[b-hebrew] Apparently Redundant Letters

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Oct 8 15:01:52 EDT 2005


Dear Alexander,

The fact is, that we don't really know when speakers of Hebrew began
differntiating between the "hard" and "soft" sounds of the letters
b-g-d-k-p-t. Certainly, by the early Middle Ages. Probably, by Second Temple
times (that is, the final centuries BCE), based on the translitteration of
some names in the Septuagint. Probably not in the pre-exilic period, based
on translitteraton of some names in Assyrian documents. In Ugaritic and
Proto-Canaanite, for instance, "t" and "th" were two distinct sounds, that
had two distinct signs. The same for "d" and "dh". In the 22 letter
Canaanite/Hebrew alphabet, they were assimilated into one sign. IF speakers
of Hebrew continued to diffentiate between the two sounds (as they did for
'ayin and ghayin, even though they only used one sign, and probably did for
sin and shin), it had nothing to do with the daggesh or with their position
in the word.

All languages evolve. This is true of Hebrew as well. Even "Biblical Hebrew"
encompasses several hundred years. Different regions had different dialects,
certainlly different accents. Remember "Shibboleth/Sibboleth"? So when you
try to recreate the "original" pronunciation, what you're recreating is a
scholarly convention, no more.

SO - from the point of view of the way Hebrew has been pronounced in an
unbroken (albeit changing and evolving) tradition:

> Beth (withouth dagheh) - V as in "very"

Correct.

> Waw - W as in "wish"

Almost all speakers of Hebrew for the past thousand years or so have
pronounced "vav", but yes, scholarly convention recreates "w".

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

I don't hear the difference in English. There obviously was one in Masoretic
Hebrew. Certain traditions preserve a "rh" sound for no dagesh.

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

Probably.

>
> Taw - TH as in "thin"
> Taw with daghesh - T as in "tin"

Yes

> 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.

Listen to a native Arabic speaker pronounce the equivelent sound.

>
> 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.

Yes. The two are NOT interchaingable.

>
> 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.

Neither have I.

>
> 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.

Certainly.


Yigal

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Alexander Oldernes" <alexander at oldernes.no>
To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2005 5:44 PM
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.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Glottal_stop.ogg
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Voiced_pharyngeal_fricative.ogg
>
> 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.
>
>
> Regards
> Alexander Oldernes
> Norway
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> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> 




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