[b-hebrew] Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring' (K Randolph)

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Jul 14 20:23:33 EDT 2013

Hhi Ruth,

On Sat, 13 Jul 2013 17:28:56 +1000, Ruth Mathys <ruth_mathys at sil.org> wrote:
> ...
> What I'm interested to hear from those who (unlike me) actually know the
> field is: does the Masoretic pointing as we have it cohere with what we know
> of the Semitic vowel system from other languages, especially those that are
> still spoken and/or have a reliable transcription of the vowels?  Can we
> draw up sound-shift 'laws' comparable to those that have been made for
> Indo-European?

Since no-one else has responded to this, I'll give it a shot.  Yes,
more or less.

Consider the vowel alternations in the conjugation of the qal form of
a perfectly regular verb, כתב (the phonetic transcription below is what I
believe underlies the Masoretic pointing):

kɔ:θ'av       kɔ:θəv'u:

kɔ:θ'avtɔ:    kəθavt'ɛm
kɔ:θ'avt      kəθavt'ɛn

kɔ:θ'avti:    kɔ:θ'avnu:

Looking at this (and other vocalic alternations in Hebrew verb and
noun forms), I think one can see the surface forms as being pretty
shallow phonetic transformations on an underlying paradigm looking
like this:

kat'ab        katab'u

kat'abta      katabt'em
kat'abt       katabt'en

kat'abti      kat'abnu

This on purely internal analysis, without regard to other Semitic
languages.  So, now let's compare it with other Semitic languages.
Here's the Classical Arabic equivalent:

kataba        katabu:
katabat       katabna

katabta       katabtum
katabti       katabtunna

katabtu       katabna:

This is by no means identical to the underlying Hebrew paradigm, but
it's close enough to confirm that our "underlying" Hebrew forms are
not too far off the mark.

My general impression is that the Masoretic pointing system is not
entirely self-consistent (probably because Hebrew was no longer a
natively-spoken language), but that it represents a continuation of
perhaps slightly divergent ways of traditionally pronouncing Hebrew.

William Parsons

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list