[b-hebrew] Was Schewa really silent?

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Fri Aug 31 14:35:24 EDT 2007


1. I know that a second Schwa coming before a "guttural" is difficult  
to pronounce without an added E, for example, YI$[ ]L[ ]XU, 'they  
will send' or YI$[ ]M[ ](U, 'they will hear', which are routinely  
pronounced [even by me] YI$[ ]L[E]XU and YI$[ ]M[E](U, but this has  
nothing to do with the issue of the "Schwa NA" and "Schwa NAX" but  
rather with the articulation of the following  letters. Yet YIR[ ]K[ ] 
BU, 'they will ride', is very fine, in my opinion. Send me please  
another example of a Hebrew word with a Schwa that must be "moved".
2. The, misguided, concept of "Schwa NA" is a license to turn Hebrew  
into an EEE language. See how crisp, measured and beautiful is V[ ]RIN 
[ ]NU of Jeremiah 13:11, as compared to the slushy V[E]RIN[E]NU,  
which is with four vowels [Hebrew speakers have no use for "half"  
3. Hebrew speakers tend nowadays to deconstruct the prepositioned  
Schwaic V, B, K, L, M, intuitively recognizing that they are but the  
curtailed words VEH, BEH, KEH, LEH, MEH. And I like it. Thus, they  
clearly pronounce B[ ]TOK, 'inside', as BE-TOK. Yet they pronounce B 
[ ]KOR, 'first-born', in which the opening B is radical, as BKOR,  
without even a hint of "movement".
No my book does not deal with this issue as it is irrelevant to its  
main theme.
E-mail me, please, the paper by William Chomsky: "THE PRONUNCIATION  
OF THE SHEWA", even though I have no use also for "long vowels" and  
"short vowels".
I am glad you are willing to review my book for amazon.com. I will  
send you a gift copy but meanwhile you can find its entire content in

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Aug 31, 2007, at 12:20 PM, Dr Raoul Comninos wrote:

> Am I understanding your correctly that you are arguing shewa is never
> vocal? I would love to hear you read a text of the Hebrew Bible to see
> what you do with shewa, to see what you do with shewa in practice. Is
> it too much to ask that you record a few lines in a wmv file and email
> them to me? Do you deal with any of these issues in your book?
> On 8/31/07, Isaac Fried <if at math.bu.edu> wrote:
>> James,
>> The whole business of Schwa NA and Schwa NAX is in my opinion
>> baloney. It is a historical misunderstanding and is one of the many
>> ghosts cozily and imperturbably inhabiting the dim corners of Hebrew
>> grammar. It got now to the point of becoming a religious question of
>> how to properly recite the prayers, with some Hebrew prayer books
>> marking what they think needs to be "moved".
>> There is only one Schwa and it is but an indication to put a tiny
>> hiatus or pause after the marked consonant. Since this requires
>> phonetic discipline some find it easier to sloppily insert a thin,
>> and ugly, E into this gap, phonetically disfiguring thereby the
>> Hebrew language.
>> Thus: XAL[ ]LEI not XAL[E]LEI, CIL[ ]LEI not CIL[E]LEI, UMAD[ ]DU,
>> not UMAD[E]DU, Y[ ]$AD[ ]DEM, not Y[E]$AD[E]DEM, AP[ ]PU, not AP[E] 
>> PU.
>> There is a natural tendency to place such a redundant (repugnant) E
>> after an initial schwaic L, M, N, R, Y. To wit: L[E]BENAH, 'brick', L
>> [E]BIBAH, 'cake', N[E]BIAH, 'prophetess', R[E]BABAH, 'ten thosand', Y
>> [E]SOD, 'foundation', Y[E]LADYIM, 'children', in place of L[ ] 
>> [ ]BIBAH, N[ ]BIAH, R[ ]BABAH, Y[ ]SOD, Y[ ]LADYIM. Also if the
>> second letter is Alef, He or Ayin as in the mispronounced G[E]) 
>> ULAH, $
>> the root DHR, 'gallop, canter'). But $)AL, 'ask', SAD(, 'eat', $)AB
>> 'draw water', appear to be easily pronounceable as $[ ])AL, S[ ](AD
>> and $[ ])AB.
>> Cleavage of a consonant cluster may also be a myth. Even (new) words
>> such as BAR[ ]RAN, 'fastidious, choosy', from the root BRR, or XA$[ ]
>> $AN, 'apprehensive', from the root X$$, should not be pronounced BAR
>> [E]RAN, and XA$[E]$AN.
>> As far as I can recall, no Hebrew noun starts with a schwaic Alef,
>> He, Xet or Ayin , but an initial schwaic Resh is common, for
>> instance, R[ ]BABAH. There are few Hebrew nouns containing a schwaic
>> Alef such as B)[ ]$AH, 'cockle' of Job 31:40. In Isaiah 42:21 we find
>> the verbal V[ ]YA)[ ]DYIR. A schwaic He is also rare.
>> The 1 Kings 6:8 UB[ ]LULYIM, 'with winding stairs' is commonly
>> pronounced U-BE-LULIM. But Leviticus 2:5 B[ ]LULAH, 'mingled' is
>> pronounce BLULAH to indicate that this B is radical. Also M[ ]MALE)
>> is being voiced nowadays as ME-MALE( in recognition of the
>> prepositioned M being short for MI, 'he, who'.
>> Isaac Fried, Boston University
> -- 
> Dr Raoul Comninos
> 93 Wagenaar Street
> Monte Vista
> 7460
> South Africa
> capechurch at gmail.com
> Fax: (086) 6544615

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