[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/
trepp at telus.net
trepp at telus.net
Sun Nov 14 12:21:05 EST 2004
> Message: 2
> Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 21:44:59 +0000
> From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] PS /g/
> To: Trevor Peterson <abuian at access4less.net>
> Cc: b-hebrew <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <4193DD5B.9010002 at qaya.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed
> On 11/11/2004 14:06, Trevor Peterson wrote:
> > I know that proto-Semitic /g/ (Hebrew gimel) shows up in some
> > languages and dialects as /j/, but does anyone know the explanation
> > for how it gets to these two pronunciations? I mean, at first glance
> > it seems like an intuitive association from an English-speaker
> > perspective. Our letter "g" performs double-duty. But when you stop
> > and think about it, the two sounds are quite different and don't seem
> > to be easily connected. The only thing I can think of is that Greek
> > gamma creeps forward to the point where it becomes /y/ before /i/. But
> > it still seems like a long way for one sound to march. I wonder if
> > there's a simpler explanation.
> I would suggest that the sound shift from the English g sound to the
> English j sound is not as unlikely a change as it may seem. This change
> has taken place in English and in Italian, probably independently
> although I am not sure, and rather similar shifts have occurred at least
> in French and Swedish, but in each case only before an e or i vowel.
> Also in Hungarian? It has taken place in some dialects of Arabic, but
> not in others e.g. Egyptian. And if it is in other Semitic languages
> that must be independent of the only partial shift in Arabic. The change
> is easily understood when we realise that g before e and i tends to
> shift further forward in the mouth, to a sound more like gy, which
> sounds very similar to j and ends up being mistaken as such.
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> Message: 3
> Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 17:26:04 EST
> From: MarianneLuban at aol.com
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] PS /g/
> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> Message-ID: <1d9.2f9a2e8c.2ec540fc at aol.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"
> In a message dated 11/11/2004 6:07:13 AM Pacific Standard Time,
> abuian at access4less.net writes:
> > I know that proto-Semitic /g/ (Hebrew gimel) shows up in some languages
> > and dialects as /j/, but does anyone know the explanation for how it
> > gets to these two pronunciations? I mean, at first glance it seems like
> > an intuitive association from an English-speaker perspective. Our letter
> > "g" performs double-duty. But when you stop and think about it, the two
> > sounds are quite different and don't seem to be easily connected. The
> > only thing I can think of is that Greek gamma creeps forward to the
> > point where it becomes /y/ before /i/. But it still seems like a long
> > way for one sound to march. I wonder if there's a simpler explanation.
> I am not qualified to give you an answer, but have wondered about this,
> myself. Just a week or so ago I had to use my limited and not-so-correct
> Arabic in
> order to converse with a lady from Kuwait. I was trying to tell her that a
> man who was in the room with us was my doctor. I said "E-ragil da huwa
> and she looked at me rather blankly for a moment and then said "Ah! Rajeel!"
> All I know is the Egyptian pronunciation. The odd thing is that, while the
> modern Egyptians use the hard "g", their ancient language did contain a
> "j"--or more probably "dj"--but they had a /g/, as well. So it's not as
> historically, they were not capable of saying "j" or unaccustomed to it. But
> they say it no more, while other Arabic speakers to the east do so quite
> regularly. When Syria was given back to Turkey in 1840, it having been
> attached to
> Egypt in 1833, some of the Egyptians who had settled there wished to remain
> tried to pass as Syrians. So the test was whether they could pronounce
> "camel" correctly. If they said "jemel", they passed, but if they uttered
> "gemel"--they were sent back to Egypt. Along the Lower Euphrates, "camel"
> Now here you can see the Samaritan alphabet and the pronunciation of its
> The Samaritans claim their accent is a very old one. Obviously, they have
> the hard "g" and they fact they call it "gaman" instead of "gimel" suggests
> me that perhaps the Jewish "gimel" really was once "gaman" and linguistically
> it is not difficult to understand how one can have morphed into the other.
> Also of interest is that the Samaritans do not have much traffic with "h's"
> (preferring "aitches" like a Cockney) and this is even reflected in their
> pronunciation of the pertinent letters--"chey" and "chet" being "iy" and "et"
> to them.
> I guess they can pronounce "shibolet", though ;-)
In looking into the matter sounds such as those of English [j] and [ch] and the
sound of [s] in "measure", I quite naturally compared these to to Hebrew
phonemes. It has seemed to me, so far, that Arabic has made a major impression
on a number of languages as impressing the sound of English [j] on them. I have
seen no connection between this sound and the most likely pnoetics of original
As to English [ch], I first noticed how many languages do not have it. Then I
noticed that, outside of the Far East (China, etc.), the only languages
featuring it that I yet knew of were Slavic, except for Latin - as in [c]
before [i] or [e] - Italian - in the same manner as in Latin (though with some
exceptional additional occurences), - and English.
I soon noticed how Teyth could be seen as a Taw leaning in the direction of
English [ch]. It is cut too short of the degree of morphing (away from Taw)
that characterizes English [ch], perhaps, for this phonetic kinship to at once
be seen. I wonder to what degree the breath in Teyth might originally have
differed from that in Taw. As I have found with all alphabetical characters in
general: each character was originally assigned its own exclusive phonetic
value, and the pairing of two characters to a single sound point to the
antiquity of the lettering system, and to changes in speach without a parallel
This got me wondering (if not actually expecting) whether the greater degree of
breath in Sin than in Samek (=[s]), might not properly signify a possible root
of the [s]-morpheme in English "measure". Interestingly enough, this sound,
too, I found missing from many languages' phonology, but present in French,
English, and Slavic languages.
More information about the b-hebrew