[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Read, James C K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Fri Oct 7 07:02:32 EDT 2005

Sorry for the confusion I probably caused here. I was thinking of another 
document written in hebrew but not the Massorah. What do they call the
oral torah? I can't remember. Does that begin with 'm' as well?

Anyway, while I agree that the massoretic pointing represents what was 
traditionally held to be the original pronunciation, it it highly unlikely 
that this is the case. In particular, I would be wary of the vowels. Vowels 
have a tendency not only to change rapidly in the course of time but also to 
have vast differences between contemporary accents. Compare scottish 'Whet y' 
deyin'?' with Thames valley 'What are you doing?'.Particularly suspect are the 
schewas. In English, schewa is the most common vocalised vowel sound and yet 
it has no unique grapheme. It is represented by every other vowel sound in 
the English alphabet 'a','e','i','o','u' and the latin words from which these 
words originate definitely had no schewa but contained the pure vowels a,e,i,o,u
respectively. Words which are often used have been shortened to contain a 
vocal schewa and eventually to have no sound at all.

e.g. I am => I:m => I'm

Similarly I believe it possible that hebrew has undergone a similar process

e.g. ehayeh => eh:yeh => ehyeh

Your observation that different roots in the cognates gives strong evidence that 
the sin/shin were already considered separate phonemes before the split. The only 
question that remains is when this split actually happened. For those who hold 
the account of Babel to be true it is reasonable to assume that hebrew and it's 
cognates came from one common language which belonged to one of the groups that 
had had their language confused. For those who hold only to linguistic methods 
it is reasonable to make the same assumption (that the cognates all came from 
the same common root) but the question of when? is rather more open.

In order to definitively prove Karl's theory wrong we would need to demonstrate 
that these cognates with differentiated sin/shin already existed before the time 
of the writing of the torah. To be completely thorough we need to make sure we 
use the oldest possible date of the torah and recent arguments have shown that 
the oldest proposed date for the exodus is the early 16th century.

Can you unequivocally demonstrate that these cognates were in circulation before 
the early 16th century?

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Yitzhak Sapir
Sent: Fri 10/7/2005 4:49 AM
To: b-hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin
On 10/7/05, Read, James C wrote:
> Erm, I haven't personally read the massorah but from all those that
> have read it or portions of it I gather that the hebrew it contains
> is more than blatantly evidently much more modern in style and word
> usage.

The Massorah proper does not contain much Hebrew.  It refers to the
additional "tradition" related to transmitting the text.  This includes the
vocalization and cantillation marks, which are obviously not any more
modern Hebrew in style or word usage than the unpointed text itself,
because it is the exact same text.  It also includes various notes on
the text relating to the number of times particular words are used in
the Bible in the same or similar spelling, but these notes are so terse
there is hardly any words used in them at all except for Biblical quotes.

> On the matter of sin/shin I think Karl has good reason to believe these represented
> one sound.

The reason to think they are different is:
1) They commonly represent different roots.  Consider the earlier examples
(which Karl ignored):  $kr - beer/alcohol vs. &kr - reward, or $kl - to lose a
son vs. &kl - understanding (very vague translations).
2) They are mirrored in Arabic also in different roots.
3) The Massorah accurately corresponds $ and & differently with the different
meanings and with the cognate in Arabic.
All of the above suggests that the Massorah accurately transmits Shin and Sin
which were originally differentiated.  While eventually the Sin merged
with Samekh,
the spelling preserved the original different roots.  If you read
Hebrew unpointed you
would probably conclude that the two meanings were associated with each root
but you'd not understand that this is consistent.  Besides, if someone
reads a Sin
as a Shin phoneme in unpointed text, he would be considered illiterate in both
synagogue and public.

Also, while I can sympathize with you regarding the love letters
Stephen has been
sending you, there is no need to resend them to the list.  Just set it
up so mails
from Stephen auto-forward to spam.  If you must resend them somewhere, may
I suggest you resend them to Yahoo:


Yitzhak Sapir
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