[b-hebrew] Apparently Redundant Letters

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 9 01:30:14 EDT 2005

Have a look at the articles by Rendsburg and Khan in:

Daniels, Peter T., ed. Phonologies of Asia and Africa (Including the
Caucasus): Volume 1. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1997.


David Kummerow.

> 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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