[b-hebrew] Re: variant pronunciation

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sun Apr 18 16:48:42 EDT 2004

On 17/04/2004 18:56, Joel Nothman wrote:

> ...
> Regarding this, although the Yemenites have been very much isolated 
> from  many of the influences of other dialects, they still may have 
> some  influence from Yemenite Arabic. Particularly with reference to 
> the "jimel"  (gimel-dagesh)- this sound is the odd one out with 
> respect to the 6  letters mentioned above, since all others both the 
> variations with and  without dagesh are pronounced in the same place. 
> In Yemenite hebrew,  gimel-with-dagesh is pronounced at the front of 
> the mouth (on the alveolar  palate) as "j", and gimel-without-dagesh 
> is pronounced at the back of the  mouth as "gh". Now, this could be 
> the influence of Yemenite Arabic which  has no hard "g" sound, but 
> does have a "j"; it could also be a regional  Ancient Hebrew dialect 
> adopted by the Yemenites, and it is unlilely that  we will ever know.
The case for Arabic influence is strengthened when you realise that 
Arabic jim corresponds to Hebrew gimel, in many words e.g. Hebrew hag 
(festival) = Arabic hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), Hebrew regel (foot) = 
Arabic rijl. In most Arabic dialects jim is pronounced like English J, 
but in Egyptian Arabic it is pronounced like G, which is probably the 
more original Arabic version and certainly the proto-Semitic one. So it 
may well be that in Yemen the shift from G to J took place in parallel 
in both Hebrew and Arabic. But the Hebrew ghimel (i.e. gimel without 
dagesh) would have sounded like Arabic gheyn and would have retained the 
original sound (whereas the original Hebrew equivalent of gheyn had 
already merged with ayin).

>> one example: Qamatz gadol they pronounced  O similarly to the 
>> Ashkenazi  way.
> You can see this from the masoretic transcription, in fact. In 
> academic  Hebrew, Qamats itself is considered a "long a", whose short 
> equivalent is  Patah, and shorter is Patah Hatuf (patah with a sheva 
> next to it). But the  Qamats is also used to transcribe two different 
> vowels - the Qamats Qaton  (short qamats) and Qamats Hatuf (qamats 
> with sheva next to it). Both of  these are in fact classified as "o" 
> sounds, and are pronounced such by  most Modern Hebrew accents. 
> Nonetheless, the Masoretes gave them the same  symbol, which tells us 
> that the Masoretes too, like the Ashkenazim,  pronounced all three as 
> the same or similar sound, that is, "o".

As I learned the names, qamats hatuf is your qamats qatan, and qamats 
with sheva next to it is called hataf qamats. Hataf qamats is also the 
official Unicode name.

If the Masoretes considered qamats to be an O vowel as you say, how come 
furtive patah is never written after qamats, or patah, although it is 
written after every other vowel including holam? I am not really 
questioning what you say, merely asking for qualification. More like 
qamats was a back open vowel, perhaps rounded, a bit like the 
Scandinavian a with ring, or Persian long a - something between "ah" and 
"aw" in my English.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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