[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Tue Nov 16 19:26:11 EST 2004


I originally noticed this pattern while reading through Ezra and Nehemiah. I do not have access to later writings, so I don’t know how they treated the pronunciations. But I can speculate (with the best of them   :-(  ).

I first noticed it with the transliteration of Artaxerxes: the first Xi in the name corrosponds to the Hebrew and Aramaic X$, which to the Greek ear probably sounded like an /x/, but the second one in Hebrew, such as all the times in Nehemiah and in Ezra 7:7, 11 were written with a samekh, while Ezra in his Aramaic portions, e.g. Ezra 4:4, 7:21 transliterated the /x/ with a sin/shin.

My interpretation of this is that Hebrew still retained an archaic pronunciation that predated the exile, though it was already becoming fossilized as the young people were speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew in their daily lives. However, Aramaic had already bifurcated the pronunciation of the sin/shin and had lost the unique pronunciation for the samekh. Within a few generations, Jews also forgot the original pronunciations, and read Hebrew as badly pronounced Aramaic according to the Aramaic rules of pronunciation.

However, it is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that later Aramaic transfered many words using a sin to samekh, hence also the Arabic placing of the sin in the place of the samekh.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>

> Karl Randolph wrote:
> > What I noticed is that the uncial Greek forms of sigma and xi are 
> > recognizably derivitive from the paleo-Hebrew alphabet both in 
> > form and pronunciation, and that the use of the xi was used 
> > mostly in the same places as the samekh in Hebrew in the 
> > transliteration of Persian names as late as Ezra and Nehemiah. 
> > (The writer of Esther appears not to have known Hebrew as well, 
> > as can be seen also by his use of Aramaic loan words and 
> > pronunciations(?) into Hebrew (Aramaic used sin/shin in the 
> > places where Hebrew used samekh and and Greek xi.))
> Hi Karl.  Can you provide some examples of the xi/samekh in
> Ezra and Nehemiah?  Also, regarding the Aramaic sin/shin in
> place of Hebrew samekh?  I think it is mostly the other way around.
> That where Hebrew has sin, Aramaic has samekh.
> Thanks.
> Yitzhak Sapir

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