[b-hebrew] Inseparable Prepositions and that shewa

Ryan Clan robert.ryan at xtra.co.nz
Sun Apr 18 17:20:01 EDT 2010

Hi Randall
Thanks for your response. I am taken with the idea of a shva medium, but 
I still can't quite figure out in my own mind whether it solves the 
problem, or adds to it!  More mulling required, I think.

If there is no phonemic difference between a vocal, silent and medium 
shewa, what then is the mechanism at work causing a following 
begadkephat letter to switch its dagesh lene (and presumably its 
pronunciation) off and on in all the different situations we see it. If 
the dagesh lene is not responding to a phonemic difference, what is it 
responding to?

Modern Hebrew pronunciation of these letters is certainly a *practical* 
option, and there is a lot to be said for a practical, working solution 
that lets you move on. It was this pragmatism mixed with the juggernaut 
of Modern Hebrew as a spoken language today, that has made me think that 
MH is indeed at work influencing and pressuring the way we pronounce and 
teach biblical Hebrew. I can't otherwise account for the differences in 
pronunciation taught of not only the inseparable preposition, but also 
with the vowels, the begadkephat letters, and the "waw." Or is it just a 
happy coincidence that the more recent grammarians teach a pronunciation 
that conforms so readily to modern Hebrew? Or perhaps some major 
discovery of ancient pronunciation accounts for the trend? If Modern 
Hebrew is not at work here, then what is?

There is a practical aspect to my question too. I learnt the ol' time 
pronunciation seen in Weingreen et al, as you can see from my "waw" and 
"shewa" but perhaps it is time I jumped ship? How did Weingreen get it 
so wrong on all these counts?

As you can see I have been saving up my questions over the years fit to 

Kay Christensen

Randall Buth wrote:
>> Your opinions please.
>> My grammars are divided into two schools of thought concerning the way
>> an inseparable preposition attaches itself to a word that begins with a
>> vocal shewa.
>> The first school of thought says that under these conditions, an
>> inseparable preposition creates a closed syllable at the beginning of a
>> word, usually invoking the "rule of shewa." However, this approach
>> ignores the absence of a dagesh lene in any following begadkephat letter.
> Your question is about single consonant prepositions being
> joined to words whose first consonant would be expected to have a
> "reduced vowel//vocal shva". e.g.
> b+dvar-o "with his word"
> Here, the resultant form is bidvaro where the dalet does not take a dagesh,
> because of following a vowel, yet the following 'b' is also soft, as
> if following a vowel.
> This is one of the classic examples where a 'middle shva' is discussed,
> where the shva has a double nature, almost closing a syllable, and
> providing a syllable onset to a following begedkefet letter.
> See below. However, phonemically,
> there was no difference between a 'silent', 'vocal' or 'in-between' shva.
>> The second says that the initial syllable is left open with the hireq
>> vowel, with vocal shewa following. The absence of a dagesh lene in a
>> following begadkephat letter is often cited as proof. However, this
>> approach ignores the usual rule that a short vowel likes to be closed in
>> an unaccented syllable.
> This is the other side of the 'middle shva' situation.
> See below.
>> Questions:
>> 1. So, which do we choose? How do we account for the problems that arise?
> I would start with the summary discussions on 'shva medium' in Jouon-Muraoka
> and in Gesenius. It is a kind of grammatical fiction that might be compared to
> 'virtual dagesh', too. (A gutteral consonant without written dagesh
> that acts 'as if'
> a dagesh existed, closing off a syllable and preserving a previous
> short vowel.)
> As the Bard said, 'Much Ado About Nothing'. Pun intended.
> The basic meaning of 'shva' in the MT was 'no vowel'.
> As for choice, a practical option is to use a modern Israeli pronunciation,
> where half of the begedkefet pronunciations disappear,
> and   !
> there is a strong tendency to drop all shva except at initial grammatical/word
> boundaries.
>> 2. And more importantly, how did this situation come about?
> Through the history of the language where open syllables, two syllables before
> an accented syllable, shortened their vowel.
>> 3. Is Modern Hebrew pronunciation influencing the situation here? And if
>> so, should it?
> No, it is the other way around. The Masoretic text only had one symbol and
> the vocal shva interpretation is problematic but is used primarily in
> explaining begedkeft consonants.
> The Masoretic text is recording a tradition from late antiquity.
> Modern Hebrew tends to ignore or modify the exact vocalization of the MT.
> In fact, sometimes in Modern Hebrew one hears 'b', 'p', and 'k' as stops
> even when following one of these prepositions because the 'stand-alone' form
> of the word has a 'stop' (i.e., a dagesh qal-lene). That is a further
> phonological
> development where the begedkefet distinction is being phonemicized in the
> spoken language.
>> Regards
>> Kay Christensen
> braxot
> Randall Buth

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