). In 1961 he was appointed lecturer at Tel Aviv University (professor from 1969), where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1996. He also taught at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan for most of this period, in addition to serving as a guest lecturer at the Sorbonne, at Yale University, and elsewhere. He was a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language from 1966.

Dotan's research, as presented in several books and scores of articles, focuses mainly on the fields of the Masorah, biblical vocalization and accentuation, biblical manuscripts, and early Hebrew grammar. His Sefer Dikdukei ha-Te'amim le-Rabbi Aharon ben Moshe ben Asher ("The Dikdukei ha-Te'amim of Aaron ben Moses Ben-Asher") is a new critical edition of an early work by the outstanding tenth-century masorete Aaron ben Asher, with an introduction and extensive annotation. In another book, which inquires into Ben-Asher's religious affiliation, Dotan discredits the view that Ben-Asher was a Karaite (Ben Asher's Creed: A Study of the History of the Controversy, 1977). Dotan's intensive study of biblical manuscripts, of ms Leningrad (b19a) in particular, led to his publication in 1973 of a new edition of the Bible based entirely on this manuscript, which now serves as the Bible distributed to Israeli soldiers upon their conscription. A new edition of this Bible with a comprehensive introduction in English appeared under the title Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (2001). Dotan's Encyclopaedia Judaica entry "Masorah" (1971; q.v.) provides a sweeping, detailed overview of the history of the Masorah and of the different systems of biblical accentuation.

Dotan's most important book in the field of early Hebrew grammar is Or Rishon be-Ḥokhmat ha-Lashon ("The Dawn of Hebrew Linguistics," 1997), a critical edition of *Saadiah Gaon's Sefer Zahut Leshon ha-Ivrim (in Arabic: Kitāb Fasīh Lughat al-'Ibraniyyīn), for which he was awarded the Bialik Prize for Jewish Thought in 1998. Alongside the Arabic original of this work, which is the first Hebrew grammar, this edition provides both an annotated Hebrew translation and a comprehensive introduction elucidating Saadiah's linguistic method.

In his Min ha-Masorah el Reshit ha-Milona'ut ha-Ivrit ("The Awakening of Word Lore: From the Masorah to the Beginnings of Hebrew Lexicography," 2004) Dotan shows that the Masorah comprised the basis of Hebrew lexicography. This approach is consistent with his thesis, demonstrated in a number of articles, that grammar was preceded by the Masorah.

[Chaim E. Cohen (2nd ed.)]