[b-hebrew] Kamatz katan; Ashkenazi pronunciation; was: Translating

leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue Oct 3 09:17:53 EDT 2006

I think that the real question about the Kamatz katan is not when its
pronounced - the rules are pretty clear, though there are different
customs. The real question is, why the mesoretes used the same symbol for
two different (albeit related) vowels: the long a and the short o. Could it
be that THEY pronounced them both the same? If so, how, as a long a or as a
short o?

Yigal Levin

Original Message:
From: Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2006 10:36:51 +0300
To: yitzhaksapir at gmail.com, b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Kamatz katan; Ashkenazi pronunciation;was:

From: "Yitzhak Sapir"
> Why is this so?  My working explanation is starts with the fact that
> among the many situations in Semitic that later developed to a qamatz
> in Hebrew, is a large class of instances that had a long "a".  Hebrew
> Phoenician, and Canaanite developed long "a" into "o".  Aramaic and
> Arabic did not.  The qamatz was part of this "long a to o" change.  This
> is the point where the Massoretes codified the vowels, so this is the
> stage the vowels represent.  It appears to me, that later, probably under
> Arabic influence (which did not have the long a to o change), the words
> which had Arabic parallels with a long a, were reread with the qamats
> signifying "long a" again.  In non-Arabic speaking countries, this did not
> happen.  This change is one of the basic differences between "Ashkenazi"
> pronunciation and "Sefardi" pronunciation, Sefardi signifying spain and
> Arabic speaking countries, while Ashkanzi signifies other European
> countries.  However, the Massoretes also used a qamats in situations
> that originally developed from other "non long a" cases.  The Arabic did
> not have a "long a" in those cases and so did not influence the reading of
> Hebrew.   Those are the situations of "qamats qatan", where the original
> qamats sound of "ow" remained.  This is one such case.  The original
> Semitic root behind this word is ")ukl", and this developed in Biblical
> Hebrew, without a suffix, as ")okel".  Here, because of the suffix, the
> in ")okel" apparently became the "ow" of a "qamats".

The difference between kamatz and kamatz katan is rather simple.
Kamatz becomes katan in closed unaccented syllables.
Long a shortens to short o. [Long a elongates to au - long o. Similarly,
short a + u produces short o.]

The difference between Sephardi and Ashkenazi is also clear. It relates to
Germanized initial stress shift.
davAr - dAvar (initial stress shift of Germanized pronunciation) - dA:var
(elongation of open stressed vowel) - dOvar (a: - au - o) - dOv'r
(post-tonic vowel reduced without gemination). Now, there appears a problem
that two similar kamatz in davar are read differently. To solve that, open
stressed syllable is closed with iod which protects the next vowel, dOv'r -
dOivor. First o is long, the second is short.

I discuss those transformations at the end of

Vadim Cherny

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