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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Jun 26 15:09:58 EDT 2008

Dear Yaakov,

Chaim Rabin's book is dated.  It was dated when it was published in 1991.  A
much better book is Hetzron's The Semitic Languages published approximately
the same time.  The modern inventory of Proto-Semitic sounds is as follows,
the right hand side indicating respectively the letters they became in Hebrew:
p   (p')  b  > pe, bet
t    t'    d  > taw, teth, daleth
k   k'   g   > kaf, quf, gimel
ts  ts'  dz > samekh, sade, zayin
θ   θ'   ð  > shin, sade, zayin
ɬ    ɬ'   l   > sin, sade/Dad, lamed
x        ɣ  > het, ayin
ħ        ʕ  > het, ayin
in addition: r n m w y s (which became shin) h  aleph
The apostrophes are a series of emphatics.  They were probably realized as
glottalized consonants in Proto-Semitic, but, perhaps starting with Central
Semitic (the ancestor of Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic), they were
pharyngealized.  This is how they are realized today in all Arabic and
Neo-Aramaic dialects.

Some of these sounds remained in use for a long time.  See Steiner's article
here: http://sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/JBL1242.pdf

On bgdkpt, the following remarks are also worthwhile:

As for your comments regarding Hurrian, Hurrian does not have a bgdkpt
rule.  It has a different rule:
"Obstruents are always perceived as voiceless (i) in word-initial positions,
(ii) in inter-vocalic positions when long (doubled); and (iii) in contact with
another consonant except the sonorants /m/, /n/, /l/, and /r/. Conversely,
obstruents are voiced in all other positions: (i) when word-final; (ii) in
inter-vocalic position when short (single); and (iii) in contact with /m/,
/n/, /l/ and /r/."  Thus, instead of p/f or t/th interchange, Hurrian has p/b,
and t/d interchange.  On the issue of Nuzi law, see Victor Avigdor
Hurowitz, "Expelling the Bible from the Biblical Period," in "The
Controversy over the Bible" ed. Levine and Mazar (Hebrew, הפולמוס על
האמת ההסטורית במקרא).  Specifically, p. 48.

In short, similar developments are found in Spanish.  No such development
took place in Hurrian.  Chaim Rabin's article is dated.

Yitzhak Sapir

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