[b-hebrew] Re: PS /g/

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Nov 19 07:38:47 EST 2004

Marianne Luban wrote:
> (Quoting me):
> > Furthermore, it seems the Egyptian phoneme you describe had the
> > phonetic value /c/.  In Phonologies of Asia and Africa, ch. 22,
> > Antonio Loprieno writes on this: "Egyptian /c/, which is the
> > palatal phoneme usually transcribed t_ by Egyptologists, [...]
> > can be used to shed some light on the value of the phoneme /s/
> > (samekh), which must originally have been an affricate [ts] in
> > Semitic."

I am responding again because I think you might have misunderstood
what I wrote above:

1) /c/ above is a phoneme, not a grapheme.  It represents the IPA symbol
c, which is different than English c.  (In fact, in my attempt to find what this
sounds like, I found English has no phoneme that is transcribed by /c/ in
IPA).  Its phonetic reconstruction, according to Loprieno, is [c(h)], ie, c
which is sometimes aspirated.  As part of his discussion on this phoneme,
he says that it was originally an Afroasiatic /k/ which palatalized, as in the
2nd person pronoun suffixes for masc vs. fem, originally both /k/ like in

2) Tsade is not [ts] in Biblical Hebrew, and I think only acquired this phoneme
in Medieval times, I think.  My understanding is that in biblical times, it 
apparently had at least the phoneme represented usually by s. (underdotted 
s) if it was not a sign for  multiple phonemes, including z. (underdotted z) d. 
(underdotted d).  Words with tsade have counterparts in Arabic words that
have these three phonemes.  In Aramaic, the three phonemes divided 
differently, d. merging with ayin (ar`a for eres., earth) and z.
merging with tet
(`es.a vs `et.a, advice).  Also, note the similarity between
sin-het-quf to tsade-
het-quf (laugh/joy).  These point to tsade being realized as an emphatic s. 

3) Loprieno claims that the phoneme for /c/ (IPA) is used to represent the
Semitic/Hebrew phoneme /ts/ which was represented in Semitic/Hebrew
by Samekh.  t_ is the usual representation of this /c/ (IPA) phoneme,
which is an italicized underlined lowercase t.  This has nothing to do with

You wrote:

> But I don't see /T/ being used for
> "ts" in the orthography, the transliteration of Semitic terms. 


> Anyway, in the writing of Semitic words, /T/
> represents samekh, NOT tzade--so that certainly must be taken into 
> consideration.

I think I have to read these two together.  [ts] is meant to be the phonemic
value for samekh, not tsade.  When writing the Semitic loanword sopher,
Egyptians would use the signs that had the phoneme /c/.  And apparently,
that makes perfect sense with your /T/ (second statement).

> But G47 (also not easy to
> draw) and T13 always co-existed, and it is now clear that G47 was a bi-
> literal sign, that is representing both a consonant and a vowel--which is not 
> true of /T/.  G47 was either "zi" or "tzi".  

Perhaps G47 was used at least for /z./ (underdotted z), if not also for
/s./ and /d./?  Anyhow, I tried to look up modern grammars of Egyptian.  At
the most they allowed that perhaps Egyptian had syllabic structures although
these were used mostly for foreign words.  It pointed out there is a debate
on this issue.  I wasn't able to understand where I could find T13 and G47, 
since all of what I looked at used different ways to represent the various
hieroglyphs.  If G47 is used for /z./ it would make sense with the above, in
your attempt to transcribe it as "zi" or "tzi".  (Again /z./ is
neither.  It's an
emphatic z).  And T13 would be /c/, which is used to transcribe the Semitic 
phoneme [ts], written with a samekh.  Again, I can't follow your signs
further because I have no idea what G47 and T13 are.

5) Scholars of biblical hebrew don't have it much easier.  While they have
a fully vocalized text, the text during first temple period times was
written differently and sounded differently.  Sometimes, words were
misinterpreted.  Trying to work back from the text as it was vocalized today
to the text as it was written, understanding when it was misinterpreted and
how it was originally supposed to be read is harder than you think.

I am not (yet) a scholar of biblical hebrew or studies.  That is why I try to
base myself on strong foundations when I write something.  And when I
guess, even an educated guess, to note that.

Yitzhak Sapir

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