[b-hebrew] Why simple schwa in YHWH when marked to be pronounced Adonay?

Garth Grenache garthgrenache at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 1 23:01:49 EDT 2010

Dear all,

Yitzhak Sapir has provided a plausible explanation for why we never see hatef patach of Adonay under the yod in YHWH, but do see the hatef segol of Elohim when YHWH is marked to be pronounced Elohim.

His explanation is this:

"So we have several steps in the development of the hatafim:

1) Using schewa
2) Using hataf-vowel when the pronunciation differs from standard
schewa (hataf-patah) and hataf-patah when the schewa is not quiescent
but normally would be read as such.  This includes the spelling Elohim,
but not Adonai.  Adonai is still spelled at this point with a schewa.
3) Standardization of the vowel spelling of the tetragrammaton
4) Standardization of the gutturals.  This includes the word Adonai, but not the tetragrammaton."

Yitzhak, I was wondering how it is known that the hatef patach mark was once only used to mark an otherwise ambiguous non-quiescent schwa and was then later used under gutterals?  Is this merely theoretical, or do medieval discussions on the points confirm this?

I have another view which is merely theoretical -I don't know what medieval discussions say about it:

*Qumran Greek IAO for YHWH and Elephantine spelling YHW are suggestive that YHWH had come to be pronounced as "Yaho".  [i.e. it's W became understood as long o, and the final H became superfluous.]
*Masoretes did not intend to point the vowels with which YHWH was pronounced.
*Therefore, the Masoretes originally avoided pointing the Y with 'a' and the H with 'o'.
*Masoretes did safely point Y with 'e' of Elohim, because 'e' is not in 'Yaho'.
*Thus L usually reads Y:hwah (with all the non-"Yaho" vowels of Adonay) and Yehwih (with all the non-"Yaho" vowels of Elohim).
*Other (later or distant) scribes were perhaps less familiar with the 'Yaho' pronunciation(?), perhaps knowing that it should be 'Yahw-'(??), probably being less familiar with the original tradition of the Masoretes and its reasoning, added the 'o' of Adonay and of Elohim to create the more complete pointings Y:howah and Yehowih, which became the final standard.

Garth Grenache,
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