phonology question,2

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at
Fri Jan 18 23:03:15 EST 2002

Vincent wrote:

> I
> figure if I can learn to distinguish between aleph and ayin (unvoiced and
> voiced), tet and tau, kaf and qof, and sin and samek, etc. I will
> be able to
> learn vocab faster.

This is probably true. (At least, if you're including correct spelling as a
priority in learning vocab.) On the other hand, one could argue that it's
somewhat artificial. Just about any living language would be easier in this
regard if we could come up with a way to avoid all (or at least most)
homophones. Still, there is (I think) something to be said for using a good
reconstruction of Masoretic pronunciation. The system is quite
well-developed (not perfect, but good), and I don't think it would be
altogether inconsistent with Randall's approach to Koine Greek to do
something similar in Hebrew.


> I don't want to use a system that has been proven wrong, but on the other
> extreme, I don't want to use a system that makes all these letter pairs
> sound the same just because that's easiest for native English speakers.

There are actually three major options, in case you didn't know, for
Biblical Hebrew. What you describe here seems to account for only two of
them--the reconstructed Masoretic, and the standard scholarly. I agree that
there's not much point to learning the latter system. But the third
option--the pronunciation used by Modern Hebrew speakers--has quite a bit of
merit. It is probably easier for English-speaking students to learn, but
more importantly, it is the only of the three options that has direct
attachment to a living language. It is, admittedly, somewhat less conducive
to efficient spelling memorization than the reconstructed system. But I
think the merits can outweigh the demerits in this case.

I don't know of any recordings that use the system you're looking for, but I
agree with what's already been said about Arabic. It seems like much of the
reconstruction draws upon Arabic pronunciation. If it's any source of
encouragement, I was able to learn most of the sounds working on my own with
Jouon (and have since found that I was pretty close overall). What I
couldn't figure out then, I think I might be able to explain now, so if you
want any tips, I'm available.

Trevor Peterson

Trevor Peterson

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list