[b-hebrew] matres lectionis

Bearpecs at aol.com Bearpecs at aol.com
Tue Jul 26 16:54:33 EDT 2005

In a message dated 7/26/2005 12:44:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time,  
K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk writes:

I  personally find it difficult to 
believe that the hebrews would decide to  start writing in 
some vowels but not form a complete system of vowelling.  

Yes, the matres lectionis started out as  consonants.  They still are 
consonants in many words.  But we can  trace epigraphically their development as 
matres lectionis.  For instance,  we see the same words in inscriptions spelled 
with consonants and then with  added matres lectionis; for example 'ish spelled 
)$ and at a later date spelled  )Y$.  Also, when a word is the same in Hebrew 
and Phoenician, we can see  that it is spelled with consonants in Phoenician 
(which never developed matres  lectionis) and with added matres lectionis in 

In a Semitic language, it made perfect sense to first create letters for  the 
consonants.  Why?  because they are the sounds most readily  perceived, as 
well as bearing the most linguistic information.
As time went on, it made sense to indicate long vowels, which are more  
readily perceived than short vowels, and carry more linguistic  information.  It 
made sense to use the available resources, i.e. the  letters which already 
existed.  Hence matres lectionis, much more logical  than "a complete system of 
There is substantial concrete evidence for the development of matres  
lectionis as indicating vowels and not necessarily consonants.

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