[b-hebrew] shwa, shtayim and sharp taw
willaa at netvision.net.il
Fri Mar 10 16:45:50 EST 2006
There is a vowel, sort of....
Shin, sin, zayin, and tzadek re what used to be called "sibilants" (because
they "hissed.") Sibilants are continuants. They also were called
"semi-vocales" by Latin grammarians because they do not need to be followed
by a vowel. They carry a "vowel" of their own. This is as true for Hebrew
as it was for Latin and still is for English (and other IE and Semitic
The schwa is a "place-marker" for the slight continuant "vowel" attached to
the sibilant.The schwa will be beard more clearly depending upon the
following consonant. (Note the "sl" in "slight" -- don't need a vowel after
Look at the consonant that follows the shin::
The shin in "shtaim" is followed by a dental stop -- 't'; in "shnayim" the
shin is followed by a palatal nasal -- 'n'. (the nasals -- m and n -- are
also among the semi-vocales.)
The effect is the same as in English "stare" and "snare." Listen
carefully; we can hear the very slight "schwa" after the 's' in "snare"
more clearly than after the 's' followed by the stop in "stare.". This is
because the stop cuts off the flow of air -- while the nasal does not.
So, it's not surprising that the schwa in "sht" will be absolutely silent
while the schwa in "shn" will be given some vocal value -- it does suggest
that folks had very sensitive hearing back then.. It also suggests that
words were carefully articulated.
>>It seems a little awkward if shtayim would be the only exception - why
>>would the first shwa in shnayim be a vowel, and in shtayim be the
>>absence of a vowel?
>>I think that as the two forms are perfectly analogous, the shwa that
>>comes with the shin in both words shtayim and shnayim are completely
>>silent and have never represented a vowel. This fits other Semitic
back to lurking,
More information about the b-hebrew