transcription and phonetics of Tiberian vowels

Henry Churchyard churchyh at
Sun Sep 20 01:42:57 EDT 1998

Vincent, I'm rather confused by your diagram; what are the ">" signs
along the second row supposed to mean?  Are you saying that the
Tiberian vowel symbol h.olem (high dot) sometimes denotes a short
vowel when realizing an underlying /u/ phoneme and sometimes a long
vowel when realizing an /o/ phoneme (slightly similar to Malone's
theories)?  I think you'd find it difficult to make a strong case for
contrasting short /u/ and short /o/ phonemes, considering that surface
short u is almost always occurs in non-main-stressed syllables before
a geminate consonant, while short o (qames. almost
never occurs in this environment.  And are you saying that the
graphemes h.ireq and shureq/qibbus. always denote long vowel sounds?

Also, you have qames. and hat.eph-qames. in different columns,
implying they are realizations of a different underlying phoneme?  And
where is the regular pathah. and why isn't it associated with
hat.eph-pathah.?  Though you have qames. twice in the chart, you don't
ever include pathah. in the same column with it, despite the fact that
they are frequently associated by those vowel alternations which are
induced strictly by change of stress position, vowel reduction,
etc. between related forms (i.e. not by applying a different basic
vowel pattern to the same consonantal root).  And what of the
Proto-Semitic and/or synchronic underlying original long vowels?

Here's a more traditional chart, which is more comprehensive in some

                   "I" type             "A" type              "U" type
                    vowels               vowels                vowels

Unalterable         h.ireq,         h.olem (few altern-        shureq,
(true) longs:     h.ireq-yodh       ations with other          qibbus.
                                    vowels in this column)

(Historical)    s.ere(-yodh), some-                           h.olem(-waw),
diphthongs:     times pathah.-yodh                        sometimes qames.-waw


Short vowels in
closed unstress-   h.ireq               pathah.  
ed syllables:

Lengthened         s.ere                qames.                  h.olem
short vowels:

Reduced short at ghol

Short vowels
under special      s at ghol               s at ghol                  qibbus.


Of course this this chart doesn't offer any detailed historical
account of the development of the vowel sounds; and no implicit claim
is being made that h.olem, s.ere, or s at ghol from different historical
sources were pronounced differently in Tiberian, or that original
diphthongal h.olem is still always synchronically distinguishable from
original long-a h.olem in Tiberian by means of vowel alternations
among related forms only -- but the columns of this chart do account
much better for the observed morphophonemic alternations of Tiberian.
As you know, my detailed evidence and argumentation for the
interpretation of the Tiberian vowel orthography is available in
compressed PDF form from .

10 10 scale/M{rmoveto}def/R{rlineto}def 12 45 moveto 0 5 R 4 -1 M 5.5 0 R
currentpoint 3 sub 3 90 0 arcn 0 -6 R 7.54 10.28 M 2.7067 -9.28 R -5.6333
2 setlinewidth 0 R 9.8867 8 M 7 0 R 0 -9 R -6 4 M 0 -4 R stroke showpage

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list