[b-hebrew] Translating - some elementary questions

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Mon Oct 2 17:36:01 EDT 2006

On 02/10/2006 20:56, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> 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.
Well, this is of course hatef qamats, but I take your point that it was
pronounced [ɔ], which is actually typographically an inverted "c" (yes,
this letter was first used in African languages and was printed by using
an inverted "c" block).

I would suggest that in fact qamats was pronounced more like [ɒ]
(typographically an inverted script "a" or alpha), which is more open
than [ɔ] and to western ears sounds like a cross between "a" and "o".
This vowel is used in Persian and Uzbek, and contrasts with both a front
"a" (cf. patah) and a more closed "o" (cf. holam). In Uzbek it is
written as "o", which explains why the country is in Uzbek called
O'zbekiston (but o' is the more closed "o") and its capital Toshkent,
whereas our forms Uzbekistan and Tashkent are based on how Russians
heard the vowel, perhaps originally in a different dialect.
>> 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.
OK. But if qamats was pronounced more like "a" in some dialects, that
undermines your claim that the "a" pronunciation was lost until
reintroduced under Arabic influence. It seems more probable that if
there were dialect variations they continued, and the Sephardi
pronunciation descends from an earlier dialect with an "a" qamats.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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