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

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Tue Oct 3 10:12:59 EDT 2006

On 03/10/2006 14:17, leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il wrote:
> 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?
It is surely clear from the Masoretic accentuation rules that qamats 
could be either long or short, as can hiriq and qubuts. But I agree that 
the distinction may well have been of length only, not of quality. 
However, it is common in languages for length distinctions to develop 
over time into quality distinctions. This is especially obvious in 
English, in which long and short "a" would originally have had the same 
quality but since the 16th century have had very different qualities (in 
fact this is true of every simple vowel in English). This is probably 
the simplest explanation of how the two varieties of qamats came to have 
different qualities.

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

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