[b-hebrew] dagesh, gemination, Hannah [was: dagesh in hebrew]

Chavoux Luyt chavoux at gmail.com
Fri Apr 29 05:25:09 EDT 2011


From: Will Parsons <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu>

> Distinguishing lengthened from non-lengthened consonants is quite common in
> a
> wide variety of languages.  How this is indicated (if at all) depends on
> the
> type of script employed.  Alphabetic scripts generally fall into three
> categories:
> 1) Semitic type scripts, in which ordinarily vowels are either not
> indicated
>   or indicated in certain circumstances by consonantal letters.
> 2) Greek type scripts, in which vowel letters are full citizens along with
>   consonantal letters.
> 3) Indic type scripts, in which vowels are indicated by symbols that serve
>   as adjuncts to the accompanying consonants.
> In languages that use either a Greek or Indic type alphabet, a lengthened
> consonant is regularly indicated by the doubling the consonantal letter.
> (There may be exceptions to this, but I can't think of any.)  This is the
> case
> even where lengthened vowels are *not* indicated by doubling the vowel (as
> in
> Latin or Greek).  A long consonsant seems to be thought of as one consonant
> doubled.  Thus Latin "annus" for a pronunciation of [an:us].
> I should add here that at least in Afrikaans (Greek type script) a doubled
consonant usually indicates that the previous vowel is short whereas an
"open" syllable (followed by single consonant that starts next syllable)
usually indicates a long vowel. I.e. "Anna" would be pronounced with a short
first "a" whereas "Ana" would have a long "a" in the first syllable. This
might have been similar for old Greek as well? (And Afrikaans also uses the
double vowels you mention for indicating a long vowel in a closed syllable
:-) ).

As for the Dagesh having no meaning: At least in Modern Hebrew pronunciation
the Beit/Veit, Peh/Feh, Kaf/Chaf, (and in Azkenazi pronunciation: Tav/thav)
letters does have a different pronunciation with or without the dagesh? I
think it is important to remember that both dagesh and nikkud was developed
to help non-native Hebrew speaker with pronunciation and that it was not a
part of the original Hebrew script when Hebrew was still a spoken language,
since native speakers would normally "just know" how to pronounce a certain
word. The second thing to keep in mind is that the Bible itself (e.g. Judges
12:6) testifies to dialect differences in pronunciation. It is very likely
that the Septuagint captured one dialect of Hebrew while the later nikkud
captured a different pronunciation. Even in modern Israel, although there is
a certain "standard" Hebrew heard in the media (tending to the sepharidic
pronunciation, but without distinguishing between the chet and khaf or alef
and ayin sounds), there still exist a whole range of pronunciations (often
reflecting the country of origin of the Hebrew speaker).

Chavoux Luyt

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