[b-hebrew] vowel length

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Nov 8 21:21:49 EST 2006

On 11/7/06, Uri Hurwitz wrote:

> The classification of the Hatafim is of course strictly arbitrary. The
> Heb. medieval poetric metrics follow  closely the Arab. example, except
> that in the latter there are no hatafim of course.

I don't know what you mean by arbitrary and why it is "of course"
arbitrary.  In Tiberian Hebrew, hatafim represented short open
vowels equivalent in length to short vowels in closed syllables.
Sephardic Hebrew was a different development than Tiberian,
being more akin to the Israeli reading tradition, but adopting the
Tiberian signs.  However, it would be odd for the Sephardi poets
to adopt the Tiberian signs, and reinterpret them as reduced
vowels shorter than the short vowels in closed syllables (that is,
differently than the Tiberian pronounciation), especially when
such reduced vowels do not appear (as far as I know) in
Arabic, which as you say, was the model on which the
Sephardi poetry is based.

An interesting article on this subject is:
Hoberman, Robert D. and Ramer, Alexis M., "Sephardic
Scansion and Phonological Theory." JAOS 119/2 (1999): 211-217.
JSTOR Link: http://tinyurl.com/y4coqd
This article argues that the conjunction u- in Sephardi
poetry was always short, but scanned as long in a closed
syllable, because of the following consonant cluster.

> All this is outside the scope of this list, but you'll find more
> details in any introduction to medieval Heb. poetry.

I don't think it is outside the scope of the list.  In the context
of the discussion, the investigation of the vowels in Sephardi
poetry throws light on the realization of the vowels in the
Tiberian and Israeli reading traditions of the Hebrew Bible.
However, if you have a specific reference to this point in some
well-accepted textbook on Medieval Hebrew Poetry, hopefully
one that shows evidence for its claims of meter, that would be
greatly appreciated.

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list