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

YODAN yodanco at yodanco.com
Tue Oct 3 19:07:45 EDT 2006

I believe that it is well established that the Masoretes used an identical
pronunciation for what grammarians later classified as two types of Kamatz
vowels.  The Masoretic pronunciation is believed to be like the English "au"
or "aw" similar to that of traditional Ashkenazi and Yemenite pronunciations
of these vowels (which are pronounced identically in these two


The fact that the original symbol of kamatz (see the Leningrad Codex and
Aleppo Codex) was not like a T letter (which is the current symbol of both
Kamatz vowels) but, rather, as a horizontal line under which there is a dot.
This is believed to reflect the pronunciation of kamatz by the Masoretes -
as something in between Patah (ah) and Holam (oh) - which is how au or aw is


 The Sephardi pronunciation, which did not develop from the Masoretic
pronunciation but, rather, from the other Israeli pronunciation (called
sometimes "Palestinian" Hebrew, reflecting the name of the Land of Israel
during the Roman period and beyond. having nothing to do with the current
use of "Palestinian") had two different pronunciations for what the
Masoretes had a single pronunciation.  The Sephardi pronunciation for kamatz
that developed from an original long AH is kamatz gadol (or Rahav) and is
pronounced by Sepharadim (and now also in Israeli Hebrew) like Patah,
whereas the kamatz that developed from an original UH vowel is called kamatz
katan (hatuf) and is pronounced in Sepharadi and Israeli Hebrew as OH (like
Holam).  In practically all cases of kamatz katan there is an underlying
word with kubutz or shuruk (UH) or holam (OH) vowel, and this is a useful
way to recognize kamatz katan, particularly in cases where applying kamatz
katan rules is not straightforward (especially when it's difficult to decide
if a shva is naH or nA).


Rivka Sherman-Gold


Yodan Publishing



-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of
leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sent: Tuesday, October 03, 2006 6:18 AM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Kamatz katan; Ashkenazi pronunciation;was:


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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