[b-hebrew] Masoretic transmission of pronuncation

Jerry Shepherd jshepherd53 at gmail.com
Sun Jul 14 20:40:08 EDT 2013

Hi Will,

See my post to Barry for a follow-up on his response.  Again, in normal,
casual, and even homiletical and liturgical contexts, I don't doubt at all
that the "host" language affected the way the ancient language was
pronounced.  But it seems to that for the "academics," the tradents who
were working with the texts in more professional and academic setting, they
would have been in the know, and would have been aware of the difference
between the pronunciation in earlier times and the more popular
pronunciation as influenced by the host language.  So, for the academic,
scholarly elite, I am skeptical about your last statement that, "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."  When I preach I say
"Solomon"; but at an academic conference  I say "Shelomo".

But I'm open to being made to stand corrected.  Anyone else want to chime
in on this?



Jerry Shepherd
Taylor Seminary
Edmonton, Alberta
jshepherd53 at gmail.com

On Sun, Jul 14, 2013 at 9:18 AM, Will Parsons <wbparsons at alum.mit.edu>wrote:

> 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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