[b-hebrew] Shva merahephet

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Jun 24 11:25:05 EDT 2004

Dear Vadim,

>Did any of you ever study the device of shva merahephet, the 
>differenc between calBi (my dog), and calVei(dogs)? Any information 
>on this?

HH: One difference between "my dog" on the one hand, and "dogs" in 
the construct form on the other, is the vowel pointing under the 
beth. With the plural word there is a sere, while the singular with a 
suffix takes hireq. There seems to be a shewa under the lamed in both 
cases. There also seems to be a difference because the beth in the 
singular word takes a dagesh, while there is no dagesh in beth on the 
plural word. You seem to be asking why there is no dagesh in the beth 
in the plural word, implying that it might be a result of the 
previous shewa, which you call a shva merahephet.

HH: I believe that some grammars call this a shewa medium (see 
Waltke-O'Connor 36.1.1c). Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley 10d states that 
originally the shewa was thought to be part of a "loosely closed" or 
"wavering" syllable. But this distinction has now been abandoned. The 
syllables are really closed, and the original vowel is not merely 
shortened but entirely elided. The fact that a following BeGadKePHaTH 
letter remains spirant (soft) instead of taking the dagesh lene is 
understood on the "supposition that the change from hard to spirant 
is older than the elision of the vowel, and that a prehistoric 
malakai (e.g.) became malakhai before being shortened to malkhey.

HH: I don't know what the most current thinking about this is. There 
is a newer grammar by Muroaka that I don't have. Waltke-O'Connor 
1.6.3d states that the MT may reflect post-biblical developments in 
the double pronunciation of the "begadkephat" letters and that the 
external (i.e., non-biblical) evidence is confused.

HH: Waltke-O'Connor also suggest that the two sounds of the 
begakephat letters are allophones, variant sounds that arise due to 
the linguistic environment. That is, the variation is due to the 
sounds that precede and follow the letter. The variations are aspects 
of the same letter in different environments and do not lead to a 
contrast in meaning.

HH: So any information that you have on this topic would be helpful.

				Harold Holmyard

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list