syllable structure of Hebrew

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by bat777, Jan 1, 2008.

  1. bat777 Senior Member

    Talmon, Israel
    Israel, Hebrew
    Hi everyone,
    I'm trying to define the inventory of syllable structure of Hebrew.

    1. I would appreciate a reference to a book which discusses this issue.

    2. I already have examples of V, CV, VC, CVC, CCV CCVC CVCC syllables (where C stands for 'consonant' and V for 'vowel').
    Can anyone think of more complex syllables, such as: CCVCC, CCCV, CCCVC, CCCVCCCCCCCC etc..

    Very bizarre examples are very welcome...

  2. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    Hi bat777,

    What Hebrew are you talking about? Modern, biblical, mishnaic, etc.?
  3. bat777 Senior Member

    Talmon, Israel
    Israel, Hebrew
    I'm talking about modern Hebrew, but I prefer not to use examples of words from modern Hebrew, which are in fact borrowings, because I'm not quite sure what the syllable structure of such words says about the syllable structure of Hebrew.
  4. Macnas Member

    English and Russian, United States
    Native words in Modern Hebrew do not allow clusters of more than two consonants (as long as you consider צ a single consonant, an affricate /ts/). And it does not allow any clusters at the end of of word, with one exception - the second person singular feminine past tense, where you can see (most consonants)+/t/.

    So the following syllables are allowed in native words: V, CV, VC, CCV, CCVC, CVCt.

    And strictly speaking words can't begin with a vowel in Hebrew. Words such as אבא 'aba begin with a glottal stop (IPA /ʔ/). However, this glottal stop is frequently elided in speech. So if you're being really strict, the only allowable syllable structures are CV, CCV, CCVC, and CVCt. There's only one case I can think of where you can get a true V(C) syllable, and that's in words that end in ע (ayin), ח (chet), or the consonantal ה (hey): שומע sho-me-a "hearing (masc sg)", פתוח pa-tu-ach "open (masc sg)", גבוה ga-vo-a "tall (masc sg)". But I suppose /ʔ/-dropping is frequent enough that you can say Modern Hebrew's structure is V, CV, VC, CCV, CCVC, CVCt.
  5. bat777 Senior Member

    Talmon, Israel
    Israel, Hebrew
    Wow, macnas, that was a very thorough answer, thank you so much!

    Let me add a question, though.
    I'm thinking about borrowings with syllable structure that is not evident in original Hebrew words. Take for example the word áÀÌøÆ÷Àñ , or שְליכְט, both CCVCC (final consonant cluster).
    Does the fact that these final clusters are not avoided my means of epanthesis of a vowel, or by deletion of one of the consonants, actually mean that in Modern Hebrew this syllable structure is in fact a part of the inventory?
  6. bat777 Senior Member

    Talmon, Israel
    Israel, Hebrew
    Couldn't you consider these cases to be diphthongs?
  7. Macnas Member

    English and Russian, United States
    Well, foreign loans that have not been 'nativized' often have their own structure, and do not necessarily have to obey the rules that native words do. It's probably worthwhile to distinguish between the two.

    Acoustically, I'd say probably not. A diphthong involves a vocalic nucleus and a semi-consonantal glide. In words like shomea I'm fairly certain there are two separate nuclei, meaning two syllables.

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