[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)
> http://www.qaya.org/
> 
> 
> 
> 
> ------------------------------
> 
> 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
> hakimi" 
> 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
> though, 
> 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
> and 
> 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"
> becomes 
> "yemel".
> 
> Now here you can see the Samaritan alphabet and the pronunciation of its 
> letters:
> 
> http://www.mystae.com/reflections/messiah/scripts/alphabet.html
> 
> 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
> to 
> 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 
Hebrew, though.
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 
alphabet reform.
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. 




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