[b-hebrew] Question about Pi'el Imperfect

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu May 17 11:44:26 EDT 2007

On 5/17/07, Jason Hare wrote:

> Of course, this is NOT the case with Israeli (or Sephardic) Hebrew.
> The qamats is pronounced 'a' (like father) when long and 'o' (like
> hole) when short. We do not generally talk about the Tiberian system
> when we discuss the sounds represented by these letters in terms of
> how they should be pronounced NOW in order to be understood properly
> (that is, by people who use standard Hebrew pronunciation as it is at
> this time in history).

But we are not talking about Modern Hebrew.  We are talking about
Biblical (Tiberian) Hebrew.  If you read a word in the Bible, that is
vocalized with Tiberian vocalization marks, according to the Tiberian
tradition, and this is the case in most accurate Hebrew Bibles today,
you ought to use the Tiberian pronunciation of the words.  Thanks to
various written sources by the Massoretes themselves, and research
into these sources in the last few decades, we today know quite a bit
about this system.  There are many things that are simply silly if you
don't.  For example, what if a word - say $omrim ("guards") is spelled
once with a yod and once without, does that mean that it is pronounced
differently based on the spelling?  Well, this is how some would have
you do it, and it is silly.  Now, the issue of qamats qatan/gadol, and
a varying pronunciation of it, is based on a different pronunciation
tradition than the Tiberian one, probably one in which long a did not
shift to long qamats, which it did in the Tiberian system.  You try to
approximate this, but you don't really have a vocalized manuscript
to tell you when the qamats was there originally, and when it was the
result of the long a > qamats shift.  If you try to read the Tiberian
system using a different system and some artificial rules to translate
between the two, you will simply miss important linguistic information,
and there will also be many other places where the systems don't
mesh together and you will just be left wondering what's going on.
This is why I think, it is best for a beginner (as well as expert) to
follow and read the Bible using the Tiberian pronunciation system.
It is the most logical thing to do if what you have is a manuscript
vocalized in the Tiberian tradition using Tiberian vocalization marks.
I am not saying it is the "right" system because no system is "right"
-- one can't judge which system is "right".  But it is the most
complete authentic system that we have today.

Yitzhak Sapir

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