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

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Wed Oct 4 14:35:07 EDT 2006

Rivka, you overestimate the differences between the Tiberian and the Babylon Masoretes.
To relate the current pronunciation to obscure etymology is doubtful at best.
The environmental explanation is actual, not a mnemonic rule. A single vowel [a], kamatz, is pronounced as short [o] in closed unstressed syllables. Such environmental peculiarities abound in many languages. In the carefully chanted Hebrew of the Masoretes, kamatz is [a]. Environmental pronunciation of kamatz as [o] is a colloquial phenomenon. How, in your opinion, such environmental variation "is not consistent with language development"? Long [a] shortens to short [o]. What's the inconsistency?
I'm not sure what exceptions you're talking about. You're welcome to point them out. Most certainly, they are not related to long-forgotten etymology.
Would you suggest several examples of the "etymological basis of vowels," of holam becoming kamatz katan?

Vadim Cherny
  We need to remember that the Masoretic pronunciation (which pronounced both kamatz vowels identically) was not the only Hebrew pronunciation at the time.  At the same time that the Masoretes vocalized the Tanakh per their pronunciation (I suppose, the pronunciation that was used in the northern part of the Land of Israel) two other vowel systems have developed, based on pronunciations that were different from that of the Masoretes.  The one developed in the center part of the Land of Israel (called the Yisraeli (formerly "Palestinian") vowel system) and the Babylonian vowel system.  Both of these systems had not only different vowel symbols but were actually different pronunciations.  

  The Sephardi pronunciation, which retained the etymological origin of the two Kamatz vowels is based on the Yisraeli pronunciation, even though all accepted the Masoretic vowel signs.  This is exactly why we have the "problem" of one symbols for two distinct vowels.  So the etymological basis for kamatz katan was not forgotten -- it was kept intact by Sepharadim in their Hebrew pronunciation, and have later become the basis of these vowels in modern Hebrew.  


  The "environmental" explanation is merely a "technical" framework; it's a useful rule, but it doesn't explain why we have in Sephardi and Israeli Hebrew two different vowels with the same symbol; it doesn't address "exceptions" (which are not really exceptions if one looks at the word etymology rather that strict adherence to rules);  and is not consistent with language development.


  I find it difficult to accept your explanation of kamatz katan as a "vulgar" presentation of certain kmatzim since the fact (i.e. the etymological basis of vowels) is so clearly present in the Sephardi pronunciation.  It is well known that the Sepharadim kept throughout the generations the differentiation between the two vowels, even though they used the same symbol for both, because they accepted the Masoretic nikkud.


  Kol tuv,



  Rivka Sherman-Gold

  The Ohs and Ahs of Torah Reading

  YODAN Publishing


  -----Original Message-----

  From: Vadim Cherny [mailto:VadimCherny at mail.ru] 

  Sent: Wednesday, October 04, 2006 9:52 AM

  To: YODAN; b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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


  From: "YODAN" <yodanco at yodanco.com>

  > 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


  > 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


  > pronounced.


  That's far from certain. The dot is BELOW the patah-like line. A dot below

  represents hirek rather than holam, and the sound is [ai] - [e] rather than



  >  In practically all cases of kamatz katan there is an underlying

  > word with kubutz or shuruk (UH) or holam (OH) vowel


  So you say that etymologically kamatz katan originates from holam/ shuruk,

  and that that etymology was somehow remembered so that we pronounce kamatz

  as [o]? That seems quite incredible.

  Etymological derivationof the words with kamatz katan from the words with

  holam/shuruk is very doubtful (I'm prepared to discuss your examples).

  The "remembrance" of etymology, bearing of etymology on current

  pronunciation of a cmoon vowel, is also very unlikely.


  What's wrong with a simple explanation that kamatz katan is a kamatz in

  closed unaccented syllables? Strictly environmental difference in



  Vadim Cherny


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