[b-hebrew] Apparently Redundant Letters

Read, James C K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Sat Oct 8 13:02:17 EDT 2005

The beth without dagesh is almost but not quite like the british 'v'. It would have 
been more similar to the Spanish 'v' which is almost an Enlish 'v' but not quite 
there and in some words it sounds more like an English 'b' and in others it sounds
more like an English 'v' depending on the sounds that come before and after it.
The reason I hold this opinion is because the sounds of beth with and without dagesh 
must have been close enough for them to have been almost indistinguishable at some 
point in history. The only phonemes I am aware of that ehibit this behaviour are 
the Spanish examples I cited above.

Similarly I believe the hebrew daleth resembled the Spanish 'd' which is often heard 
as an aspirated 'd' but quite the 'th' sound of 'the'. Again, this is because of phonetic

In the case of the sin/shin it is possible that the ancient hebrews did not hear a great 
enough difference in their pronunciation to merit using two differing graphemes. Rather 
like the case of the two different 'l' sounds that exist in English. It is evident that 
they exist but the difference has not been big enough for me to ever hear an English 
person complain that there should be another grapheme to differentiate the two.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Alexander Oldernes
Sent: Sat 10/8/2005 4:44 PM
To: b-hebrew
Subject: [b-hebrew]  Apparently Redundant Letters
Some of the Hebrew letters appears redundant, because the pronunciation has changed into sounds that are already used by other letters.

Redundant letters makes it hard to remember how to spell a word.
Therefore it's a good practice to distinguish the sounds of the letters, making it easier to remember the spellings.
We may not be sure of the original sounds, but I think it's important to indicate that these letters originally had different sounds.

I have always tried to distinguish these letters by pronouncing them differently.
The problem is that there are so many sources with different opinions on which sound is closest to the original pronunciation.

Therefore I would like to hear the general understanding among the b-hebrew readers.

My perception is based on "A modern grammar for classical Hebrew" (Garrett), and I have the following understanding of the apperantly redundant letters...

Beth (withouth dagheh) - V as in "very"
Waw - W as in "wish"

Gimel - GH as in "aghast"
Gimel with daghesh - G as in "good"

Daleth - TH as in "the"
Daleth with daghesh - D as in "dot"

Taw - TH as in "thin"
Taw with daghesh - T as in "tin"
Teth - T as in "tot"
Teth may have been pronounced more on the palate than its counterpart Taw, which seems to have been pronounced with the tongue on the back of the teeth and with a slight breathing.

Kaf with daghesh - K as in "keep"
Qof - a K at back of throat
The letter Qof was probably pronounced further back in the throat than Kaf.

Sin - S as in "seen"
Samekh - S as in "sack"
Sin is a softer S than the Samekh. I haven't managed to distinguish these two sounds.

Alef - The grammar book says this letter had "almost no sound". I believe it was a glottal stop (a very brief silence, air through the glottis is stopped)
Ayin - The grammar book says this letter is a glottal stop. I believe it's more like the Arabic Ayn - a voiced pharyngeal fricative, without a glottal stop.

Wikipedia has audio example of glottal stop and voiced pharyngeal fricative.

If I have understood it correctly the name Be'er in Numbers 21:16 is to be pronounced Be-(no sound, glottal stop)-er,
and Ba'al in Judges 2:13 is to be pronounced Ba-(voiced pharyngeal fricative, withouth glottal stop)-al.

I look forward to hearing your perception on this subject.

Alexander Oldernes
b-hebrew mailing list
b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

This email has been scanned for all viruses by the MessageLabs Email
Security System.

This email has been scanned for all viruses by the MessageLabs Email
Security System.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list