Edition 1.3
5 February 2012


E-book - History of the Ancient and Modern Hebrew Language

E-book - Biblical Hebrew Poetry and Word Play - Reconstructing the Original Oral, Aural and Visual Experience

By David Steinberg

Home page http://www.houseofdavid.ca/

To print use PDF file here


1. Abbreviations

abs. - absolute state (status absolutus) of a noun or adjective as opposed to the construct and pronominal states.

acc. - accusative case

adj. - adjective

a.p. - active participle

BCE - Before Common Era = BC; CE Common Era = AD

BH - Biblical Hebrew, the language of the Hebrew Bible. Typologically it can be divided into ABH, CBH and PCBH. Its registers include prose and poetic varieties.

BHA - Biblical Hebrew, its antecedents and the development of the Biblical Hebrew reading tradition of the Tiberian Masoretes (BHA phase 1 - Phase 6).

C - consonant

C(1, 2, 3, 4) - (first, second, third, forth) consonant

Cx(Cx) - a given (same) consonant

constr. - construct state (status constructus) of a noun or adjective as opposed to the absolute and pronominal states. In transcription constr. is indicated by the secondary stress marker ˌ .

cp. - common plural

cs. - common singular

du. - dual

f. - feminine

fp. - feminine plural

fs. - feminine singular

gen. - genitive

imp. - imperative

inf. abs. - infinitive absolute

inf. constr. - infinitive construct

m. - masculine

MCS - Masoretic cantillation signs

ML - Matres Lectionis

mp. - masculine plural

ms. - masculine singular

MSA - Modern Standard (or literary) Arabic

MT - Masoretic Text

n. - (foot)note

N1....N2 - first noun ... second noun

nom. - nominative case

obl. - oblique case

part. - participle(s)

PC - Prefix Conjugation[1]

PCcoh[2] - cohortative.[3] This is the volitive mood of the first person of the PC ("I would like to..."; "let's...") . "(T)he cohortative has a direct use, e.g. May I kill, I wish to kill!, and an indirect or subordinated use (with ו ), e.g. in order that I might kill ( וְאֶקְטְלָה)." [4]

PCimp[5] - imperfect. Its range meanings - present, future and past durative.

PCimp_inj - imperfect used as injunctive[6]. "The imperfect in this usage is differentiated from the jussive with its prohibitive in that the imperfect is negated by לֺא while the (jussive) prohibitive has אַל. The commandments formulated in the imperfect often show the archaic long plural suffix and frequent reinforcement by the infinitive absolute. The emphasis in this kind of injunction is not on the will of the speaker (as it is in the jussive and (jussive) prohibitive) but on the action enjoined or forbidden."[7]

PCimp_prfut - imperfect in its most common present, future meaning.

PCimp_pdur - imperfect in its less common past durative meaning.

PCjus[8] - jussive. This is the volitive mood of the second and third person of the PC.[9] "The jussive is used to express all the nuances of will: from a superior to an inferior: command, exhortation, advice, invitation, permission; - from an inferior to a superior: wish, prayer, request for permission etc. The jussive is often followed by the entreating particle נָא, especially in requests for permission."[10]

PCpret - preterite i.e. the original past tense that preceded the development of the SC as a verbal tense.

PCpret_sim[11] - the simple yaqtul preterite i.e. used without the augmented conjunction,...waw plus gemination. This is moderately common in poetry and used sporadically in prose usually where the context makes the time reference unambiguous.

PCpretWC[12] - "In prose the yaqtul (preterite) has been restricted to the role of a narrative past tense expressing a sequence of actions. In narrative sequences of this nature, it is at the head of the clause, always introduced by the augmented conjunction,...waw plus gemination...."[13] PCpretWC is a regular feature of BH prose and is used sporadically in BH poetry.

pl. - plural

PMT - Proto-Masoretic text - the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible inherited by the Tiberian Masoretes. Their addition to this text form of the MCS and vowel signs (pointing) produced the Masoretic Text.

p.p. - passive participle

pro. - pronoun, pronominal

PS - Proto-Semitic language[14]

s. - singular

SC - Suffix Conjugation[15]. GK (106) gives a global overview of the non-waw conversive SC - "(It) serves to express actions, events, or states, which the speaker wishes to represent from the point of view of completion, whether they belong to a determinate past time, or extend into the present, or, while still in the future, are pictured in their complete state."

SChyp - "Hypothetical conditions or unrealizable wishes"[16]

SCpast - past tense. Normally non-durative[17]. This is the normal usage and accounts for the great majority of non-waw conversive instances of the SC.

SCpre - A performative action that occurs by means of speaking.

נָתַתִּי אֹתְךָ עַל כָּל־אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

I appoint you over all the land of Egypt.[18]

SCprec - precative perfect i.e. to articulate a request (rare and only found in Psalms).[19]

SCprof - prophetic perfect presenting the future as if it was already reality[20] (rare).

SCstate - state of affairs or condition. Mainly with stative verbs.[21] Nb. GK (106g) "(The SC can) represent actions, events, or states, which, although completed in the past, nevertheless extend their influence into the present (in English generally rendered by the present...."

SCtimeless - gnomic perfect describing actions or events that are not time-bound (rare).[22]

SCwc - waw conversive form of SC carrying the range of meanings of PCimp. Used regularly in narrative prose and irregularly in poetry.

sp. - pronominal state (status pronominalis)[23] of nouns governing pronominal suffixes contrasting with the absolute and construct states. Sp. resembles the construct both in function and form but exhibits a shift of stress which in EBHP rests on the pronominal suffix or the vowel connecting it with the noun except for the always stressed heavy suffixes כם, כן, הם, הן, ם.

V - vowel

V(1, 2) - (first, second) vowel

Vx(Vx) - a given (same) vowel


2. Linguistic Terms and Symbols[24]

Anceps vowels //, /ĩ/, /ũ/

Colloquial Arabic - current spoken varieties of Arabic

Energic Mood - 'Found in Classical Arabic and various other Semitic languages, the energetic mood expresses something which is strongly believed or which the speaker wishes to emphasize, e.g. yaktubanna يَكتُبُنَّ ("he certainly writes")' - source Wikipedia.

Epigraphic Hebrew (EH) - the extra-biblical Hebrew inscriptions of Palestine which have been attributed to the period between the tenth and the sixth century BCE.

Fientive or action verb designates an action of movement or change of state in which the subject performs the action.

Koine, Koineization

Phonemes - consonants

Phonemes - vowels

Phonologically distinct or phonological - refers to phonic differences capable of distinguishing meaning in a given language. Essentially it has them same meaning as 'phonemic'

Vowel Letters or Matres Lectionis (Latin for mothers of reading) abbreviation ML - א ה ו י when used to represent a vowel. For details see these boxes.

ˈ Primary (or Main) stress (occasionally phonemic) - this symbol is placed immediately before the syllable carrying primary stress with the stressed syllable itself marked bold e.g. */ʾaˈdaːm/.

ˌ Secondary stress[25] Phonemic in EBHP/LBHP in such cases as: /ˈsūs/ = "horse"; /ˌsūs/ (constr) = "horse of -". This symbol is placed immediately before the syllable carrying secondary stress.

       For EBHP I assume that nouns in the construct have a secondary stress on the syllable which in the absolute case would carry the primary stress.

       For TH syllable:

o        In the case of nouns in the construct case, all syllables marked by Tiberian stress indicating accents are assumed to carry secondary stress[26].

o        In all other cases all syllables marked by Tiberian stress indicating accents, other than the final one in the word, are assumed to carry secondary stress.

N.b. - In TH, originally short vowels are found in closed syllables carrying primary or secondary stress, and are pronounced long.[27]

. Syllable break - a.a (used where necessary for clarity)

/t/ virgules mark phoneme boundaries

: colon placed between two words indicates phonological contrast minimally, a minimal pair

[t] square brackets mark phonetic/allophone boundaries.

<ph> graphemes

? Indicates that it is impossible to decide between alternatives based on current data.e.g. /ˈḫiṣy/ (EBHP?) > /ˈḫi/ (EBHP?) means the pre-exilic Biblical Hebrew (BH) phonemic pronunciation was either /ˈḫiṣy/ or its later derived form /ˈḫi/.

/ slash separates contrastive or variant items, categories, etc.

root eg √gdl or √גדל

{ } encloses morphemic element, morphemic, element, morphemic junction or root.

( ) in transcriptions encloses: (a) an element included in an alternative reconstruction; or, (b) an omissible or optional element. Thus EBHP /qaˈṭalta(ː)/ indicates that the pronunciation was either /qaˈṭalta/ or /qaˈṭaltaː/ or that either was an option at that time.

< 'derives from ...'

<< morphophonemic shift

'derives from...' omitting one or more intermediate stages.

> 'leads to ...'

>> morphophonemic shift

abridged shift (i.e. without intermediate stages).

# terminal pause.


~ 'both forms exist(ed) synchronically'.

by analogy to

≈hyp. cor. hypercorrections or pseudo-correction. Example forms such as בְּאֵר /bәˈʾệr/

'with or without' or 'indifferent to'.


2.1 Symbols Denoting Vowels - see Vowel Phonemes [28]

a) Vowel Length

         Transcribing diachronic examples -

                                           I.      Irreducible Historically Long Vowels i.e. vowels that seem to have been long as far back as we can reconstruct even if their quality has changed -

/ῑ/, /ē/ ([ɛ̄] or [ẹ̄][29]), /ā/[30], /ō/[31], /ū/.

N.b. Such vowels can be gained by analogy as in the case of the 1cs. independent pronoun.

                                         II.      Irreducible Long Vowels which lengthened due to contraction and assimilation -

//, // ([ɛ̂] or [ệ]), //, //, //.

                                      III.      Long Vowels originating from PH anceps vowels, vowels lengthened due to stress
(tonic and pretonic lengthening), long vowels whose origin is unclear, and long
vowels in foreign names etc. e.g.
פַּרְעֹ֛ה /parˈc/, סִֽיסְרָ֖א /siːsạˈraː/ -

/iː/, /eː/ ([ɛː] or [ẹː]), /aː/,ː/, /oː/, /uː/.

                                     IV.      Vowels carrying primary stress when not otherwise marked -

, ɪ́, , ẹ́, ɛ́, , ɐ́, ɔ́, , ʊ́, .

                                        V.      Vowels carrying secondary stress in TH when not otherwise marked -

, ɪ̀, , ẹ̀, ɛ̀, , ɐ̀, ɔ̀, , ʊ̀, .


         Phonetic transcription and transcribing reconstructed text

       I generally use IPA symbols, thus historic /ō/, // and /oː/ (see above) are all
transcribed [oː] in *

       TH qāmeṣ is transcribed [ɔ] in *[TH] regardless of its origin;


         Word-final Vowels of intermediate or uncertain length

I use the IPA symbol ˑ for transcribing reconstructed *[EBHP] word-final vowels in two situations:

       when it is uncertain whether a word-final vowel was pronounced short or long e.g. TH קׇטַלְתׇּ which was a reflex of /EBHP/ */qaˈṭalta(ː)/ i.e. */qaˈṭaltaː/ or */qaˈṭalta/; reconstructed pronunciation [EBHP] *[qɐˈɐltɐˑ]

       when a historically long word-final vowel is unstressed and hence probably shortened in pronunciation as in many Arabic dialects e.g. TH (3fs. SC) קׇטְלָה which was a reflex of /EBHP/ */qaˈṭal/[32]; [EBHP] *[qɐˈɐlɐˑ]


b) Restored Vowels -

ạ, ị, ụ in /EBHP/ (ɐ, ɪ , ʊ or ɐ̣, ɪ̣, ʊ̣ in my reconstructed [EBHP])[33] are used to indicate originally short vowels, which have been reduced to ә/ (בְ), ɐ̆ (בֲ), ɛ̆ (בֱ) or ɔ̆ (בֳ) in TH.
Their pronunciation in
[EBHP], in descending order of probability -

/ạ/ [ɐ], [ɐ̆], [ɛ], [ɛ̆], [ә], []

/ị/ [ɪ], [ĭ], [], [ĕ], [ә], []

/ụ/ [ʊ], [ŭ], [ŏ], [ɔ], [ɔ̆], [ә], []

c) Notes -

         in diachronic examples, the TH phoneme /ɔ/ is transcribed /ǫ/[34] *[ɔ] when it originated from short u, and // *[ɔː]
when it immediately originated from long a.

         in quotations from other authors I have generally kept their notation unless otherwise noted.

a - furtive pataḥ, Hebrew term pataḥ g'nuvah

2.2 Gemination[35]

Were Word-Final Geminated Consonants Maintained in EBHP?

Long continuants

Long stops

Symbols for long vowels and consonants

List of words with final gemination


2.3 Stages of the Hebrew Language [36]

a) PNWS - Proto-Northwest Semitic (BHA phase 1)

b) PH - Proto-Hebrew (BHA phase 2). The Canaanite dialects (c.1200-1000 B.C.E.) that would develop into Hebrew with the loss of the case endings. Pattern of long and short vowels and consonants carry on Proto-Semitic pattern. Vowel and consonant quality and length phonemic. Stress uniformly penultimate thus not distinct. Sources - see Harris 1939, Hendel-Lambdin-Huehnergard, Senz-Badillos.

c) AH - Ancient Hebrew[37] - All the Canaanite dialects written and spoken in the territory described in the Bible as being settled by the tribes of Israel, and later the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, from about 1000 BCE until the extinction of Hebrew speech with the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion in the mid-second century CE (BHA phase 1 - Phase 4).

c.1) PreExH - Pre-Exilic Hebrew (BHA phase 3). This encompasses both Judean and Israelian Hebrew i.e. all the dialects spoken and written in the villages and towns of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel c. early 10th to early sixth centuries BCE i.e. in the First Temple Period.

Israelian Hebrew (some scholars call Northern or Israelite Hebrew [38]) (BHA phase 3) - This is not a dialect; it is a catchall term for all the dialects spoken and written in the villages and towns of the Kingdom of Israel c. 1000 BCE until at least the late eighth century BCE. It does not imply that these dialects had more in common with each other than many of them had to some of the dialects spoken in the Kingdom of Judah and hence classed under the rubric Judahite Hebrew. It is possible that the major areas of the kingdom (Samaria, Galilee, the Coastal Plain and Gilead) developed recognizable regional dialects.

IEH - Israelian Epigraphic Hebrew

*[EBHPisr] a possible reconstruction of Samarian Hebrew when probably at variance from EBHP.

Judahite Hebrew (some scholars call Southern or Judean Hebrew) (BHA phase 3) - This is not a dialect; it is a catchall term for all the dialects spoken and written in the villages and towns of the Kingdom of Judah during the First Temple Period. The spoken dialects ancestral to MH, falls under this rubric. Use of the term Judahite Hebrew does not imply that these dialects had more in common with each other than many of them had to some of the dialects spoken in the Kingdom of Judah and hence classed under the rubric Israelian Hebrew.

ABH - Archaizing Biblical Hebrew - The language of a few important poems[39]. These poems could have been authored at any time after 1000 BCE[40] probably using a standard set of archaizing features[41].

CBH - Classical Biblical Hebrew (BHA phase 3) - The literary dialect of Jerusalem c.950-586 B.C.E (First Temple Period) as recorded in the passages of the Hebrew Bible reasonably dated to the pre-exilic period. It is represented by the PMT, of these passages, minus non-word final vowel letters. This is the only widely attested form of Judahite Hebrew. It is clear that: (1) CBH shows very little if any internal development[42] suggesting later revision of any early texts, (2) all CBH biblical texts were transferred to the Aramaic script, modernized in orthography and possibly linguistically and/or textually revised in the post-exilic period. (3) CBH continued to be written, alongside PCBH, well into the Persian period[43]. In the post-exilic period the author/editors would have used PMH or Aramaic as their daily speech and have written the very different CBH and PCBH in the way that modern Arabs write MSA, Iron Age Babylonian scribes composed in Standard Babylonian[44] or as medieval Italians wrote Church Latin. N.b. the language of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, while being substantially CBH, show some PCBH features.

*EBHP - Early Biblical Hebrew Pronunciation

/EBHP/+[45] - This reconstruction includes -

         the phonemic transcription of reconstructed CBH (/EBHP/) recovering, as closely as possible, the pronunciation that a scribe in Jerusalem 700-600 BCE would have used in reading poetry and other literature to upper class Judeans or members of the kings court. Vowel and consonant quality and length and word stress phonological. N.b. It is quite possible that Early Biblical Hebrew Pronunciation continued to be used in some circles for formal literary reading of CBH and PCBH, alongside LBHP, well into the Persian period;

         the occasionally phonemic placement of primary word stress;

         the non-phonemic placement of secondary word stress; and,

         the non-phonemic distinction between the long vowels of various origins e.g. , , .

[EBHP] [46] a phonetic transcription of reconstructed Early Biblical Hebrew Pronunciation.

/EBHP+/ more probable of alternative reconstructions.

/EBHP-/ less probable of alternative reconstructions.

/EBHP?/ possible reconstruction usually used when it is impossible to decide, based on current data, between and earlier and later form.

/EBHPsam/ possible reconstruction of Samarian pre-exilic Hebrew when probably at variance from Jerusalem dialect.

JEH - Judahite Epigraphic Hebrew (see A Note on Epigraphic Hebrew) - inscriptions contemporaneous with pre-exilic CBH. Scribes trained in Jerusalem 700-586 BCE were likely the authors of the bulk of surviving JEH e.g. Siloam Inscription, Lachish ostraca, Arad ostraca. For their orthography see Matres Lectionis in Hebrew. The same circles were likely the composers and/or transmitters of most of the pre-exilic biblical texts. Epigraphic Hebrew documents have been preserved in their original language and orthography and, within limits, can serve as a guide to pronunciation. Except for archaisms used in poetry, the original orthography of the pre-exilic biblical texts would very likely to have conformed to the norms of JEH.

I am working on the assumption that in JEH -

         all final stressed vowels were long and generally marked by vowel letters;

         final unstressed long vowels were generally marked by vowel letters; and,

         final unstressed short vowels, were unmarked i.e. were not marked by vowel letters or in any other way.

c.2) PostExH - Post-Exilic Hebrew (BHA phase 4)

PCBH - Post-Classical Biblical Hebrew (BHA phase 4) - A literary dialect of Jerusalem c.500 B.C.E.- 70 CE. It is a direct continuation of, and very similar to CBH[47] and like CBH texts the language of PCBH biblical passages shows no discernable internal development.. However, it shows internal linguistic developments that were probably influenced by Aramaic[48] and contemporary spoken Hebrew. PCBH diverged increasingly from spoken Hebrew and should be considered a diglossic prestige language.[49] In the post-exilic period the author/editors would have used PMH or Aramaic as their daily speech and have written the very different CBH and PCBH in the way that modern Arabs write MSA or as medieval Italians wrote Church Latin[50]. Sources later books of the Bible such as Chronicles.

LBHP /LBHP/ (Late Biblical Hebrew Pronunciation) - Phonemic transcription of reconstructed reading tradition of BH c.500 BCE - 200 CE. Naturally it would have changed considerably over that period. It was increasingly affected by Aramaic and spoken Hebrew.

[LBHP] a phonetic transcription[51] transcription of reconstructed Late Biblical Hebrew Pronunciation.

QH - Qumran Hebrew i.e. the Hebrew of the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (see Qimron 1986). Opinions differ as to whether it should be considered a highly idiosyncratic and Aramaized form of PCBH or a separate line of development[52]. Most scholars consider it to have been a literary language probably spoken in formal situations much like MSA today in the Arab world. For the relation between BH and QH see Young, Rezetko, Ehrensvrd 2008 chapt. 10.

PMH - Proto-Mishnaic or Proto-Rabbinic Hebrew - see Development of Proto-Mishnaic Hebrew (c. 586 BCE-c. 70 BC).[53].

MH - Mishnaic, Middle or Rabbinic Hebrew - Basically the spoken Hebrew of some areas of rural Judah of the first and early second centuries C.E. Its population base was destroyed with the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion. Source - Tannaitic Literature especially the Mishnah. For the relation between BH and MH see Young, Rezetko, Ehrensvrd 2008 chapt. 9.

d) MidH - Medieval Hebrew. Various forms of Hebrew c. 1000-c. 1850 C.E.

e) IH - Israeli Hebrew. Spoken and written Hebrew Palestine (1900-1947)/Israel (1948-present).

/IH/ Phonemic transcription of IH.

[IH] Phonetic transcription of IH. Note Vowel System - Modern Israeli Hebrew.


2.4) Proto-Tiberian, Tiberian and Other Traditions of Reading Biblical Hebrew

a) PTH - Proto-Tiberian Hebrew (BHA Phase 5 - c.150-c.500 C.E.). This is the developing traditional pronunciation of some circles of Aramaic speaking Palestinian scholars when reading the Proto-Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible.

This tradition underlies TH and is largely deduced from the phonology of TH.

/PTH/+ This reconstruction includes -

         the phonemic[54] transcription of reconstructed PTH (/PTH/);

         the occasionally phonemic placement of primary word stress;

         the non-phonemic placement of secondary word stress;

         the allophonic spirantization of the bgdkpt consonants (dage qal (Hebrew) or dagesh lene (Latin) - b/b, g/g, d/d, p/p, t/t; and,

         the non-phonemic distinction between the long vowels of various origins e.g. , , .

[PTH] Phonetic[55] transcription of reconstructed PTH.

b) TH - Tiberian Hebrew (BHA Phase 6 - c.850 C.E.). TH masoretic cantillation and vowel points basically reflect the final development of PTH as it continued to develop from the fifth to the ninth centuries CE (see Tiberian Vowel System). Compared to EBHP there was a decrease in the number of consonantal phonemes and an increase in the number of vowel phonemes. Short vowels remain only in closed unstressed syllables. Vowel length non-phonological, consonant gemination carries light phonemic load. Vowel and consonant quality and word stress phonological.

As described in Khan 1987 (pp. 24-25) -

"Although the Tiberian vocalization system marks all the major qualitative distinctions between the vowels, it gives only partial indication of relative vowel quantity. The reason for this is that ... vowel quantity was not phonemic. The vocalization system was concerned primarily with the phonemic quality oppositions. The few indications of allophonic distinctions of both quality and quantity were made by the Masoretes out of their desire to preserve correctly the phonetic details of the reading tradition."

/TH/+ In order to include the full range of word-level information provided by MT this includes:

         the phonemic transcription of TH (/TH/);

         the occasionally phonemic placement of primary word stress;

         the non-phonemic placement of secondary word stress; and,

         the largely partly or largely allophonic -

         vocal wa and ḥaṭaf/ḥatep vowels[56]

         spirantization of the bgdkpt consonants (dage qal (Hebrew) or dagesh lene (Latin) - b/b, g/g, d/d, k/k, p/p, t/t.

[TH][57] Phonetic transcription of reconstructed TH assuming that vowels that the were as in the table Tiberian Vowel System.

c) Other Written Traditions of Reading Biblical Hebrew[58]

BHQum - Biblical Hebrew as reflected in the orthography of biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (2nd c. BCE-1st c. CE)[59].

BHPal - Biblical Hebrew pointed with Palestinian Vocalization (from c. 7th c. CE)[60].

BHBab - Biblical Hebrew pointed with Babylonian Vocalization (from late c. 9th c. CE)[61].

BHGk-Lat - Biblical Hebrew as reflected in Greek[62] and Latin[63] transcriptions (mainly 3rd c. BCE-4th c. CE)[64].

BHSam-nik - Biblical Hebrew pointed with Samaritan Vocalization (from c. 10th c. CE).

d) Modern Pronunciation Traditions Used in Reading BH

1.      BHSAM[65] - Modern Samaritan traditional pronunciation used in reading the (unpointed) Samaritan Pentateuch. There are four vowel lengths maintained in the Samaritan tradition of Torah reading but vowel length is not phonological[66].

2.      BHIH = [BHIH] = [IH] - The reading of the MT using Israeli Hebrew pronunciation. Stress mainly follows TH accents and the phonemic structure is set by the TH graphemes. Influence of European Languages. No long consonants or vowels, no emphatic consonants, no gutturals except occasional [h]. For the sound system of Israeli Hebrew see Glinert p. 9 see also Berman.

3.      BHAH = [BHAH] - The reading of the MT using traditional Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation. Stress penultimate and the phonemic structure is set by the TH graphemes thus any variations in vowel length are non-phonological. Influence of European Languages. No long consonants or vowels, no emphatic consonants, no gutturals except [h].

4.      BHMIZ = [BHMIZ] - The reading of the MT using traditional Mizrahi (Arabic speaking excluding Yementie) Hebrew pronunciation. Stress mainly follows TH accents and the phonemic structure is set by the TH graphemes thus any variations in vowel length are non-phonological. Somewhat variable due to the influence of different Arabic dialects. Pronunciation includes long consonants and vowels, emphatic consonants, gutturals.

5.      BHSEP = [BHSEP] - The reading of the MT using traditional Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation. maintained in the Ladino speaking communities. Stress mainly follows TH accents and the phonemic structure is set by the TH graphemes thus any variations in vowel length are non-phonological. Influence of European Languages. No long consonants or vowels, no emphatic consonants, no gutturals except occasional [h].

6.      BHYEM[67] = [BHYEM] - The reading of the MT using the traditional Yemeni Hebrew pronunciations for scriptural reading and recitation. Stress mainly follows TH accents and the phonemic structure is set by the TH graphemes thus variations in vowel length are non-phonological (There are four vowel lengths maintained in the Yemenite tradition of reading the MT. [68]) Somewhat variable due to the influence of different Yemeni Arabic dialects.

7.      THCST = /THCST/ Conventional Scholarly Transcription of TH. Stress mainly follows TH accents and the phonemic structure, including stress, is set by the TH graphemes. The most widely used standard for THCST is THSBL - Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Academic Translation Style[69].

[THCSP IS-ENG] - This represents the way English-speaking scholars, familiar with the pronunciation of IH, tend to pronounce TH. Frequently, in writing scholars use THCST for transcription, they ignore the transcription substituting BHIH in oral pronunciation modified, in some cases, where English speaking habits are closer to *[TH] than to [IH]/BHIH. Some examples[70] -

(a) ēr in [THCSP IS-ENG] is usually pronounced with its historic Tiberian pronunciation (IPA [e]) not as in IH [ɛ] - cf. the English contrast bet:bait;

(b) ר in [THCSP IS-ENG] is usually actualized as [ɾ] as in English and *[TH] not as in BHIH/IH [ʁ̞];

(c) consonantal ה in BHIH/IH is usually silent or a glottal stop while in [THCSP IS-ENG] English speakers tend to realize it, in positions in which consonantal [h] appears in English, as the original [h] - cf. the English contrast hat:at. Some examples -

- "the door" הַדֶּלֶת

/TH/ /had.ˈ.lɛt/ [TH] *[hɐd.ˈː.lɛθ]

BHIH/IH [ɐ.ˈ.lɛt]

THCSP IS-ENG [hɐ.ˈ.lɛt]

- BUT, English not being comfortable with a consonantal [h] following a vowel at the end of a syllable הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ

/TH/ /hal.lu.ˈyh/ [TH] *[hɐl.luː.ˈyɔːh]

BHIH/IH [ɐ.lə.lu.ˈ]

THCSP IS-ENG [hɐ.lə.lu.ˈ]

- Perhaps the most important example of English pronunciation rules distorting a key word is יהוה EBHP *yahˈw THCSP IS-ENG [yaˈw]

(d) in IH yod quiesces when followed by a req at the beginning of words thus יִשְׂרָאֵל is [yɪsrɐˈẹl] in [THCSP IS-ENG] but [ɪsʁɐˈɛl] in BHIH/IH. Similarly, יִבְחַר is
ɪvˈxɐr] in THCSP IS-ENG but [ɪvˈxɐr] in BHIH/IH.

It must be stressed, that this practice, of modeling pronunciation on [IH], completely obscures important Ancient Hebrew distinctions - vowel and consonantal length, emphatic vs. unemphatic consonants, the range of gutturals. This is in addition to changes between EBHP and TH (see The Pronunciation of Hebrew Changed Substantially Between EBHP and the Time of the 8th-11th CE Masoretes Who Vocalized the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible).


[1] See Blau 20104.3.3.3. For range of meanings of PC see Joϋon-Muraoka 1991 113 and van der Merwe et al. 19.

[2] Nb. In /EBHP/ PCcoh was distinguished from PCimp and PCpret_sim, in forms, not carrying object suffixes, by the unstressed suffix a(ː), and usually from PCpret_sim by placement of stress.

[3] A good outline of the meanings and use of the cohortative is in Joϋon-Muraoka 199145, 114, 116. "Orlinsky recognized that once the syntagma was understood as requiring the cohortative for the first person and the jussive for second and third, then all verb forms in such a chain of purpose clauses after an imperative or an exclamation were by definition cohortative/jussive whether or not they exhibited any morphological distinction. (Rainey 1985 p. 10.)

[5] Nb. In /EBHP/ PCpret_sim/PCjus were distinguished from PCimp in some forms, when not carrying object suffixes, by placement of stress.

[8] Nb. In /EBHP/ PCpret_sim/PCjus were distinguished from PCimp in some forms, when not carrying object suffixes, by placement of stress.

[9] A good outline of the meanings and use of the cohortative is in Joϋon-Muraoka 199146, 114, 116.

[11] Nb. In /EBHP/ PCpret_sim/PCjus were distinguished from PCimp in some forms, when not carrying object suffixes, by placement of stress.

[12] Nb. In /EBHP/ PCpretWC was distinguished from PCimp and PCjus by the germination of the prefix consonant. Additionally, PCpretWC was distinguished from PCimp in some forms, when not carrying object suffixes, by placement of stress.

[13] Rainey 1985 pp. 5-6.

[14] "long vowels were shortened in closed syllables in Proto-Semitic and Proto-Hebrew." Blau 20104.

"...in Proto-Semitic (and in Pre-Hebrew) no long vowels were tolerated in closed syllables." Blau 2010

[15] For range of meanings of SC see Joϋon-Muraoka 1991 112 and van der Merwe et al. 19.2.

[16] Van der Merwe et al. 19.2.1.c.iii. Note the following "... מִי with the perfect (Gn 21:7, Nu 23:10, I S 26:9, Is 53:1, & etc.) or participle ... expresses a rhetorical question ...." GK 151.a.1

[18] From van der Merwe et al. 19.2.3.

[19] See van der Merwe et al. 19.2.5i.

[20] See van der Merwe et al. 19.2.5ii.

[23] See Blau 20104.4.3.2.

[25] See Blau 2010,,,

[26] An unsusual case is עַֽל־ [ˌcaːl] (Ex. 4:20 see Khan 1994 p. 133).

[27] Egs.

         the second vowel of קָטַל - /qˈal/ [qɔːˈɐːl]

         constr. form יַד 'hand of-' - /ˌyad/ [ˌyɐː]

Note Blau 2010

[28] Order follows the natural scale of vowel qualities (see. Joϋon-Muraoka 1991 6b).

[29] Quite rare but found, for example, in /'mēt/ 'dead' (see Gibson 1965 p. 37).

[31] Resulting from Canaanite Shift

[32] See Blau 2010

[33] I use ɐ, ɪ , ʊ when placed beside /EBHP/ transliterations which clearly mark the restored vowels. Where this is not the case I use ɐ̣, ɪ̣, ʊ̣.

[34] See Blau 1976 p. 10.

[35] For gemination see Lipinski 1997 pp. 179-184; Joϋon-Muraoka 1991 18; and Hoffman 2004 pp. 99-101. The symbol for gemination is either the consonant written twice e.g. dibber or written to indicate that the consonant is long e.g. dib:er. Also Wikipeia.

T. F. Mitchell, in Colloquial Arabic: the Living Language of Egypt, describes gemination in Egyptian Arabic Any Arabic consonant may be doubled. Except when final, a doubled consonant must be pronounced at least twice as long as its single counterpart and is characterized by greater muscular tension in the articulating organs Consonants which are pronounced long occur in English at the junction of words or of affixes and words ; for example, black king (contrast blacking), misspelt, unnecessary, but, of course, the double letters of English spelling in such words as better and butter are pronounced as single sounds. The single-double distinction is a very important feature of Arabic and the ss of kassar he smashed, for example, must always be pronounced considerably longer than s in kasar he broke. Doubled consonants are usually pronounced shorter when final.

[36] In transliterating consonantal phonemes I use the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Academic Translation Style (THSBL). I generally to use the IPA system to transliterate consonantal phones.

[37] "Outside of closed unstressed syllables, which excluded long vowels, Ancient Hebrew had a contrast between long and short vowels. However, between the Tannaitic period (c. 73-200 CE) and the time of the Masoretes, short vowels in stressed syllables lengthened, erasing the contrast in those syllables.." Steiner 1997 p. 149.

[38] See Schniedewind-Sivan 1997 p. 304 footnote.

[41] See Senz-Badillos 3.3; Kutscher 1982 p. 79 ff.

[42] From Young, Rezetko, Ehrensvrd 2008 p. 57.

(W)e agree with Hurvitz that it is impossible to discern linguistic development within EBH (my CBH) or within LBH (my PCBH).... For example, on the basis of language, we cannot date alleged preexilic EBH texts to the tenth as opposed to the seventh century, nor can we date possible sources within supposed preexilic books, such as Genesis or Samuel, to particular points in time. More explicitly, alleged preexilic EBH texts written over a potential span of hundreds of years (eg. 1000-600 BCE) do not reflect any discernible chronological linguistic variations.

[43] See Ehrenbsvrd 2004. The following is quoted from Kofoed 2006 pp. 98-99 -

If there is ever any truly sharp division between two historical stages of a language over a relatively short time period, then it is an accident. Catastrophic change in language is not the norm. Current theory rebuts, therefore, the argument (often stated ex silentio) that only one kind of Hebrew was being used at any one time, and Davies is therefore right in arguing that one cannot automatically convert linguistic typology into linguistic chronology. A range of synchronic factors must be taken into consideration before a diachronic explanation can be settled: dialect, colloquial language, idiolect, sociolect, archaizing language, etc. This is also true for periods where such differing grammars are unattested in the written sources. Since writing is secondary to speech, vernaculars and dialects must by necessity have existed alongside the written Hochsprache. Before jumping to diachronic explanations of linguistic difference one must acknowledge, therefore, that the dark side of the moon is just as real as the visible, and that the existence of additional contemporary grammars may account better for the linguistic differences than diachronic ones.

Furthermore, since language change is influenced by a number of unpredictable factors (time, society, and the individual) no linear development can be ascribed automatically to any language. Modern linguistic theory has, for the same reason, dismissed the idea that language change is governed by an internal "biological clock" that makes it possible for the historical linguist to reconstruct prior stages and to predict future developments of a given language....

[44] From Kofoed 2006 p. 103 -

The obvious choice of a comparative case study would of course be to pick a well-documented contemporary linguistic case in the same literary genre and from the same cultural stream. The closest match in that regard is probably the Babylonian "literary" language or "Standard Babylonian," which remained so stable that even distinguished scholars erroneously dated compositions late that later were proved to stem from Old Babylonian times.

[45] See Phones and Phonemes - http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_6.htm#phone_phonym..

[46] Note, in reconstructed [EBHP] transliterations and sound files -

1.there is no spirantization of the bgdkpt consonants - http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_tequ.htm#bgdpt;

2. vowel qualities are outlined here - http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_6.htm#ebhp_vow_qual;

3. I use the most probable form. Where no one form stands out as most probable, I select the one closest to the MT vocalization.

4. when multiple forms are possible, the form used is underlined.

[48] From Young, Rezetko, Ehrensvrd 2008 p. 50 "Polzin minimises the influence of Aramaic on LBH emphasising instead the inner development or natural evolution of BH (Polzin 1976: 2; cf. 13-14)."

[50] From Young, Rezetko, Ehrensvrd 2008 p. 48.

First it has been recognized for a long time that the relative homogeneity of BH may be explained by its function as a standard literary language (e.g. Chomsky 1957: 30-31, 46-49; W. Weinberg 1993: 13). In other words BH was an artificial construct, a Bildungssprache or 'language of education', that was written by many scribes at many times and places, and whose linguistic differences may be due to proficiency and/or style. Ehrenbsvrd's reference to Arabic present is some respects a fair analogy. It shows that it is possible for a language to stay the same for many centuries. Also, Blau points out that 'there were Arabic authors who wrote in a late period in a purely classical style and succeeded in avoiding not only neo-Arabic forms, but also post-classical forms (Blau 1997: 28). In the same article he refers to the twelfth-century scholar Usama bin Munqidh who wrote his memoirs in Middle Arabic, i.e. heavily influenced by vernacular Arabic, but also wrote poetry in perfect Classical Arabic (Blau 1997: 26 n.30).

[51] It seems likely that in LBHP: /ṭ/ was pronounced as [] (pronunciation); /ṣ/ as []; and, /q/ as [] (see What was the Nature of the "Emphatic Consonants" in EBHP?). However, for simplicity's sake, I will use the following equivalences in my [EBHP] transcriptions:
/ṭ/ = [ṭ]; /ṣ/ = []; and, /q/ = [q].

[52] From Morag 1988 -

In describing General Qumran Hebrew (GQH) as essentially a continuation of Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH), one would not do justice to this type of Hebrew. Although some of the features examined in this article constitute a continuation of LBH ... GQH as a whole possesses a number of prominent grammatical traits that are not related to the fabric of LBH. These traits probably represent a continuation of an old dialectal variation.... To our mind, the impact of stress variation is evident... It is thus clear that the proposition that GQH was a literary continuation of LBH can hardly be sustained. Literary continuation as well as archaization are to be found in the level of style-but typologically a language cannot be defined on the basis of stylistic evidence. As observed above, in a number of its features GQH does indeed continue LBH, but such a continuation need not necessarily be literary. However, what we have attempted to stress is the weight that must be assigned in defining the nature of GQH to those features that disclose no continuation of LBH. These features of GQH are too numerous and to grammatically salient to be assigned a secondary standing. Such phenomena as the contraction of the final diphthong aw (feature no. 2), the dissimilation CC>nC (feature no. 3), or the morphophonemic and morphological structures created by variations in the stress patterns (features nos 5 and 6), are all to be ascribed to phonological processes. Processes of this kind must, needless to say, come into being in a living, spoken, language. It would be difficult to envisage their coming into existence in a language whose character is literary. The same holds good for the morphological features dealt with above: the long forms of the pronouns (hw'h, hy'h: feature no. 7; the -mh ending of the second person masculine plural in the perfect and in the suffixed pronouns: feature no. 9). Such features, as well as several others that have not been dealt with here, can in no way be regarded as having been originated in a literary, archaizing, language, which had BH as its model of writing, or as indicating a linear development of LBH. They are part and parcel of the morphological structure of certain Hebrew dialects of the Qumran period.

[53] See Yadin et. al. 2002; Kutscher 1971a col. 1590; Encyclopaedia Judaica, IV, 237-238, 1971..

[54] A case can be made that the PTH reflex of the TH vocal wa /ә/ is not phonemic (cf. Gibson 1965 pp. 41-42). However, for clarity I will assume its phonemic status in PTH.

[55] It seems likely that in PTH: /ṭ/ was pronounced as [] (pronunciation); /ṣ/ as []; and, /q/ as [] (see What was the Nature of the "Emphatic Consonants" in EBHP?). However, for simplicity's sake, I will use the following equivalences in my [EBHP] transcriptions:
/ṭ/ = [ṭ]; /ṣ/ = []; and, /q/ = [q].

[56] Blau 2010 states -

It is clear that ḥaaf qama stands in phonemic opposition to ḥaaf pata/mobile wa (which, according to Tiberian tradition, were pronounced identically)

See also Blau 1976/93 3.5.

[57] It seems likely that in TH: /ṭ/ was pronounced as [] (pronunciation); /ṣ/ as []; and, /q/ as [] (see What was the Nature of the "Emphatic Consonants" in EBHP?). However, for simplicity's sake, I willoccasionally use the following equivalences in my [EBHP] transcriptions:
/ṭ/ = [ṭ]; /ṣ/ = []; and, /q/ = [q].

[60] See Revell 1970 and 1970a; Morag 1972; Senz-Badillos pp. 86-94; Manuel 1995 pp. 168-198; Harviainen 1977. In most features this tradition is fairly close to the Tiberian - see Ben-ayyim 1954. In the words of Senz-Badillos (p. 90)

Revell ... argues that the Palestinian tradition represents a more developed and, therefore, later form of language than the Tiberian, although they share a common origin. In his view, the consistent (TH) use of different graphemes for the a and e vowels is a feature of an earlier period, which tended to disappear later on. Vowel changes within the Palestinian system, according to Revell, correspond to processes known from a less developed stage of the Tiberian tradition, and some times represent the endpoint of a process begun there. The Tiberian tradition has adopted a well-preserved, archaic, pronunciation, whereas the Palestinian is based on 'vulgar' biblical texts and expresses a less well-preserved form of the language that has been more affected by outside influences and colloquialisms. As a system of pointing, the Palestinian must have been created before, or in isolation from, the Tiberian.

I tend to agree with Revell on this. However, Senz-Badillos argues for the Palestinian pointing preceding the Tiberian Masoretic with presumably shared origins at some point in the past.

[61] See Yeivin; Senz-Badillos pp. 94-105; Manuel 1995 pp. 199-225. In most features this tradition is fairly close to the Tiberian - see Ben-ayyim 1954. The pronunciation on which it is based must, of course, have originated in Palestine but have undergone a long period of semi-isolated development in southern Babylonia in a totally Eastern Aramaic speaking environment.

[62] See most importantly Janssens 1994 (re. Secunda) and Knobloch 1995 (re. LXX), and their bibliographic references. See also Brnno 1968 (re. Secunda).

[63] See Barr 1967 and the references in his footnotes; Harviainen 1977.

[64] Senz-Badillos pp. 80-86; Manuel 1995 pp. 130-167; Hoffman pp. 85-117; Ben-ayyim 1954. As noted by Senz-Badillos (p. 80) - (n.b. bolding my own)

The numerous Greek and Latin transcriptions of Hebrew names and other expressions, which date from the third century BCE to the fourth century CE, undoubtedly provide first-hand information.... Because we know far more about the phonology and pronunciation of Greek and Latin than of the Semitic languages, these transcriptions represent an invaluable witness to the Hebrew of this period. On the other hand, it has to be recognized as well that there are considerable difficulties involved. In the first place, the phonology of Greek and Latin is very different from that of Hebrew, and these languages do not possess graphemes that can exactly represent the sounds of Hebrew. And although we do not know what judgements were actually made when transcribing so different a language, the authors of the transcriptions would certainly have approached Hebrew from the phonological perspective of their own language. The variation of place and time is also a problem, as we cannot simply accept that BH, which had already ceased to be a living language, underwent a unified development in places as diverse as Alexandria and Palestine. Neither do we know if the data afforded by the transcriptions correspond to the standard, more or less official, pronunciation of Hebrew in this period or to dialect or substandard forms. On top of all these difficulties is the fact that the transcriptions have to be studied in manuscripts that are frequently late and deffective, presenting many variants ard corruptions in names that the copyists found completely alien.

[65] For details on the Samaritan traditions of Hebrew see Ben-Hayyim 2000. For examples of the use of BHSAM for the understanding of BH see Ben-ayyim 1954. Short description Senz-Badillos 5.3. See also Brnno 1968.

[66] See Ben-Hayyim 2000 sect. 1.2.

[67] For details on the Yemenite traditions of Hebrew see Morag 1963.

[68] See Morag 1963 chapt. 20.

[69] From The SBL Handbook of Style For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies by Patrick H. Alexander, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999 sect. 5.1.1.

[70] Interestingly, in the cases of ד (no dagesh) and ת (no dagesh) scholars do not use the MT sounds ( and θ respectively) even though these sounds are wide-spread in English. It is also doubtful if many, familiar with Israeli Hebrew, pronounce the waw accordint to TH [w] rathedr than IH [v].