[b-hebrew] bgdkpt (was: About Dagesh's)

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Sun Jun 22 02:18:27 EDT 2008

-------Original Message------- 
From: Yaakov Stein 
Date: 22/06/2008 3:22:01 PM 
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org 
Subject: [b-Hebrew] bgdkpt (was: About Dagesh's) 
> The bgdkpt were weakened by spirantisation. 
I was asking how these particular combinations arose. 
If the process is spirantization, that is changing a stop into a 
Why not t -> ts rather than t -> unvoiced th ? 
K:  In most languages (Greek, Gaelic, Welsh are some I an aware of) , the
change is t -> th.  As a variety of 's' sounds already existed in Hebrew,
that change was unlikely.
> If you say the hard and then soft sounds, you will find that they are 
The same, 
> except the hard sound is a complete stop, and in the soft sound the 
Air is not stopped. 
> You need to keep both F and V as bilabials to feel this. 
When we change a b into a v the lip motion completely changes, 
In particular the lower lip rather than dropping, performs an outward 
Similarly, when k changes to kh the base of the tongue changes position 
>From high to low and uvulation is used. 
The g to j change is the most radical. 
I am not sure in what sense you mean "the same", 
But there are nontrivial differences between the pairs. 
On the other hand, pure changes in voicing keep the vocal tract 
The same, and only change the vocal fold muscle state. 
There are of course similarities between some of the Paris. 
Some South American Spanish speakers pronounce a b somewhere between a b 
And a v. 
The p - f connection exists in other languages as well. 
K:  If the change was from a bilabial b to a bilabial v, then the lip
position does not change.  The g -> j is a change found in Yemeni, but not
in other dialects, from memory.  The classical form for both Hebrew and
Aramaic is from a voiced velar stop to a voiced velar fricative.  The same
alternation is found in Greek and Spanish.  
> Technically - from memory, voicing is not strengthening, but a form of 
Lenition is any softening of consonants that occurs over time. 
Sonorization (I.e. Adding voicing) is the most common form of lenition. 
In the case of bgdkpt, I am not sure that there was any mutation over 
Time at all. 
K:  That is not the usual position taken by Semiticists.  Not that they are
always correct, of course.
If we look at mutation of consonants over time in Semitic languages, 
We find completely different connections. For example, the connection 
The Hebrew C, the Aramaic (, and the Arabic D are well documented. 
The C - D connection IS lenition, but is between languages that are 
Relatively far apart. 
Between the two very close languages, we have the hard-to explain 
Connection between 
A dental stop and a guttural. Even more complex is the older Aramaic 
Correspondence to Q. 
And what about the correspondence between the Hebrew T (unvoiced th ?) 
With the Aramaic $ ? 
K: I would have thought these were changes from one phoneme to another, not
necessarily lenition.  The change T->$ as well as D -> C/Q are hardly
lenition.  Rather, you have a re-allocation of inter-dentals (probably
fricatives rather than stops) to other consonants while maintaining some
other feature, such as glottalisation [or whatever it was].  It is not
unknown from other languages.  I have seen it explained, but can't remember
> The Celtic languages uses both spirantisation and voicing as a form of 
> The usual explanation is that the spirantisation is imported from 
> As usual, there is enough evidence to make it a possibility, not 
Enough to say it is a certainty. 
Do you mean an early Aramaic ? I am trying to understand if you believe 
(like I believe Isaac does) that this happened late. 
Do you have a reference for this ? 
K:  Most books on Hebrew date it to sometime either just before or during
the Exile - so that means Imperial Aramaic, I would assume.  I thought this
was the consensus position.  The only book I have to hand is Saenz-Badillos,
who dates it to "before 700 BC" (p42), but I know others believe it is a
result of Aramaic influence during and after the Exile.  Saenz-Badillos sees
it as a two-fold change, first aspiration, then spirantisation, with
spirantisation being later (p83) - I think in context he means later than
600 BC.  'Early' and 'late' are somewhat relative terms.  The problem is
that these changes are not reflected in spelling, which is why similar
changes in Greek are also argued over.  As Greek transcriptions are often
used to date the Hebrew changes, it can easily become a circular argument
for both.  The spirantisation of bgdkpt is very unlikely in any language
like Arabic which retains the PS fricatives G,D T and X.  
Kevin Riley
If I remember correctly, Rabin in his 1991 book on Semitic languages has 
The double forms 
VERY early. I will look it up. 
Yaakov (J) Stein 

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