[b-hebrew] dagesh, gemination, Hannah

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Fri Apr 29 20:12:24 EDT 2011

On Thu, 28 Apr 2011 19:27:32 -0400, Isaac Fried <if at math.bu.edu> wrote:
> I am not sure why there is a double n in Phennana, the same way I am not
> sure why there is a double m and a double t and a double e in the English
> word committee, yet only one m in coming.

I can't be completely sure abount Phennana, but I don't think it's an
accident.  I mentioned several possibilities in a previous post, but what I
think is most likely is that the form represents a quantitative metathesis,
i.e., the [n]-[n:] sequence was reversed to [n:]-[n], possibly at the time
of transcription, or perhaps afterward.

Why the double m and double t in "committee"?  Because this word is derived
from Latin in which the doubled letters represent geminated consonants.
English doesn't have geminated consonants (with certain exceptions), but
keeps the historical spelling (as does French, but as opposed to Spanish).

> It is hard to believe, yet the LXX may have confused the look-alike Hebrew
> letters H and X, as well as R and D (is there any work on the rendering of
> the Hebrew names by the LXX?). For PIYNXAS of Num. 25:7 they have the
> curious Φινεες, yet Gen. 11 they "correctly" render NAXOR as Ναχωρ, but
> ,then, TERAX is suddenly made into Θαρα. Did they see the last X of TERAX
> as a silent H? The name IRAD עירד of Gen. 4:18 is made into Γαιδαδ.

There is no reason to assume the LXX translators mistook a heth for a he.
Heth apparently had two distinct sounds at the time, neither of which prehaps
corresponded exactly to a Greek sound.  The nearest equivalent to the lighter
of the two would be Greek [h], represented by the "rough breathing" mark on an
initial vowel.  But the breathing marks were not regularly used, and during
the Hellenistic era the [h] sound was in the process of being dropped in
pronunciation.  As a result, in Hebrew names beginning with either a he or a
heth, the Greek forms will show nothing, so "Anna" is expected for חנה.

The double pronunciation of both heth and ayin has been discussed on this
list before.  The results as far as LXX transcriptions are usually:

heth #1 [ħ] => Greek [h], theoretically represented by a rough breathing if
               at the beginning of a word, but in practice likely dropped.
               Sure to be dropped if not word-initial.

heth #2 [x] => Greek Χ (chi)

ayin #1 [ʕ] => Usually not indicated in Greek, but sporadically indicated
               impressionistically by a vowel (e.g. Ροβοαμ/Rhoboam for

ayin #2 [ɣ] => Greek Γ (gamma)

> To return to Phennana, the MT has it as PNINAH with a dagesh in the second N
> as is customary after a xirik sans yod. I notice with interest that they
> read the first letter of this name as a "soft" F and not as the "hard" P of
> today.

There are many uncertainties in tracing the phonetic changes that were taking
place both in Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek during this period.  It is safe to say,
however, that the Greek Φ/Ph was *not* pronounced [f].  At most, it may have
reached the point of becoming a bilabial fricative [ɸ], and it may have still
had its older pronunciation as an aspirated stop [ph].  The fact that the
letter Π/P was not used must indicate that the Hebrew pe was no longer
perceived as a plain stop [p], but beyond that it is hard to say for sure.

> The second N of PNINAH has a dagesh 'forte' and yet this N is not
> "geminated". On the other hand they render the city name AKO (with a dagesh
> in the K as customary after a patax) of Jud. 1:31 as Ακχω.  It is all,
> unfortunately, very bewildering. I tend to think that the LXX are mostly
> wrong, and the MT right; Αρμαϑαιμ and Σιϕα just don't sound right to me (as
> well as the funny Phennana).
> Yes, indeed, the Editors of the Oxford Hebrew-English dictionary have
> removed all dgeshim, except in B K P, and also all the unnecessary schwas. I
> love it.

In other words, they do not remove *all* dagheshes, only those that make no
difference to the modern pronunciation.

> On Apr 28, 2011, at 5:22 PM, Will Parsons wrote:
> > I don't have a copy of the Oxford English-Hebrew dictionary; does it really
> > remove all dgeshim or just those where it doesn't make a difference to the
> > modern pronunciation?

Will Parsons

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