Pronunciation of WAW

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at
Wed Jan 23 08:01:25 EST 2002

OK - just don't try to figure out G-d's name, whoever is meant to know, knows.

My Yemenite friends in Israel do distinguish between w and v, (and 
also the aleph and ayin, chet and chaf, etc.) especially the oldest 
generation.  I just visited this past October, and saw everyone, the 
whole very large extended family, all my friends, plus their new 
generations of children.

But the other Mizrachim, don't.


| 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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