[b-hebrew] Tetragrammaton

Yonah Mishael yonahmishael at gmail.com
Wed Aug 23 00:34:40 EDT 2006

Edward Andrews:

> 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).

I think most people today believe that the Yemenite pronunciation is
something more to the original pronunciation. Either way, we are
certain that the Sephardic pronunciation is *not* since it has no
distinction between the Gimel [ג], Dalet [ד], or Tav [ת] in regard to
their appearing with a dagesh in the letter. Originally, these letters
were doubles and had multiple pronunciations, as evidenced by their
counterparts in other Semitic alphabets, such as the Arabic alphabet:
Ghayin [غ] vs. Ayin [ع]; Taa' [ت] vs. Thaa' [ث]; etc. The Yemeni
pronunciation is more closely related to the presumed pronunciation of
Proto-Semitic, at least according to my reading.

> 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."

What do "j" and "y" represent to you? Are you referring to their
correspondence in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)? The "j"
represents the semivowel "y" in the IPA. You must be confused, though.
In the Sephardic tradition, Yod is pronounced either as a semivowel
("y") or it is read as a marker of a long vowel ("ii" or "ei"). The
Sephardic pronunciation is what is used in Israel. It is *not*
(absolutely not!) the "j" sound that we have in English.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemenite_Jews

"There are two main pronunciations of Yemenite Hebrew, considered by
many scholars to be the most accurate form of Biblical Hebrew,
although there are technically a total of five that relate to the
regions of Yemen. In the Yemenite dialect, all Hebrew letters have a
distinct sound, except for the letters ס /sāmekh/ and ש /śîn/."

> The first symbol representing both the "i" and "j" came into use around the
> beginning of the 9th century C.E. In the late 11th century C.E. brought to
> Saxon, England. Therefore, the first symbol representing the "j" sound was
> in England 500 years before William Tyndale. Early in the 13th century the
> lower case "j" was formed by adding a curl to the bottom of the small "i."
> However, the Capital "J" would have to wait until the end of the 16th
> century or the beginning of the 17th century. Thus, The capital "I" was
> still used for the "J" sound when before a vowel.

This is the "j" of the IPA and of the German transcriptions that has
been pulled into English.

I second the previous comments from other posters about your need to
study Hebrew. I really think that this discussion is beyond the grasp
of someone who has not actually studied the Hebrew language. Until you
are trained in the nuances of Hebrew pronunciation and the differences
between the traditions from a functional perspective, you are simply
assuming your argument. You do not have the necessary experience to
determine the validity of what you have been reading.


Yonah Mishael ben Avraham
Joplin, MO
yonahmishael at gmail.com

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