[b-hebrew] matres lectionis

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Tue Jul 26 12:02:44 EDT 2005

In Chapter 3 of my latest book (_In The Beginning: A Short History of
the Hebrew Language_, NYU Press), I go through the introduction of
matres lectionis in some detail, putting the innovation in context in
terms of writing in general and of Hebrew specifically.  The evidence
suggests that they date from the 10th century, but we still have some
important puzzles to figure out (for example, why Greek has no written
evidence for 700 years and then pops into place with a fully formed

In Chapter 4 I relate YHWH to the innovation of matres lectionis,
noting and discussing the obvious fact that the tetragrammaton
consists only of letters used as matres lectionis.  People who have
have been following this and the dicussion about YHWH may be


>The Gezer Calendar (c. 925) does not use them.  (The waw in YRXW is
>not a mater lectionis, but is to be understood phonetically as "ew"
>(contraction of "ehu", and the word translated "his two months".)

There is absolutely no evidence to support this "W=dual" hypothesis,
and considerable evidence against it.  I think we have to admit that
the Gezer Calendar is still not fully deciphered.

-Joel Hoffman

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