[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Nov 17 01:58:13 EST 2004


Even the /x/ sound is a type of sibilant, different from the sin.

I was being generous in saying that the samekh lost its differentiation from sin at about 300 BCE because of the people on this list who insist that Hebrew was still spoken in Judea as late as 100 CE or later. 

I think that when the exiles came back under Cyrus, the young people already spoke better Aramaic than Hebrew, using it in their daily speech, in the market and among themselves. By a generation later, when people read Tanakh, they read it with the Aramaic pronunciations of words, not the pre-exilic Hebrew pronunciations. By the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, only a few scholars remembered what were the pre-exilic pronunciations, among whom were found Ezra and Nehemiah. There is no historical proof of this theory, so I don’t push it.

Your mention of the spelling of Alexandar is just one more clue that supports that theory.

It is hard to say anything definite about pre-esilic pronunciation when the earliest hard evidence we have is from over a 1000 years later, namely the Masorites. I think the evidence tends towards that the samekh originally had the /x/ sound, but with no native speakers to interview there is no way to prove nor disprove the conclusion.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>

> Dear Karl,
> The fact that Hebrew spells the name Alexander (who arrived of the scene in
> 333 BCE) as "Aleksander" is proof enough that at least at that time, Hebrew
> did not have an /x/ sound.
> There is absolutely no proof that Samekh ever had anything other than an /s/
> sound, though it was obviously different originally (in early Canaanite)
> than Sin.
> Yigal
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Karl Randolph" <kwrandolph at email.com>
> > Yigal:
> >
> > How do you know that Phoenician did not have an /x/? After all, when they
> took over the alphabet from the Hebrews, don’t you think they would have
> retained the same pronunciations as did Hebrew? And it appears to me that as
> late as Ezra and Nehemiah, the samekh was the Hebrew /x/. (Of course, there
> could have been changes that neither of us guess at that would make both of
> us wrong.)
> >
> > My take on it is that the difference between the samekh and the sin was
> lost fairly late, around fifth century BCE in Aramaic, while in Hebrew I’m
> guessing that it was lost around 300 BCE. Those are also about the times
> that the sin and shin were differentiated as different sounds. All of these
> changes occurred long after the Greeks adopted the alphabet.
> >
> >
> > Karl W. Randolph.
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