[b-hebrew] 22-Letter Alphabet Origination

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Jul 3 12:18:54 EDT 2009


Last night, just as an exercise as I took a long hike for physical
exercise, I tried speaking out loud some of the Biblical poetry I had
memorized in Hebrew, but this time pronouncing each written letter as
a consonant, including those commonly recognized as matres lexionis.
Examples include that the masculine suffix -W instead of being
pronounced as -o as we were taught, pronounce it as -owa, and the
final -H as a -he.

What I found was that except for a few, not all, internal waws and
yods, that pronouncing each letter gave a beat to the poetry not found
by treating those letters as matres lexionis. No, it didn’t come out
perfectly, for example it appears that the “not” in Psalm 1:1 was
drawn out for emphasis all three times it is used in that verse, but
in general there is a beat that I had not noticed before.

Personally I think that the Hebrews were the originators of the
alphabet and the Phoenicians the adopters, as the Hebrews had a
tradition of writing that went back to Egypt and the Exodus if not
before, whereas the Phoenicians started using the alphabet only during
the time of King David and later.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 8:08 AM, <joel at exc.com> wrote:
> The Hebrews almost certainly adopted and adapted the Phoenician
> writing system, adding the matres lectionis: vocalic heh, yud, and
> vav.
> I think the evidence for a wider phonetic inventory is less clear than
> other bits of information.  We really don't know what Hebrew sounded
> like 3,000 years ago.
> -Joel
> Joel M. Hoffman, PhD
> http://www.lashon.net
> http://www.AndGodSaid.com
> Director of Education
> Temple Israel of Northern Westchester
> http://www.TINW-School.org

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