[b-hebrew] 'Vocal shwa' had no true/phonemic quality at the time of LXX.

Garth Grenache garthgrenache at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 30 02:30:50 EDT 2010

Dear all,

Is it not so that the shwa represents a reduced vowel which has lost its original quality? The shwa fills what once was a short syllable, but has now become a kind of presyllabic consonantal glide.  The same shwa is used in Hebrew Sh:lomoh as in Aramaic Sh:lama, and let me assure you that Aramaic Sh:lama is not pronounced "Shelama" or "Shalama", but simply "Shlama".  The same shwa points are used after consonants that closed syllables, representing NO vowel.   

Therefore it should be recognised that traditions which attach a certain pronunciation to shwa are developments.  So whilst it is true that Masoretes would often give the shwa the quality of the vowel in the following syllable, it can hardly be asserted that this is what shwa means.  Likewise shwa doesn't mean an 'e' as in Modern Hebrew.  Shwa means a reduced vowel with no remaining phonemic value.  Whenever it is pronounced, the quality of it is not meaningful, and it's 'proper pronunciation' according to this or that tradition is not indicative of the original value, which becomes irrelevant in the Tiberian tradition.

The state of tradition at the time of the LXX was likely the state of Aramaic's reduced vowels, i.e. no inherent vowel quality, and either no vowel or some kind of epenthetic vowel.

As even the post-exilic consonantal texts of the Tnakh have theophoric forms with YO- (yod, waw, no he) I find it a difficult assertion to say that Greek LXX forms with IW- represent Yoho-.  Rather Greek IW- is used to transliterate both Yo- and Yho-, and the omega (W) therein represents the long o: in Yo-.  Likewise in Greek IOUDA, the OU represents u: before the daleth, whether or not any quality was attributed to the vowel of the reduced first syllable. If anywhere a vocalisation of Yuhudah is specified(?) in any language, I suggest that this may be because the name derives from yuhuwdayu "he shall be praised" and thus it originally DID have yuhu-.

What am I suggesting?  That the vowels of the LXX can be explained with the full vowels of the Hebrew words, and hardly suggest the later tradition of assigning a vowel quality to the shwa of reduced/lost syllables.

Garth Grenache,

> It is also important to understand that a schewa under the yodh would
> not be read by the Masoretes as Jehovah.  It would be read as [yohov@].
> Jehovah is a late European reading of the Masoretic schewa and vowels,
> but not how the Masoretes themselves read it.  The Masoretes when
> reading a letter with a schewa followed by a guttural such as He would
> read the letter with the same vowel as the guttural.  So above we have
> yoho)aHaz, not yeho)aHaz, and yuhuda, not yehuda.
> You can see this already in the LXX.  The name YHWRM is read in the
> Tiberian tradition as [yohor at m] and the name YHWNTN is read in the
> Tiberian tradition as [yohon at th@n] and this vocalization of the initial
> syllable is already seen in the LXX.  There these names are transcribed
> IWRAM and IWNAQAN.  This is why you get transcriptions such as
> Joram or Jonathan.  You even have IOUDA in the LXX.  All these show a
> long o: and u:.  Because the He was not transcribed in Greek, this turns
> out to be almost the exact same pronunciation as the Masoretes!  (The
> difference is actually in the qamats which the Masoretes pronounced
> differently from a patah.  This is not germane to this discussion so I've
> not differentiated it in the transcriptions above).

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