[b-hebrew] Masoretic transmission of pronuncation

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Jul 14 11:18:35 EDT 2013

On Sat, 13 Jul 2013 17:53:56 -0600, Jerry Shepherd <jshepherd53 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Will,
> You have provided some interesting information here, and made a somewhat
> plausible case for your position.  However, there are two significant
> problems as I see it.
> (1) You rightly state, "the two situations are not entirely parallel."  And
> I believe the differences in the two situations are more substantial than
> you seem to allow.

How so?

> (2) You rightly state, "Lacking a time machine we cannot be absolutely
> sure, but we can
> reconstruct this with a fair degree of confidence."  Actually, I don't have
> the same level of confidence you do in your reconstruction.  What is your
> actual evidence that a reader of a Latin text imposed a French
> pronunciation on it?  I agree with you that replacing a I sound with a J
> sound would have been a "normal phonological development in the evolution
> of Latin into Old French."  But I would need to see greater evidence that
> an 11th century French speaker, when trying to read and pronounce a Latin
> text, would have made that change.

This is pretty well established.  Until quite recent times (within the
last century or so) Latin was pronounced according to the phonological
system of the host language.  A century or so ago, Latin wae
pronounced in English speaking countries with an "English"
pronunciation.  So "Caesar" would be pronounced [s'i:zɚ] (as it still
is in an English context), but the genitive form "Caesaris" would be
pronounced [s'ɛzəɹɪs].  This is wildly at odds with how Latin was
pronounced by the contemporaries of Caesar himself, [kaisar] &
[kaisarɪs].  But having a "national" pronunciation of Latin was not
something particularly English, but is common to all European
languages.  For example, in the "English" pronunciation of Latin, C &
G before the front vowels E, I, & Y have the values [s] & [dʒ],
respectively (borrowed from French); in the German pronunciation these
have the values [ts] & [g]; and in the Italian pronunciation, they
have the values [tʃ] & [dʒ].  (The Italian pronunciation has become -
again, fairly recently - the "official" pronunciation of Latin in the
RC church, and so is known also as the "Ecclesiastical" pronunciation.)

The idea that Latin (or more to the point, Hebrew) would be spoken
with a pronunciation different from the normal spoken language would
simply not have occurred to anyone in the Middle ages.

ὣς ἔφατο
Will Parsons

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