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

Herman Meester crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Mon Jan 30 10:28:24 EST 2006

Shalom chevre ;)

Please allow me a few comments.
First of all, the Palestinian rabbi's pronunciation of Hebrew and
Aramaic is not necessarily the same as that of the Babylonians.
If we limit ourselves to the Tiberian system of our usually used MT we
can observe a few things:

a) a distinct vowel sign is most probably meant by the Masoretes as a
differently pronounced vowel. This is reflected in the Ashkenazi
pronunciation of Hebrew. The qametz problem, therefore, originally
does not exist.

b) the vowel sign that is put under the consonant sign or on the left
side of it is always pronounced as a vowel *after* the given
So the idea that in the case of the so-called "patach furtivum" (as in
רוח ,שבוע etc.), the patach is pronounced *before* instead of after
the consonant -by way of exception- is nonsense. The patach is
pronounced "for" the `ayin, hey or chet, i.e. "instead of" it.
The reason for this is that these gutturals/laryngals were not
pronounced anymore by the Palestinian Masoretes. If they had
pronounced them, they would not have needed to write any vowel there.

Therefore, in the original pronunciation of Hebrew (poetry) the
gutturals must be studied -if we talk about matters of rhythm, number
of syllables, etc.- *as if* they are not gutturals at all. If we have
a word with a guttural, we have to compare it to another word without
a guttural that has the same structure, such as Ya`aqob vs.

Sorry if I'm not telling anything new, but I was trying to create some
clarity for myself too, so even I could understand the present
One tricky thing is the alef. Like the hey when the latter is used as
a mater lectionis, often the alef is silent. The question is how long
it has been silent. That question may be relevant for the psalms too,
at least if you're a syllable counter. Unlike the "real" hey, chet,
and `ayin, the alif may have been used (occasionally of course) as a
real mater lectionis in quite an early phase of the biblical
literature. On the other hand, it is possible that all alefs really
were real consonants. All that affects the syllable count in poetry -
in my view, to the extent that we will never really know. A
problematic word is, for example, smol (left/north) - may have had two
syllables, something like *sam'al.

One thing that, imho, is impossible is the idea that words like Ruach
and Shavua` were ever originally *Rucha or *Shavu`a, as Karl

Best regards,

2006/1/29, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>:
> On 1/27/06, Karl Randolph wrote:
> > Yitzhak:
> >
> > In modern Hebrew, as I understand it, there is little
> > difference between the pronunciation of a final alep, he
> > and ayin. Even a final chet is often lost.
> The "final chet" is not often lost in modern Hebrew.  It is never
> lost.  In Modern Hebrew, there is technically "officially" a
> difference between aleph and ayin.  But in practice, many
> speakers do not pronounce it and view its pronounciation
> negatively.  Speakers of Spanish or Oriental descent do
> pronounce the Ayin.  In any case, Modern Hebrew has no
> genetic relation to any earlier form of Hebrew but is a
> resurrected language.
> It is agreed by everyone, speakers of Modern Hebrew,
> Orientals, Spanish European, Rabbis, Torah Readers, that
> the Ayin was originally pronounced differently.  Because
> those "who make Ayins into Alephs" are criticized in the
> Talmud we can learn that the Talmud Rabbis viewed the
> authentic form as different, but had to cope with Readers
> who already had lost the different pronounciation.
> > As such, $M) [Aramaic for "the name"], $MH [her name] and
> > $M( [rumor] have different pronunciations, whereas from
> > the way I was taught in class, they all had the same.
> Well, "$M)" is not Modern Hebrew.  "$M(" is not "Modern
> Hebrew" for rumor.  However, in Modern Hebrew, (in practice)
> "her name" and "hear!" (m. sg.) are pronounced the same.
> It might also be the same in authentic Torah readings
> depending on the pronounciation of the schewa, heh, and
> ayin, but in any case is a development and is agreed by
> all those who read the Torah to have lost what was originally
> a different pronounciation.
> > (Rochelle Altman mentioned that the Masoretes had tin
> > ears, could that be a reason that they and their followers
> > did not distinguish these sounds?
> I don't know.  What are tin ears and how does Rochelle
> Altman intend to support her claims of such?
> > As for what was the original final vowel, I don't know. I
> > somewhat doubt that it was a -u sound, but I may be
> > wrong (as I have been on other matters).
> The -u is used for reproducing the reconstructed case ending
> for nominative.  Other case endings include -a and -i.  By
> saying "*malku" was the original, no one intends to say that
> the last vowel was definitely -u in all cases.
> > In closing, as I said in my last message, I am not 100%
> > convinced of this theory myself, just that the evidence,
> > as I see it, seems to point in this way.
> Well, as far as I saw you haven't quoted any evidence yet.
> For example, in sentences such as "Other evidences include
> letters like eyin and alep, in order to be recognizable, would
> have had to end with a vowel sound.", you are calling personal
> opinions and incorrect data "evidence."
> Yitzhak Sapir
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