[b-hebrew] Was Schewa really silent?

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk
Fri Aug 31 14:52:29 EDT 2007


Hi Isaac,

am I to take the below as meaning that you don't accept 
propositions that vocal schewas were full vowels in 
proto semitic?

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James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science 
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       -  thesis1: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex 
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  -  thesis2: language acquisition simulation

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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[ ]BENAH, 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, $ 
[E](ARYIM, T[E])O, M[E](ARAH, S[E](ARAH, B[E]HEMAH, D[E]HYIRAH (from  
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

On Aug 30, 2007, at 5:00 PM, JAMES CHRISTIAN READ wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> recent discussions have reminded me of a point which I
> have never really fully resolved in my mind. The whole
> point of the Massoretic pointing system was to preserve
> the pronunciation by introducing *non ambiguous*
> representation of vowels.
>
> Why would the massoretes betray this goal by giving
> the point which represents Schewa a dual role? And so,
> I guess what I'm really asking is, is there any real
> evidence that Schewa was used by the Massoretes to
> close a syllable rather than to represent a vowel?
>
> -------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------------------------------------------
>
> James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
> http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       -  thesis1: concept driven  
> machine translation using the Aleppo codex
> http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  -  thesis2: language acquisition  
> simulation
>
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> -------------------------------------------------------
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