[b-hebrew] CV syllables, was music in Hebrew

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Feb 3 05:27:59 EST 2006

On 2/3/06, Karl Randolph wrote:

> The pronunciation of modern Hebrew is irrelevant to the
> discussion. All I referenced was the pronunciation I was
> taught in class of Masoretic Hebrew.

As evidence for what you say two paragraphs from now.

> What I have asked for is evidence from when everyone
> can agree that Biblical Hebrew was spoken as a native
> tongue, namely from before the Babylonian Exile. All I
> have been given is theory, which I question, and data
> from much later periods.

No one agrees that "Biblical Hebrew" was spoken
before the Babylonian Exile.  Practically all philologists
agree that Biblical Hebrew as it is spelled today in the
Bible represents a stage not earlier than the Persian
period.  This means that any documents in an earlier
form of Hebrew were updated at least in spelling but
also possibly in vocabulary, sentence structure, we
don't know.  From the little inscriptions we have, it
appears that perhaps a very similar form of Hebrew
(what is known as  "Classical Hebrew" or "Standard
Hebrew") was being spoken 800 BCE - 600 BCE in
Judea.  That doesn't change the fact that "Biblical
Hebrew" if referencing the consonantal text only refers
to the Hebrew spoken in the Persian period.

> The evidence for Biblical Hebrew having had a CV
> structure is again theory, in this case my own based on
> reading Tanakh a few times through in unpointed Hebrew.
> That influenced me to believe that each letter originally
> stood for one consonantal sound, in contrast to the
> Masoretic pointing of two sounds for some of the letters.
> When read in that way, many words are unpronounceable
> except as CV syllables, hence my theory.

First, what you cannot pronounce is not something that
someone else may not be able to.  Ancient Hebrew was
unable to represent unvocalized -n- and so the -n-
consistently assimilated to the following consonant even
in borrowed words.  But you can pronounce it (note: "nc" in
"pronounce").  There could very well and probably are sounds
that you cannot pronounce but Ancient Hebrew could.

Second, the evidence you brought for those letters being
unpronounceable was from Modern Hebrew, against which
evidence was brought that 1) you are wrong (on the Ayin/
Aleph unvocalized issue), 2) your knowledge of Modern
Hebrew is faulty.  You have not answered those criticisms.

Finally, even if you prove that some or many words are
unpronounceable except as CV words, that doesn't mean
that the rest of the words that are left are unpronounceable
except as CV words.  It's quite possible for a language to
have some CV words and some CVCC words etc.  In order
to prove your theory you have to somehow show that *all*
words were unpronounceable except as CV words.

Yitzhak Sapir

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