[b-hebrew] unchangeable long vowel in H stem

colin at s-m-i-t-h.com colin at s-m-i-t-h.com
Tue Aug 3 13:34:33 EDT 2004

I would add these comments to Trevor's excellent explanation of the
history of the phenomenon:

The Masoretes were writing down a text that came to them in both written
and oral tradition. They simply tried to find set forth a writing system
that would accurately represent the text that they heard and saw (a
parallel to the problem of the Unicode representation of the text recently
discussed). When they recognized a long vowel, represented it. Becausse,
as PageKelly points out, the H stem prefix conjugation almost always
maintains a long vowel in the thematic position -i.e. between the second
and third root letters - the hireq yod is the expected form. As Trevor
pointed out, the Masoretes would not add any consonants to the text they
received, so, they used a simple Hireq to represent the long /i/ vowel
when they "heard" a long /i/ but the consonantal text did not show a yod.

If you use an edition of the text with Masoretic notes, you would see that
each of the three examples you adduce has a Masoretic note in the margin
of the text reading xet/samek, the Aramaic abbreviation for "missing,"
indicating that the consonantal text is missing an expected consonant, in
this case, the yod that is normally the indicator of the long /i/

Just as a side-point, the "rule" that H stem prefix conjugation verbs
maintain the long /i/ vowel is not absolute. There are several examples in
the MT where this thematic vowel is actually reduced to a shewa - a truly
odd phenomenon that hasn't been adequately explained.

Introductory grammars like PageKelly cannot and should not cite all the
variants and anomolies of the text, but there are few, if any, unbreakable
rules in the MT.


Colin Smith, Ph.D.
Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages
Baptist Bible College
Clarks Summit, PA
csmith at bbc.edu

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