[b-hebrew] "their mouth" compared to "their fruit"

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Feb 6 04:00:46 EST 2007


On 2/5/07, kenneth greifer wrote:
> "Their mouth" is usually spelled pay yud hay mem or pay yud mem vav, and
> "their fruit" is spelled pay resh yud hay mem (Amos 9:14) and pay resh yud
> mem (Isaiah 65:21). Is there some kind of a grammatical reason why "their
> mouth" is not spelled pay yud mem?

Dear Kenneth,

The reason is that the singular for mouth was likely "pv:" where v: represents
some long vowel.  The singular for "fruit" was probably "piryv" where v
represents a short (case-ending) vowel.  The suffix for "Their" was "hum" in
West Semitic ("sum" earlier).  So, "their mouth" becomes "pv:hum" while
"their fruit" becomes "piryvhum".  In both cases, originally, the first syllable
was stressed.  The form "piryɔm" is a development whereby the h is
elided between the two vowels. The situation is not exactly the same in
"mouth" because here, the first vowel is long and stressed, whereas in
"fruit" the first vowel is short and unstressed.  In "pi:mo:" an "archaic"
mo: "mw" is used for "their" instead, so this word was preserved without
ellision.  mo: is not really the ancient form of "hum", but an alternate form
that developed at some point.

In 1 Sam 13:21 we have most likely a dual of "mouth".  Since only a
small portion of the Hebrew speakers of that time were literate (10% is
stretching it), I find it unlikely that spelling in any way influenced
pronunciation.

Yitzhak Sapir


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list