[b-hebrew] Proto-Semitic, was WAYYIQTOL

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Mar 18 06:33:02 EST 2004

On 17/03/2004 18:19, Dave Washburn wrote:

>On Wednesday 17 March 2004 03:35, Peter Kirk wrote:
>> ...
>>We know quite a lot about how Hebrew was pronounced at various times
>>from transliterations of names in the Septuagint, in the New Testament,
>>in Origen's Hexapla, in the Vulgate, etc etc. If you want to go back to
>>the pre-exilic period, we know some things from cuneiform and Egyptian
>>hieroglyphic transcriptions of names, although there may be some doubt
>>about their original pronunciation.
>This may digress a bit, but I think it also might apply to the discussion, but 
>as I recall, the Erasmian pronunciation that has been in use for New 
>Testament Greek was based on the same sort of extrapolation, especially 
>pronunciation of names that carried over into Latin.  But the current wisdom 
>tends to downgrade the value of Erasmus' system and declare those proper-name 
>pronunciation extrapolations suspect at best.  I wonder if the same is being 
>said, or could be applied, to pronunciation of Hebrew using names in the LXX 
>and elsewhere?  Note that I'm not saying I agree with the critics of the 
>Erasmian system, I'm just pointing out that some have called this method into 
I'm sure this has been done, but I am not aware of the details. I 
suspect that one of the main pieces of evidence against Erasmus' system 
is the regular LXX transliteration of Hebrew pe, tav and kaf (whether or 
not with dagesh) as Greek phi, theta and chi rather than pi, tau and 
kappa. It is highly unlikely that the Hebrew letters were always 
pronounced as fricatives; it is much more likely that the Greek letters 
were at that time pronounced as aspirated plosives. Latin transcriptions 
of Greek also give evidence for that, in that Greek phi became ph, not 
f, in Latin (and still in English though not in many European languages).

Of course this illustrates the complexity of the whole issue, and shows 
that it cannot be addressed adequately by looking at the evidence from 
just one language in isolation.

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

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