[b-hebrew] Tetragrammaton

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue Aug 22 23:37:28 EDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Edward Andrews" <edandrews at adelphia.net>
> In the Hebrew language, “There are, generally speaking, two main
> pronunciations: the Ashkenazi, or German, originated by central and 
> Eastern
> European Jews and carried to all countries to which those Jews have
> emigrated (Western Europe, America, etc.); and the Sephardi, or Spanish,
> used by Jews of Spanish or Portuguese stock in Europe and America and also
> by Jews from Oriental countries. In all universities and throughout 
> Israel,
> the Sephardi pronunciation has been adopted, since it is generally 
> believed
> that this is the pronunciation nearest to the original.” (Biblical Hebrew
> Step by Step, vol. 1, p 33, by Professor emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic
> studies, Menahem Mansoor).
> It is a well known fact, that the Ashkenazi Jews had changed the
> pronunciation of the jod to that of the “y” sound. However, the Sephardic
> Jews have kept the original pronunciation of the jod as “j.”

Dear Edward,

This is nonsense. There is no difference between the Askenazi and Sephardi 
pronounciation of the letter Yod. Besides which, neither Ashkenazim or 
Sephardim actually vocalize the Tetragrammaton. The reason that northern 
European languages chose to spell Jehovah with a J instead of Y is because, 
as you explain, in the middle ages J was pronounced in Latin (which was the 
language of scholarship) as English now pronounces Y (and as German does to 
this day), and later, most of the scholars who wrote in the venacular wrote 
in German. This is also why we have Jerusalem and Jesus instead of 
Yerushalaim and Iesus. More modern scholars have dropped this convention for 
the Tetragrammaton and gone to writing Yahweh, YHWH etc. The vowels used for 
"Jehovah" are, as someone here has stated, the vaowels of "Adonai", which is 
what the Masoretes added to the Tetragrammaton to signal that it should be 
pronounced "Adonai". There are some places, BTW, where the vowels in the MT 
are those of "Elohim", and the Tetragrammaton is traditionally pronounced as 

Yigal Levin 

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