[b-hebrew] Beit/Veit

Yodan yodan at yodanco.com
Thu Apr 23 01:56:00 EDT 2009

Yigal, thank you and thanks to Karl and Kevin. 


A question to you and to others: 


Does the fact that Arabic doesn't have a "v" consonant support the
possibility that Hebrew too didn't have a "v" consonant (we know that VAV
was pronounced like WAW, and this is still the case in some Hebrew
"dialects")? If so, perhaps what later became VEIT was pronounced like BEIT?
(e.g. Ribka later became Rivka?). 


A somewhat related question: Does anyone know if DALED is believed to have
been pronounced as an emphatic consonant, like in Arabic, perhaps in
addition to another pronunciation (like "d" or like "th" in "that", as do
Yemenite Jews)? 




Rivka Sherman-Gold



YODAN Publishing

P.O. Box 60655

Palo Alto, CA 94306-0655


Rivka at Yodanco.com 





-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Yigal Levin
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:36 PM
To: b-hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Beit/Veit


Hi Rivka,


Let's see if I can add anything useful after Karl and Kevin's answers.


Actually, your question should be about all six BGDKPT letters, not just

Bet. Most scholars consider the "soft" (un-dageshed/frictive) sounds to be

"secondary", that is, not an original, built-in feature of Biblical Hebrew.

This is unlike Shin and Sin or Ayin and Ghayin, in which the same

letter-sign was used for what were originally two different sounds. At some

point in time, when the BGDKPT letters followed a vowel, people began

pronouncing them "softer". It didn't have to happen at the same time for all

six, and perhaps not for all speakers of Hebrew. What we know is that by the

time of the Tiberian Masoretes, this feature had become "regular" enough, at

least in their dialect, for them to formalize it as a rule of grammar by

"inventing" the Dagesh Kal.


Since we don't have recordings of people speaking Hebrew in antiquity, there

is no way that we can really know how a particular letter was pronounced at

any specific time or in any specific place. However, we do have

translations, and especially transliterations of Hebrew words (mostly proper

nouns) into other languages, and of course the most useful of these for the

Second Temple Period is Greek. Now this is not an exact science either,

because we have the same questions about exactly how Greek was pronounced at

any given time or place. But in general, we can assume that Greek used Kappa

to transcribe Kaph and Chi transcribe Khaph, Pi for Pe and Phi for Phe, Tau 

for Tav and Theta for Thav (soft Tav - although there is a question of just 

how Greek pronounced these letters at the time). From these examples we can 

see, the differences between "hard" and "soft" did not follow what later 

became the Mesoretic rules. For example, Pe and Kaph at the begining of a 

word were often pronounced "softly", or at least that's what the traslators 


As to the specifc issue of Bet/Vet, as Karl mentioned, the Greek of the time

did not have a "v" sound, so when they wrote Beta, we have no way of knowing

whether they heard B or V.


Hope that helps, and any and all corrections are welcome.


Yigal Levin




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