[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Read, James C K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Sat Oct 29 13:32:27 EDT 2005

How do you define sloppy?

Look in any good English dictionary and you will see that there are 
two pronuniciations of 'to' presented. There is the emphatic 'to' 
which has the same pronunciation as 'two' and 'too' and there is the 
normal pronunciation of 'to' which is 't:' and is by far the most 
common. English alphabet is not 100% phonetic.

How do you pronounce this?:


Take the 'gh' from rough the 'ti' from education and the 'o' from women 
and it comes out as fish.

'But' is another example. It has two pronunciations depending on whether 
or not it is emphatic. Go and check the phonetics in any good dictionary 
and you will see for yourself.

Maybe once upon a time 'to' was always pronounced long without a schewa 
but if you want to speak quickly you have to reduce a few vowels and 
schewa is the fastest vowel to pronounce. It is precisely for this reason 
that it is the most common vowel in the English language. A,E,I,O,U can 
all be pronounced as schewa:

e of hunter
second o of bosom
a of lava or java
i of flirt
u of posture

I believe that a similar phenomenon has happened with b-hebrew. That initially 
every syllable had a vowel which reduced to schewa through either laziness 
or the need to communicate faster. The masoretes simply wrote what they heard 
and as they heard a schewa they wrote one. If English was not already written 
in stone and we had to invent a logical phonetic system we would likely do the 
same thing. But as tradition teaches us that hunter has an E and java has an A 
we continue in this tradition of inconsistent usage of graphemes.

That is why all good dictionaries have phonetic spelling. Because otherwise 
foreign students of English would not have a prayer of learning it well.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Karl Randolph
Sent: Sat 10/29/2005 3:02 PM
To: b-hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Which dialect of English are you speaking? The way I 
was taught to speak, and which I continue to use, is to 
pronounce all three examples exactly the same, and 
exactly the same as "two" and "too". Your final example 
shows how a person will slow down and pronounce "to" 
correctly to clear up misunderstanding caused by sloppy 

In literature writers sometimes misspell "to" to follow the 
sloppy pronunciation that many people use, but it is 
recognized that such pronunciation is nonstandard.

This goes back to the questions of Greek transliterations 
of Hebrew and Hebrew pronunciations, but we don't need 
to go into that again.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Read, James C" <K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk>
> > Do I need to go back to linguistics 101? Apparently so. In 
> > English there are three words, "two", "too" and "to". All three 
> > have exactly the same pronunciation. If they were spelled 
> > phonetically, they would be given the same spelling.
> Actually, 'two' and 'too' have the same phonetics but 'to' is
> most often different.
> Pronounse out loud these examples:
> I'm going to be late
> He went to the pub
> Let's drink to friendship
> I'm sure you'll agree that the vowel in 'to' is usually a schewa unless
> we want to emaphsize it in order to clarify a misunderstanding
> e.g. 'I said "He went *to* the shop" not "*from* the shop"'

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