[b-hebrew] Gutturals in Biblical Hebrew and surrounding vowels

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Jul 5 13:51:27 EDT 2010


Hello Garth,

In dealing with the patah furtivum, you suggest as a "fallback"
alternative that it
was a "Tiberian invention brought about by their persnickety/pedantic
reckoning."
I find this kind of approach to be fundamentally flawed.  The Tiberians were not
the only ones who recorded vowels, nor did they "invent" the various linguistic
phenomena that they documented.  In fact, in my view, the "fallback" is not that
the Tiberians invented something but that they simply recorded a phenomenon
in their reading tradition.  If in fact you want to claim that
something is their
invention, then it is up to you to adduce the evidence that it was indeed an
invention, and that it is somehow related to them.

As for the gutturals, I think you have the logic reversed.  It is the
gutturals that
require an open vowel, whereas other consonants can accommodate closed
vowels.  We see this in the furtive patah, where a close vowel (or mid-close
vowel) has a patah near the guttural.  Basically, as the gutturals weakened,
an open vowel was required to accomodate them.  Because this was resolved
in a whole host of ways, describing this in rules became more complex than
for other consonants and this is why the hatafim are probably always specified
for gutturals.

There is evidence for a furtive patah already in the Greek
transliterations.  Names
that end with a guttural have an epsilon and sometimes alpha as in Siloa (שלח) -
Siloam, and Raphia רפיח.  The alpha or epsilon may just be the way that the
Greeks heard the guttural but even so it indicates that the guttural
itself already
influenced the surrounding vowel to appear more open.

Tal and Ben Hayyim in their grammar of Samaritan Hebrew describe a similar
phenomenon in Samaritan Hebrew.  However, it is not exactly the same, and
in any case, in Samaritan Hebrew the process of guttural weakening is much
more advanced than in Tiberian Hebrew.

Yitzhak Sapir



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