[b-hebrew] CV syllables, was music in Hebrew
peter at qaya.org
Sat Feb 11 15:23:25 EST 2006
On 11/02/2006 19:12, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
Yotzhak, thank you for all of this. I will comment on only a few points.
> Regarding the "h" in -ah, what I meant was that in the Semitic
> group from which Hebrew and Arabic diverged, the change had
> already taken place whereby -at had developed into -ah in
> non-construct forms, with a consonantal h. Later, the h was
> lost, but not before it was used as the basis for spelling in
> both Hebrew and Arabic. I've seen this opinion mentioned in
> a linguistic article of Sarfatti's in Hebrew, but also the opinion
> that this development in Hebrew and Arabic occurred in
> parallel. So I'm not sure how strong this position of -ah
> having a consonantal h is. I'm also not sure how a /t/ would
> develop into /h/. So as a whole, I'm not sure of this position,
> but I've seen it now mentioned by one linguist.
I must say this sounds unlikely. More probable is some confusion,
because people write -ah on the basis that written final h is normally
silent in Hebrew, Arabic and English. This tends to obscure the cases,
rare in all these languages, where the final h should be pronounced. As
I see it, an actual phonetic shift t > h > 0 in both languages is much
less likely than a direct shift t > 0, with the h being written purely
as a mater lectionis. The dual shift theory makes it hard to explain why
final h was not lost in a few words like Allah/Eloah and others with
mappiq in Hebrew. Anyway, as I mentioned before, the Arabic orthography
in such matters is probably rather late, later than times when we more
or less know that Hebrew final h was not usually pronounced.
> All the forms of final -h being a m.l. can be traced, then, to
> some consonantal -h with varying degrees of confidence:
> 1) -h for -o in 3rd person masculine, originally -ahu
> 2) -h for -a in feminine words, originally -ah
> 3) -h for -e in final -h verbs (bnh, etc), where the h, being
> part of the verbal root suggests it would have been
> originally consonantal.
> I guess both #2 and #3 are controversial, though.
Certainly! For #2 see above. #3 is almost certainly wrong, for these
"lamed-he" verbs have cognates in Arabic etc with a final Y or W vowel,
and there are traces of this Y or W in some forms in Hebrew. It seems
clear that the final he is simply a marker of a final vowel.
And there are other cases of final silent he in biblical Hebrew which
are not covered above, e.g. names like Shilo(h) and Shlomo(h), the
directional he suffix, nouns like LAYLA(h) which are masculine and have
an unstressed he ending, masculine names ending in -ya(h) contracted
from -yahu, particles like ZE(h) and MA(h), etc etc. You would find it
hard to claim that all of these were originally pronounced "h". And you
still have to answer the point of why 99% of final h sounds were lost
but 1% survived.
> The -h spelling for 3rd person possessive letter is
> attested in various places, including Arad, Lachish,
> Mesad Hashavyahu, and near Jerusalem. It is hard
> therefore to see this as a dialectical variation or different
> spelling convention and more reasonable to see the -w
> as an alternative spelling convention that began to
> replace the -h in the late 7th or 6th century.
Agreed, if we can agree that this is an alternative spelling convention
which does not necessarily reflect a change of pronunciation.
> How well can we conclude from the spelling as to the
> pronunciation? Maybe we can't? Maybe the -ahu
> shifted to -o in the 9th century but the spelling
> maintained for a couple more centuries. We can't
> know. But in any case, the spelling reflects a
> certain pronunciation convention. ...
OK. But it is by no means proven that the -h in pre-exilic spelling ever
represented -ahu rather than being a mater lectionis for -o. We need to
look elsewhere for evidence of the date of the change from -ahu to -o,
and to confirm that this actually did take place.
> ... As time goes by,
> sound changes occur, and the relationship between
> pronunciation and spelling gets more and more
> complicated. This in turn leads to changes in the
> spelling convention to standardize things, which may
> only slightly change matters for the better. So all
> we may be able to say is that the h in the 3rd person
> possessive was dropped sometime during the First
> Temple period, but before the 6th century.
No, I don't think we can say this, as we have no evidence that the
change didn't take place much earlier - even if we accept that it did
take place at some time, which is presumably evidenced by
reconstructions early Semitic from a range of languages.
> Given the statement: Was Biblical Hebrew spoken
> in the First Temple period? and the definition being
> Biblical Hebrew = language represented by the
> consonantal text as we have it today of the MT, I
> think it is safe to conclude that something similar
> was spoken, but given the slight difference in
> nuances and more obvious difference in spelling,
> that it was similar does not mean that it was the
> same and there were probably differences in
> both pronunciation and vocabulary.
I have no quarrel with this, which is much more nuanced than the
>> My point is that although there may have been a pronunciation change
>> there is no evidence for this in the spelling. This whole thread is
>> about my insistence on evidence for your hypothesis of major
>> pronunciation changes between inscriptional and Torah Hebrew. Yes, we
>> agree that it may have happened, even that it was quite probable. But so
>> far no evidence for this has been produced which cannot be explained
>> simply as a change of spelling convention.
> Well, the -h to -w spelling convention does show this change of
> pronunciation, whether you want to explain it as a belated change
> of spelling after the pronunciation had long changed, or a
> concurrent one. The use of -h for final -o is not proven in my opinion ...
Agreed, it is not proven. But it is also not disproved. In fact the
survival of such spellings as Shilo(h) and Shlomo(h) for people and
places prominent in the first temple period (but not later) strongly
suggests to me that this was a first temple period spelling convention.
But rather than try to prove this point, I will remind you that your
conclusion "the -h to -w spelling convention does show this change of
pronunciation" is entirely dependent on this use being disproved, and it
has not been disproved. So I reject your conclusion, as mere speculation
in the absence of this disproof.
> ... and the Biblical text is no evidence in this regard without some
> contemporary spelling (such as of "b:mo", "k:mo", "l:mo"). Neither
> is the Gezer calendar sufficient evidence. We can even suggest
> that in any case that might be a divergent dialect. How would you
> suggest to differentiate between a "purely a change of spelling
> convention" and "a change of pronunciation which effects a change
> in spelling"?
For that remote period, I don't know how we can differentiate. Probably
there is no way to do so. The implication is that when we observe a
change in spelling, we have no way of knowing whether there was also a
change in pronunciation. And of course there may also have been changes
of pronunciation not reflected in the spelling. While the two types of
change are not entirely independent, they are by no means simply linked.
>> If we are now talking about Hebrew transliterated into Akkadian, in the
>> Hebrew of that period alef represented a clearly pronounced glottal
> How do you know?
>> ... So there are two distinct classes of Hebrew words which
>> should not be confused: those ending in alef, a glottal stop, and those
>> ending in he, mostly representing a word final vowel.
> Again, how do you know that this is what the convention implied?
Well, let me restate this as being how most scholars reconstruct the
pronunciation of ancient Hebrew. Of course Karl would reject their
reconstructions, but I would not expect you to.
>> And then of course there are the parallel
>> passages between the originally probably pre-exilic Samuel and Kings and
>> the post-exilic Chronicles.
> The fact that Samuel may be in origin pre-exilic does not mean it was
> spelled in that spelling as we have it today in pre-exilic times. Kings is not
> pre-exilic. How can it be pre-exilic if it mentions the exile?
Of course Kings in the form we have it was completed and/or edited after
the exile. And the orthography of Samuel and Kings was partly updated.
Nevertheless, there are significant differences between their
orthography and that of Chronicles which is likely to tell us something
about orthographic change in the Hebrew of the period. But the details
are necessarily obscure.
>> There are of course a number of complex
>> analytical issues here, but it should be possible to demonstrate from
>> these to some extent how the language changed from before to after the
> So long as you don't mind circular reasoning.
Now you are beginning to sound like Karl, rejecting standard scholarly
methods of reconstruction as "circular reasoning". Yes, not all of the
scholarship of these things is entirely sound, and further work would be
very useful. But you cannot so easily write off all such reconstruction
of ancient languages. And you certainly cannot substitute the scholarly
consensus with your own hypotheses without providing convincing evidence
both that the consensus is wrong and that your alternative makes sense,
and is not just unproven speculation.
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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