[b-hebrew] YHWH pronunciation - history of matres lectionis

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue Aug 2 15:52:00 EDT 2005

On 02/08/2005 18:52, Karl Randolph wrote:

>That is, if it continued to be pronounced. But could the 
>present use of He as a mater lectionis been the result of 
>pronunciation changes that occured over centuries when the 
>Hebrew language was mainly a read language, and the rules 
>for reading were derived from Greek and contemporary 
>Aramaic pronunciations?

Well, Karl, you suggestion here seems to turn on its head the accepted 
theory of the history of matres lectionis. For you seem to suggest that 
word final he in e.g. feminine endings was originally pronounced, and 
only lost its pronunciation after the time of Nebuchadnezzar. This is of 
course possible. But do you have any evidence for this? I am not sure 
what the evidence against it would be - except for one point, that the 
feminine ending in classical Arabic is also a silent he, in what is 
probably a common origin which dates from a very early time.

>>From the clues that I see, I theorize that pre-Exilic Hebrew 
>was pronounced in the pattern of consonant-vowel, in the same 
>pattern as modern Japanese (That's the only place where I think 
>the two languages resembled each other). But that later 
>unstressed vowels were dropped, as well as some of the 
>consonants shifted in their pronunciations. One group of 
>unstressed vowels would have been the final vowels of most 
>words. Another set were unstressed internal vowels that were 
>replaced with shewas.

You are probably right here, that syllables were originally at least 
mostly CV. There is good evidence, mainly from cognate languages, that 
early Hebrew did have word final short vowel case endings, and so that 
most if not all words ended with vowels. But when these were dropped I'm 
not sure.

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

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list