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Studies in Semitic Vocalisation and Reading Traditions

Aaron D. Hornkohl
Geoffrey Khan

Phonological Adaptation and the Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew Reflexes of *i and *u

Benjamin D. Suchard

Texte intégral

I am very grateful to Geoffrey Khan for having invited me to come present the contents of this paper in Cambridge. I also thank the attending audience for their comments, especially Shai Heijmans, who provided me with numerous helpful suggestions. Any remaining errors are my own.

The occasional transliterations of Tiberian Hebrew words and vowel signs follow the conventions outlined in Johnson and Goerwitz (1995). Phonetic transcriptions, given in the International Phonetic Alphabet, are enclosed in [square brackets]; phonemic representations are preceded and followed by a /forward slash/.

1.0. Introduction

1For over a century, historical linguists have been guided by the Ausnahmslosigkeit der Lautgesetze, the principle that sound changes affecting a language are phonetically regular and exceptionless, as put forward by the nineteenth-century German philologists and linguists known as the Neogrammarians. Hermann Paul (1880, 69) formulates this principle as follows:

  • 1 Wenn wir daher von konsequenter Wirkung der Lautgesetze reden, so kann das nur heissen, dass bei de (...)

Hence, if we speak of the consistent operation of sound laws, this can only mean that a sound change will treat every individual case in which the same phonetic conditions present themselves within the same dialect in the same fashion. Thus, where one and the same sound formerly occurred, this must either stay the same sound in the later stages of development as well, or, where a split into several different sounds has taken place, a specific cause should be indicated which explains why this sound arose in one case and that sound in the other, and this cause should be purely phonetic in nature, such as the influence of surrounding sounds, stress, syllable structure, etc.1

2Adhering to this principle has pushed linguists beyond merely identifying tendencies operating in a certain language and allowed them to discover phonetically conditioned sound changes that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. As the regularity of sound change is a universal principle, it can also be shown to apply to Biblical Hebrew (Suchard 2019). In this language, however, we are faced with a small number of phenomena that seem impervious to an explanation through regular sound laws. The topic of this paper is one such problem: the reflexes of Proto-Northwest-Semitic short *i and short *u in the Tiberian vocalisation of the Hebrew Bible, which vacillate between i, u and ɛ, ɔ in some environments in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic and between i, u and e, o in other environments in Biblical Aramaic only.

3I will suggest that the solution for this irregularity lies in a process of phonological adaptation in the reading tradition. Phonological adaptation is the process where linguistic material from one language (the source language) is adapted to fit the phonology of another language (the target language) (Hock 1991, 390– 97). A common occurrence with loanwords, this usually involves the replacement of source language phonemes that do not occur in the target language with their closest approximations in the target language. Crucially, this substitution is not always regular. Speakers may even vary in their adaptation of the same foreign material from one token to the next; Cohen (2009, 93) provides the example of an Israeli basketball player variously realising the English loan block shot [sic: blocked shot] /blɒk ʃɒt/ as /blak ʃat/, /blok ʃot/, and /blak ʃot/. I will argue that this kind of irregularity lies behind the varying reflexes of *i and *u in Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew.

4As phonological adaptation depends on the phonologies of the languages involved, the following section will discuss the phonemic inventories of Biblical Hebrew at different points in time. We will then first consider the variation between i, u and e, o, which is limited to Biblical Aramaic, before examining the variation between i, u and ɛ, ɔ in both Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew. Phonological adaptation can be held responsible for both of these irregularities: adaptation of Aramaic texts to Hebrew phonology in the first case and adaptation of the biblical reading tradition to the phonology of an unidentified language, possibly Greek, in the second case.

2.0. Phonemes and Allophones

5As the concept of the phoneme is crucial to the process of phonological adaptation, let us consider it first. A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language, as is commonly accepted. But what exactly do we mean by contrastive?

6If we find variation between two sounds in a language, I will assume that this variation is contrastive unless there is evidence to the contrary. If sounds are not contrastive, they are referred to as allophones. Evidence for allophony can be of two kinds.

7First, the allophony may be phonetically conditioned, which is to say that it is completely predictable from the phonetic environment in which two sounds occur. The textbook example for this kind of allophony is the variation between aspirated and plain voiceless plosives in most varieties of English. Aspirated voiceless plosives like [pʰ] occur only in syllable-initial position. Plain voiceless plosives like [p] do not occur in syllable-initial position, but do occur everywhere else. [pʰ] and [p] are thus in complementary distribution: we can completely accurately predict whether a particular word has [pʰ] or [p] based solely on phonetic environment. Therefore, the two sounds are not contrastive at a deeper level and can both be represented as one and the same phoneme /p/, with the position in the syllable determining whether this phoneme is realised with or without aspiration.

8The other case in which variation between two sounds is not contrastive is if it is completely unconditioned by linguistic factors. The English word pit, for instance, can be realised as both [pʰɪt̚], with an unreleased alveolar stop at the end of the word, and [pʰɪʔ], with a glottal stop (again, in many varieties). Both realisations are equally valid and the variation is not conditioned by phonetic, morphological, syntactic or lexical factors. Hence, the two allophones are said to be in free variation and can once again be ascribed to one and the same underlying phoneme, e.g. /t/.

9Practically, then, we can say that variation between two sounds is contrastive if and only if it is conditioned at any of the non-phonetic levels mentioned above: if it is conditioned by morphological, syntactic, or lexical features. This conditioning may yield one or more minimal pairs, pairs of morphologically or lexically distinct words that differ only in the presence of one or the other sound under consideration, but these may also coincidentally not occur. Hence, minimal pairs prove a phonemic contrast, but their absence does not prove a lack of contrast.

  • 2 See now also Khan (2020).

Let us turn to some illustrations from Tiberian Biblical Hebrew. The phonemic realisations are based on the description of the Tiberian pronunciation given by Geoffrey Khan, e.g., in Khan (1996).2 For our first example, we see variation between [iː] and [eː], as in Image [jɔˑˈsiːm] ‘he will put’ and Image [jɔˑˈseːm] ‘let him put’. As the occurrence in a minimal pair shows, this variation is not phonetically conditioned: both sounds can occur in exactly the same phonetic environments. Nor are the sounds in free variation: ‘he will put’ would always be read with [iː] while ‘let him put’ would always be read with [eː] (and the same goes for all other words where these sounds occur). Thus, [iː] and [eː] are phonemically contrastive: they belong to two different phonemes.

10For a second example, there are the various ways the vowel sign shewa is realised. In Tiberian, it is realised as a vowel if it stands between two consonants that would otherwise be syllable-initial. This vowel is [i] before y; a short vowel with the same quality as the next vowel before gutturals; and [a] elsewhere. In other positions, shewa is realised as zero, i.e., no vowel is read. These realisations are not in free variation, but we clearly see a purely phonetic conditioning. Hence, they belong to one and the same phoneme—or in this case, the lack of a phoneme, as the vocalic realisations can all be interpreted as allophones of zero.

11By conducting this kind of analysis for every sound in the Tiberian pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew, we arrive at a vocalic phonemic inventory as presented in Table 1 (Suchard 2018). The analysis underlying this phonemic system is based on Tiberian Biblical Hebrew, but it also holds for Tiberian Biblical Aramaic.

table 1. the vocalic phonemes of tiberian biblical hebrew (and tiberian biblical aramaic)


12Based on evidence from historical phonology (Suchard 2017, 211–12) and Latin and Greek transcriptions (see, e.g., Kantor 2017), earlier stages of Hebrew appear to have had a simpler phonemic inventory, presented in Table 2. The labelling as ‘pre-Tiberian Biblical Hebrew’ is admittedly vague, but given the long period for which this system seems to have been in place, no more precise appellation suggests itself.

table 2. the vocalic phonemes of pre-tiberian biblical hebrew


13The main difference with the Tiberian phonology is that later /i/ and /ɛ/ are still one phoneme /e/, just as later /u/ and /ɔ/ are still one phoneme /o/. Tiberian /ɔ̄/ still has its older value, /ā/, and the underlyingly short ḥaṭef vowels of the Tiberian pronunciation have not yet become separate phonemes.

14Bearing these phonemic inventories in mind, let us consider the irregular reflexes of *i and *u, starting with the Biblical Aramaic interchange between i, u and e, o.

3.0. Biblical Aramaic I: E and U: O

Stressed Proto-Aramaic *i and *u (normally deriving from Proto-Northwest-Semitic *i and *u, respectively) are reflected in two different ways in Biblical Aramaic. Stressed *i surfaces either as i, as in *wa-baṭṭílū > Image ‘and they stopped (m)’ (Ezra 4.23), or as e, as in *hawθíb > Image ‘he settled’ (Ezra 4.10). Similarly, stressed *u surfaces either as u, as in *wa-yisgúd > Image ‘and he prostrates himself (pause)’ (Dan. 3.6), or as o, as in *gúddū > Image ‘cut down (mpl)’ (Dan. 4.11). These different reflexes can even occur in what would otherwise seem to be the same word: cf. *yitʕabíd > Image ‘it (m) will be made’ (Ezra 6.11; 7.23; Dan. 3.29) beside Image ‘idem (pause)’ (Ezra 6.12; 7.21).

15As discussed in §2.0, these different reflexes are phonemically contrastive in Tiberian Biblical Aramaic. Seemingly contradicting the principle of Ausnahmslosigkeit der Lautgesetze, however, no conditioning factor is apparent that can explain “why this sound arose in one case and that sound in the other.” As the examples cited above suggest, the reflexes as *i and *u seem to be associated with pausal position. This was already noted by Bauer and Leander (1927, 23) and confirmed by Amos Dodi (1989). The reflex in non-pausal forms, however, remains unpredictable. Vincent DeCaen (2004) tries to explain the variation in this position on prosodic grounds, too, but his account ultimately leaves a number of forms unexplained. The irregularity thus remains.

Taking a closer look at the occurrence of each reflex, we find that the variation is limited to closed syllables. Leaving the less frequent forms with *u aside for the moment, we see short *i in closed syllables reflected as i in words like Image‘it (f) will crush’ (Dan. 2.40, 44), Image ‘saves (m)’ (Dan. 6.27), or Image ‘able (ms)’ (Dan. 3.17; 4.37) beside a reflex as e in words like Image ‘he had power’ (Dan. 3.27), Image ‘we asked’ (Ezra 5.9, 10), or Image ‘able (ms)’ (Dan. 2.26; 4.18). In open syllables, however, we find only i reflexes, as in Image ‘they (m) went up’ (Ezra 4.12; Dan. 2.29), Image ‘they (m) had power’ (Dan 6.24), Image ‘and they (m) clothed’ (Dan. 5.29), and Image ‘they (m.) trusted’ (Dan. 3.28).

16This distribution becomes meaningful if we consider it from the point of view of pre-Tiberian Hebrew phonology. Due to a combination of sound changes, the Hebrew non-low stressed short vowels *e and *o had been preserved only in closed syllables. Stressed instances of short *e and *o had lost the stress in open syllables and later underwent reduction (Blau 2010, § That the distribution of the reflexes of *i and *u in Biblical Aramaic matches a pattern attested in the phonology of Biblical Hebrew suggests that the irregularity we are dealing with is due to some kind of interaction between these two strata of the biblical corpus.

17In fact, we may explain the Biblical Aramaic situation through a difference in phonetics between the precursors of Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew. As was mentioned above, different types of evidence suggest that Proto-Northwest-Semitic *i and *u had normally shifted to *e and *o in pre-Tiberian Biblical Hebrew. There is no indication, however, that this sound change affected the Aramaic dialect underlying the Biblical Aramaic reading tradition. Let us assume that this variety of Aramaic preserved Proto-Aramaic *i and *u unchanged. Once the Biblical Aramaic texts became an integral part of the Hebrew Bible, this difference in phonology between the Aramaic and Hebrew portions would have formed an unstable situation. Since the vast majority of the biblical texts are in Hebrew, it would be natural for readers to adapt the tiny Aramaic part of the corpus to the dominant Hebrew phonology, especially considering the fluid transitions between both languages in the actual text. In doing so, Aramaic *i and *u could either be changed to the corresponding short vowels, *e and *o, or to the corresponding long vowels, *ī and *ū. As phonological adaptation is not bound by regularity, this then yielded the irregular outcomes we have observed. The process is illustrated in Table 3.

table 3. phonological adaptation of pre-biblical aramaic forms to hebrew phonology


In pausal position, *i and *u were more likely to be associated with Hebrew *ī and *ū due to the crosslinguistic effect of prepausal vowels being phonetically lengthened (Nooteboom 1997, 658). This explains why the Biblical Aramaic words with major disjunctive accents all occur with i and u, not with e or o (Dodi 1989). In open syllables, stressed *i and *u were always incorporated as long *ī and *ū, as stressed *e and *o in this position did not occur in the receiving Hebrew phonology. Thus, e.g., *salíqū ‘they (m) went up’ was necessarily adapted to *salī́qū > Image

4.0. biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic I: Ɛ and U: Ɔ

  • 3 Technically, these are unmarked for length according to the analysis put forward in Suchard (2018). (...)

The interchange of stressed i: e and u: o is limited to the Aramaic part of the biblical corpus. Another alternation characterises the entire corpus. In closed, unstressed syllables, we find two short3 front vowels, written i and ɛ, and two short back vowels, written u and ɔ. Their distribution is largely predicted by phonetic environment. With the front vowels, ɛ normally occurs next to gutturals, e.g., Image ‘his room’, while i occurs elsewhere, e.g., Image ‘his belly’, Image ‘your (mpl) blood’. With the back vowels, u normally occurs before geminates, e.g., Image ‘all of it (m)’, while ɔ occurs elsewhere, e.g., Image ‘his sanctuary’, Image ‘he was exiled’. However, we also find these vowels occurring in the ‘wrong’ environment. Unconditioned ɛ occurs in words like Image ‘authority’ and Image ‘your (mpl) hand’. Similarly, unconditioned u occurs in words like Image ‘table’ and Image ‘exiled (mpl)’. As the distribution is not completely phonetically conditioned and the different vowels are not in free variation—the same word in the same context always being read with the same vowel—the contrast between these vowels must be considered phonemic for Tiberian Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic (as argued in more detail in Suchard 2018, 204).

18These four short vowels derive from only two different phonemes in the pre-Tiberian Hebrew phonology: /e/ and /o/. We are therefore dealing with an unconditioned phonemic split similar to the one in Biblical Aramaic discussed in §3.0. Perhaps, then, a similar explanation based on phonological adaptation can be found.

19The usual transcription in alphabetic scripts as mid vowels and the historical relatedness with long /ē/ and /ō/ support a representation of the phonemes we are dealing with as /e/ and /o/. Given the absence of other short, non-low vowels in pre-Tiberian Hebrew phonology, however, it is likely that the phonetic realisations of these phonemes covered the entire non-low part of the vowel space. That is to say that the phoneme we represent as /e/ could have realisations ranging from [i], [ɪ], or [e] to [ɛ] and the phoneme that we represent as /o/ could be realised as anything from [u], [ʊ], or [o] to [ɔ].

20To readers who were well accustomed to the phonology of the biblical reading tradition, this variation would go unnoticed, as it was non-contrastive. Speakers are not typically conscious of allophony of this type. Suppose, however, that one of the readers in the chain of transmission that would eventually lead to the Tiberian reading tradition already had a contrast between /i/: /ɛ/ and /u/: /ɔ/ in closed, unstressed syllables. This contrast could have been imported, for instance, from the reader’s native language. In this case, our reader would be hypersensitive to the different allophonic realisations of /e/ and /o/. When hearing a higher realisation, he would assign it to /i/ or /u/; lower realisations would be assigned to /ɛ/ and /ɔ/. Thus, what were originally allophones—with phonetic factors largely determining the distribution, but ultimately in free variation—could split into different phonemes as they were mapped onto a pre-existing contrast taken from another language. This scenario is illustrated in Table 4, where Teacher represents the older stage of the reading tradition, where the variation is allophonic, and Student represents the stage where the phonemic contrast was imposed on the originally allophonic variants.

table 4. phonemicisation of /i/: /ɛ/ in the reading tradition


21Once the contrast had become phonemic in the mind of the reader, he would consistently produce realisations very close to [i] and [u] in words with /i/ and /u/ and [ɛ] and [ɔ] in words with /ɛ/ and /ɔ/. This distinction was then passed on in the reading tradition until it was fixed in writing by the Tiberian vocalisers.

22In the case of the purely Biblical Aramaic problem discussed in §3.0, the close match with the independently reconstructed pre-Tiberian Hebrew phonology made the somewhat speculative solution more plausible. In the case of i: ɛ and u: ɔ, however, the suggestion of phonological adaptation holds a purely hypothetical other language responsible, whose only known characteristics are a contrast between /i/: /ɛ/ and /u/: /ɔ/ in closed, unstressed syllables. Can we identify a language that could plausibly have caused this phonological split in the biblical reading tradition?

23The first suspect would be Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. As the vernacular language of the Tiberian Masoretes and their direct precursors (as attested by its use in the masoretic notes), at least, we may expect it to have influenced the reading tradition in some way. But the phonology of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic does not match the profile we are looking for. While Jewish Palestinian Aramaic distinguishes between /i/: /e/ and /u/: /o/ and could thus plausibly have split a mid vowel phoneme into two, it seems that only /e/, /a/, and /o/ occurred in closed, unstressed syllables (Fassberg 1991, 34–41). Thus, imposing Jewish Palestinian Aramaic phonology on the Hebrew reading tradition would have preserved /e/ and /o/ in this position, not split them.

24Looking further east does not solve our problem either. While influence from Jewish Babylonian Aramaic is historically possible, its vowel inventory was apparently even poorer than that of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. As it probably did not distinguish between /u/ and /o/ (Morag 1961), it cannot be blamed for the split of /o/ into /u/ and /ɔ/ in the reading tradition.

  • 4 Further evidence for the asymmetry between /e/ and /o/ in this regard comes from the pausal consecu (...)

25Beyond Semitic, we find a final candidate in Palestinian Greek, the phonology of which has been admirably described by Benjamin Kantor (2017). According to Kantor’s description and analysis (110–31), this variety of Greek featured the /i/: /ɛ/ contrast that we are looking for. In the back vowels, however, we find /u/ contrasted with /o/, not with /ɔ/. This is not what the Hebrew situation would lead us to expect a priori, but on further reflection it may explain some curious facts of Hebrew historical phonology. As we have seen, the distribution of /i/ and /ɛ/ differs from that of /u/ and /ɔ/. With the front vowels, /i/ has the less restricted distribution, while with the back vowels, /ɔ/ does. Perhaps this can be attributed to the asymmetry in the Greek vowel system: Hebrew /o/ was normally mapped to Greek /o/ and to Greek /u/ only in more limited cases; this default value /o/ in the reading tradition later shifted to /ɔ/ in Tiberian. In the front vowels, on the other hand, Hebrew /e/ was more commonly adapted to Greek /i/, with /ɛ/ being the largely conditioned variant. There would thus seem to have been a hierarchy for the preferred vowel matching the Hebrew close-mid vowels, with a Greek close-mid vowel being the best choice when available, followed by a close vowel and then an open-mid vowel.4

5.0. Conclusion

26The irregular reflexes of *i and *u in Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic challenge the principle of regular sound change. I have argued that the solution is not to be sought in sound change at all, obviating the need for regularity. The conditioning of the Biblical Aramaic split discussed in §3.0 reflects features of pre-Tiberian Biblical Hebrew phonology. This suggests that phonological adaptation is at play, a process that could also explain the similar split discussed in §4.0. As phonological adaptation is often characterised by irregularity, this provides us with an explanation from generally accepted principles of historical linguistics.

27The phonology causing the adaptation was seen to be pre-Tiberian Biblical Hebrew in the case of Biblical Aramaic stressed *i and *u and was suggested to be Palestinian Greek in the case of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic unstressed *e and *o in closed syllables. The influence of these languages on the biblical reading tradition is compatible with what we might call the least surprising model of the oral transmission of the biblical texts. First, Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic texts came to be combined in a shared, biblical corpus, leading to the adaptation of the Aramaic material to Hebrew phonology. Based on grammatical features of the Aramaic variety underlying the Biblical Aramaic reading tradition, I have argued elsewhere (Suchard forthcoming) that this fixing of the combined reading tradition should be placed in first-century CE Palestine. The later influence of Palestinian Greek, the most likely culprit behind the split discussed in §4.0, then supports a continuing transmission in Roman Palestine; historical considerations suggest that the tradition was maintained in the centres of Jewish learning in Galilee (Geller 1998, 562–65). While the involvement of Palestinian Greek, especially, remains speculative, the account offered here provides one more example of how the results of historical linguistics and linguistic reconstruction can help to illuminate the history of the ancient world as it is known to historians from more direct sources.


6.0. References

Bauer, Hans, and Pontus Leander. 1927. Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramäischen. Halle: Max Niemeyer.

Blau, Joshua. 1981. ‘On Pausal Lengthening, Pausal Stress Shift, Philippi’s Law and Rule Ordering in Biblical Hebrew’. Hebrew Annual Review 5: 1–15.

——. 2010. Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew. An Introduction. Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic 2. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Cohen, Evan-Gary. 2009. ‘The Role of Similarity in Phonology: Evidence from Loanword Adaptation in Hebrew’. PhD dissertation, Tel-Aviv University.

DeCaen, Vincent. 2004. ‘The Pausal Phrase in Tiberian Aramaic and the Reflexes of *i’. Journal of Semitic Studies 49 (2): 215–24.

Dodi, Amos. 1989. ‘Pausal Forms in Aramaic’. In Studies in the Hebrew Language and the Talmudic Literature Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Menaḥem Moreshet, edited by Menaḥem Zevi Kaddari and Shim‘on Sharvit, 63–74. Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press (in Hebrew).

Fassberg, Steven E. 1991. A Grammar of the Palestinian Targum Fragments from the Cairo Genizah. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Geller, Barbara. 1998. ‘Transitions and Trajectories: Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire’. In The Oxford History of the Biblical World, edited by Michael D. Coogan, 560–96. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hock, Hans Heinrich. 1991. Principles of Historical Linguistics. 2nd edition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Johnson, Robert M., Jr., and Richard Goerwitz. 1995. ‘A Simple, Practical System for Transliterating Tiberian Hebrew Vowels’. Hebrew Studies 36: 13–24.

Kantor, Benjamin P. 2017. ‘The Second Column (Secunda) of Origen’s Hexapla in Light of Greek Pronunciation’. PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.

Khan, Geoffrey. 1996. ‘The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew’. Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 9: 1–23.

——. 2020. The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew. 2 vols. Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures 1. Cambridge: University of Cambridge and Open Book Publishers.

Morag, Shelomo. 1961. ‘Notes on the Vowel System of Babylonian Aramaic as Preserved in the Yemenite Tradition’. Phonetica 7: 217–39.

Nooteboom, Sieb. 1997. ‘Prosody of Speech: Melody and Rhythm’. In The Handbook of Phonetic Sciences, edited by William J. Hardcastle and John Laver, 640–73. Oxford: Blackwell.

Paul, Hermann. 1880. Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte. Halle: Max Niemeyer.

Suchard, Benjamin D. 2017. ‘A Triconsonantal Derivation of the Lamed-He Paradigm’. Kleine Untersuchungen zur Sprache des Alten Testaments und seiner Umwelt 22: 205–21.

——. 2018. ‘The Vocalic Phonemes of Tiberian Hebrew’. Hebrew Studies 59: 193–207.

——. 2019. The Development of the Biblical Hebrew Vowels. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics 99. Leiden: Brill.

——. Forthcoming. ‘The Origins of the Biblical Aramaic Reading Tradition’. Vetus Testamentum.


1 Wenn wir daher von konsequenter Wirkung der Lautgesetze reden, so kann das nur heissen, dass bei dem Lautwandel innerhalb desselben Dialektes alle einzelnen Fälle, in denen die gleichen lautlichen Bedingungen vorliegen, gleichmässig behandelt werden. Entweder muss also, wo früher einmal der gleiche Laut bestand, auch auf den späteren Entwicklungsstufen immer der gleiche Laut bleiben, oder, wo eine Spaltung in verschiedene Laute eingetreten ist, da muss eine bestimmte Ursache und zwar eine Ursache rein lautlicher Natur wie Einwirkung umgebender Laute, Akzent, Silbenstellung u. dgl. anzugeben sein, warum in dem einen Falle dieser, in dem andern jener Laut entstanden ist.

2 See now also Khan (2020).

3 Technically, these are unmarked for length according to the analysis put forward in Suchard (2018). In this environment, they are realised as short.

4 Further evidence for the asymmetry between /e/ and /o/ in this regard comes from the pausal consecutive imperfect forms of some weak verbs. As described in Blau (1981), the forms with an *i vowel developed like *wayyḗlek > *wayyḗlɛk > *wayyēlɛ́k > *wayyēlák > Image ‘and he departed (pause)’. Forms with an *u vowel like Image ‘and he died (pause)’ do not reflect the parallel lowering of *o. Based on the account sketched in the main text, we may now understand the development of these forms as *wayyā́mot (with *o preserved in unstressed position as it matched Greek /o/?) > *wayyāmót >Image


(PhD, Leiden University, 2016) is the author of The Development of the Biblical Hebrew Vowels (Brill, 2019), an adaptation of his doctoral dissertation in Linguistics. He currently holds a Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) senior postdoctoral fellowship at KU Leuven (2019–2020, 2022– 2024) for a project on the interacting languages of the Biblical Aramaic consonantal text and reading tradition and a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Veni postdoctoral fellowship at Leiden University (2019–2022) for a project on the linguistic status of Nabataean Aramaic.


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