[b-hebrew] T-SADE

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Jul 25 11:38:33 EDT 2010

On Sun, 25 Jul 2010 05:30:05 +0200, "Arnaud Fournet" <fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr> wrote:
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Will Parsons" <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu>
> To: <fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr>
> Cc: <jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com>; <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2010 4:42 PM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] T-SADE
> >> > but it's very unlikely that sadhe had the affricate
> >> > value [ts] when it was spoken as a mother tongue.  The emphatics in
> >> > Hebrew as in other Semitic languages form a series contrasting on one
> >> > hand to unvoiced series and the other a voice series of obstruents.  As
> >> > far as I know, there are two attested phonetic realizations of > "emphatics",
> >> > velarized/laryngealized type of Arabic, and the glottalized type of the
> >> > African Semitic languages (more likely for Hebrew).  In either case, we > have
> >> > parallel series /s - S - z/ like /t -T - d/ like /k - K - g/.  An > affricate
> >> > like [ts] doesn't fit this model.
> >
> >> I would call that kind of argument an "aesthetical" one.  That you can
> >> nicely put phonemes in rows and columns is not a convincing proof of what
> >> they might really be.  I'm not a structuralist to the point of believing
> >> that "structure rules".
> >
> > Short of sending a phonetician back in time, there is unlikely to be
> > anything that can be called "proof", there's only the matter of lesser
> > or greater probability.  Evidence of other Semitic languages is a lot
> > more convincing to me than a single Greek transcription where both the
> > reading itself and the evidentiary value is questionable.  This is not
> > an "aesthetical" argument.
> Actually we have plenty of evidence from Armenian, Hurro-Urartian and
> Hittite on how these "letters" were pronounced in Akkadian in particular.
> It's quite clear that the propagation of Hebrew phonetics into cuneiform was
> inadequate and unfortunately probably impossible to emend.  Cuneiform $
> (=shin) is in fact -s- and Cuneiform s and z (tsamekh) is in fact -ts- and
> -dz-.  Anytime you move out of the Semitic "bubble", then it becomes clear
> that there is a problem with graphemes $ and s which do not have the correct
> values.  It is also clear from Armenian that the emphatic s. in Akkadian was
> an affricate. Place names and other words written with <s.> in Cuneiform
> invariably pop up in Armenian with an affricate.

There is a fundamental problem in logic here.  Transcribing X in language A
by Y in language B does not mean that X was pronounced as Y.  If Armenian
(for example) transcribes an "emphatic" with an affricate, that does not
mean the "emphatic" was in fact realized as an affricate, only that when
faced with indicating a phonetic feature that was not present its own
language, some accommodation must be done, and how that problem is resolved
may be difficult to predict ahead of time.

This is the same situation with the so-called transcription of צ by Greek

> The "aesthetical" argument was referring to your last sentence: "In either
> case, we have parallel series /s - S - z/ like /t -T - d/ like /k - K -
> g/. An affricate like [ts] doesn't fit this model."

> "fit that model".
> /s - S - z/ is actually /ts TS dz/.

Interesting idea.  I take it that /s/ would still be in the phonemic
inventory corresponding to sin?  What about plain /z/, do think that was

> >> In addition, it's well known from Egyptian hieroglyphic that tsamekh was
> >> nearly doubtless an affricate [ts] (S p r scribe => t_ p r and not **s p r
> >> as is expected)
> >
> > I would disagree about samekh being "nearly doubtless" [ts], certainly
> > not on the basis of Egyptian transcriptions, seeing that Egyptian
> > phonology is quite uncertain.  (That Egyptian /t_/ indicated an affricate
> > seems quite unlikely considering its development in Coptic.)  Even if
> > at some point samekh *were* an affricate, that would not be an argument
> > that sadhe was also.
> >
> >> and as a matter of that nearly all sibilants have been used
> >> to write /s/ in Greek or Ethiopian but this precise one. So in fact if one
> >> believes in "aesthetical" argumentation, the conclusion would rather be that
> >> there is "systemic" support for an affricate /ts./ade because tsamekh was
> >> itself /ts/.
> >
> > This makes no sense.  Are you referring to Egyptian transcriptions of
> > Greek and Ethiopic or something else?

> I'm referring to the way the original Semitic alphabet has been adapted for
> other languages.
> If the original value of tsamekh were /s/, then it's a wonder that this
> letter has *never* been used anywhere from Greece to Ethiopia to Etruria to
> write the sound /s/.  As a matter of fact about everything has been used in
> Greek to write /s/ except precisely that very letter.  For that reason,
> tsamekh cannot have been /s/, it was /ts/.

Thanks for the clarification.  And in case I have given a wrong impression,
I'm not actually opposed to the idea that samekh may have been pronounced
[ts] at some point in its past, only that it's going too far to claim
that Egyptian transcriptions can "prove" such a pronunciation.

As far as Greek goes, the fact that shin became the basis of sigma I would
take as indicating that of the variety of sibilant letters available in
Phoenician at the time of the Greek adoption of the alphabet shin/sin was
closest to the Greek sound.  This can be taken to mean that the Phoenician
sound of shin was [s], but it may also be the case that Greek sigma was
pronounced farther forward than the normal [s] as pronounced in English or
French.  (It should be noticed that Modern Greek has such a pronunciation,
which makes it sound somewhat like an English sh.)

So, emphasizing again that I am not saying that samekh *wasn't* pronounced
[ts], the Greek evidence cannot prove that it was.

> > It's a matter of certainly that Greek *did* develop affricates.  They are
> > quite common in Modern Greek.  *When* they developed is of course more
> > doubtful, but they are certainly seen in Byzantine Greek.  Sources are
> > influence other languages, and internal phonetic developments (typically
> > as a result of palatalization).
> ***
> I still do not see the relevance of that point.

> If the original pronunciation is sade, how come we have tsade in Codex
> Vaticanus?  Did Greek develop affricates out of initial s-??

First of all, we *don't* have TS in the Codex Vaticanus in the text at all.
There are numerous occurrences of Hebrew name with sadhe transcribed with
simple sigma in the Vaticanus and other manuscripts of the LXX.  The one
claimed use of tau+sigma is in a heading to the acrostical portion of
Lamentations, and that seems uncertain.  Greek affricates did *not* develop
out of s-, they could come about as a result of contact with foreign
languages that had them, such as Slavic and Latin (where affricates
developed out of /ti/ and /di/ in certain environments, and may also have
arisen as a result of palatization of velars before front vowels (at least
in some dialects, as is attested by Modern Greek dialectal forms).

> By the way I also wonder how tiade can develop out of sade if you prefer the
> reading tiade to tsade.

"Tiade" *didn't* develop out of sade, it would be an attempt to indicate a
feature of the Hebrew pronunciation that didn't exist in Greek.  It no more
shows a Hebrew pronuncation as [tiade] that would a Greek spelling "tsade"
necessarily indicate a Hebrew pronunciation [tsade].

William Parsons

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