[b-hebrew] Masoretic Pointing and CV Syllables

Peter Bekins pbekins at fuse.net
Sun Aug 19 07:46:37 EDT 2007


I did not mean to imply anything contrary to what you have added, I  
was trying to write briefly and unfortunately I was imprecise. Thank  
you for being more precise.

 >>>> Tiberian Hebrew is a convenient standard for Biblical Hebrew.
 >>It is also the most authentic and complete reproduction.  Tiberian
 >>Hebrew represents an authentic tradition of Hebrew that was passed
 >>down even as Hebrew ceased to be spoken.  Even the fact that
 >>Tiberian Hebrew won out against other vocalization schemes is
 >>a result of the scholarship of Tiberias -- where Jerusalem's scholars
 >>fled after they were expelled from Jerusalem.

The point I was trying to make is that it does not matter if we have  
lost the "original" pronunciation, whatever that means. Tiberian  
Hebrew is a valid pronunciation, it is important to understand as it  
is the standard scholarly pronunciation, and as I quoted from Barr  
and Morag it provides important historical information about the  
language (for the reasons you have given above, that the Masoretes  
maintained a spoken tradition and that they were careful scholars).

 >>>> There is a basic three-way alternation in Semitic languages  
 >>>> the vowels a-i-u. Tiberian Hebrew also distinguishes e and o  
 >>Northwest Semitic already distinguished o, from aw > o (holam).   
 >>Phoenician, and Moabite, also distinguished e, and this was absorbed
 >>in Hebrew possibly due to the influence of Mishnaic Hebrew, which
 >>likely evolved from a dialect that also had ay > e (tsere).   
Tiberian Hebrew
 >>further distinguished ɛ (seghol) and ɔ (qamats).

I did not mean to imply that e and o popped up magically in Tiberian  
Hebrew, only that the basic classes of vowels for distinguishing  
meaning in Semitic languages were a-i-u. Through the historic  
processes of sound change other vowels become phonemic in the  
individual languages, but for the most part these changes are  
understandable and explainable as you have suggested. I was also  
attempting to describe the vowels generically as "classes" rather  
than get into the 5-vowel/7-vowel issue. You have described the 7- 
vowel system with which I agree.

Thus we can understand X"+:) as a qitl type with i-theme vowel and  
(you are correct, I typed qitl by mistake) DE$E) as a qatl type with  
original a-theme vowel which has shifted to E (seghol) by a regular  
process. Using the Masoretic Text with historical and comparative  
studies we have access to the basic underlying phonemic structure or  
the "lexical forms" (however you want to put it) even if we cannot  
recreate exactly how any given speaker would have pronounced a  
sentence phonetically at the "surface level".

Peter Bekins 

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