[b-hebrew] The vowels of אֶחָד

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Apr 10 11:49:44 EDT 2011

On Sun, 10 Apr 2011 10:27:59 +0300, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:
> Fred katav:
> > The terms "implicit/virtual doubling" are both grammarians' labels that are
> > applied to various anomalous pointings in which, e.g. a long vowel implies
> > that its syllable is closed, but the following radical is neither followed
> > by shewa nor written with dagesh forte. Since the vowel was written as
> > though the syllable were closed (i.e., as though the radical were doubled),
> > they "imply" [non-graphemic] doubling. The "logic" of the term seems to
> > move from the pointing of the vowel to the [non-]pointing of the consonant.
> ...
> Of course, as Fred points out, the label could just as easily have been
> applied to the vowel, "segol" as a "virtual long vowel". Either way, it is
> more evidence of the care with which the MT developed.

I don't think the two ways of looking at the word are equally valid.  An
explanation via "implicit/virtual doubling" fits in well with what one finds
elsewhere in that heth (and other "guttural" sounds) resist lengthening (or
"doubling") in forms that otherwise would have a daghesh.  So, the
vocalization of אֶחָד can readily be explained as having an underlying form
with a long (daghesh) heth and the synchronic rule that eliminates consonant
length for heth (and certain other sounds) operating after the rule that
causes short vowels in closed, unaccented syllables to either be further
reduced to a shwa or, in some circumstances, to become long.

Considering the seghol in the word as long (virtual or not) is much more
unnatural, since although seghol sometimes functions a long vowel,
apparently it only does so in open, stressed syllabls.  So if we start
for an underlying form that has a short (not daghesh) heth, we would
expect the seghol to either be further reduced to a variety of shwa, or
possibly be lengthened to sere.

> They did not
> impose a grammar, but truly recorded the tradition as best they could.
> It also means that the language was passed on as a language and not
> as a grammar system, that came later. One of the delightful things
> about the MT is that the differences between BAramaic and BHebrew
> morphologies can be studied. Their independent development is
> recorded and makes linguistic sense as the trees are traced in reverse.

Morphologically, perhaps, but phonologically perhaps not so much.  I can't
help but think that the vowel distinctions made in the vowel symbols
represent a primarily Aramaic system.  Not that the MS vowel pointing
misrepresent the Hebrew pronunciation the Massoretes were trying to
capture, but that they were hearing that pronunciation through Aramaic ears.

Will Parsons

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