[b-hebrew] Why tsere? (was ואילילה Micah 1:8)

Jonathan Mohler jonathan.mohler at gmail.com
Wed Jul 24 00:07:48 EDT 2013


Hi Pere,

This is probably the result of a morphophonemic process that is very common across many language groups.  It is very natural for the yod to pull the pathah to a tsere.  The yod as a vowel is what one calls in phonetics a front vowel sound (it is produced in the front part of the mouth), while the pathah is a back vowel sound (produced in the back of the mouth).  The yod in the mouth of a native speaker pulls the pathah toward the front of the mouth, producing a tsere.  Most likely it was originally a diphtong AY which collapsed into a tsere monothong.

An example from French:

Lait, milk --- if I use MT pointing for the pronuciation it looks like this לֵ.  

The Process:

LACT --> LAIT
The Latin root word LACT traded its c (kaph) for an i (yod), an observable shift in many languages, as the k is very close to an i or y sound in the mouth.  

LAIT --> using MT points again for demonstration would have been לַית.  French speakers developed the habit of dropping the final consonant of every word.  This would have led to the word being pronounced לַי.

I grew up writing LAIT, but saying לֵ

One last thing, if you grew up in my part of Belgium, you would say לֵי

Back to Hebrew:

cf. BAYIT --> BETHLECHEM (MT)--> BEITLECHEM (Ashkenaze)

Note the Septuagint transliteration: βαιθλεεμ.  The MT shows development here.  It also shows that whatever the MT was, it was at least  "natural language." 

Let me digress one last time.  This kind of morphophonemic development in my opinion is strong indication that the 2ms ending -CHA and 2mp ending -CHEM.  Most likely something like -CHA --> *-CHAYIM --> -CHEM


Jonathan Mohler
Baptist Bible Graduate School
Springfield, MO
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