Edition 1.3

8 February 2012



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Biblical Hebrew Poetry and Word Play

Reconstructing the Original Oral[1], Aural[2] and Visual Experience

By David Steinberg


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

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Nb. Words Significantly Different in Pronunciation in EBHP


תֵּיקוּ Tequ - Questions that Cannot be Resolved at Present[3]


N.b. This section deals with issues likely to remain unresolved unless new evidence is unearthed. Some of the issues could be resolved by the discovery more inscriptions similar to the Siloam Inscription, the Lachish ostraca or the Arad ostraca. More progress, regarding vocalization, could be made if more Israelite or Judean names turn up in cuneiform texts. Many other questions, especially concerning vocalization, could only be solved by the improbable find of eg. a transcription, into Babylonian or Assyrian cuneiform, of a night of Hebrew poetry reading at the pre-exilic Jerusalem court[4].

Wherever possible, I link back, from relevant elements in the transcription, to the discussion in this section.

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

1.there is no spirantization of the bgdkpt consonants;

2. .vowel qualities are outlined here;

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.

I. Aim

II. Approaches and Issues

1. Issues Arising from the full or Partial Loss of Final short vowels in the Late Second or Early First Millennium B.C.E.

a) Did Word-Final Short Vowels Exist in EBHP and Were All Word-Final Vowels Marked by Vowel Letters?

b) Is it Likely that Case Endings were Pronounced in EBHP Vocalization of Archaic or Archaizing Biblical Poetry?

c) Were Word and Syllable final Glottal Stops Pronounced in EBHP?

d) Forms CVCCV > CVCC

e) Were Word-Final Geminated Consonants Maintained in EBHP?

2. Aramaic and Arabic as Guides to Reconstructing EBHP

3. Diglosia and Dialect in PExH: What Do We Mean by Judahite and Israelian Hebrew? - Clarification from Colloquial Arabic

4. Aramaic as a Litmus Test to Separate Pre and Post-Exilic Changes in Biblical Hebrew

a) Tonic Lengthening of Originally Short Vowels in Closed Stressed Syllables in Nouns in the Absolute Case

b) Segolates (m.p.) Hebrew Form vs. Aramaic

c) Noun having Long Vowel followed by Short Vowel

d) Second Person Masculine Singular Suffix on Singular Noun

e) Second Person Feminine Singular Suffix on Singular Noun

f) Second Person Feminine Singular Nominative Independent Pronoun

g) Third Person Feminine Singular Pronominal Suffix on Singular Noun

h) Third Person Masculine Plural Pronominal Suffix on Singular Noun

i) Characteristic Vowel of the hithpael

j) Ending of Suffix Conjugation 3fs of III-y Verbs

k) Stress Patterns of PC (2fs., 2mp., 3mp) and SC (3fs., 3cp)

l) Philippi's Law (/i/ in a closed stressed syllable changes to /a/)

l1) Suffix Conjugation peal (Aramaic)/qal (Hebrew) with primitive characteristic vowel-i

l2) Suffix Conjugation peal (Aramaic)/qal (Hebrew) of root MWT

l3) Suffix Conjugation pa'el (Aramaic)/pi'el (Hebrew)

l4) Suffix Conjugation aphel (Aramaic)/hiphil (Hebrew)

l5) Suffix Conjugation Quality of First Vowel pa'el (Aramaic)/pi'el (Hebrew)

l6) Nominative Independent Pronoun (2 f.s.) and Suffix Conjugation (2 f.s.)

m) Law of Attenuation (*Qatqat > Qitqat - /a/ in a closed, but unstressed syllable changes to /i/ )

m1) Aramaic and Hebrew */yaqˈṭul/ > */yiqˈṭul/

m2) בְּלִי, בִּלְעֲדֵי , בִּלְתִּי

m3) The First Vowel of the Personal Name <yśrʾl> "Israel"

m4) *maqtal (Aramaic)/*miqtaːl (abs.); miqtal (constr.) (BH)

m5) The First Vowel of the Personal Name <mrym>

m6) */massiːm/ > /missiːm/

n7) Numerals Seven and Seventy

4. When We Know the Path of Development but not when the Changes Occurred

a) Infinitive Construct and Masculine Singular Imperative of u-class Qal C1VxC2VxC3 > C1C2V(V)xC3 or C1VxC2C3

b) Third person Feminine Singular of the Qal Suffix Conjugation

c) Third Person Masculine Singular Pronominal Suffix

d) Locative ה

e) Interrogative Pronoun מָה (also לָמָּה, כָּמָּה)

f) Long a (IPA /aː/) in EBHP

g) *qiʾl > *ql > qʾẹːl

h) יְהִי, גְּדִי, חֳלִי, פְּרִי and the Like

i) (Pro)pretonic Vowel Reduction

j) Pretonic Vowel Lengthening or Equivalent Consonant Gemination

k) Homogeneous Diphthong Contraction

l) Heterogeneous Diphthong Contraction

m) Masculine Plural Construct Ending of the Noun

n) Stress in the Prefix Conjugation of the Strong Verb

o) Spirantization of the bgdkpt Consonants

5. What quality were the Short Vowels in [EBHP]?

6. When was Word-final ʾ Consonantal in EBHP?

7. What was the Nature of the "Emphatic Consonants" in [EBHP] and Probably [TH]?

8. Were the Conversive and Contextual Waw Differentiated in EBHP?

9. Object Suffixes of the Prefix Conjugation and imperative - was the Connecting Vowel in EBHP *ay >*e: or *i > *e ?

10. Pronominal Suffixes of singular Noun - What was the Connecting Vowel in EBHP?

11. The Vowel Following Prepositions b, k,, l in EBHP

12. Transliteration of the Devine Name YHWH

13. אשר "which, that"

14. עוֹד

15. Was the PC Verb following אז Referring to the Past in PreExH Preterite or Imperfect?

16. Line Form and Meter of Biblical Hebrew Poetry

17. Issues Related to Tiberian Hebrew

a) Did the Tiberian Masoretes Simply Encode Tradition or Did they "Do Grammar"?

b) Were there Long and short vowels in TH and, if so, were they Phonemic?

c) What are the wa and atef Vowels and How were they Pronounced?

d) Furtive Pataḥ in TH


I. Aim - recovering, as closely as possible, the pronunciation (EBHP) that a scribe in Jerusalem 700-600 BCE would have used in reading poetry to upper class Judeans or members of the kings court.

II. Approaches and Issues

1. Issues Arising from the Full or Partial Loss of Word-Final Short Vowels in the Late Second or Early First Millennium BCE.[5] (transition BHA phase 2 - BHA phase 3)

a. Did Word-Final Short Vowels Exist in EBHP and Were All Word-Final Vowels Marked by Vowel Letters?

I. Areas of Agreement

In second millennium BCE Northwest Semitic languages, as in the later Classical Arabic, words frequently ended in short vowels. By the early first millennium BCE Hebrew[6], Phoenician and Aramaic lost their noun and adjective case endings, at least some of the short final vowels of the suffix conjugation (SC), as well as the mood endings of the prefix conjugation (PC) except for the cohortative.

Four categories of final short non-radical vowels are of concern: case endings of the noun/adjective; PC mood endings; suffixes of the SC; and, various forms of personal pronouns.

i. Case endings of the noun/adjective - It is clear from the feminine noun/adjective ending <h> (*// < */at/) that, in EBHP, the case endings must have been lost at least in feminine singular nouns[7]. Although we have no real evidence that the other case ending related short vowels had been dropped[8], this is likely to have been the case and we should proceed on that basis.

ii. PC mood endings - Although the indicative had lost its final short vowel (/u/), the cohortative had maintained its final vowel (/a(ː)/). Working on the basis of the anceps assumption, Blau offers two explanations for the maintenance of the final vowel of the cohortative in "Marginalia Semitica III"[9]

Since short final vowels as a rule disappeared in Hebrew, we would have expected the same to happen in ʾaqtla as well, rather than to be lengthened and preserved. In all the other cases of survival of final short vowels in Biblical Hebrew special conditions prevailed.... ʾaqtlā [10] is quite often followed by נָא 'pray'.... I am tentatively suggesting that it was due to the frequency of this construction, in which ʾaqtlā coalesced with and, therefore,*a occurred in word middle, that *a >ā was preserved....

(W)e have attempted to explain the subsistence of ā by the coalescence of ʾaqtlā with . Yet the frequent occurrence of 'aqtlā with may also reflect the separation of one word into two: the energetic *ʾaqtlana was decomposed into two words, which, however, continued to be one stress unit. Since the first part of the new compound was identified with ʾaqtlā because of their formal and functional similarity, the flinal a of ʾaqtlā was preserved through the influence of ʾaqtlā-nā, in which this a was in word middle. According to this thesis, ... Hebrew ʾaqtlā arose through plurilinear development: in the main it continues yqtla, yet its final vowel is due to yqtlana.

iii. As regards the SC, forms such as <klh> (כָּלָה /kˈl/ *[kɔːˈlɔː] (TH) */kaːˈl/ < */kaˈl/[11] (/EBHP/+) */kaˈlaya/ (PH)) indicate that the final short /a/ of the third person masculine had been dropped by the time of EBHP. As regards the other persons of the SC (see below)

iv. Personal pronouns (see below)


II. Four Alternative Scenarios Regarding Unstressed Word-Final Vowels in the transition from BHA phase 2 to BHA phase 3

IIa. The Anceps Assumption[12]

This assumes that in PH (BHA phase 2) most of the unstressed inflectional forms could end with either a long or short vowel (written here , ĩ, ũ ). With the loss of the short final vowels, the forms ending in long vowels remained whereas those ending in short vowels became consonant-final. This would explain a number of doublets occurring in TH, e.g. ("to you (ms.)") -

לְךָ /lәˈk/ *[lәˈxcː] (< */lәˈk/ *[lәˈxɐː] contextual) and
לָךְ /ˈlk/ *[ˈlcːx] (</ *ˈlaːk/ *[ˈlaːx] pausal).

Examples of the "Anceps" Approach[13]


BHA phase 2

Prior to Loss of Word-Final Short Vowels

BHA phase 3

After Loss of Word-Final Short Vowels

(First Temple Period)

I (cs.)

Suffix Conjugation


**/qaˈṭaltiː/ (alternative */qaˈṭalt/ eliminated for clarity of expression)[14]

you (fs.)

Suffix Conjugation


**/qaˈṭalt/ (alternative */qaˈṭaltiː/ appears occasionally in consonantal text and may be northern dialect. Jerusalem dialect rejected this form which would have been identical to first person.)

you (ms.)

Suffix Conjugation


*/qaˈṭaltaː/ (alternative */qaˈṭalt/ was rejected as it would have been identical to feminine)



(2 distinct forms)


(3 distinct forms)




You independent nominative pronoun (m.s.)


*/ˈattaː/ (alternative */ˈat(t)/ was rejected as it would have been identical to feminine)

You independent nominative pronoun (f.s.)


*/ˈʾat(t)/ (alternative */ˈattiː/ was rejected perhaps both because the final vowel did not add to clarity and to bring it into line with 2 f.s. of suffix conjugation.)



(2 distinct forms)


(2 distinct forms)




Your (m.s.) "horse (m.s.)

*/sūˈsuk/[15] (nom.)

*/sūˈsak/ (acc.)

*/sūˈsik/ (gen.)

*/sūˈsakaː/ (alternative */sūˈsaːk/ or */sūˈseːk/ was rejected perhaps because it was less distinct from the feminine.)

Your (f.s.) "horse (m.s.)

*/sūˈsukĩ/ (nom.)

*/sūˈsakĩ/ (acc.)

*/sūˈsikĩ/ (gen.)

*/sūˈseːk/ (alternative */sūˈsikiː/ was rejected perhaps because the 2fs. SC, and 2fs. independant pronoun now ended with consonant while the 2ms. SC, and 2ms. independant pronoun now ended in /a(ː)/.)


*/sūˈsuk/:*/sūˈsukĩ/ etc.

(2 distinct forms for each case)


(2 distinct forms)



i) The anceps assumption explains why some word-final vowels, which otherwise seem to have been short in PH, appear later as apparently long vowels e.g. the 2ms of the SC.

2) Early in BHA phase 3, when the nature of PH anceps vowels was still well remembered, poets might have chosen to use the long or short voweled forms, of suffixes consisting of a consonant followed by an anceps vowel or the consonant-final form derived from the short voweled form, to suit the context or metrical requirements - e.g.

Examples of EBHP Poetic Alternatives Provided by PH Anceps Vowels


BHA phase 2

long-voweled form

BHA phase 2

short-voweled form

BHA phase 3

vowelless form derived from phase two short- voweled form

Independant pronoun "you" f.s.




Independant pronoun "he"



*/ˈhu/? */ˈhuː/?

Pronominal suffix "your ms. with s. noun

*/kaː/ (nom.)

*/kaː/ (acc.)

*/kaː/ (gen.)

*/ka/ (nom.)

*/ka/ (acc.)

*/ka/ (gen.)


You (ms.) Suffix Conjugation




You/they (f.p.) Prefix Conjugation





IIb. The Modified Anceps Option

This assumes that the distinction between unstressed word-final long and short vowels in BHA phase 2 (and indeed in BHA phase 3) was small. This is based on two observable facts:

i. that short word-terminal vowels, as in spoken Arabic today, are generally shortened versions of the equivalent long vowels in quality[16]; and,

ii. that stressed word-final short vowels tend to lengthen and unstressed word-final long vowels tend to shorten. It is instructive to consider that all of the unstressed word-final long vowels have been reduced to short vowels in all modern Arabic dialects. Thus the 2ms SC, if it was /taː/ might be pronounced [tɐˑ], not very different from /ta/ [tɐ].


IIc. Lengthening of Unstressed Word-final Vowels

When the language ceased to allow short final vowels the vowels of those inflections felt by speakers to be crucial for communication were lengthened. At a later stage of the language, if short word-final vowels became once again acceptable, the newly lengthened word-final unstressed vowels, could have shortened. An example might be - */qaˈaltaː/ > */qaˈalta/. Either EBHP */qaˈaltaː/ or */qaˈalta/, given the known linguistic evolution of the language, would yield TH קָˈטַלתָּ /qˈalt/ *[qɔːˈɐːltɔː]. A flaw in this argument is that the first person (cs. and cp.) and third person (fs. and cp.) of the SC did not shorten.


IId. Protection of Unstressed Word-final Vowels by Addition of a (later dropped) Final Consonant

This pictures Hebrew, in the transition from BHA phase 2 to BHA phase 3, following an evolutionary path similar to that followed by colloquial Arabic dialects in their formative periods.

In Classical Arabic pausal forms[17] developed and later displaced contextual forms becoming the basis for modern Arabic dialects. As explained by Birkeland 1952

The classical Arabic language, the cArabiya, shows a marked difference between forms in context and pause.... The pausal form of a word is the form it shows when it is spoken alone, in opposition to the form it shows when one or more words follow immediately.... Common to the pausal forms[18] of the cArabiya was that all of them ended in a long syllable, i.e. the final sound was a long vowel or a consonant. No short final vowel appeared in the cArabiya in pause. Those final short vowels which occurred in context, were either dropped, or a consonant, mostly -h, was added to them in pause. Examples: qatala became qatal; qi (imperative of waqā) became qih; qatalū was preserved.... when two different forms of a word existed and the (modern spoken Egyptian Arabic) dialect has only one form, one has to ask which of the two forms is the one still surviving. The answer is not dubious; it is always the pausal form which survives. (Regarding)... the short final vowels of the suffixes -ka and -ki....(I)t is not probable that ... the final vowels were long.... (modern spoken Egyptian Arabic) a'būka must be derived from a'būkah and a'būki from a'būkih. Also the final vowels of the independent personal pronouns 'inta, 'inti. 'iḥna, 'humma must be assumed to originate from forms with short final vowels.

As in the Arabic, in this scenario the word-final short vowels, felt by speakers to be crucial for communication, were protected by adding a final consonant, usually [h]. An example from Arabic - Classical Arabic contextual 2fs. /qatalti/ became pausal /qataltih/. Spoken Arabic, which generalized the use of pausal forms, eventually dropped the final [h] recreating the original form /qatalti/ which remains the current form. A similar evolutionary path, including the dropping of the final consonant[19], would have happened in Hebrew in the transition from BHA phase 2 to BHA phase 3.


IIe. There was no general loss of short final vowels[20]

There was an axial linguistic change in which a number of features, felt to be redundant by speakers, were eliminated - singular and plural case inflections, the final short vowels on plural and dual noun suffixes, mood endings and the final short vowel on a few forms of the perfect. Note the following perceptive comment of Ginzberg[21] -

A grammatical peculiarity common in ancient Canaanite ... to the verb and the noun but later eliminated entirely from the former and largely from the latter is the dual number. In Hebrew even the adjective no longer has it, and the substantive retains it only either with dual force - but only in the absolute state - in expressions of quantity or without dual force in names of normally paired objects. This process and the elimination of the category of case are obviously major features of the morphological evolution of Canaanite. For the loss of the cases is not merely incidental to the loss of final short vowels, inasmuch as the vowels of the plural and dual endings were neither short nor, in the absolute state, final. As the reviewer has shown ..., the Gezer calendar inscription retains both the use of the dual (with dual meaning) in the construct state and the category of case.... The elimination of case distinctions and of the use of the dual in the construct state is no doubt somehow connected with still another important morphological change, which Hebrew (and perhaps other Canaanite languages) shares with Aramaic; namely, the substitution of -ay (>Heb. -ē), originally the construct dual ending, for - (corresponding to absol. -ῑm, and for -ū corresponding to the old nominative absol. -ūm - cf. Ugaritic and Arabic) as the ending of the construct masculine plural. In Hebrew, which unlike Aramaic has a large number of masculine substantives which form their plurals in -ōt (<-āt), even a number of these have construct plurals in -ē (<-ay) (sometimes by the side of construct plurals in -ōt); e. g., hēkāl, mōsād, mikān.


Under this scenario, all unstressed word-final short vowels, felt by speakers to be important, were maintained probably in their original short form. N.b. the following suffixes had unstressed long final vowels before this transition took place -


Original Short Final Vowels that Probably Lengthened

Before Loss of Word-Final Short Vowels[22]



(c. 1200 BCE)


*/EBHP/+ *[EBHP]

(c. 850-550 BCE)


/TH/+ *[TH]

(c. 850 CE)





קָטַלְתִּי = /qˈṭalti/





קָטַלְנוּ = /qˈṭalnu/



III. Alternative Views on: Whether Word-Final Short Vowels Existed in EBHP/JEH, and Whether All Word-Final Vowels were Marked by Vowel Letters

All of these, except the last (IIIf), are explicitly or implicitly based on Scenarios IIa or IIb.

IIIa. Traditional View[23] - All Word-Final Vowels in EBHP/JEH Were Long and, With a Few Standard Exceptions (listed below), All Were Marked by Vowel Letters.

N.b. all of the following would have been unstressed in BHA phase 3.

         the pronominal suffix 2ms. ךָ (/ˈk/ (/TH/+) *[әˈkɔː] ([TH]) */ka(ː)/ (/EBHP/));

         the pronominal suffix 3fp. on mp. noun הׇ (/ɛ́h/ (/TH/+) *[ɛ́ːhɔː] ([TH]) */yha(ː)/ (/EBHP/))

         the SC 2ms. suffix תָּ (/t/(/TH/+) *[tɔː] ([TH]) */ta(ː)/ (/EBHP/)); and,

         the 2nd/3rd fp. suffix of the prefix conjugation /n/ (/TH/+) *[nɔː] ([TH]) */na(ː)/ (/EBHP/)).


IIIa1. All final vowels were long. These word-final vowels were represented by vowel letters except where the final vowel would be clear to the native speaker by context. Such cases might vary from scribe to scribe.


IIIb. Bange's view that in Hebrew and Aramaic of the period only stressed word-final vowels were marked by vowel letters.[24]


IIIc. Cook view that JEH observed the spelling conventions of contemporary Aramaic. He concluded that[25]

All the available evidence suggests that final unstressed long vowels in Old and Imperial Aramaic could be, and often were, written defectively. This is particularly true of final -Cā; only in the Middle Aramaic period do we have full epigraphic evidence for the existence of these vowels.

N.b. Jackson 1989 (p. 100) states that not all word-final long vowels were represented by vowel letters in the Moabite Mesha Inscription

IIId. Beyer's[26] view that:

         all independent pronouns and pronominal suffixes ended in unstressed long vowels

         all persons of the SC ended in unstressed long vowels except 3ms. which ended in a consonant;

         all persons of the PC ended in unstressed long vowels except 1cs., 2 ms., 3ms. and 3fs. all of which ended in a consonant;

         unstressed word-final vowels were only graphically represented where necessary to avoid misunderstandings.

Thus Beyer postulates that, for example, that the consonantal biblical text <swsk> should be read *[suːˈsakaː] if the suffix <k> = "you" refers to a male and *[suːˈsakiː] if the suffix <k> = "you" refers to a female.


Comments on Beyer's Views

Note that under Beyer's approach we have to explain how the 2 ms. pronominal suffix <k> (Beyer would vocalize *[kaː]) became /TH/+ /k/ [TH] *[kɔː] while the 2 fs. pronominal suffix <k> (Beyer would vocalize *[kiː]) became /TH/+ /k/ [TH] *[ẹːx]. One way to square this circle would be to assume that the pronunciation standing behind the PMT, and the vocalization tradition that developed into TH were rooted in different Hebrew dialects or different dialect mixtures[27]. (For further information and references see box - The Independent Pronouns in EBHP and Colloquial Arabic Dialects). On the whole this option seems to have little to recommend it. The idea that in the consonantal text forms such as <hm> and <hmh> 'your' mp. were both current as spellings of [ˈhimaː] does not seem likely unless we can correlate the spelling with different layers of the text.


IIIe. Andersen's View[28] - All Word-Final Vowels in EH Were Long and Were Almost Always Marked by Vowel Letters

All word-final vowels were long and represented by vowel letters and hence JEH and IEH words that end in consonants in the inscriptions were also pronounced as consonant final. Andersen wrote[29] -

Use of the spellings found in early Hebrew inscriptions as evidence of the way words were pronounced can proceed on a sound empirical basis only if one assumes that they wrote it the way they said it --- or at least tried to. It is true that conservatism in spelling can perpetuate an historical spelling after a consonant has become silent. The consistent use of ʾ to spell word-terminal long vowels other than [ū] and [ῑ] came into vogue in the earliest stages of the adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet to Aramaic, even though ʾ as marker of the f. sg. suffix - was never a consonant. But whereas waw and yod came increasingly into use to spell word-medial long [ū] and [ῑ] respectively, ʾ was never used to spell any word-medial vowel. This skews the system. In any case, whatever the thinking behind this restriction not all vowel letters used in Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions originated in historical spellings; phonetic considerations operated from the earliest stages of the use of consonant letters to represent certain vowels. It earliest can still be maintained as a rule that all word-terminal vowels were represented by waw, yod or ʾ never alef and that word-medial ū and (rarely other long vowels, notably monophthongized diphthongs) were sometimes and increasingly represented bywaw or yod. Occasional scribal lapses are only to be expected, but they are so few that they make no difference to the large picture.

...The spelling practices described above mean that if there was no word-terminal vowel letter in the written word, there was no word-terminal vowel in the uttered word. It is accordingly, bad method that brings chaos into the system to project medieval Masoretic pronunciations back onto ancient Hebrew words and then to claim that the spelling of some words without vowel letters shows that the rules were not strictly followed. Inferences of this kind are most commonly made with words that end in -ā in Masoretic Hebrew, but which turn up without the expected terminal hēʾ in the inscriptions. A blatant example of this kind of anachronism is the equating of the adverb ct "now" with biblical cth catt (consistently [x 433] - ct is attested twice in the Hebrew Bible and attracts qere [Ezek 23:43; Ps 74.6]) and then claiming that this shows that the spelling of the final vowel was "variable". Yet the scribes at Lachish and Arad did not vary the spelling of this word; they spelled it consistently עת rather than עתה. Since we can no longer hear anyone at Arad or Lachish reading their mail, we cannot say dogmatically that they did not enunciate ct as catt. But why exempt this one word habitually from the treatment of final long - that was routinely spelled with hēʾ in those days? It is simpler to infer that they wrote it the way they said it, and that there was no final vowel on their ct. While the only way to find out for certain how they actually said this word would be to wait until the resurrection and use an Israelite from pre-Exilic times as an informant as we do with speakers of contemporary languages, at the very least the attested spelling עת is most naturally interpreted as a representation of cat(t). The fact that there are several such word pairs in Hebrew lends plausibility, if not certainty, to that conclusion.

... There is a phenomenon in the Masoretic writing practice in which the vocalization does not match the consonantal orthography, namely the result of the punctuators' decision to supply qāme to some 3rd sg. f. pronoun suffixes, spelled with consonantal hēʾ but with no vowel letter and taken to be -hā contrary to the otherwise universal practice of marking all word-terminal vowels (all of which were long) by an appropriate vowel letter which would have been hēʾ in this instance . The same was done to some forms of the 2nd sg. m. suffixes -tā and -kā, and pl. f, -nā, even though they might not have the requisite vowel letter hēʾ which was used for these suffixes in a small fraction of their occurrences in the received text of the Hebrew Bible (see Table 1) . Just how to interpret this evidence is a complicated and much disputed question, which in the context of our present concern takes the form of asking how Hebrew speakers in biblical times pronounced these suffixes. We think it is possible that both forms existed side by side in the classical language, but whether in free fluctuation or as "high style" and "low style" forms we have no way of knowing. The consonantal orthography has first claim, so we take dbrk, "thy word", as reflecting something like *dabarak rather than Masoretic dĕbārĕkā, dbryh, "her words", as *dabarayh, not dabāreyhā.

Comments on Andersen's Views

The paper (Andersen 1999), in which Andersen presents his views is learned and rich with supporting detail. That being said, I do not find his main points convincing. Note the following:

1) It is widely held that the final vowel of the first person perfect [tiː] lengthened very early in the history of the Hebrew language and that this was the only form of this suffix to enter into what I have called BHA phase 3. Evidently unwilling to let go of this view and to follow his principle "... that if there was no word-terminal vowel letter in the written word, there was no word-terminal vowel in the uttered word", Andersen wrote -

The verb suffix -t "I" is always spelled -ty in Masoretic Hebrew when word-terminal. There is no evidence that the vowel of this morpheme was ever lost. It would be perverse to extend the kind of analysis appropriate for ct - cth to the three known instances in ancient Hebrew inscriptions in which the suffix "I" is spelled simply -t not the expected -ty (also attested .... Without becoming overly doctrinaire with the hypothesis that "they wrote it the way they said it".... (scribes sometimes make mistakes), the analogous loss of the vowel from -t "thou [2nd f: sg.]" does give a mild reason to suspect that this vowel mlght have been lost sometimes from the suffix -t "I" in these words. There are three reasonable explanations for these deviations from common practice, with defective spelling of a final long vowel, exceptions to the rule that all final vowels were represented by the appropriate vowel letter: (1) scribal carelessness; (2) rare loss of the vowel ending in speech, correctly shown in the writing; (3) the continuing influence of Phoenician ortheopy. In places where Israelite and Phoenician cultures met it would not be surprising if spelling practices were mixed....

I should point out that his implicitly disparaging statement "... the three known instances in ancient Hebrew inscriptions in which the suffix "I" is spelled simply -t not the expected -ty ..." should be understood in the context of the tiny corpus of inscriptions available. According to Gogel 1998 (p. 77) "There are six, possibly seven ... examples of perfects with suffix -ty, and three with ending -t." This compares with 2ms. "There are five certain examples of perfects with suffix -t (two others ... are probable) and five with ending -th."

2) Regarding whether JEH <ct> is equivalent to TH עַˈתָּה /catˈt/ *[ ʕɐtˈtɔː] (pausal
ˈעָתָּה /ˈctt/ *[ˈʕɔːttɔː]). To start with, it is generally recognized that the TH pausal form of this word reflects the stress pattern in in BHA phase 3 [30]. Given our understanding of the historical development of Hebrew, it is likely that the PMT form <cth> would correspond to /EBHP/ */ˌcitta(ː)/ while the related noun עֵת would correspond to /EBHP/ */ˌcit(t)/.

JEH <ct> appears in letters etc. after the formal salutation and seems to carry the meaning "here is the issue" or the like. It functions much like לֵאמׂר in the Bible which is a sort of spoken notice of a following quote. In terms of the two Biblical Hebrew words (עתה and עת), the choice is either:

a. JEH <ct> corresponds in pronunciation to /EBHP/ */ˌcitta(ː)/ lacking a final vowel letter because:

     it is one of a small group of common words or inflections (*/-ka(ː)/, */-ta(ː)/,
*/-na(ː)/) written by convention without the vowel letter; or

     the word-final vowel was long but current scribal practice left the option of omitting unstressed final long vowels; or

     the word-final vowel was short and current scribal practice did not use vowel letters for word-final short vowels.

b. JEH <ct> corresponds in pronunciation to /EBHP/ */ˌcit(t)/


IIIf. Word-final Unstressed Short Vowels Did Exist in EBHP/EH and Were Generally Not Marked by Vowel Letters

It is likely that all stressed word-final vowels were long (originally long, lengthened due to contraction and assimilation or stress-lengthened) while unstressed word-final vowels could have been either short or long. However, it is important to note that stressed word-final short vowels would tend to lengthen and unstressed word-final long vowels would tend to shorten. It is most instructive to consider that all of the unstressed word-final long vowels have been reduced to short vowels in all modern Arabic dialects. Thus the 2ms SC, if it was /taː/ might be pronounced [tɐˑ], not very different from /ta/ [tɐ].

We could see this as having developed in two ways either as per Scenario IIc or IId (above). The following table illustrates this approach -

Original Short Final Vowels that may have Persisted into EBHP



(c. 1200 BCE)


(c. 800-586 BCE)



(c. 850-550 BCE)


/TH/+ *[TH]
(c. 850 CE)

Comments and Conclusions

Independent Personal Pronouns



/ˈh/, /ˈhuʾ/ or /ˈhuʾa(ː)/


/ˈhu/ [ˈhuː]


The Epigraphic Hebrew הא he = ˈ, ˈhū or ˈhua see p. 153 n. 179 in Gogel.


Not found

/ˈh/, /ˈhiʾ/ or /ˈhiːʾa(ː)/


/ˈhi/ [ˈhiː]
















Pronominal suffixes and pronouns

Cf.- The Independent Pronouns in BH and Colloquial Arabic Dialects

/sūˈsuka(ː)/ (nominative)

/sūˈsaka(ː)/ (accusative)

/sūˈsika(ː)/ (genitive)








your (ms) stallion

/suːˈsāka(ː)/ (du. nominative)

/suːˈsayka(ː)/ (du. oblique)



(one example)


[suːˈsɛyˑ] or




your (ms) stallions








he commanded him

/sūˈsuhu/ (ms. nominative)

/sūˈsahu/ (ms. accusative)


(ms. genitive)


/sūˈsahu/? >


e.g. ˈלוֹ (normal TH or ֹה eg. ˈלֹה) //

See this footnote[35]

/sūˈsuha/ (nominative)

/sūˈsaha/ (accusative)

/sūˈsiha/ (genitive)







'her horse'

/suːˈsāha/ (du. nominative)

/suːˈsayha/ (du. oblique)


/sūˈsayha(ː)/ [suːˈsɐyhɐˑ] or [suːˈsɛyhɐˑ]

סוּˈסֶיהָ /suˈsɛ/


'her horses'



<ty> (6 or 7 examples)

<t> (3 examples)






EH holds open the possibility that the EBHP might have been /qaˈalti(ː)/ or with an unvoweled suffix, as in colloquial Arabic, i.e. /qaˈalt/


<t> (5-7 examples)

<th> (5 examples)






EH holds open the possibility that the EBHP might have been /qaˈalta(ː)/ or with an unvoweled suffix, as in colloquial Arabic, and later Aramaic /qaˈalt/



/taqˈulna/ (/EBHP?/) > /tiqˈulna/ (/EBHP?/) or









/ʾaqˈula/ (/EBHP?/) >

/ʾiqˈula(ː)/ (/EBHP?/)

[ʔɪqˈʊlɐˑ] or







/naqˈula/ (/EBHP?/) > /niqˈula/ (/EBHP?/) or










(probably in archaic poetry) > /qәˈula/



(Masc. sing. Imperative with Paragogic heh)











Fp. Imperative




/ˈliː/ (possibly /ˈliya/ in archaic or archaizing poetry)




See this footnote[36].



/ˈmiː/ (possibly /ˈmiya/ in archaic or archaizing poetry)










See this footnote[37].



The orthography of the MT is usually said to indicate long final vowels by vowel letters. However, this assumes that Biblical Hebrew did not have any final short vowels and that certain final long vowels were in certain situations not indicated by vowel letters.

However, in candid moments, scholars admit, sometimes indirectly, that it may be that some of the vowel letters stand for final short vowels. This is clearly the position of Richter and Stuart. Beyer 1969 seems to accept that all final vowels were long and that unstressed word-final vowels were only graphically represented in order to avoid misunderstandings. Thus Beyer postulates that the 2 fs. pronominal suffix <k> should be read *[kiː] (n.b. unstressed) and the 2 mp. pronominal suffix <km> should be read

Manuel (p. 56) wrote -

"... /a/ in final position lengthened to /ā/. Affected forms generally use {h} to mark the final vowel. There is no certainty that {h} is actually marking a lengthened as opposed to a short vowel[38], but the fact that all other uses of vowel letters in BH, including final {h}, mark long vowels ({w} = /ū/ō/, {y} = /ī/ē/, and [final] {h} = /ē/ō/) makes it unlikely that the practice would apply to /a/ unless the vowel had undergone a quantitative change. Examples include the fs nominal and III-y SC forms listed above (see Apocope). The change may also have included the interrogative pronoun, the unstressed deictic ending /at/, where the final /t/ apocopated as it did on the fs noun, and the unstressed adverbial ending /ah/, whose final consonantal /h/ quiesced at some point (Gordon 1965 6.33; 11. l-2; Garr 1985:60, 117; Williams 1976 61; cf. Pardee 1978:313)...."

Muraoka 1998 discusses the vowels and vowel letters of Egyptian Aramaic (pp. 28-36) which is linguistically and orthographically closely related to Biblical Hebrew. Two quotes -

The length of word-final vowels, especially those of inflectional morphemes, is ... uncertain. (p. 36).

... Beyer (1994:88) ... holds that unstressed word-final vowels were only graphically represented in order to avoid misunderstandings. Cook (1990) agrees with Beyer that final unstressed long vowels, especially /aː/, were often not graphically represented in OA and IA. (p. 27).

On the other hand, it has become increasingly obvious that final vowels were sometimes systematically not written i.e. the written word would end in a consonant whereas the spoken word would follow the final written consonant with a vowel. Epigraphic Hebrew was open to two major influences. On one side the Phoenicians who made almost no use of vowel letters and on the other side the Arameans who did. It is generally assumed that the pre-exilic scribal tradition in Israel and Judah followed the Aramean model.

- It seems to me that the final alternative, that word-final short unstressed vowels did exist in EBHP, is most probably correct.


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - See Word-final Vowels of intermediate or uncertain length


b. Is it Likely that Case Endings [39] were Pronounced in EBHP Vocalization of Archaic or Archaizing Biblical Poetry?

In Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (Cross and Freedman 1975) the authors wrote (p. 27)

The most striking feature of the morphology of the noun is the frequent preservation of old case endings. The survival of case endings is due in almost every case to clear-cut metrical requirements

In Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (1973) Cross (p. 127 n. 51) implies that he accepts that the Song of the Sea states

the genitive of the first person singular is iya (and as) in early Canaanite and Phoenician, written with consonantal yod.

I agree that the survival of the case endings is not impossible but is it probable? A possible parallel is the continued use of, partly unwritten, case endings etc. in modern literary Arabic (MSA) over a thousand years after they disappeared from use in common speech. The archaic grammar of MSA is preserved due to the prestige of the Quran and hence of its language. The following is of interest, and perhaps even of relevance to the linguistic situation in Late Bronze Age Canaan -

The role and place of final vowel (representing case or inflectional) endings in sentence reading known in traditional Arabic grammar terminology as icraab, requires an active prior knowledge of syntax. Arabs consider icraab a technicality only necessary in reading poetry and in the most formal reading situations. Most Arabs follow the common practice of not pronouncing word endings marking the part of speech and its function at the end of a sentence (such as the use of the one single unmarked form kitaab for book instead of the six inflectionally marked forms of kitaabun, kitaaban, kitaabin and kitaabu, kitaaba and kitaabi. The exercise of guessing the correct icraab has become a central activity in an average classroom which requires scanning the context and conjuring the appropriate grammatical rule.[40]

One should note that the continuing knowledge of, and attempts to continue the use of, the complex grammar of Classical Arabic is due to the reverence that form of language has as the language of the Quraan. Though the similarity of biblical poetry to that of Ugarit suggests that both were in the same general literary tradition, there is not the slightest hint that any body of archaic literature was studied or even maintained, orally or in written form, in ancient Israel let alone one possessing the authority to impose its linguistic norms on Israelite poetry.

It is clear that the orthography of pre-exilic biblical poetry was systematically "modernized" in the post-exilic period. This extent of this modernization cannot be determined. It may or may not have been generally limited to a few recurring features. e.g. the insertion of internal vowel letters and the replacement of ה by ו as the third person singular pronominal suffix on nouns. Perhaps it is not generally realized that the suggestion that case endings and older forms of grammar were native to these poems requires the acceptance that the consonantal text of the archaic poems was far more drastically "modernized" in the post-exilic period.

Discussion[41] In Epigraphic Hebrew the standard suffix for the feminine singular of the noun/adjective is <h> = */ː(h)/. This ending replaced the earlier *<t> = */t/[42] < */tu/. This could not have occurred before the loss of the case ending. Even if, as postulated above, short final vowels not required for clarity, had disappeared from ordinary speech, as reflected in the consonantal orthography, it is possible that they may have been preserved, to some extent, in poetic language in order to increase the number of syllables or for other aesthetic reasons.

Vern 2008 (chapt. 11) examines in great detail the case for the survival of case ending remnants in ABH poetry and finds that the balance of the evidence is that no such survivals can be found. This validates Stuart's position (p. 26) that Case endings were almost never preserved in Hebrew."


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - Case endings were not preserved in BH.


c. Were Word and Syllable final Glottal Stops Pronounced in EBHP?

Word-final glottal stops (/ ʾ/ [ʔ]) were produced by the loss of final short vowels in the noun (including adjective) and verb eg. /qaˈraʾa/ > /qaˈraʾ/

It is clear that some stressed, syllable-final glottal stops were elided with lengthening of the preceding vowel in BHA phase 2. An example is */ˈraʾu/ > */ˈru/ > /ˈr/ "head". In the MT, glottal stops ( א when pronounced = /ʾ/ [ʔ]) often disappeared, generally compensated for by a lengthening of the preceding vowel[43]; as a rule, they are, however, preserved in spelling. For the details see this footnote[44].

The question is whether, generally, syllable and word-final glottal stops were:

i. pronounced in EBHP (as per Senz-Badillos 3.5) resulting in final syllables of the patterns CVVʔ (3 morae) or CVʔ (2 morae); or,

ii. elided with lengthening of the preceding vowel resulting in final syllables of the pattern CVV (CVVʔ > CVV; CVʔ > CVV. Each 2 morae); or,

iii. simply quiesced with no lengthening of the preceding vowel (as per Manuel 1995 pp. 42-43)[45] resulting in final syllables of the patterns CVV (CVVʔ > CVV - 2 morae) or
CV (CVʔ > CV- 1 mora).

In spoken Arabic dialects[46], many of Classical Arabic's glottal stops have disappeared -

Classical Arabic /ʔ/ is lost except initially. Depending on the exact phonetic environment, this either caused reduction of two vowels into a single long vowel or diphthong (when between two vowels), insertion of a homorganic glide /j/ or /w/ (when between two vowels, the first of which was short or long /i/ or /u/ and the second not the same), lengthening of a preceding short vowel (between a short vowel and a following non-vowel), or simple deletion (elsewhere). This resulted initially in a large number of complicated morphophonemic variations in verb paradigms.

However, the shift /q/ > /ʔ/ has given rise to new word-final phonemic glottal stops have arisen following both long and short vowels. Examples, from Jerusalem Arabic[47] include: /ˈwara/ 'behind': /ˈwaraʾ/ 'paper'; /ˈmara/ 'woman': /ˈmaraʾ/ 'he passed'; /ˈxalaʾ/ 'he created': /ˈxalac/ 'he overthrew; /ˈfii/ 'in' : /ˈfiiʾ/ wake up! The glottal stops resulting from the shift /q/ > /ʔ/ are very stable in, e.g. Egyptian Arabic. In fact there are some interesting developments e.g. the negative particle */laʾ/ (proto-Semitic) > /laː/ (Classical Arabic) > /laʾ/ (Egyptian and Palestinian Arabic.). In British English t-glottalization is resulting in many syllables, and words, regularly ending in glottal stops such as <what> [wɔʔ]. It is thus clear that it is not at all difficult to maintain word and syllable final glottal stops.

The occurrence in Epigraphic Hebrew of the forms <qrʾty> "I read"[48] and <qrʾ> "read!"[49], though they could be historic spellings, seem to indicate that the glottal stop was still pronounced.

Anderson wrote[50]

... use of the term matres lectionis is anachronistic, and gets medieval Masoretic spelling policies mixed up with the ancient use of consonants - three only, waw, yod, and ʾ, not alef - as vowel letters. We are not aware of a single specimen of the ancient use of alef destinctively as a vowel letter (in Epigraphic Hebrew).... (T)here is no way for those who identify any alef as a mater lectionis to know that a reader of that text would not make the sound of the glottal stop at that point; and it is just as impossible for those who think that alef was not used as a vowel letter in the early days to demonstrate that it represented only a consonental sound. It seems to be a stand-off. But the balance is not equal. There can be no doubt that the Phoenician alphabet originally made no provision for writing any vowel sound, and it is equally certain that the letter alef represented a consonant sound that was part of the ancestral Semitic phoneme repetoire.... (N)ot all vowel letters used in Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions originated in historic spellings; phonetic considerations operated from the earliest stages of the use of consonant letters to represent certain vowels. It can still be maintained as a rule that all word-terminal vowels were represented by waw, yod, and ʾ, never alef, and that word-medial ū and (rarely other long vowels, notably monophthongized diphthongs) were sometimes and increasingly represented bywaw or yod. Occasional scribal lapses are only to be expected, but they are so few that they make no difference to the large picture.

In general I believe that Anderson is correct that world-final alef was not normally used as a vowel letter in pre-exilic Hebrew orthography. However, there was one common word in which it is so used i.e. לׁא /l/ "not etc." Probably the reason for this exception was that לה, the expected spelling, was used for "to him" and to her" thus borrowing the Aramaic spelling לא led to less ambiguity.

As noted above, from the point of view of syllable length (and moraic structure), and hence rhythm, there is no difference between CVC eg. קרא ("he called/read) = */qaˈraʾ/ and CVV e.g. קרא = */qaˈraː/

See also

         Simplification of diphthongs

         Interrogative Pronoun מָה

         Trade-off Between Vowel and Consonant Length



Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - Except in the case of לׁא, I assume that word-final א indicates a glottal stop that was pronounced in EBHP i.e. PMT <qrʾ>; TH /qˈr/ *[qɔːˈrɔː] was the reflex of /EBHP/ */qaˈraʾ/
PMT <nʾ>; TH /n/[51] *[nɔː] was the reflex of /EBHP/ */n/.


d. Forms CVCCV > CVCC[52]

With the loss of case endings, and perhaps earlier in pausal forms, in the early first millennium BCE nouns were created ending in clusters of two consonants. These were mainly of two types:

d1. "'Segolates" (m.s.)[53] final clusters of two different consonants e.g. */ˈyaldu/ > */ˈyald/ "child". These developed into the "segolates" (for comparisons with Aramaic see below). This is the category I am discussing in this section.

d2. geminated final consonants e.g. */ˈḥiu/ > */ˈḥiṣṣ/ "arrow". I discuss these forms in the following section.

In the proto-segolates one of the three primitive Semitic vowels /a/, /i/, /u/ appear between the first and second root consonant. Their evolution was:

/a/ vowel - */ˈyaldu/ (/PH/) > */ˈyald/[54] (/EBHP/) *[ˈyɐld] or *[ˈyɐlәd] ([EBHP]) > */ˈyad/ > /ˈd/ (/TH/+); *[ˈː] ([TH]) "child"

/i/ vowel - */ˈsipru/ (/PH/) > */ˈsipr/ (/EBHP/) *[ˈsɪpr] or *[ˈsɪpәr] ([EBHP]) > /ˈspɛr (/TH/+) *[ˈsːfɛr] ([TH]) "book"

/u/ vowel - */ˈqudu/ (/PH/) > */ˈqud/ (/EBHP/) *[ˈʊdʃ] or *[ˈʃ] or *[ˈʊʃ] ([EBHP]) > */ˈqudɛ/ > /ˈqɔdɛ/ (/TH/+) *[ˈkˁɔːɛʃ] (TH) "holyness"

It is, however, unclear how the EBHP forms were pronounced. There are basically two choices i.e. with or without (non-phonemic) anaptyctic vowels i.e.:

*[ˈʊdʃ] or *[ˈʊdәʃ] / *[ˈdәʃ].

The first evidence of segolation in Hebrew is found in Hebrew names transliterated into Greek script in the Septuagint[55]. However, the Seconda, in contradiction to the earlier LXX and the later MT generally shows no evidence of segolation[56] (see below) while the later still latin transliterations of Jerome clearly show segolation. Two outstanding Israeli scholars have published different interpretations of the evidence -

i) Kutscher 1982 (250)

...(I)n the Septuagint the segolastes always have an anaptyctic vowel e.g. Moloch (= מֹלֶךְ) but in the Hexapla the second vowel never appears, and the first one keeps its original quality, e.g. abd = עֶבֶד. How are we to account for this strange fact? After all, once these anaptyctic vowels have arisen it is very unlikely that they should have been dropped. Should we assume the, that with regard to this phenomenon these transliterations reflect another dialect of Hebrew that at least in this respect was more archaic than the Hebrew of the Masoretes and that of the Septuagint? This solution seems preferable to the assumption of fluctuations between the Septuagint, the Hexapla, Jerome ... and the Masoretes.[57]

ii) Blau 1978 (pp. 102-103) argues -

"Epenthesis is already attested in the Septuagint, whereas it is likely that tendency to oxytone shift is later (v. 6). It stands to reason that, for pure phonetic causes, epenthesis arose in a part of the segolates immediately with the elision of final short vowels. Accordingly, I would rather assume that the different behaviour of Hebrew (mainly forms like mɛlek) and Aramaic (mainly forms like әlm) segolates is due to the different morphophonemic status of the segolates. In both Hebrew and Aramaic, after the final short vowels had been omitted, epenthesis took place and phonetically the formerly monosyllabic segolates had become bisyllabic. This is the reason for Hebrew segolates in the Septuagint being transcribed as bisyllabic. Yet Hebrew segolates were morphophonemically monosyllabic. This is the reason for their transcription by Origines as monosyllabic and the alternation of monosyllabic and bisyllabic forms in Jerome's transcriptions. Therefore, as a rule, segolate nouns in Hebrew were not affected by the tendency to oxytone stress, although they phonetically exhibited stressed short penult in open syllable, which, at this time, contravened Hebrew syllable structure...: morphophonematically they were monosyllabic and stressed on their only syllable[58]. It is even dubious whether segolates ever became in Hebrew bisyllabic; Jerome's transcription, at any rate, suggest that they remained morphophonemically monosyllabic. In Aramaic, on the other hand, the epenthetic vowel became morphophonemically counted, making these nouns also morphophonemically bisyllabic. Therefore, they were influenced by the general tendency to oxytone stress, according to which ... short open penult lost its stress in words with closed ultima."

Of these two opinions I find Kutscher's the most persuasive. However, either opinion regarding the Greek evidence is compatable with segolation being a post-exilic development. However, in Blau 2010( he writes -

Now, it could be claimed that Origen reflects a dialect different from that of the Septuagint. This explanation, however, seems unnecessarily complicated. Instead, it seems much more likely that the opening of the cluster was an early phonetic phenomenon that occurred in stress stage iii simultaneously with the omission of final short vowels; however, the syllable formed by the anaptyctic vowel did not count phonemically, and so these nouns remained phonemically monosyllabic. The Septuagint reflects a phonetic transcription of the segolates, whereas Origen provides a phonemic transcription.

I do not find Blau's argument for dating segolization on the BHA phase 2/BHA phase 3 boundary persuasive as:

a) In some Arabic dialects, and indeed in English, the pattern CVCC has shown long-term stability. In English we have hundreds of words of that sort e.g. salt, milk, sort.

b) In Eastern Arabic dialects we find the coexistence of, for example [ˈsɪfr] and [ˈsɪfĭr] "zero"[59]. In ancient Hebrew, the forms in common use might have varied between those with and without short, or very short, unstressed epenthetic vowels as is the case, for example, of the Arabic dialect of the sheep nomads of Mesopotamia and north-east Arabia who pronounce the word for "heart" (Classical Arabic /qalb/) as either [galb] or [galub]) and the word for "time" (Classical Arabic /waqt/) as either [wagd] or [wakit]
(cf. yaled above)[60]
. The following is illustrative[61] -

In one area of central Baghdad ... the LA (Literary Arabic = MSA) form idq 'truth' was found to have five variants in the area surveyed: (1) igid, (2) idig, (3) idug, (4) idiq, and (5) idq. Variant (1), with metathesis, was produced by a few illiterate, elderly people. Variant (2), without metathesis, was produced by both illiterate and semiliterate people who were not all elderly. Variants (3) and (4) were the more frequently occurring variants, (3) being the Muslim realization of the form, and (4) with LA /q/, originally the non-Muslim variant, but now realized by some Muslims who are modifying their speech in the direction of LA.... Variant (5) was produced by a number of educated men and women.

See the Greek evidence regarding *qutl noun forms.

Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - The "segolates" as e.g. מלך "king" נער "youth" -

/EBHP/ */ˈmalk/; [EBHP] *[ˈmɐlk] or occasionally *[ˈmɐlәk] (where the MT epenthetic vowel is sĕgōl.

/EBHP/ */ˈnacr/ ; [EBHP] *[ˈnɐʕr] or occasionally *[ˈnɐʕɐ̆r][62] (where the MT epenthetic vowel is pataḥ.


d2 Were Word-Final Geminated Consonants Maintained in EBHP?[63]

The phenomenon of consonant gemination in EBHP was probably similar to its, somewhat variable reality in Colloquial Arabic which is described by Mitchel 1993 (pp.90-91) as follows (emphasis indeicated by bold is my own..DS) -

The gemination, ... doubling or the use of incremental consonant-length, like the lengthening of vowels, is, strictly speaking, a device of morphology contributing systematically to differences of word-form and word-class. This is not to say that the feature does not occur, albeit rarely, with purely phonological relevance....

Morphological doubling, or doubling for short, mostly concerns the intervocalic second radical of a triradical root (e.g. E(gyptian) A(rabic) ʕllim 'he taught, trained'), far less often a pre-pausal third or fourth radical (e.g. E(gyptian) A(rabic) ʔiħmrr 'he/it turned red, blushed'.... These cases of gemination should be distinguished from the very frequent morphophonological case of a phonetically long consonant which usually, though not exclusively, arises from assimilation.

An example of sequence without assimilation involves the suffixation of the morpheme {-t} of the 1st person s. and 2nd person s. and pl. in the past tense of verbs whose final radical is /t/, e.g. saktt 'I/you (s.m.) was/were silent', saktti/u 'you (s.f.)/you (pl.) were silent'. East of Egypt, for instance in the Levant, an anaptyctic vowel, obligatorily precluded from association with morphological doubling, may occur before the final inflectional consonant of e.g. saktt, i.e. saktɨt, and the duration of the 'hold' of final -tt in the first version, as well as the audibility of its release, is also subject to regional variation; it is typically longer, for example, in Jordanian and Palestinian than in, say, coastal Syrian Arabic, or even Damascene. Some account should be taken, moreover, of subregional and individual variation, and it has to be remembered that the isolated word is its own context and that behaviour elsewhere may not be in parallel. Thus, at word-junctions in informal speech, anaptyxis is as regularly associated with Palestinian as with Syrian speech, e.g. P(alestinian) A(rabic) S(yrian) A(rabic) saktit leʃ? 'Why were you silent?', though this is not so for the word-isolate. That sequence of like consonants is not to be equated with morphological doubling, in spite of potential similarity of phonetic form, is shown not only by the possibilities of final anaptyxis in the first case but also by such medial contrasts of consonant length as occur in Levantine baʕttni 'you (s.m.) sent me' in opposition to baʕtni 'he sent me'.



23.1, Gemination or consonantal length can be justified etymologically or grammatically. but it occurs also when a long vowel plus a single consonant is replaced by a short vowel plus a doubled consonant, as in Hebrew gәmalliːm, "camels", "dromedaries", plural of *gamal (24.7). Some Semitic languages and dialects are non-geminating in part or in general (23.5). A compensatory lengthening of the contiguous vowel may then correspond to the gemination, as in Neo-Aramaic daːbaːsaː, "bee", instead of dabbaːsaː. Gemination is phonemic in the Semitic languages in which gemination or lengthening of consonants is a regular feature, as it appears, e.g., from Arabic kabara, "to become great", and kabbara, "to make great"....

It has been suggested that there may have been a phonetic difference in Semitic between long consonants and double or geminated consonants. In fact, there is a category of "continuant" consonants that can be held continuously, with variable tension but without changing quality, and a second category of so-called "kinetic" or "interrupted" sounds that cannot be so held. The first group comprises the nasal, lateral, fricative, and rolled phonemes, while the second one includes the plosives and the affricates (e.g. [ʦ]). The gemination of the phonemes of the second group does not imply length, properly speaking, but increased tension which is perceivable in the case of a voiceless plosive, while a voiced one is reckoned less tense since a considerable part of the air it uses is consumed by voicing alone. Therefore, really geminated voiced plosives have to be pronounced either by doubly stopping the chamber of the mouth and sucking in the breath, or by changing the quality. as /bb/ > [ m b ] or [ b b ], /d d/ > [ n d ] or [ d d ], / gg / > [ n g ] or [ g g ],. The first articulation is encountered, e.g., among native Tūrōyo speakers and among speakers of Western Neo-Aramaic who even insert an anaptyctic vowel between the geminated consonants: amelәl < amell, "he said to them" .... Concrete examples of the second pronunciation in ancient Semitic languages are probably provided by such transcriptions as Σεπφώρα for ippōrā, Άκχώ for cAkkō, Ματθαθίς for Mattityā, which amply illustrate the changing quality of geminated plosives. In other circumstances or forms of speech, and especially in the articulation of "continuants", the so-called "doubling" of a consonant does not consist phonetically in its double articulation, but either in its lengthening or in its amplification. This may vary from a slight "tightening" or lengthening in time to much more than double. We keep nevertheless using the traditional terminology and the current notation of consonantal length or tension by transcribing the long or tense consonant twice, e.g. bb. This notation is interchangeable with the symbol /b:/ employed in the international phonetic system and with the capital letter B adopted by some authors.

23.2. Gemination is sometimes hardly audible, particularly at the end of a word (24.5), where it is not recorded either in Amharic or in Hebrew, e.g. cm, "people", instead of cmm. However, it becomes evident when the final consonant is followed by a vowel, e.g. Hebrew cmmī, "my people". Gemination is at times missing also in the middle of a word, as shown by the Masoretic notation mәbaqәīm (Ex. 4:19; 10:11), "seeking", instead of the expected *mәbaqqәīm. Besides, there is no regular marking of long consonants in cuneiform script and there is no such notation at all in Semitic alphabetic scripts, except in some rare cases (23.3), until the introduction of special diacritics in Hebrew and in Arabic (23.4)....

23.4. In the Hebrew vocalization systems, the symbol called dage -- a dot placed in the letter -- is used to mark the gemination of a consonant, but it is in reality an ambiguous sign, since it can also indicate the lack of gemination and the plosive pronunciation of the consonants b, g, d, k, p, t. This was probably the original function of the dage used with the plosives, since these phonemes cannot be lengthened, properly speaking, but only amplified by other means, as a pronunciation with greater pressure. Only Arabic adda ... indicates in an unambiguous way that the consonant is long or geminated, e.g. cmmu, "paternal uncle".

23.5. In principle, all the consonants can be geminated, but ʾ and h are not geminated in Ethiopian languages and the Masoretic punctuation of Hebrew and of Biblical Aramaic in principle excludes the gemination of the pharyngals (ḥ, c) of the laryngals (ʾ, h), and of r. In Neo-Aramaic, the doubling of consonants has largely been eliminated and replaced by the lengthening of the preceding vowel, e.g. yāma < yammā, "sea"....

Quoted from Lipinski 1997 23.1 - 24.6

"A geminated consonant (in TH)... was pronounced with greater pressure than its ungeminated counterpart."

Quoted from Khan 1997 p. 90.

A stop, plosive, or occlusive is a consonant sound produced by stopping the airflow in the vocal tract. The terms plosive and stop are usually used interchangeably, but they are not perfect synonyms. Plosives are oral stops with a pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. The term is also used to describe oral (non-nasal) stops.... In the articulation of the stop, three phases can be distinguished:

                     Catch: The airway closes so that no air can escape through the mouth (hence the name stop). With nasal stops, the air escapes through the nose.

                     Hold or occlusion: The airway stays closed, causing a pressure difference to build up (hence the name occlusive).

                     Release or burst: The closure is opened. In the case of plosives, the released airflow produces a sudden impulse causing an audible sound (hence the name plosive).

... Lengthened fricatives, nasals, laterals, approximants, and trills are simply prolonged. In lengthened stops, the "hold" is prolonged. Long consonants are usually around one and a half or two times as long as short consonants, depending on the language. ... In a geminate or long stop, the occlusion lasts longer than in normal stops. In languages where stops are only distinguished by length (e.g. Arabic...), the long stops may last up to three times as long as the short stops. Italian is well known for its geminate stop, as the double t in the name Vittoria takes just as long to say as the ct does in English Victoria.

Quoted from Wikipedia


Variations in the length of both consonants and vowels produce variations in meaning.... The difference between the short and long sounds is that the long sounds take a relatively longer time to be completely produced than the short ones. In the case of a stop, the explosion occurs after a longer withholding; in the case of a vowel, lateral, or fricative, it is continued longer; in the case of a flap, the flaps are repeated (hence the trills,); and in the case of a nasal, the vibration of the vocal cords and the flow of breath through the nasal passage last longer. Length applies to consonants and vowels separately, it does not apply to syllables or words as a whole.

Quoted from An English-Colloquial Arabic Dictionary by Raja T. Nasr, Librairie du Liban,Beirut (1972), p. xvi.



It should be noted that the phonemic load of consonant and vowel length, and even place of stress, tended to be reduced over the history of Ancient Hebrew being replaced by vowel and consonant quality. For example:

         גמל <gml> "he weaned":"camel"

/EBHP/ */gaˈmal/:*/gaˈmaːl/

TH /gˈmal/ *[gɔːˈmɐːl]:/gˈml/ *[gɔːˈmɔːl]


         וישׁמר <wymr> 'he guarded': וישׁמר <wymr> 'and he will guard'

/EBHP/ */way'yimur/:*/wayi'mur/

/TH/+ /wayyi'mor/:/wәyi'mor/


         <hbdyl> (hiph. inf. constr.) : <hbdl> (hiph. inf. abs.)

/EBHP/ */hab'diːl/:*/hab'dil/

/TH/+ /hab'dil/:/hab'dẹl/


Long (Geminated) Consonants and their Symbols


Continuant consonants e.g. /mm/ (IPA /mː/).

a) When not word-final, a geminated continuant lasts at least twice as long as a short continuant and bridges two syllables - i.e. forming the coda of the first syllable and the onset of the following syllable as does the mm in English "immobile". E.g. לִˈמֵּד */limˈmid/ (/EBHP/) [lɪmˈmɪd] ([EBHP]).

b) When word-final, a geminated continuant lasts at least twice as long as a short continuant. E.g. ˈחֵץ */ˈiṣṣ/ (/EBHP/) [ˈħɪsˁsˁ] ([EBHP]).


Stop consonants e.g. /dd/(IPA /dː/).

a) When not word-final the consonant is pronounced twice, the first time as the coda of the first syllable and second time as the onset of the following syllable as does the nn in English "unnamed". E.g. דִּˈבֵּר /EBHP/ */dibˈbir/ ([EBHP]).

b) When word-final the sound is pronounced as a long stop e.g. כַף probably /ˈkapp/ (/EBHP/)
[ˈkɐpp] ([EBHP])..



Words ending in doubled consonents as a result of the loss of case endings can be pronounced in five basic ways[64]:

Scenario i - Final geminated continuants could be pronounced long with the stops pronounced as long stops. I would guess that his is the position of Senz-Badillos 1993 (p. 70);

Scenario ii - Where the final geminated consonant is a continuant it could be pronounced long while the stops could be modified to allow prolonged pronunciation. There is evidence of this happening, at a later period, within words but no evidence that it took place in EBHP.

Scenario iii - Where the final geminated consonant is a continuant it could be pronounced long while the stops could be pronounced short but with increased muscular tension in the articulating organs and possible alteration in nature and degree of voicing as compared to the non-geminated pronunciation of the same consonants. There is evidence that this sometimes happens in Colloquial Arabic, but no evidence as to whether it took place in EBHP.

Scenario iv - Where the final geminated consonant is a continuant it could be pronounced long while the stops could be pronounced short. There is evidence that this sometimes happens in Colloquial Arabic, but no evidence that it took place in EBHP.

Scenario v - The final geminated consonantal cluster could be broken up by the insertion of a, non-phonemic, anaptyctic vowel[65] as in the Palestinian/Syrian pronunciation of the Arabic above. I.e. */ˈḥiṣṣ/ could be pronounced in one of the following ways - *[ˈħɪә], *[ˈħɪĭ], *[ˈħɪә][66], *[ˈħɪĭ]. There is no evidence to support this scenario for EBHP. In the case of *[ˈħɪә] or *[ˈħɪĭ], if they had occurred in EBHP we would have expected them to develop into TH segolates. I.e. the certain development - */ˈsipru/ > */ˈsipr/ > /ˈspɛr/ *[ˈsːfɛr] would be paralleled by */ˈḥiu/ > */ˈḥiṣṣ/ >> */ˈḥẹːɛ/ which it is not.

Scenario vi - The final geminated consonant may be reduced to a simple consonant with a compensating lengthening of the preceding vowel. Under this scenario the development to Tiberian Hebrew would have been

*/ˈḥiu/ > */ˈḥiṣṣ/ > */ˈḥeː/ (/EBHP/) > /ˈḥẹ/ [ˈħẹː]

Scenario vii - The final geminated consonant may be reduced to a simple consonant[67] as happens in most Arabic dialects. This could have taken place at any time after the loss of the final short vowels[68]. Under this scenario, supported by Harris[69], the development to Tiberian Hebrew would have been -

*/ˈḥiu/ > */ˈḥiṣṣ/ > */ˈḥi/ (/EBHP/) > /ˈḥẹ/ [ˈħẹː]

N.b. the close similarities to original qil forms such as /ˈʾilu/ > /ˈʾeːl/ (/EBHP/)

This may or may not result in a reduction of syllable length in the consciousness of speakers. Note the observation "... that (in Damascus Arabic) final (and pre-consonantal) geminates are phonemic, but not always phonetically realized."[70]


A number of major scholars consider that the reduction of final geminated consonants was post-exilic -

     Senz-Badillos (p. 70)




Of the scenarios outlined above, I consider scenarios (i), (iii) and (vii) to be the most probable. In reality, it is not improbable that educated speakers, in formal situations would pronounce final geminates as in scenarios (i) or (iii) long after their being reduced to simple consonants (scenario (vii) ) in ordinary speech. This situation has parallels in varieties of spoken Arabic today -

... E(gyptian) A(rabic) and the eastern vernaculars tend to march in step, in that final doubling is usually subject to reduction of length. Thus, as far as e.g. S(yrian) A(rabic) is concerned, the expression -Cx(Cx)C/#, in which the second element of doubling is 'removed' before a consonant or pause, covers all cases. Nevertheless, many Syrians distinguish durationally between doubled and single final consonants, especially when these are continuant; such speakers may well pronounce e.g. -mm of muhmm 'important' longer than is the practice among Egyptians, and may distinguish similarly between lam 'not' and lamm 'he gathered', though the contrast is not a very meaningful one and is likely to be restricted to the limited context of word citation. Doubling is, of course, a morphological requirement in all cases, and length 'reappears' when the consonant is no longer pre-pausal, e.g. E(gyptian) A(rabic) xɑɑS(S) 'special (s.m.)'/ ˈxɑSSɑ `special (s.f.)', I(raqi) A(rabic) faj(j) 'he split'/fjja 'he split it (m.)', daz(z) `he sent/dzza 'he sent him'/dz(z)ni 'he sent me'/dzzilha 'he sent to her', etc. Notice, too, that, whatever the length of the final trilled or lateral consonant in e.g. ʔamr(r) 'more bitter' and ʔaml(I) 'more boring', both are oxytones as to accentuation and thus opposed to paroxytonic ʔmar 'he ordered' and ʔmal 'hope'. Accentuation again serves to indicate the morphological parallelism between consonant doubling and vowel lengthening, with ʔmar/ ʔmar(r) parallel to ˈwɑrɑ 'behind'/wɑˈrɑɑ(h) `behind him'. A medial Iraqi example of this parallelism is provided by the variant forms guulila and gullila 'tell (s.f.) (to) him!', yguululha and ygullulha 'they tell her'. Doubling is clearly quite another matter from the assimilated gemination considered subsequently. At the same time it should be said again that further research and experimentation is needed to determine in what circumstances, and by what other phonetic means than duration, final single and doubled consonants are distinguished. The firmness of dento-alveolar contact clearly differs between e.g. E(gyptian) A(rabic) ʕad(d) 'he counted' and ʕaad 'he returned', ʔiswd(d) 'he/it turned black' and ʔswad 'blacker', mustaʕd(d) 'ready (s.m.)' and muʕtmid 'dependent or mufid 'useful (s.m.)', tistadl(I) 'she inquires and bddil 'he changed', muhm(m) 'important (s.m.)' and ʔadim 'old, ancient (s.m.)', and the nature and degree of voicing as well as muscular tension in the articulating organs ,almost certainly differ between members of such contrasts. In K(uwaiti) A(rabic), too, -gg of dɑgg 'he knocked' is more tensely articulated than -g of ħdɑg 'he fished', and one should not take for granted that relevant word-junctions are phonetically identical, as is often implied, between, say, min tani 'from another one' and sn(n) tani 'another tooth'. In Cy(renaican bedouin Arabic), contrast is maintained as to final length between e.g. ɑfˈrɑɑs 'mares' and both muˈgɑSS 'shears, scissors' and ɑmˈgɑɑSS 'pairs of shears/scissors', with some reduction in the last case.

The importance of stylistic differences is incontrovertible. The shortening of doubled consonants pre-consonantally and prepausally is a mark of informal style and may be eschewed where appropriate in educated speech. The length of -mm in muhmm is maintained in formal speech, and certainly in the related formal lexical item haamm 'important, which illustrates the rare syllable pattern CVVCC and has, of course, been acquired by the speaker in the process of familiarization with written Arabic. The difference between muhmm and haamm, which conforms to the CA/MSA participial pattern of the doubled verb and not to the typically vernacular CaaCxiCx, offers to educated speakers one among innumerable lexico-stylistic choices.[71]


... in the same way as many Aden speakers will observe a difference of final consonant length between, say, ad 'he counted' and xadd 'cheek', and a difference of length in respect of the final nasal in fam(m) 'mouth' is regularly observable between Benghasi and Jebel speakers in Cyrenaica, so there are speakers of Egyptian Arabic - among them educated ones - for whom the final plosive release differs as between xad 'he took' and xadd 'cheek'[72]

Measured Consonant Length (in milliseconds)

MSA as used in Iraq[73]


Consonant Class








1. Stops


















2. Continuants



















Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - <kl> "all of-" /ˌkull/; [ˌkʊll][74]


2. Aramaic and Arabic as Guides to Reconstructing EBHP

CBH (original pronunciation termed EBHP) was a literary dialect of extinct ancient language which was spoken, or at least written and understood, by people having a range of native dialects over a period of half a millennium. The contemporary epigraphic remains from the period of its living use (EH) are miniscule compared to the vast written records of Akkadian (vocalized), Sumerian and even Ugaritic. The writing system used, being largely consonantal, gives only the rarest hints of the quality and quantity of the language's vowels. The fullest vocalization systems, which have been imposed on a consonantal text having some vowel letters, date from the early Middle Ages and were developed by scholars whose native language was Aramaic and whose phonology and general linguistic instincts were profoundly Aramaic. Traditional Jewish and Samaritan pronunciations have been passed down by groups whose linguistic instincts and phonology were formed by their spoken language (see Ashkenazi , Sephardi, Mizrahi, Yemenite, Tiberian , Samaritan Hebrew). However, after abandoning Hebrew as their spoken tongue, these groups spoke, sequentially, a series of other languages. The Samaritans spoke and wrote Aramaic and then Arabic. The Middle Eastern Jews spoke Aramaic and sometimes Greek followed by Arabic and Persian (Iran and some other areas). The Eastern European Jews mainly spoke sequentially Aramaic and sometimes Greek or Latin, Romance, Old French, German dialects and Yiddish. Of course, languages themselves were themselves constantly evolving. Transcriptions into other languages of EBHP's period - Akkadian, Egyptian - are rare and often difficult to evaluate. Transcriptions, mainly of proper names, into Greek date from 300 to 1000 years after the period of EBHP. Of course, as a dead language there are no native informants who can be interviewed and recorded to verify their pronunciation(s).

Under these circumstances the knowledge gleaned from the MT must be supplemented by knowledge of general linguistics, comparative Semitics and the living Semitic languages. Two Semitic languages are of the greatest importance:


a) Aramaic

Aramaic is the best known Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. As described elsewhere in detail:

Starting in the early sixth century B.C.E. all Hebrew speakers would have been exposed to Aramaic.  Indeed, from early in the 6th century B.C.E. until the extinction of Hebrew as a spoken language in the 2nd century C.E. Hebrew was under continuous pressure from Aramaic; a language as closely related to Hebrew as Spanish is to Italian. Aramaic was the language of their non-Jewish neighbors (except for some Hellenized Syrians), the normal spoken language of the Jews of Babylonia, the Galilee and of many Jews in Judea. Aramaic was a language spoken in Jerusalem from the late 6th century B.C.E. and may have been its majority tongue. Many Hebrew speaking Jews in Judea would have had various levels of competence in Aramaic as a second language. Since at least the second century C.E. the transmitters of the reading/pronunciation traditions for both Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew were speakers of Aramaic. By the time of the Masoretes, Hebrew had not been a spoken language for 700 years and the tradition(s) of Hebrew pronunciation had been subject to overwhelming Aramaic linguistic pressure for over a millennium and a half. The linguistic pressure from Aramaic not only increased the impetus for change but determined its nature

Finally, the scattered Neo-Aramaic dialects provide information on the pronunciation of a Semitic language by groups whose ancestors have spoken Aramaic for 1000-2000+ years.

b) Arabic


Arabic and Hebrew Parallels in Diachronic Development

"In his essay "Note sur une difficuIt gnrale de la grammaire compare", Antoine Meillet, the eminent French linguist, noted that languages which belong to the same group (or dialects of the same language) tend to develop along the same lines, even when there is no contact between them.[75] The subject we propose to deal with may serve to observe the applicability of Meillet's conclusion to the field of Semitics - to be more precise, to a segment of the field: Arabic and Hebrew. The fact that the developments we are concerned with - from Classical Arabic into Arabic Dialects and from Proto-Biblical Hebrew into Biblical Hebrew are not parallel in time, constitute no difficulty. As is well known, processes that lead to change in language are not necessarily restricted to any one period; they may be bound in occurrence and duration to same defined periods in the lifetime of a certain language, but this in no way precludes their emergence at any period."[76]

Quoted from Morag 1989 p. 94.


As well as parallel development, one has to take mutual contact between dialects into account. Here we are presented with one of the decisive problems of the formation of the Semitic languages. Some Semitists still try to explain the emergence of the several Semitic languages and dialects by the exclusive application of the family-tree theory: they regard the dividing process that affects a homogeneous language as the only impelling power from which new idioms originate.... (T)he family-tree theory does not account for the interrelation of the Semitic languages .... (T)he characteristics of the Canaanite dialects did not emerge in a ProtoCanaanite prehistoric period, but arose, in historical times, presumably from Northwest Semitic, through mutual contact in accordance with the wave theory, and through parallel development. So the term 'Canaanite' applies to the result of the linguistic development, but not to the development itself.

This presentation of the development of the Canaanite dialects becomes all the more probable in the light of its exact parallel by the formation of the modern Arabic dialects. These idioms, though differentiated along geographical and/or social lines ... reveal distinctly homogeneous character. Owing to their common features, one may even speak, mutatis mutandis, of an Arabic koine, but one has to remember that this term, once more, applies only to the result of linguistic development, and not to the development itself. The koine is not the forerunner of the linguistic process, with the dialects splitting off from a more or less uniform speech (viz., the koine), but itself emerged only as the consequence of linguistic development.... Accordingly, the common features of the Arabic dialects, especially of the sedentary vernaculars, are not accounted for by their common origin alone (as in the family-tree theory). Some of the features are due to parallel developments, the general 'drift'. To this category belong, e.g., features such as the loss of the glottal stop, the reduction of the inflexional categories, producing a more analytical type in general, the increase of the symmetry in grammar ... the restriction of the dual, the disappearance of verba tertiae waw, the nisba -i, the merger of dad / za, and further, for example, the use of reflexive verbal forms instead of the internal passive. In many of these features (such as the emergence of a more analytical type in general, including, for example, the restriction of the dual; and further, the disappearance of verba tertiae waw,, and the nisba -i), the Arabic dialects tally with Hebrew and/or Aramaic as against Classical Arabic, thus repeating the development by which these Old Semitic languages were transformed many hundreds of years before. The fact that the Arabic sedentary dialects were affected by the same changes as other Semitic languages in prehistoric periods, points plainly to the existence of a general tendency that transformed different languages independently.

Quoted from Blau 1965 pp. 41-42


Classical Arabic is a key resource in understanding the structure and phonology of early Canaanite (Stress Period 1) and the phonology of EBHP. Modern Arabic dialects are of the greatest importance in reconstructing the relationship between short vowel phonemes and their ranges of pronunciation and in "hearing" patterns of short and long vowels which have been preserved in Arabic but lost in the modern pronunciations of Hebrew.


The Independent Pronouns in EBHP and Colloquial Arabic Dialects

In its system of pronouns, Hebrew discloses, for a number of persons, two allomorphs - one terminating in a vowel, the other with a consonant or, possibly, short unstressed vowel.


Independent Pronouns in EBHP (*/EBHP/)


Allomorph Ending with a Consonant or Short Vowel

Allomorph Ending with a Long Vowel

2 ms.


/ˈʾat(t)/ or /ˈʾatta/[78]



2 fs.


/ˈʾat(t)/ or /ˈʾatti/



3 ms.


/ˈʾh/ or /ˈʾhuʾ/

or /ˈʾhuʾa/



3 fs.


/ˈʾh/ or /ˈʾhiʾ/

or /ˈʾhiʾa/



2 mp.


/ʾatˈtim/ or /ʾatˈtima/



2 fp.


/ʾatˈtin(n)/ or /ʾatˈtinna/



3 mp.


/ˈhim(m)/ or /ˈhimma/



3 fp.


/ˈhin(n)/ or /ˈhinna/[85]



A somewhat similar picture obtains in the pronominal systems of Arabic dialects. To exemplify the lines of resemblance, we shall here present the pronominal systems of some dialects in the Syro-Israeli area.



Urban Dialects

Rural Dialects






Bīr Zēt

1 cs.





2 ms.


ʾinti, ʾint

әnte, әnt

inte, int

2 fs.





3 ms.


huwwi, hū

hū, hūwa

3 fs.


hiyyi, hī

hī, hīye

1 cp.



әḥne, әḥna


2 mp.





2 fp.



3 mp.


hinni, hin

huMM, huMMa


3 fp.

henn, henne



The following points are worthwhile noting;

(a) the preservation, from a historical point of view, of the final vowel in the 2nd pers. masc. sing.: Hebrew ʾatta, Arabic dialects inte (and variants).

(b) in the Hebrew forms for the 3rd pers. mast. and fem. sing. and plur. which have a vowel termination - huʾa, hiʾa, hemma, henna - the final vowel ā possibly goes back to ancient -at. Cf, hmt in ancient Phoenician (Byblian) and hwt, hyt, hmt in Ugaritic (in the genitive-accusative case) as well as the genetive-accusative pronominal morphemes uātu/i, āti/u (third pers. masc. sing.), uiāti, āti (fem. sing.), unūti (mast. plur.) and ināti (fem. plur.) in Akkadian.

As to the longer forms in Arabic dialects (hūwe, huwwi, etc, for the masc. and hīyeʾ, hiyyi

for the fem.), there seems to be no evidence to indicate such a historical development.

What would seem plausible is either the assumption that the longer forms have preserved

the final vowel of Classical Arabic (huwa, hiya), or, that they developed a new final vowel.

But here we touch upon a rather intricate question, the existence of a final vowel in a

number pronominal forms (cf. above table) in many Arabic dialects.


3. Diglossia[86] and Dialect in PExH: What do we mean by Judahite and Israelian Hebrew? - Clarification from Colloquial Arabic

For an outline of the issues involved and the evidence available follow this link. Key points are:

i. The range of dialects, and nature of dialect development, in Iron Age Palestine was probably similar to that of Levantine Arabic c. 1920 - i.e. before the recent mass urbanization and the introduction of mass communications and schooling.

ii. Though we probably can linguistically distinguish pre-Exilic from post-exilic Hebrew in many cases[87] we cannot do more than guess at the influence of dialect in the biblical text. Some key reasons for this are:

a) We have too little knowledge of the spoken dialects of any part of the region;

b) We have too little knowledge of the linguistic implications of literary forms (gattung) in pre-exilic Jerusalem.

The following is quoted from the important study "The Elijah-Elisha Narratives: A Test Case for the Northern Dialect of Hebrew" (Schniedewind-Sivan 1997) -

The Elijah-Elisha narratives contain a disproportionate number of linguistic anomalies which have usually been accounted for by tracing these narratives to an early collection of prophetic stories written in Northern Hebrew. Using the criteria developed by Avi Hurvitz and Gary Rendsburg, this study critiques previous studies of Northern Hebrew and provides a comprehensive analysis of the linguistic anomalies of 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 8. It is argued, first of all, that the linguistic anomalies of these narratives reflect literary stylizing by the biblical authors. In most cases, there is simply not enough evidence to point specifically to Northern Hebrew. The heaviest concentration of linguistic anomalies are in the folktales of 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4-6, reflecting most likely the genre of these stories. A higher concentration of Aramaisms appears in 1 Kings 20 and 2 Kings 6, that is, chapters that deal with the Aramaeans. Additionally, there is a heavy concentration of linguistic anomalies in direct speech. Some text critical evidence indicates that Northern Hebrew features may have been lost in the course of the transmission of the biblical text. The overall evidence suggests that the literary dialect of Jerusalem and Samaria were remarkably similar. The main differences between Judaean and Northern Hebrew were in the spoken language. [88]

As aptly put by Schniedewind and Sivan[89]

Although Rendsburg made some advances, his pan-Northern Hebrew approach is unconvincing. In general, he exaggerates the evidence for Northern Hebrew. Moreover, he relies too heavily on random lexical items. More emphasis should be placed on morphological items when describing Hebrew dialects, even though the evidence is rather limited. A more balanced assessment of the issue is that of Chaim Rabin: "The geographical separation of Judah and its non-participation in the political events affecting the North must also have led to a certain amount of linguistic separation. How large this gap was, we cannot properly gauge.... Our ignorance of the vernacular background prevents us from deciding whether any individual case represents the colloquial, the local northern writing style, slang, fashion, or the exuberant inventions of a great writer."[90] For example, we have noted the concentration of Aramaisms in 1 Kings 20 and 2 Kings 6, chapters that deal with conflicts with the Aramaeans. There also seems to be a higher concentration of linguistic anomalies in the folktales of 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4-6. These may be understood either as resulting from the northern origin of these narratives or arising partially from the genre of these narratives. In addition, there seems to be an unusual number of linguistic peculiarities that are in direct speech as opposed to narrative prose.105 This may reflect a situation of diglossia (vernacular as opposed to literary register); it certainly reflects a measure of literary stylizing.


Decision - We have no way of knowing whether the gap between the ordinary speech of the ruling circles and the written form CBH was substantial enough to qualify as 'diglossia'[91]. However, it is very likely that the post-exilic spoken Hebrew of Jerusalem (my PMH) was almost as far removed from the CBH/PCBH being written at the time as is MSA from the colloquial Arabic dialects. This would indeed be a classic diglossia.


4. Aramaic as a Litmus Test to Separate Pre- and Post-Exilic Changes in Biblical Hebrew

N.b. Moscati has conveniently outlined the changes that occurred in Hebrew[92] and Aramaic[93].

My interest is in recreating, as closely as possible, the pronunciation of EBHP ([EBHP]). Given the huge and ramified Aramaic influence on Hebrew in the post-exilic period, and its virtual absence in the pre-exilic period my approach is to assume that generally BH forms that did not conform to Palestinian Aramaic pronounciation rules were modified, in the post-exilic period, to conform to those rules. While forms similar to Aramaic that appear in Tiberian Hebrew may or may not be post-exilic in origin. On the other hand, changes from a form shared with Aramaic to a form unique to Hebrew were unlikely to take place in the post-exilic period. A number of examples follow.

However, there are clearly some exceptions to this general assumption, such as -

(1) Pretonic Vowel Lengthening;

(2) the late post-exilic stress shift whereby originally penultimately stressed words having stressed short vowels in open syllables shifted their stress to the final syllable.


Specific issues -

a) Tonic Lengthening of Originally Short Vowels in Closed Stressed Syllables in Nouns in the Absolute Case. As Blau put it[94] -

As for the dropping of the final short vowels, it took place apparently in three stages. At first, nouns in status constructus dropped their final short vowels , then verbs[95] and at last nouns (including participles) in status absolutus.[96] Owing to the elision of short final vowels in the status absolutus, short vowels in the preceding open syllable which now had become closed, were compensatorily lengthened (viz. a to aː, i to eː, and u to oː; as ˈdagu > [97]דָּג "fish" [Cf. Harris 1939 pp. 60-62] (as against ˈqallu > קַל "light", because it was originally closed); yaˈinu > יָֹשֵן[98] "sleeping"; yaˈguru > יָגוֹר[99] "being afraid"). This compensatory lengthening did not take place during the dropping of the final short vowels from the status constructus and verbs, and since during its operation these word classes already exhibited closed final syllables, they were not lengthened at all (therefore: דַּג־; שָמַר "he kept", with final short vowels, viz, pataḥ. Since the ṣere and ḥolem in [100]יָֹשֵן "he slept" and יָגוֹר[101] "he was afraid" correspond to pataḥ, they have to be considered short as well, whereas the same words when serving as participles contain long ṣere and ḥolem; similarly נִשְמַר qţl as against the participle נִשְמָר, הֻבְדַּל/ יֻבְדַּל qţl/yqţl against the participle מֻבְדָּל).


Other major scholars more or less agree with this dating -

         Bergstrsser c. 900 - c. 600 B.C.E

         Harris c. 2000 - c. 900 B.C.E.

         Birkeland c. 2000 - c. 900 B.C.E.


Discussion - Aramaic dialects did not exhibit tonic lengthening [a] to [aː] and, in the active participles of the peal (qātil/qātl) and pael the second vowel remained short. This makes it probable that Hebrew tonic lengthening, ocurred as outlined by Blau.


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - In EBHP, owing to the elision of short final vowels in nouns in the absolute state, short vowels in the preceding open syllable which now had become closed, were compensatorily lengthened. The term "nouns" includes participles and infinitives. E.g.

*/gaˈdulu/ (PH) "big ms." > */gaˈdoːl/ *[gɐˈdoːl] (EBHP) /gˈdol/ (/TH/+) *[gɔːˈoːl] ([TH]); BUT,

*/gaduˈlatu/ (PH) "big fs." > */gaduˈl/ *[gɐdˈlɐː] (EBHP) /gәdoˈl/ (/TH/+) *[gәoːˈlɔː] ([TH])


*/kaˈbidu/ > (PH) "heavy ms." > */kaˈbeːd/ *[kɐˈbẹːd] (EBHP) /kˈbd/ (/TH/+) *[kɔːˈvẹː] ([TH]); BUT,

*/kabiˈdatu/ (PH) "heavy fs." > */kabiˈd/ *[kɐbɛˈdɐː] (EBHP) /kәbˈd/ (/TH/+) *[kәvːˈɔː] ([TH]).


b.) Segolates (m.p.) - example mp. absolute form of <alm> = "effigy" in both Hebrew and Aramaic (The other segolates are analogous).

i) Aramaic Form - צַלְˈמִין /alˈmῑn/ *[alәˈmiːn]

ii) Historical Development of the Aramaic Form - */alaˈmῑna/ /alˈmῑn/

iii) Tiberian Hebrew Form - צְלָמִים /әlˈmim/ *[әlɔːˈmiːm]

iv) Historical Development of the Tiberian Hebrew Form -
/alaˈmῑma/ >> */laˈmῑm/[102] (/EBHP/+) > */әlaːˈmῑm/ > /әlˈmim/ (/TH/+)

v) Discussion - The TH form must be a development of the BH form. For the lengthening /a/ > /aː/ see Tonic Lengthening of Originally Short Vowels in Closed Stressed Syllables in Nouns in the Absolute Case.


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - The mp. of segolate nouns takes the form */laˈmῑm/ *[ɐlɐˈmiːm]


c.1) Noun having primitive long vowel followed by primitive short vowel example Hebrew <cwlm> Aramaic <clm> = "eternity or world"

i) Aramaic Form - עָˈלַם / cˈlam/

ii) Historical Development of the Aramaic Form - */ˈcālamu/ */cāˈlam/ > /cˈlam/

iii) Tiberian Hebrew Form - עוֹˈלָם / coˈlm/ *[ʕoːˈlɔːm]

iv) Historical Development of the Tiberian Hebrew Form
*/ ˈcālamu/ > */ ˈcōlamu/ */cōˈlaːm/ (/EBHP/+) > /coˈlm/ (/TH/+)

v) Discussion - The MT Hebrew form must be a development of the BH form. For the lengthening of the a see Tonic Lengthening of Short Vowels in Closed Stressed Syllables in Nouns in the Absolute Case


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - In EBHP the m.p. of these nouns takes the form */cōˈlaːm/ *[ʕoːˈlaːm]


c.2) Noun primitive long vowel followed by primitive short vowel eg. pl. absolute form of Hebrew <cwlm> Aramaic <clm> = "eternity or world" example masc.

i) Aramaic Form - עָלְˈמִין /clˈmin/ *[ʕɔːlәˈmiːn]

ii) Historical Development of the Aramaic Form - */cālaˈmῑna/ */cālˈmῑn/ > /cɔlˈmin/

iii) Tiberian Hebrew Form - עוֹלָˈמִים /colˈmim/ *[ʕoːlɔːˈmiːm]

iv) Historical Development of the Tiberian Hebrew Form
*/cālaˈmῑma/ > */cōlaˈmῑma/ > */cōlaˈmῑm/ (/EBHP/+) > */cōlaːˈmῑm/ /colˈmim/ (/TH/+).

v) Discussion - The MT Hebrew form must be a development of the BH form. See also pretonic vowel lengthening.


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - In EBHP the mp. of these nouns takes the form */cōlaˈmῑm/ *[ʕoːlɐˈmiːm].


d) Second person masculine singular suffix on singular noun <cbdk> "your (ms.) servant (m.)

i) Aramaic Form - עַבְˈדָּךְ / cabˈdk/ *[ʕavˈdɔːx]

ii) Historical Development of the Aramaic Form - */cabˈdaka/ > */cabˈdaːk/ > /cabˈdk/

iii) Tiberian Hebrew Forms

עַבְדְּˈךָ /cabdˈk/ *[ʕɐvdәˈxɔː]; עַבְˈדֶּךָ (pausal) /cabˈk/ *[ʕɐvˈdɛːː]

iv) Historical Development of the Tiberian Hebrew Form -

Contextual -*/cabˈdaka(ː)/ (/EBHP/) *[ʕɐbˈdɐkɐˑ] ([EBHP]) > */cabdˈkaː/ > /cabdˈk/ (/TH/+)

Pausal -* /cabˈdaka(ː)/ (/EBHP/) */cabˈdeːkaː/ /cabˈk/(/TH/+)

v) Discussion - Epigraphic Hebrew with singular noun suffix always <k> but with plural noun either <yk> or <ykh>.[103] Perhaps with singular noun it might have been pronounced *[ɐk], *[kɐ] or *[kɐˑ] while with plural noun it would have been either *[kɐ] or *[kɐˑ]. It seems most probable that the suffix was generally unstressed *[ka] in EBHP[104]. In MH[105] the form was עַבְˈדָּךְ /cabdˈk/ (< */cabˈdk/) i.e. identical to the Aramaic and clearly a result of Aramaic influence[106].


Decision Regarding Form Used in [EBHP] Transliterations and Sound Files - */ka(ː)/; *[ɐ́kɐˑ]


e) Second person feminine singular suffix on singular noun <cbdk> "your (fs.) servant (ms.)[107]

i) Aramaic Form - עַבְדִּכִי*- Biblical Aramaic (BA) [108]; Qumran Aramaic יבנפשכ