[b-hebrew] Apparently Redundant Letters

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Sun Oct 9 00:51:53 EDT 2005

 Gimel without daghesh is a fricative 'g'   - a sound not found in English,
but is found in some Dutch, German, Spanish pronunciations and Gaelic.  The
distinction between the begad kepat letters with and without dagesh is
consistently fricative / stop.  It was probably originally between lenis and
fortis stops.  Teth, Qoph and Sade were 't', 'k' and 's' with either
glottalisation or pharyngealisation.  Arabic has examples of all three. 
There is a fairly recent article claiming sade was a 'ts' sound, but I haven
t tracked that down yet - it is usually 'ts' in modern Hebrew.  Sin and
Samekh have apparently been identical for a long time - probably since
Classical Hebrew times.  'Aleph and 'Ayin were most likely as in Arabic.
-------Original Message-------
From: Alexander Oldernes
Date: 10/09/05 01:44:43
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
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
My perception is based on "A modern grammar for classical Hebrew" (Garrett),
and I have the following understanding of the apparently 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
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
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
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