Aleph and Ayin

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sat Dec 22 07:14:36 EST 2001

Matt, I think it is generally held that ayin was a pharyngeal fricative,
like Arabic 'eyn. This is not a weak sound (though it is not a plosive) but
a rather strong one, almost like a cough, caused by almost blocking the top
of the throat with the back of the tongue. This is not the same as a glottal
stop. Aleph, on the other hand, was at least sometimes pronounced as a
glottal stop (like Arabic hamza), which is done by the glottis which is what
vibrates to cause voicing.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Matthew R. Miller [mailto:biblicalscribe at]
> Sent: 21 December 2001 16:56
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Aleph and Ayin
> Matt Miller here:
> I have induced from my studies that the original difference between the
> two Hebrew silent consonants, aleph and ayin, is as follows:
> 1. They are both lacking a plosive sonal value.
> 2. Ayin acts only as a glottla stop, while aleph acts either as a glottal
> stop or a quiescent consonant. Usually when aleph begins a word it is the
> former, and when it ends a word it is the latter. Ayin may never be
> quiescent.
> 3. When both aleph and ayin act as glottal stops, their phonetic value is
> identical.
> Is this reasonable? Could someone with more experience offer insight?
> Thanks. Matt Miller

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