Fwd: [b-hebrew] Samekh/Sin

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue Nov 23 17:48:24 EST 2004

On 23/11/2004 17:27, Karl Randolph wrote:

> ...
>And I want to ask one more question, which may throw this whole pronunciation question in the air:
>What is the effect of orthography (correct spelling) on the pronunciations of the different graphemes?

Good question.

>To get back to Hebrew: the Greek theta is unquestionably derived from the Hebrew tet, xi from the samekh, sigma from sin/shin. Was there ever a time before quite modern times where Greek writing had its spellings frozen, thereby causing these letters to have a major change in pronunciations?

For Greek, yes there certainly was such a time, or perhaps several of 
them. I understand that for a time Attic spellings were frozen, and a 
bit later Koine spellings. And there is no doubt that the spellings of 
the Byzantine text of the New Testament were frozen in around the 4th 
century CE and remained in use throughout Byzantine times, and indeed up 
to the present in liturgical and some other orthographic traditions.

In general, modern Greek spellings are different from that Byzantine 
frozen tradition, but the frozen spellings of the vowels and diphthongs 
I, EI, H (eta), OI and U (upsilon) remain although some of these have 
been pronounced the same for two millennia.

>Yet Hebrew did suffer from a freezing of spelling, that lasted from the end of the Babylonian captivity to today, precisely at times when the language was under intense pressure to change.
>As a corrolary to the above question: is it possible that the Greek pronunciations preserve more of the original grapheme pronunciations than does Hebrew?

Greek spelling was probably frozen a little later than Hebrew, and so 
may preserve a little more of the original pronunciation.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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