[b-hebrew] Translating - some elementary questions

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Oct 2 15:56:27 EDT 2006

On 10/1/06, Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 01/10/2006 08:45, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> > ...
> > Having actually looked up evidence now, I need to correct that above
> > explanation.  Like the "long a to o" shift, Phoenician had a similar shift in
> > "short a".  Hebrew probably did too.  The qamats represents those situations
> > that "short a" became "o" among others.  Under Arabic influence, those "short
> > a" cases that became "o" were now read as "a" again.
> >
> >
> Yitzhak, are you really claiming that all cases of qamats in Masoretic
> Hebrew were always pronounced as "o" and not "a" until after the time of
> the Masoretes?

In the Massoretic tradition, yes.  In fact, it is not only what I
claim, it is what
modern linguists claim.  For example, Geoffrey Khan, in "Tiberian Hebrew
Phonology" in Phonologies of Asia and Africa (1997) identifies qamets as
being phonetically realized as "back, half-open rounded", and then identifies
it as Unicode +0254 (A sort of upside down, backwards e, without the bar).
He later spells the pronounciation of "ship" )NYH as "?enij'je:", where e
represents Unicode 254.

> This is an improbably claim, as is surely demonstrated by
> transliterations as "a" into Greek, Latin and other languages, from say
> 3rd century BCE (LXX) to 4th century CE (Jerome).

That could be explained, and probably is to be explained, as dialect
differences.  We know that the Greek/Latin transcriptions do represent
a dialectical variant from Tiberian Hebrew.

> For example, if the
> names of Hebrew Bible characters which ended in -YH or -YHW, with qamats
> under the yod, were pronounced -yo or -yohu in Hebrew of this period,
> why do the Greek and Latin forms of their names uniformly end in -AS and
> not -OS? Many more such examples could be given.

Why do the Greek and Latin forms consistenly end the 2nd m.s. suffix without
a vowel?  The dialect model can also explain the Sefardi pronounciation, of
course, but it still appears to be to be a later back-formation from an original
"o" sound, as can be deduced from words like "yamim" (days), where the
qamets represents a contracted "aw > o" sound change that occurs uniformly
in the NWS transcriptions of the 2nd Millenium BCE, including Ugaritic.

Yitzhak Sapir

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