Vowel inventory of Classical Hebrew

JCPenny

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English - United States of America
I know that Modern Hebrew has only five vowels. What about Classical Hebrew?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I know that Modern Hebrew has only five vowels. What about Classical Hebrew?

    Depends which period, which tradition, etc. In the Tiberian vocalization, there are twelve vowel symbols, but some of the symbols might have had more than one pronunciation, while others may have been pronounced that same as other vowels. Scholarly transcriptions usually differentiate fourteen vowels, but even that is a bit problematic for a number of reasons; for example, not all of these vowels necessarily ever existed together at the same time, while other cases are still left not accounted for. It's really a complicated question.
     
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    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Really, this is a complicated question for any language. For example, do you can definitively enumerate how many vowels there are in English?
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    How did you got so mamy vowels
    there are 7 vowel signs in the Tiberian
    and each one represented one vowel

    how do you figure more?
    what do I miss?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    How did you got so mamy vowels
    there are 7 vowel signs in the Tiberian
    and each one represented one vowel

    how do you figure more?
    what do I miss?

    The chataf vowels and shva, and remember that shuruq and qubbutz are separate signs.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    the hataphs are not considered vowels

    also the Qubbuts and Shuruq are not considered different vowels
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    the hataphs are not considered vowels

    also the Qubbuts and Shuruq are not considered different vowels

    I said I was counting "vowel signs". They are separate vowel signs. How they were pronounced is a separate and much more complicated question. We have evidence, for example, that Babylonian Jews at one point pronounced qubbutz and shuruq differently (qubbutz as the German ü or French u, and shuruq as the German u or French ou); so it is not infathomable that the Tiberians may have done so as well, and therefore created two separate signs (otherwise why not spell סוּס as סֻוס)?
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    because the masoretic put the signs as the text allow them

    therefore you can find words written without a Waw and it is with Qubbuts
    and the same word that comes with Waw is sign with Shuruq

    also forms that "does'n't need" to get a Waw, but still have it, will still gets a Shuruq with a Dagesh at the next letter (what we wouldn't expect to see)
    but its there because the form grammaticaly "needed" to get just a qubbuts without the Waw

    same thing ith Holam, Hiriq and so on

    the masoretic had to use the text as it is
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    because the masoretic put the signs as the text allow them

    therefore you can find words written without a Waw and it is with Qubbuts
    and the same word that comes with Waw is sign with Shuruq

    also forms that "does'n't need" to get a Waw, but still have it, will still gets a Shuruq with a Dagesh at the next letter (what we wouldn't expect to see)
    but its there because the form grammaticaly "needed" to get just a qubbuts without the Waw

    same thing ith Holam, Hiriq and so on

    the masoretic had to use the text as it is

    Yes, so why did they need two signs? They could have just used qubbutz in all cases:
    - סוּס could have been סֻוס without changing the letters
    - עֲרוּמִּים could have been עֲרֻומִּים without changing the letters

    In the end, my point is that we don't actually know exactly how they pronounced these words. We only know for certain which signs they used.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    never mind why they use this system

    but if the same word is once written with a qubbuts and no waw
    and the same word when it is with WAw has the Shuruq

    so it is still the same wod
    in the ancient time - there was no consistant about the way od writing
    the old archiology shows that alot of time very very consanant spelling like איש as אש and a lot more
    and also in the bible of course

    so for example
    the word voices
    קולות
    is written also as קולת קלות קלת
    so no matter if there is a WAW or not - ot the Holam is on the Waw or in the consanant letter

    it is still the same word -
    the masoretic had to use what they got
    so if there was waw they used it - and if not - they didn't
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    never mind why they use this system

    but if the same word is once written with a qubbuts and no waw
    and the same word when it is with WAw has the Shuruq

    so it is still the same wod
    in the ancient time - there was no consistant about the way od writing
    the old archiology shows that alot of time very very consanant spelling like איש as אש and a lot more
    and also in the bible of course

    so for example
    the word voices
    קולות
    is written also as קולת קלות קלת
    so no matter if there is a WAW or not - ot the Holam is on the Waw or in the consanant letter

    it is still the same word -
    the masoretic had to use what they got
    so if there was waw they used it - and if not - they didn't

    That is true. This is why I'm saying we don't know. There is evidence both ways. But like I said, in the Babylonian reading tradition at one point, even the same word was pronounced differently when spelled with qubbutz and when spelled with shuruq.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    can you give an example

    and before you do
    the question is

    it is about all Shuruqs

    or just Shuruq on the consanant WAW that turns to a vowel?

    becaue it can't be any shuruq
    because how would they say a word that is written in two way?

    their language was natural and they didn't used the dictionary to check if it is written in "full" spelling or not

    i think you may talk about cases when the consanant WAW turns to a vowel
    and so the "process" that the words had, was represented in their mouth

    but i don't think it is about the "spelled" word
    because the speling is not relevant

    so it maybe that there was a slight different pronaunciation but my logic tell me it is not about the spelling but just about the consanant Waw in the process of developing to a vowel

    if you can give an example to what you've said
    or give a source (i wifsh in hebrew)
    it would be better for me to understand and maybe give my opinion
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I saw this in Max Weinreich's History of the Yiddish Language (originally published in Yiddish in 1973, but I have the English edition from 2008; I don't know if there is a Hebrew edition):

    From section 7.6:
    The specialized literature speaks of the Babylonian reading system as a six-vowel system, for Babylonia has only one vowel for patah and segol—realized apparently as /a/, if we may rely on the present Yemenite reading. But we shall soon see (7.6.2) that the Tiberian kubbuz, realized as /u/, is split in two in the Babylonian reading system: shurek, realized as /u/, and kubbuz, realized as /y/.

    From section 7.6.2:
    Up until now we have discussed the shurek only as a plene variant of the kubbuz. There are a considerable number of cases in the Masora where the same word is sometimes written plene and sometimes defective (for example, gblt [גְּבֻלֹת] in Deuteronomy 32:8; gblvt [גְּבֻלוֹת] in Job 24:2; and gbvlt [גְּבוּלֹת] in Isaiah 10:13; it is the same form of the plural “boundaries”), and whether shurek or kubbuz it is realized in the same way: u among the Sephardim and the northern Ashkenazim, i, y among the southern Ashkenazim, except among Yemenites. Among them the equivalent of shurek is /u/, the equivalent of the kubbuz is /y/. There are reliable, although not sufficiently detailed reports that the same distinction is also manifest in Baghdad (that is in post-Babylonian territory proper) and in Shiraz (in the Persian province of Fars, that is, in the Babylonian sphere of influence). The conclusion is therefore merited that in the Babylonian reading there was a seventh phone that grew out of the graphic split shurek ~ kubbuz.
    The bifurcation of shurek ~ kubbuz into a contrast /u ~ y/ must have taken place before Yemen was isolated from Babylonia, that is, no later than the twelfth century. This is confirmed by the evidence of Ashkenaz (7.4.1): the same contrast /u ~ y/ is found in Ashkenazic Hebrew in the Old Yiddish and up to the Middle Yiddish periods. An influence of Yemen on Ashkenaz is unthinkable, for from the beginning and up to the second half of the nineteenth century the two territories had no contact with each other. Conceivable, the phenomenon /u ~ y/ arose in Ashkenaz entirely independently of Yemen, but what could have been the impetus for such innovation? With much more justification we may conceive of the situation thus: The phenomenon existed among the Babylonians and thence passed over (through migration of the actual users) to Yemen and to Ashkenaz (by Babylonian scholars and teachers). Because this is not the only Babylonian trait found in the Ashkenazic reading since the Old Yiddish period, we must arrive at the conclusion that /u ~ y/ as the realization of shurek ~ kubbuz was also brought to Ashkenaz by the “Babylonian renaissance,” which we place in the thirteenth century (7.13.1).

    I can take a long in the bibliography later today and see if I can find where Weinreich himself got this from.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    Hi Drink and thanks

    I read it and i think i understand what it said but also missed a few things

    but still, there are things that i didn't undertsnad much and i need the clearification

    when it says:
    "Among them the equivalent of shurek is /u/, the equivalent of the kubbuz is /y/."

    so the /u/ is understandable
    but what is the /y/
    a consanant? a vowel?

    for example lets say the word
    גבלות
    how would you write it in English letters according to this pronounciation
    (and if you use just the y after the consanant write if it is ay ey ya yo yu and how is i read it


    second, first you said (or other) about the Tiberian

    the Yemanite as it said - used the babylonian Niqqud system which is different
    but it seems the same manner in the Qubbuts-Shuruq
    when the word had'nt Waw - they put the sign over the consanant
    and if there was a Waw - then the same sign was on the Waw
    i don't see anything in that Niqqud system that differ the sounds between each other

    third - i'm Yemenite myself - and when i read the Torah (in the past) and heard the other read - i never, and never heard any difference between them - nor that i was taght something like that
    (but maybe, this is something that dissappear in the modern time, I don't know)

    and forth, like you said, what it his source
    did he based that on scripts?
    or by evidence of hearing?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    1. The /y/ is the vowel sound of German ü and French u. This sound does not exist in English, or in Modern Israeli Hebrew. It is basically in between the sounds /u/ and /i/. It is pronounced with rounded lips like /u/, but in the front of the mouth like /i/. So it is called a close front rounded vowel.

    2. I don't know that much about the Babylonian niqqud system. Perhaps there were different variants from different times or different places?

    3. Maybe it is something that disappeared in modern times by the influence of Modern Israeli Hebrew. But also I know that there are two different Yemenite reading traditions, and maybe it is only in one of them?

    4. It turns out there is no real bibliography in this book, but there is a "Notes" section that is as long (or longer) than the book itself. Here is the relevant paragraph from the Notes to section 7.6.2:
    Shurek ~ kubuts in Yemen: cf. Goitein, in Leshonenu 3 (1930/1931): 361, and idem, Jemenica (Leipzig, 1934), xvii; Yalon, in Kuntrasim 1 (1937/1938): 76, n. 55; Y. Damati, ibid., 11, 13, and mainly in Kuntrasim 2 (1938/1939): 7-8; Gumpertz, Mivtae sefatenu, 76, n. 62. Damati tells of a dichotomy in the kubuts between men and women: men pronounce shulḥan ‘table,’ kedushah ‘holiness,’ geulah ‘redemption’ with /y/, women with /i/ (words of this type have kubuts, although current Hebrew spelling, too, has a shuruk. Another detail: the /y/ also holds for an initial melupm before a schwa, e.g., uvekhen ‘so’). On the other hand, says Damati, women pronounce words of the type mitsvah ‘commandment,’ mitah ‘bed,’ mikveh ‘ritual bath’ with /y/, whereas the men maintain the /i/ of the ḥirik. I can understand this only in the following way: the phoneme /y/ still exists, but in the Merged Hebrew of Yemenite Yahudic, its use became uncertain. There is confusion, and this is mainly noticeable among women, who do not have the conservative support of study; among men, the boundary between the two phonemes is more marked. (In such fluid situations, it is not precluded that acrolectic influence should regulate the use of the phonemes according to grammatical norms.) On the difference in language between men and women, see §1.6.9.—A. Zvi [Idelsohn], “Mivta hatemanim,” Hasafah 1 (1912): 88-92, has identified the kubuts not with y, but with “short u,” and similarly in Hashiloaḥ 28 (1912/1913): 37; however, idem, “Aussprache des Hebräischen,” 539, describes the Yemenite kubuts as follows: “Before guttural phones, it sounds like a short ü.” Damati rejects the proviso “before gutturals.”—On the kubuts in Bagdad: Yalon, in Kuntrasim 2:102; in Shiraz: idem, Kuntrasim, 1:76.—The more one delves into the details, the stronger the probibility that /u > y/ is not confined to Yemen or even Babylonia but that it is a long-standing process in Hebrew that might date to the times of unmediatedness. The path of research is thorny here and an outsider must await perforce for the conclusions of the specialists. Yalon, in Kuntrasim, 1:76, noted a /y/ among the Samaritans, but Ben-Hayyim has informed me that he knows of no such phenomenon in Samaritan Hebrew. later, Yalon found traces of the process in the Dead Sea Scrolls, cf. Kiryat sefer 27 (1951/1952): 20-21, mainly in the footnote; privately, Yalon has informed me that he has additional confirmation of this view. Kutscher, Halashon vehareka haleshoni, 356-391, discussed the matter in detail, although with only tentative conclusions.—S. Pinsker, Mavo el hanikud haashuri (Vienna, 1863), 15-16, 150-154, maintains that /y/ for kubuts was actually current in northern Palestine: “Its pronunciation was like the pronunciation of Polish Jews—German ü or French u.” (Yalon, in Kuntrasim, 1:67, rightly asked whether Polish Jews in Pinsker’s time really had a rounded vowel here.) Pinsker added, without adducing proof, that the y for kubuts came to Poland “by way of Caucasia, the land of the Khazars and the Crimean peninsula.” In the framework of our facts, it is difficult to see how the Sephardi Abraham ibn Ezra could have pronounced the shuruk /y/, as Pinsker states in Mavo. However, Yalon, in Kuntrasim, 1:67, pointed out that Pinsker misinterpreted ibn Ezra; for the latter, shuruk was u.—In my “Prehistory and Early History,” 91-93, I expressed the opinion that Babylonia originally had six vowels, and that the bifurcation of kubuts and shuruk was a later internal Babylonian development, i.e., Babylonia had an older six-vowel reading system and a newer, seven-vowel one. However, Kutscher, Halashon vehareka haleshoni, has collected considerable material, the extent of which has not yet been determined, but that indicates at any rate that the u > y shift is very old and was also encountered in Palestine. Theoretically, it is still possible that this transition eneded later and reappeared in Babylonia spontaneously, but there is no need to conceive of it thus, and therefore, there is insufficient reason to speak of an older and newer Babylonian reading system. Morag, Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, 22-23, has a very reserved formulation: “One of the phonemes, /u/, is represented by two symbols . . . one, shuruk, is the vav with a dot in the center . . . the other, ŭ (the kubuts), is used when the traditional orthography does not have the vav. To be sure, the kubuts appears quite frequently in closed unstressed syllables, but its use is by no means confined to this position; hence, we cannot conceive of the kubuts as an allophone of /u/, it should be considered a graphic variant of /u/.” For the time being, one thing that can be said with certainty: there are no indications of the /u ~ y, i/ bifurcation in the Tiberian reading system, but in the Babylonian there are. (The material on /y/ in Ashkenaz as the phonic counterpart of kubuts is discussed at greater length under “Old Yiddish—Vocalism.”)
    The authors mentioned in the notes above:
    - Goitein: Shelomo Dov Goitein / שלמה דב גויטיין
    - Yalon: Hanoch Yelon / חנוך ילון
    - Damati: יצחק דמתי a.k.a. יצחק שבטיאל (teman.org.il, hebrew-academy.org.il)
    - Gumpertz: יחיאל גדליהו פ. גומפרץ
    - A. Zvi [Idelsohn]: Abraham Zevi Idelsohn / אברהם צבי אידלסון
    - Ben-Hayyim: Ze'ev Ben-Haim / זאב בן-חיים
    - Kutscher: Yechezkel Kutscher / יחזקאל קוטשר
    - Pinsker: Simhah Pinsker / שמחה פינסקר
    - Morag: Shlomo Morag / שלמה מורג

    Some definitions that might help you when reading the notes above:
    - melupm: the Yiddish word for a vav with a dot in the middle, so basically a shuruq
    - Merged Hebrew: basically refers to Hebrew loanwords and loan-phrases used within a vernacular language
    - Yahudic: Judeo-Arabic
    - unmediatedness: refers to a language being a naturally spoken language, rather than a learned language
     
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    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    Thank you Drink

    I will check this thing
    I know שלמה מורג has a lot of research about the yemanite linguistic

    and the other scholars are well known as well

    I think in a month or two
    I will be able to search for a lot of these scholars articles and i'll read about this thing

    So thanks again for you trouble and effort
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    They occurred in complementary distribution, but they never alternated with each other. Interpret that as you will.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Vocalic length was not encoded in the Massoretic vocalic system, which represented vowel quality only (e.g., חיריק was used to represent
    both /i/, as in אִשָּׁה ʾiššāh, ‘woman’, and /ī/, as in אִישׁ ʾīš , ‘man’). The only explicit length distinction is in the ḥatef-vowels.

    The same goes for /u/ and /ū/.
     

    גולם

    New Member
    English - American
    They occurred in complementary distribution, but they never alternated with each other. Interpret that as you will.
    If two sounds occur in complementary distribution, they're allophones of one phoneme. E.g. the sounds represented by the "k" in "skin" and "kin".
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    That is incorrect. Complementary distribution is one criterion for allophony, but it's not sufficient by itself.

    For example, short i and long ū also occur in complementary distribution. As do short i and long ō. And as do short i and long ē. Now in this last example, we actually see alternations, for example the first vowel of a pi'el verb can be either short i or long ē depending on the middle root letter.

    My point here is that classifying two sounds as a single phoneme is not as simple as saying they occur in complementary distribution. Often alternations are considered a secondary criterion, but they are not strictly required and they don't necessarily demonstrate phonemicity. In the end, it's a very subjective question.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    That's the problem, it's not really well defined. But in essence, it needs to be shown that there is some kind of association between these sounds that they should be treated as a single phoneme.

    As a mental exercise, I challenge you to try to prove to me that short-i and long-ū are not allophones of the same phoneme.
     

    JAN SHAR

    Senior Member
    pashto
    Please note that the qamats was pronounced like a short "o" in Biblical Hebrew. So, דבר was pronounced dovor in Biblical Hebrew.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Please note that the qamats was pronounced like a short "o" in Biblical Hebrew. So, דבר was pronounced dovor in Biblical Hebrew.
    No, the Masoretes, who invented the niqqudim and based their system on quality (as opposed to quantity), pronounced קמץ as a short o. By contrast, in biblical Hebrew, the vowel that corresponded to קמץ in the 𝕸 was pronounced ā, i.e. long a. Historically, this was a short a (while the historically long a became long o in a process known as the Canaanite shift.).
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    No, the Masoretes, who invented the niqqudim and based their system on quality (as opposed to quantity), pronounced קמץ as a short o. By contrast, in biblical Hebrew, the vowel that corresponded to קמץ in the 𝕸 was pronounced ā, i.e. long a. Historically, this was a short a (while the historically long a became long o in a process known as the Canaanite shift.).
    We need to distinguish:

    • Biblical Hebrew (or perhaps better: Old Hebrew), the language used by the authors of the Biblical texts before the Babylonian captivity
    • The Masoretic text, a standardised redaction of the consonantal text in the early part of the Christian era (as opposed to the pre-Masoretic texts used in Qumran or by the Samaritans).
    • The three types of vocalised text (Tiberian, Babylonian, Palestinian), representing the text as read in various regions in the second half of the first millennium CE.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Even the Masoretes didn't pronounce the qamatz as a short "o" unless it was a short qamatz. But long qamatz was pronounced as a long "o" (but nevertheless an open "o", like that of the English short "o").
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Even the Masoretes didn't pronounce the qamatz as a short "o" unless it was a short qamatz. But long qamatz was pronounced as a long "o" (but nevertheless an open "o", like that of the English short "o").
    But it is true that their system was based on vowel quality, not quantity, right?
     

    JAN SHAR

    Senior Member
    pashto
    Also, the segol sign (three dots under a letter) represented either a long vowel or a closed in Biblical Hebrew. For example יבנה had a long one but שדה had a short one. But modern grammars don't show this in transliteration unfortunately.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Where have you found that יבנה and שדה differ in the length of the final vowel? It should be long in both cases. Short segol is found in unstressed closed syllables.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    The סְגוֹל‎ in יִבְנֶה is long because it is the result of contraction. Observe:

    yabnayu > (Barth-Ginsberg law) yibnayu > yibne

    There was no such contraction in שָׂדֶה.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    First of all, yes there was such a historical contraction in שדה from something like *sadayu.

    Second of all, both of these contractions happened too long ago to matter. Long before Biblical Hebrew was ever written down.

    The segol that is left is long, in both cases, because it's in an open syllable. Simple as that.
     
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