[b-hebrew] Inseparable Prepositions and that shewa

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Sun Apr 18 20:33:40 EDT 2010


Weingreen et al did not 'get it wrong'.  There are a number of different 
ways to pronounce Biblical Hebrew.  The most popular at the moment just 
happens to be to use the phonemes of Modern Hebrew.  You will still find 
synagogues that use Askenazi or Sephardi pronunciation, and I know some 
still use the Yemeni pronunciation, or something close to it.  The 
Samaritans also have their own tradition.  There is general agreement 
that the MT records a pronunciation later than the Biblical era.  The 
BGDKPT letters most likely had only one pronunciation when most of the 
Scriptures were written.  As you say, the Modern Israeli pronunciation 
is a good pragmatic solution.  And it is probably no further away from 
the way Moses or David or Isaiah spoke Hebrew than any of the traditions.

Kevin Riley

On 19/04/2010 7:20 AM, Ryan Clan wrote:
> 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
> bust!
>
> Regards
> 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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