Pronouncing Masoretic Hebrew

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sun Feb 11 19:35:52 EST 2001

There is some relevant evidence in the Hitpael of verbs with initial tsade.
For example (this may be the only one), the form NIC:+AD.FQ is found at Gen
44:16, transposed Hitpael of CDQ with tet replacing taw. This suggests that
there was a feature in tsade, probably pharyngealisation, which was carried
over into tet by a process of assimilation. Hitpaels of initial tet verbs
have tet with dagesh rather than taw followed by tet, which is a similar
assimilation. But this process does not seem to occur with qoph, suggesting
that qoph was not pharyngealised.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Randall Buth [mailto:ButhFam at]
Sent: 11 February 2001 07:29
To: Biblical Hebrew
Cc: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Pronouncing Masoretic Hebrew

shalom Yonatan,

You posed some good questions

>What do people on the list have to say about the pronunciation of Hebrew
by >the Ben Asher school?
>Was Resh aleovelar or uvular?
Can't say for sure.  It was probably alveolar, though the real puzzle is
why it doesn't usually take dagesh, since long 'r' sounds are possible both
alveolar and uvular. Arabic has a long alveolar 'r' as you are aware.

>Were Samech and Tet pharyngialized Sin and Tav, just as they are in
No, sin was a phonetic samex by the time of Ben Asher and at least from 2nd
temple times on. (Probably goes back to a voiceless lateral, similar to the
'll' in Welsh "Llewelyn".)
Every position had ONE consonant pronounced with retracted tongue root
(pharyngealization). For the sibilants that was 'tsade'.
Yes, Tet was tau with retracted tongue root simultaneous.

> Had that characteristic already died out by the time the vowels were put
> I notice that Samech and Tet have no effect on vocalization.
Nor does tsade or Qof.

>Was Vav a fricative labio dental or just a labial?
Difficult to say, because back in the first century, Greek was already
developping 'veta' (like Spanish 'b' in Havana) and this was influencing
Mishnaic Hebrew loan words. However, the 'w' was original and has been
retained in several modern Biblical traditions, so it was likely to have
been retained by the Massoretes even if colloquial Hebrew was using 'bh/v',

Randall Buth

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