[b-hebrew] Jerusalem

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Mon Jul 12 17:28:47 EDT 2010

From: Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Jerusalem
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 2010 08:01:56 +0300

> As for the use of yodh for e: < aj, there are various ways to
> explain this.  First, it is possible that at the time the MT spelling
> was fixed, there was still no e: < aj.  The yodh was used for aj
> and i only, not for tsere [e].  After aj > e:, the spelling now seems
> to be able to distinguish historical aj > e: from i > e: but this is
> really a result of how the spelling developed.  Additionally, it is
> possible that the pronunciation may have been slightly different.
> A lengthened i > e: by reduplication was actually i > ee whereas
> aj may have developed to a simple long vowel e: (non duplicated).
> Scribes may therefore have been able to recognize the difference
> even after the change.

I think it's pretty unlikely that [i] would have developed into a
reduplicated vowel, and even if did, that a sequence [ee] would have
been acoustically distinguishable from [e:].  However, it's quite
possible that [aj] developed into a diphthong [ei] on its way to final
[e:], and this would naturally be spelled with a yodh since the yodh-like
sound was still there, whereas it wouldn't be in [e:] developed from [i].

This type of development is quite common in other languages (one can see
the intermediate diphthongs in Portuguese as opposed to Spanish, for
example).  This intermediate stage may well have persisted over a
considerable period, and as long as it did, it would have re-enforced the
"traditional" way of spelling words.

William Parsons

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