Pronunciation of WAW

George Athas gathas at
Tue Jan 22 18:25:54 EST 2002

| Please keep in mind that no one knows how to pronounce that name, and no one
| was allowed to pronounce that name except for one person, in one place, once
| a year.
| Shoshanna

OK -- but this discussion has now shifted to talking about the consonant waw. As Ian pointed out,
it was originally a "w" sound, and that is born out in ancient transliterations from Akkadian and
Greek. It is only in modern times that the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet gained the "v"
sound. This shift is consistent with Ashkenazi pronunciation, which was under continental European
influence in which the "w" consonant is pronounced as a "v" (cf. Wien = "vee-en" = "Vienna").
Ashkenazi pronunciation has prevailed upon modern Hebrew, though most non-Ashkenazi speakers have
retained the "w" sound.

Thus, although the we may not know exactly how to pronounce the tetragrammaton, we know what sound
the consonants made. It's more the case that we do not really know the vowels that were associated
with the name -- hence the ambiguity.

BTW -- I always encourage my students to pronounce waw as "w" because it is more authentic and
easier for learning vocab and avoiding confusion with veth (ie, beth without dagesh). I also
encourage them to pronounce `ayin, and to try to distinguish between kaph & qoph, samekh & sin, tet
& taw.

Best regards,

(Sydney, Australia)

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