[b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Jul 20 19:57:39 EDT 2005

On 21/07/2005 00:14, Read, James C wrote:

> Peter noted that:
>  I note that the English pronunciation
> Jehovah is similar, consisting of four nominal consonants but in fact
> only three pronounced consonants - because final h is silent in English
> as normally in Hebrew.
> I think the silent pronunciation of the final H is more due to our
> inability to pronounce it than anything else, while the parallel is a
> good one. ... And therefore help us to
> understand why we see forms like 'iaoua' and 'iabo' in Greek 
> transliterations.
> As also the Greek alphabet had difficulty in translating a spirant he
> mid-word. ...
> I don't know if all that was followable or made any sense to anyone except
> to me!?!?
Yes, James, this does make sense, at least to me as a linguist. Your 
explanation of how Hebrew W became Greek beta in IABE etc is good, and 
this is good evidence for a pronunciation Ya(h)ve derived from Yahwe; 
the Greek forms IAOUE and IAOUAI also clearly support the pronunciation 
Yahwe. So Rolf is wrong to state that there is no ancient evidence for 

I am honestly uncertain whether those who advocate the form of the name 
"Yehowah" or similar intend that the final he is to be considered as 
pronounced or not. I have assumed from their argumentation from the Qere 
pointing that they intend a Hebrew form יְהֹוָה, 
yod-sheva-he-holam-vav-qamets-he (as actually found in some places in 
Hebrew Bibles, but normally understood as a Ketiv with Qere vowels), in 
which case the final he would be silent. Now maybe some are arguing that 
the actual form is יְהוֹהַּ, yod-sheva-he-vav with holam-furtive patah-he 
with mappiq. And that is an alternative, in which the final he would be 
sounded but the vav would be only a vowel, and so best rendered in 
English as Yehoah (or Jehoah) with no v or w.

As for the form Yahweh, this was certainly intended to represent the 
form of the name promoted by Gesenius in the 19th century, which was 
explicitly יַהְוֶה, yod-patah-he-sheva-vav-segol-he, in which the he is a 
silent mater. The final h is added in English to suggest a suitable 
English pronunciation, but I note that in the English edition of 
Gesenius' grammar, GKC section 17c, the English form is spelled Yahwè, 
i.e. with a final e grave.

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

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