[b-hebrew] dagesh, gemination, Hannah

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Fri Apr 29 20:20:50 EDT 2011


On Fri, 29 Apr 2011 11:25:09 +0200, Chavoux Luyt <chavoux at gmail.com> wrote:
> Shalom
> 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.

Yes, but note that a geminated consonant is regularly indicated by doubling
the letter, not that a doubled letter necessarily indicates a geminated
consonant.  There are, however, reasons for the spelling conventions you cite
for Afrikaans.  I'm only slightly familiar with Afrikaans, but I believe it
uses essentially the same conventions as Dutch, with which I am much more
familiar.  The short story is that in the older Germanic languages, a doubled
letter *did* indicate a geminated consonant, but due to phonetic changes,
gemination as such was lost, but doubling (or lack of doubling) a letter came
to used to indicate the length of a preceding vowel.  To go into detail about
phonological changes within Germanic languages would take us too far afield
from the subject of Biblical Hebrew, however.

> This  might have been similar for old Greek as well?

No.  The reason that a doubled consonant in a Germanic language can be used
to indicate the length of an adjacent vowel rather than the consonant itself
lies in the history of how these languages first became to be spelled and
subsequently developed.  There is no doubt that doubled consonantal letters
in Ancient Greek indicated geminated consonants.

> (And Afrikaans also uses the
> double vowels you mention for indicating a long vowel in a closed syllable
> :-) ).

That's not unusual, but (as can be seen in the case of Latin and Greek)
not universal.

Will Parsons

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