[b-hebrew] Initial Consonant Clusters in Biblical Hebrew

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Fri Jun 11 00:49:29 EDT 2010

Pere Porta:
1.  Biblical Hebrew records primarily consonants.  At Genesis 18: 2 we see $L$H, but I don’t think anyone views that as an initial consonant cluster.  It’s thought to be $ + implied vowel + L +implied vowel + $ + H.
However, a lamed/L is [like a resh/R] a so-called “sonorant”, and according to some linguists, a Hebrew could pronounce $ + sonorant + vowel as a single syllable. “The words for ‘2’ are the only words in the language that commence with an initial consonant cluster, permissible because of the sibilant + sonorant combination in snayim and the sibilant + stop in stayim (see Hoberman 1989).”  “Ancient Hebrew Morphology”, by Gary A. Rendsburg.
>From Wikipedia:
“Examples of sonorants
A typical sonorant inventory found in many languages comprises the following: two nasals /m/, /n/, two semivowels /w/, /j/, and two liquids /l/, /r/.”
All of N and L and R are sonorants.  Since $N is possible [and attested once in Biblical Hebrew] as an initial consonant cluster, $L + vowel and $R + vowel are theoretically possible as well, though not attested in Biblical Hebrew.
2.  Here’s a more dramatic way of posing the same question.
Do people think that a Hebrew living in Biblical times could have pronounced, as a strange foreign name, “Shrek” as a single syllable?
I am afraid that the answer may be:  Unattested, and somewhat unlikely, but by no means impossible.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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