[b-hebrew] Multiple pronunciations for vocalic shewa

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Aug 24 06:28:58 EDT 2007

On 8/23/07, Dr Raoul Comninos wrote:
> I noted with interest in Muraoka (p. 51) that Massoretic grammarians
> laid down three rules for pronouncing vocal shewa. a) a full vowel
> before gutturals similar to that of the gutterals concerned b) /i/
> before yod and c) /a/ elsewhere. I wondered how far today this
> practice is still observed among scholars of ancient Hebrew today, and
> how if at all these rules play in modern Hebrew. I have not seen any
> Hebrew grammar recommend multiple pronunciations of shewa and in most
> cases the recommendation is to say a short 'a' as in 'careen'. This
> too is at odds with modern Hebrew pronunciation of shewa which sounds
> to me more like the 'e' in better than like the 'a' in careen.

In addition to what Matthew has said, I want to point out that if a grammar
says to pronounce a short 'a', it may simply be making a generalization of
the vocalic schewa rule of Muraoka.  Even Muraoka's rule as you quote it
above is a general approximation.  There are additional exceptions, although
usually (today) these are marked out explicitly using hatafim.   The modern
pronunciation of the schewa has undergone further linguistic developments
since the Massoretic period, which I think are understood to have taken
place in Medieval Europe.

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list