Volatilization (vowel reduction) and Hebrew origins?

Joshua@can-do.net joshua at can-do.net
Tue Jul 9 00:58:38 EDT 2002


I have been learning Hebrew and thought someone could assist me with a
question. I have come across some notes in books indicate that vowel
reduction (volatilization) in preprotonic and pretonic syllables is
something that evolved into the Hebrew language (i.e. there was a time when
these rules were not in effect). Obvious Hebrew has changed a bit over the
Biblical period (drop of cases endings, segholate noun formation changes,
and so forth) but this is a substantial change.

One place where I have seen where volatilization does not *seem* to apply
(but I could be ignorant in this assessment) is in prefixed theophoric
elements. I could be missing key information here, but it appears that
prefixed theophoric names in Akkadian like Iauhaz[i] for Hebrew Yehô’âchâz
and from the Murašu texts the handful or so names prefixed with "Yahu-"
indicate that the original vowels are retained and not reduced. Similarly
(but probably not the best examples) see Judg 8:33 MT habe‘âlîm LXX baalim;
1Ch 12:6 MT ûbhe‘alyâh LXX baalia. I could be misinterpreting the evidence,
but it appears possible. Maybe theophoric names were not reduced?

Another example that could possibly advocate the lack of volatilization is
found in the Samaritan Hebrew dialect; it is noted that in the Samaritan
Hebrew tradition there might not have originally been a shewa ("A Grammar of
Samaritan Hebrew" by Ze’ev ben-Hayyim, p. 333; Ben-Hayyim notes there is
disagreement whether this is an expression of an ancient form of Hebrew or a
development in the Samaritan dialect, p. 53f; "A History of the Hebrew
Language" by Saenz-Badillos notes this also on p. 153).

Any thoughts or comments? Does anyone know of any books or Journal articles
that deal with this issue? Also, what books and articles are suggested in
comparing the differing vocalization systems presented by the Yemenites,
Babylonian, and Palestinian systems?

Thanks for everyone's times. Sincerely, Joshua

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