Jerusalem, neuter plural

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Tue Sep 7 23:49:57 EDT 1999

Dear Jim,

I think you need to do a little study of phonology to understand the 
distinction between a consonant and a vowel. On most normal 
definitions and analyses of Hebrew, in the string of transliterated 
Hebrew letters -AYIM the letters A and I would be considered vowels 
and the letters Y and M would be considered consonants; the string 
would be pronounced as two separate syllables and not as a diphthong. 
I accept that the Y sound may also be described as a "semi-vowel", but 
within the phonology of the Hebrew language and its writing system Y 
(yod) functions as a consonant, except in the clearly defined set of 
circumstances in which it is a mater. As several other posts today 
have made clear, the dual ending is not one of those cases in which 
yod functions as a mater.

The furtive pathach endings are an interesting case which do have some 
parallels to YERUSHALAYIM. If we look at a word like R"YAX, this 
appears superficially to have a CVCVC structure like the ending of 
YERUSHALAYIM. But note that the first vowel is long and is one which 
is commonly found with a yod mater. I think it is better to analyse 
this yod as a mater. But in fact the yod is not dropped in any of the 
55 occurrences of this word. The situation is somewhat different with 
the word NIXOWAX which so often occurs with R"YAX; here the waw is 
often dropped, and I think no-one would dispute that it is a mater. I 
would analyse these furtive pathach forms as diphthongs (whose 
pronunciation is caused by the physical difficulty of pronouncing a 
guttural sound after a non-low vowel), and so as fundamentally 
different in structure from the dual ending. Thus there is no 
unwritten consonant in these furtive pathach forms. I agree that a 
case could be made for an analysis with a consonant, but this would 
need to be based on a proper phonological analysis.

I am also not convinced of the folk etymology, although I would tend 
to associate the second element of the name with the Semitic root 
SH-L-M. But the point is that in ancient times people believed this 
folk etymology, and they would not have done if they had understood 
the final M as part of a dual ending rather than as a root consonant.

I don't claim to know better than the Masoretes how words were 
pronounced in their time. But I do have evidence which was not 
available to the Masoretes of how this word was pronounced at a time 
several hundred years before their time, and so I do have good reason 
for believing that the pronunciation had changed during this time.

As for truth values, I think we can assume that the yod is not in fact 
a mattress, and if it is also not a mater, then the statements "the 
yod is a mattress" and "the yod is a mater" are both false, and thus 
(according to the terminology of at least some branches of logic) 
their truth values are the same. I don't think I am saying anything 
profound here.

Time to hit my mattress! ;-)

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[3]: Jerusalem, neuter plural
Author:  jwest at at internet
Date:    07/09/1999 13:52

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