Yom huledet.

I’ve linked to Balashon, the “Hebrew Language Detective,” many times (I greeted its arrival on the scene in 2006), and there’s another post so interesting I have to link to it, yom huledet:

The Hebrew phrase for “birthday” is יום הולדת yom huledet. While it’s certainly a familiar phrase, it’s actually kind of a strange construct. Huledet is the hufal (passive and causative) form. Why not use the simpler יום הלידה yom haleida – “day of birth”? [The Bible and Rashi are quoted.]

In other words, a better translation for yom huledet would be “the day [he] was delivered” instead of “birthday,” even though both phrases refer to the same date. (An alternate suggestion, by Radak and Rabbeinu Bachye, is that this was the day a son was born to Pharaoh.) This can also help us understand why the phrase is yom huledet et paro, where Pharaoh is the object of the phrase, instead of yom huledet paro, which is how we would say it today. Pharaoh was the object – he was delivered on that day. According to this article, the verse describes the historical record of “a ceremony at which the Pharaoh was born again as far as Egyptian protocol was concerned.”

So this usage could explain why yom huledet is the phrase we use for “birthday.” However, there are other phrases used to describe birthdays in the Bible […] So why didn’t any of the above become the standard term for “birthday”?

I couldn’t find an proven answer to this question. However, it seems that birthdays weren’t a big deal in Judaism until recently. And so there wasn’t need for a standard Hebrew phrase for the concept. I didn’t find yom huledet mentioned in Rabbinic sources that weren’t discussing the verses in Bereshit or Yechezkel until relatively recently. […] The usage (of the full spelling) really starts spiking around the 1960s. I assume that most of the earlier occurrences were discussing the biblical examples.

But as we saw, there were other choices – yom hivaldo or yom haleida. Why not them? My guess is that people were very familiar with the yom huledet of Pharaoh, due to the weekly Torah reading. And although Rashi gives it a slightly different explanation than “day of birth,” that wasn’t enough to prevent it from becoming the popular phrase.

Makes sense to me, and I love that kind of historico-semantic investigation.


  1. Yom huledet et Par’o is actually an even stranger construct than the post implies. Et is the direct object-marking proclitic, but here it occurs with a passive verbal noun, of which Par’o should be the subject, not the object. And huledet is in the construct state, which is normally followed immediately by a possessor noun, which doesn’t take et. I don’t know quite how unusual either of these things are in Biblical Hebrew, but they’re definitely ruled out in Modern Hebrew. Even outside of that phrase, yom huledet is weird in the modern langauge because, although morphologically a construct-state form, it’s generally not used as such, and the corresponding absolute state (which would be yom holada) deosn’t exist.

  2. Balashon points out that “Yom Huledet” appears only three times in the Bible – once in Genesis with reference to Pharaoh, and the other times, in successive sentences, in Ezekiel. What he doesn’t mention is both times in Ezekiel, the phrase doesn’t mean birthday – that is, birth anniversary – but appears in the phrase “the day you were born” – בְּי֖וֹם הֻלֶּ֥דֶת אֹתָֽךְ (b’yom huledet otakh). It’s worth noting also that “you” and “were born” are in the feminine forms, because the “you” is Jerusalem, being apostrophized as a woman (a few lines later: “You have increased and grown, and you have come with perfect beauty, breasts fashioned and your hair grown, but you were naked and bare.”)

    So in Ezekiel, huledet is, as TR says, a verb in the passive construct (“hufal”) form – ‘you were born.”

    But the usage in Genesis is different. There, “huledet” doesn’t work as a passive construct verb for any number of reasons – (1) if it were a verb it would be feminine, and the possible subjects – yom (day) and paro (Pharaoh) are masculine nouns; (2) as a verb it would be in the second person form, not the third person form; (3) it doesn’t seem to mean the day of birth, it seems to means the anniversary of that day, a different concept (although in English we conflate the two, other languages don’t).

    The issue is further confused because the first letter of the root of Huledet, Y-L-D, is yod, or Y, which tends to be dropped roots are converted into verb forms or nouns. (In Huledet, it is dropped.) If the root had had three stable letters, it might be more clear what part of speech is intended, but words that are formed from roots with Y can be difficult to interpret.

    It’s not even obvious that the Huledet of Genesis and the Huledet of Ezekiel are the same word. Vowels do not appear in the original Hebrew biblical text and although the H-L-D-T of Ezekiel is, from context, clearly “huledet,” the H-L-D-T of Genesis may have been intended to be a different word derived from the same root. Then the Masoretes, who added the vowel markings, could have misinterpreted the word as huledet because no better option presented itself.

    I am far from an expert, but perhaps “Huledet” in Genesis is effectively a hapax logomenon which appears to mean birth anniversary but whose origin is indeterminable, and should be understood as a noun; and the phrase in modern Hebrew is an idiom taken from Genesis, and can’t be understood according to the established grammatical rules.

    But – this doesn’t explain the presence of ‘et, the definite object marker, before “paro.” I can’t really explain this – although I’ve found some scholarly work that says that in early Biblical Hebrew, unlike later Hebrew, ‘et sometimes functions as a preposition as well as the marker of a direct object – the birthday of Pharaoh? But the examples these scholars give are of indirect objects with a clear subject-verb, which we don’t have here. So I’m not convinced that I’m right.

  3. The ‘et is easier to explain, since it does occasionally occur marking a syntactic subject, e.g.
    Genesis 27:42
    wayyuggad lǝribqāh ’et-dibrê ‘ēśāw
    and-declare (3MS.PAST.PASS) to-Rebekah ACC-words.of Esau
    ‘The words of Esau were declared to Rebekah’

    (I got this example out pf Peter Bekins’ dissertation, Information structure and object marking: A study of the object preposition ʾet in Biblical Hebrew, which I learned about when he was working on it and was writing a blog about it.)
    This particular example is especially relevant here, since ’et goes with the surface subject but the overt object in a passive construction, as in the case in question.

    What is hulledet, then? It is evidently a verbal noun of some kind, but the form is unexplained in the literature. I’ll go out on a limb and speculate here, because it’s easier than writing a paper about it. A Hebrew verb can occur in one of seven binyanim, whose meanings depend on the verb root they modify. These are three active ones, their corresponding passives, and the reflexive. In the case of the verb yld, the three active binyanim, qatal/qitel/hiqtil, yield yāldā ‘gave birth’ (f.) or in earlier usage yālād (m.) ‘begat’, yilddā (f.) ‘delivered, birthed’, and hōlīd (m.) ‘begat’ (in later usage). The corresponding passive binyanim would be nōlād (m.) ‘was born’, yullad (m.) ‘was delivered’, hullad (m.) ‘was begotten’.

    So how would one say ‘the day of Pharaoh’s being delivered’? You need the verbal noun, specifically what is called the infinitive construct, for the verb in the qutal (pu‘al) binyan. But as it turns out, there are no examples at all of the infinitive construct of a verb in pu‘al! Therefore, absent a more careful analysis, I’ll say that that is what we have here, and the meaning of yōm hulledet ’et par‘o is, as above, ‘the day of Pharaoh’s being/having been delivered’. It would be interesting to know whether referring to people as being delivered (by another’s agency) rather than being born has an equivalent elsewhere. One parallel example is in Isaiah 9:5, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”; again using the pu‘al form, yullad.

  4. I looked up hulledet in Gesenius: he calls it an “infinitive Hoph`al with feminine ending”, which seems to mean basically a feminine verbal noun. This makes more sense to me than taking it as a pu`al form, because you’d expect an initial y- in that case. It’s clearly a construct-state form; I’m not sure if I was right to assume that the absolute form would be holada, which would be the usual verbal noun form for a hif`il verb with initial y. The vocalism seems odd if that’s what it is, but I don’t know what else it would be.

    Et with postverbal subject of a passive sometimes appears in Modern Hebrew too, but you’d never see it after a construct-state form.

    In בְּי֖וֹם הֻלֶּ֥דֶת אֹתָֽךְ hulledet can’t be a finite verb agreeing with the feminine “you”, both because of the vocalism (הֻלַּדְת would be expected) and because the “you” is marked as direct object. I think it has to be the same form as in Genesis — the construction is the same.

  5. I don’t think it’s a construct case form (although it has come to be used as such in Modern Hebrew). Why do you think it is? The final -t can have other explanations, and as an absolute form it works better with the ‘et.

    hiph’il doesn’t work semantically, unless they celebrated the anniversary of Pharaoh’s conception.

    Joüon looked at this problem a century ago (Études de morphologie hébraïque, Biblica 1,353,1920, pp. 360–361) but I haven’t found anything more recent. He argues that hulledet is an unattested passive of the qal binyan. He, like me, can’t explain the initial h, but thinks it might be under the influence of the other passive qal infinitive, הִוָּלֵד hiwwālēd.

    All the solutions have some flaw or another. My deus ex machina is an unattested pu‘el template. If one could reconstruct what it might look like based on external evidence, that might explain the initial h and the doubled l, or not.

  6. David Marjanović says

    doesn’t work semantically, unless they celebrated the anniversary of Pharaoh’s conception

    Maybe they did?

  7. Owlmirror says

    According to this article, the verse describes the historical record of “a ceremony at which the Pharaoh was born again as far as Egyptian protocol was concerned.”

    The Balashon post links to a article which connects the story in the bible to the historical Heb Sed festival. While this festival may have been (or included) a rebirth ceremony, it doesn’t seem to have been so obvious as to be referenced as that explicitly outside of this speculative article.

    The article also seems to take for granted that the Joseph narrative was historical, which is implausible.

    Note that as in the rest of the Pentateuch, “Pharaoh” is treated as a name rather than a title.

  8. Joüon looked at this problem a century ago

    Joüon’s discussion (in French) of hulleḏeṯ, mentioned above, is here:


    There is a more developed discussion of the passive of the Qal in his grammar here, at § 58:


    For the retention of direct object marking in the passive in Biblical Hebrew, here is the revised Gesenius (in English!) on the topic, at §143.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Note that as in the rest of the Pentateuch, “Pharaoh” is treated as a name rather than a title.

    …which is further evidence that none of this is historical, especially when compared with later mentions of “Necho king of Egypt” in 2 Chronicles.

  10. For the odd spelling of Joüon, see this 2009 LH post.

  11. I don’t think it’s a construct case form … Why do you think it is

    No real reason, I guess, except that I was trying to derive it from some more regular-looking form like holada, but it looks like that doesn’t work.

    I wonder if the lack of y- could be a long-distance dissimilation, if the form was mostly used in the collocation with yom. (Or could it simply be הִוָּלֵד, nif`al verbal noun, with a feminine ending? That probably doesn’t work formally either.)

  12. @David Marjanović: The appearances of Egypt and its Pharaohs in Genesis (and to a lesser extend, Exodus) betray the Judaeans’ lack of understanding of how vast Egypt was in population. The handful of Hebrew randos who travel to Egypt in times of famine always end up interacting with the king and his highest officials.

  13. Regarding passive + ‘et, the last edition of Joüon and Muraoka also notes the Medieval Latin construction legitur Virgilium ‘one reads Virgil’, alongside the Classical legitur Virgilius.

  14. PlasticPaddy says
  15. @PlasticPaddy: That’s an interesting story. I did not know much about Chancellor Bay, and he seems to have been a very interesting and powerful figure. However, the Knohl’s idea that he has something to do with the legend of Joseph seems pretty far-fetched to me. His argument that Bay (or Baya) had a Semitic theophoric name is, frankly, utterly unconvincing. He also lived too late (into the period of the Sea Peoples, when the Indo-European Philistines replaced the other unassimilated Canaanite tribes as the primary enemies of the early Hebrews) to predate any “return” of a Canaanite group from Egypt to Levant—not to mention living centuries after the circa 1600 B.C.E. volcanic eruption that probably gave rise the tales of the plague.

    Of course, the dating discrepancy does not mean that the story could not have contributed to the story of Joseph as a Hebrew chancellor-treasurer of Egypt. In largely pre-literate societies, the time scales over which past events occurred are very easily confused. However, there overall seems to be very little reason to believe in the existence of Joseph as a historical character. Moreover, there are some strange statements in that essay, which lead me to doubt it further. Knohl’s statement that “much of the story was part of the northern Elohistic source” is correct but misleading, since Joseph’s story is relatively evenly split between the J and E sources (although the famous dream interpretations in chapters 40–41 are quintessentially E). In fact, I actually mentioned “Judaeans” in my earlier comment because the J version of Joseph’s story actually seem much more naive about the size and power of the Egyptian kingdom.

  16. The formation of הֻלֶּדֶת hulledet resembles that of the usual Qal infinitive construct of יָלַד yālad, “beget, bear, which is לֶדֶת ledet, with loss of underlying initial w- and addition of a suffix –t.


    The loss of the first radical *w- ( > Hebrew y-) is regular in Semitic in this form—it is quite curious. Another *w-initial root can be seen in Hebrew יָצָא yāṣāʾ “go or come out” and its infinitive construct צֵאת ṣēʾt “going out”. This infinitive construct has comparanda in Akkadian ṣītu “exit, egress, sunrise” (verb waṣû “to go out”), Ge‘ez ḍaʾat “exit, Exodus, sunrise, moonrise” (verb waḍʾa “go out”) and Ugaritic ṣt “outpouring (of one’s soul)” (root yṣʾ), all showing loss of initial PS *w- and the addition of *-t. The Proto-Semitic root is here: http://sed-online.ru/reconstructions/261),

    For other examples of this loss of PS *w- (> H y-) in the Qal infinitive construct in Hebrew, and addition of the suffix -t, compare שֶׁבֶת šebet from יָשַׁב yāšab “sit” and רֶ֫דֶת redet from יָרַד “go down”. I think this is one of the reasons that Joüon suspected that hulledet was a passive infiniive construct of the Qal—it looks like it has been refashioned on the active Qal infinitive construct לֶדֶת ledet.

    The name infinitive construct is a confusing misnomer.

    To simplify a bit for exposition, the Hebrew infinitive absolute is a verbal form often used like the English adverbial participle, such as the talking in the sentence He walked along talking. Frequently, the main verb is repeated in the infinitive absolute to emphasis. For a regular verb in the Qal binyan like כָּתַב kāṯaḇ “write”, it has the form כָתוֹב kāṯôḇ.

    The infinitive construct is a verbal noun that basically functions like the English infinitive and the English gerund. It can take complements like prepositional phrases, direct objects, etc., but it also functions as a noun in larger matrix sentence and can function in a variety of roles–direct object, subject, object of the preposition… In the Qal binyan of the verb כָּתַב kāṯaḇ “write”, for instance, the infinitve construct is כְּתֹב kəṯōḇ. It has the vowel shewa on the first radical consonant and holam on the second.

    In the Qal binyan, this form kəṯōḇ has the surface appearance of being derived from kāṯôḇ by the regular vowel reduction rules that nouns undergo when they are put in the construct state—an unstressed qamatz ā becomes schwa ə. So it looks like kəṯōḇ is the construct state of kāṯôḇ. Hence the names infinitve construct and infinitive absolute. In fact, the relations between these two forms are not so straightforward, either synchronically or diachronically. To simplify things somewhat for exposition, the infinitive absolute is a PS *qatālu and can be compared to the Akkadian infinitive of the form qatālu. The infinitive construct mostly goes back to *quṭul, as can be seen clearly in forms with suffix pronouns like כָתְבִי kotbî, “my writing”.

    Outside the Qal binyan, the infinitive construct often does not look like the straightforward outcome of the application of the vowel reduction rules operating on the construct state. To continue with the use of the root k-t-b for exposition, the Piel infinitive construct כַתֵּב kattēb does not look like a construct state of Piel absolute infinitive כַתּוֹב kattôb.

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    I was interested that there was a foreigner in such a high office and had originally and naively thought that the “historic” Joseph would have had to be an advisor to a ruler of an autonomous Canaanite-controlled polity within Egypt at a time when pharaohs had lost their grip.

  18. Joüon is an enthusiast of the older qal passive, which would have been succeeded by nif‘al. The idea has a long history; one recent survey is here. I am open to the idea but still not convinced.

    To complicate matters, the version in the Samaritan Pentateuch is הולדת, not הלדת as in the Massoretic version. In other words, hūledet or hōledet rather than hulledet. The Samaritan Pentateuch is not pointed, so the vowel quality can’t be determined from the manuscripts. A recent published version adds the vowels based on the living Samaritan oral tradition. There’s probably a copy at the library, but these are library-less days.

    Whether the Samaritan version is more conservative or more innovative is another question.

    TR, what’s your take on the LXX version? It reads ἡμέρα γενέσεως ἦν Φαραω. Does that help?

  19. David Marjanović says


    “of the conception”?

  20. The standard Greek term for birthday is γενέθλια (or various forms thereof). ἡμέρα γενέσεως doesn’t seem to be classical Greek idiom, but the Septuagint not only cares nothing for classical idiom but sometimes pretty much even throws grammar out the window in an attempt to preserve absolute literal faithfulness to the Hebrew, so that doesn’t tell us much. But I find Eusebius says that Jesus was taken to Jerusalem on the eighth day after his ἡμέρα γενέσεως, and LSJ says γένεσις was the astrological term for “nativity”, so it must mean birthday. “Conception” seems to have been expressed not by γένεσις but by γέννησις (from γεννάω “beget”) or κύησις (from κυέω “be pregnant”).

  21. David Marjanović says

    Foiled by consonant length and vowel length! *hides face*

  22. “Note that as in the rest of the Pentateuch, “Pharaoh” is treated as a name rather than a title.”

    Judaism has always preferred a personal relationship with the wielders of Power.

  23. David Marjanović says


    Also, let me mention “Necho king of Egypt” in 2 Chronicles again.

  24. Stu Clayton says

    Judaism has always preferred a personal relationship with the wielders of Power.

    Rather than rocking the boat. Zangwill’s characters tussle over that at the beginning of Children Of The Ghetto.

  25. David Eddyshaw says

    Who is it exactly who prefers an impersonal relationship with the wielders of Power?

  26. Stu Clayton says

    The people. Best keep your head down.

    Wielders of Power themselves prefer it that way. That doesn’t prevent them from pretending the opposite. You can’t wield properly while Granny Smith is chewing your ear off about her bunions.

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    Oh, them.

  28. John Cowan says

    “The White House announced today that …”

    Of course, the White House frequently doesn’t agree with its principal occupant these days, though it doesn’t go so far as to say so.

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    From the White House to the Big House!

  30. The other passage featuring Yom Huledet, Ezekiel 16:4, reads וּמוֹלְדוֹתַיִךְ בְּיוֹם הוּלֶּדֶת אֹתָךְ לֹא כָרַּת שָׁרֵּךְ וּבְמַיִם לֹא רֻחַצְתְּ לְמִשְׁעִי וְהָמְלֵחַ לֹא הֻמְלַחַתְּ וְהָחְתֵּל לֹא חֻתָּלְתְּ. ‘As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.’ (NKJV) Here again we have bǝyōm hūlledet ’otāk, with huledet followed by an ’et accusative. Here the reference is clearly to the day of birth, not the anniversary. The context argues strongly, I think, for yom hulledet meaning ‘the day of being delivered’, not ‘the day of being born’.
    (LXX: καὶ ἡ γένεσίς σου ἐν ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ ἐτέχθης οὐκ ἔδησαν τοὺς μαστούς σου καὶ ἐν ὕδατι οὐκ ἐλούσθης οὐδὲ ἁλὶ ἡλίσθης καὶ σπαργάνοις οὐκ ἐσπαργανώθης.)

    The early Aramaic translations offer a different take. In the first few centuries C.E., when Onkelos’ and the Peshitta translations were written, possibly some of the rarer grammatical features of Biblical Hebrew were no longer known, and we can’t take them to be authoritative, but they’re worth a look.

    Onkelos translates the phrase in Genesis יוֹם בֵּית וַלְדָּא דְּפַרְעֹה yōm bēt waldā dǝpar‘o, the Peshitta similarly יוֹמָא דְּבֵית יַלְדָּה דְּפַרְעוֹן yōmā dǝbēt yaldā dǝpar‘ōn (not so sure about my Aramaic tranliteration.) The phrase bēt waldā/yaldā ‘the place of the child, place of the fetus’ is used by both translations in Genesis 20:18 to translate ‘womb’. So whatever do they mean here by “Pharaoh’s womb-day”?

    Another Aramaic translation, known as Pseudo-Yonatan, is much later, and uses יוֹם גְנוּסָא yōm gǝnūsā, taken from the Greek.

  31. John Cowan says

    Oh, he will, if The People’s Avenger the Manhattan District Attorney has anything to say about it. His subpoenas are a matter of state law, whereas the Congressional ones are under federal law. (The big baby is claiming that the state subpoenas violate federal supremacy, but the Supremes are sitting on that appeal until the epidemic is over enough for them.)

  32. Off topic, the LXX seems to have been nonplussed by לֹא כָרַּת שָׁרֵּךְ “your umbilical cord was not cut” (another possible qal passive — they’re everywhere!). οὐκ ἔδησαν τοὺς μαστούς σου means, nonsensically, “they did not bind your breasts”. They must have read שדיך or the like, but I don’t know where they got “bind”.

    ἐτέχθης, FWIW, is an (again unclassical in usage) aorist passive of τίκτω, which means both “give birth to” and “beget”.

  33. Maybe they decided to read כרת as כרך ‘bind’?

    Two words with resh + dagesh in a row! Prescriptively the gutturals never take a dagesh, but here they are.

    The similarity between ד and ר in the square Hebrew script (which would tempt the reading שדיך for שרך) also holds for the older Canaanite scripts, e.g. Phoenician ???? and ????, or Samaritan ࠃ and ࠓ (if you have fonts covering those). So unfortunately this doesn’t say what script the Hebrew sources of the LXX were written in. Perhaps other misreadings elsewhere do?

  34. Does ר count as guttural? I thought the no-dagesh rule only applied to אהחע.

  35. David Eddyshaw says

    τίκτω, which means both “give birth to” and “beget”

    Western Oti-Volta is the same: Kusaal du’a, Mooré doge “bear/beget.”
    The derived agent nouns, Kusaal du’ad, Mooré doagda mean “relative” (like French parent.)

  36. I remember from high school:
    ,אלף, הא, חית , עין, ריש
    לעולם אינן מקבלות דגש

    alef, he, khet, ayin, resh
    leolam einan mekablot dagesh

    ‘alef, he, khet, ayin, resh (the letters)
    never accept a dagesh’ (i.e. are never geminated).

    So in that sense (and others) it phonologically falls in with the gutturals. I once heard that this is one reason why some think that resh used to be a uvular trill in BH. I don’t know if that is still a popular theory. Khan says it was uvular in the Tiberian pronunciation. (His book, The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, is freely downloadable.)

  37. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s something that altered between LXX and the Tiberian period. Abraham’s wife is still Σάρρα in LXX.

  38. But why? It’s not geminated in the Masoretic text.

  39. Wiki says “In the Tiberian tradition /ħ ʕ h ʔ r/ cannot be geminate; historically first /r ʔ/ degeminated, followed by /ʕ/, /h/, and finally /ħ/, as evidenced by changes in the quality of the preceding vowel.” So I’m guessing שָׂרָה had degeminated by Masoretic times, and hence the qamatz in the first syllable?

  40. David Eddyshaw says


    The Tiberian pointing reflects the traditional pronunciation of Hebrew by mother-tongue Aramaic speakers a thousand years after the last books of the Tanach were completed. The pronunciation of Hebrew changed after that; at some point Hebrew had ceased to be anyone’s mother tongue; and the Massoretes imported Aramaic phonology and phonotactics wholesale into their pronunciation of Hebrew. The astonishing thing is not that there are major differences from the presumed original pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew, but that the tradition is, notwithstanding all of the above, so faithful to the original overall. (Imagine the situation if Latin were treated in all the standard grammars as if the traditional English public school pronunciation of Latin was actually the original authentic one.)

    Σάρρα reflects the original form: it’s cognate with the Akkadian sarratum “princess.”

  41. @TR: That makes sense. śar > śarrā > śārā, by tashlum dagesh ‘dagesh compensation’.

    @DE: I’m not sure if the gemination in the formation of the feminine in Akkadian is cognate to the Hebrew process.

    The question remains, given that Tiberian pronunciation did not geminate the /r/, how the Masoretes still knew to mark some reshes with a dagesh.

  42. …given that Tiberian pronunciation did not geminate the /r/, how the Masoretes still knew to mark some reshes with a dagesh.

    You can try to make sense of it by reading this pdf. My feeble attempts came down to one of those resh-with-dagesh examples, הַרְּעִמָ֑הּ which is translated as “to irritate her” or “to make her miserable” (1 Sam 1:6) .

  43. I enjoyed footnote 8: “A few cases of a dagesh that appear in the BHS edition and were identified by Knauf (1979) as serving to distinguish meaning have recently been shown by Golinets (2013, 247–52) to be no more than specks on the parchment of the manuscript.”

  44. as much as i’ve enjoyed this comment thread, i’m still a bit stuck on the question that Balashon posed:

    why does Israeli (i follow ghil’ad zuckermann in distinguishing the contemporary national(ist) language from the language whose historical evolution it decisively broke from) adopt “yom huledet” in the late 20th century (of the christian reckoning)?

    the time period makes sense – it corresponds to the consolidation of u.s.-style commercial culture in the zionist state, and the abandonment of any pretense at a (ethno/religiously restricted) socialist path. thus, birthdays as an occasion for consumption, and the need for a word.

    but it also makes Balashon’s hypothesis – familarity by way of three appearances in weekly parshas – obviously implausible. the israeli population was until fairly recently overwhelmingly secular; a wildly uncommon biblical word isn’t likely to migrate into a secular population that doesn’t so much as hear it speed-read three times a year. (and as zuckermann has shown, cradle-tongue Israeli does not result in anything like solid comprehension of biblical Hebrew)

    does anyone have any more plausible thoughts? i don’t know enough of the literature on the development of Israeli to hazard any kind of educated guess. my best uneducated thought – with zero evidence – is that it was introduced and spread either through a translation of the english birthday song, or in a particularly influential ad campaign introducing/popularizing the idea of a birthday party.

  45. The phrase wasn’t adopted in the late twentieth century — the chart at the bottom of the Balashon post shows it in continuous use since around 1800.

  46. >it doesn’t seem to mean the day of birth, it seems to means the anniversary of that day, a different concept (although in English we conflate the two, other languages don’t).

    You use birthday to mean day of birth? So if you’re turning 43, you’ll do so on your 44th birthday?

    Aside from maybe Frosty the Snowman, I don’t think I’ve heard people conflate those meanings in the term birthday. Frosty is both prematurely communicative and unlikely to live to see another, so he has a unique right to think of his day of birth as his birthday.

  47. PlasticPaddy says

    I would say that the use of birthday to mean day of birth is practically restricted to the phrase “birthday suit”.

  48. A lot of what Balashon’s Google ngrams picks up are quotations of the passage in Genesis, rather than new uses.

    The Israeli National Library’s historical newspaper collection has an example from 1794, from Hame’asef (‘The Gatherer’), the first periodical of the nascent Haskala movement. It’s a poem, “Upon the birthday of the sage Rabbi David Friedländer“. It’s a pretty terrible poem.

    The expression was adopted and popularized by 19th century writers, beginning with those of the Haskala, who spearheaded the usage of Hebrew as a secular language, long before the Zionist movement.

    BTW, no one but Zuckermann uses the term “Israeli” for the language, and his claims are quite exaggerated. Israeli schoolchildren start studying the Hebrew Bible in second grade, beginning with Genesis. From my experience I’ll say the language was obviously archaic, but certainly understandable, comparable to how Shakespeare would appear to a present-day speaker of American English. If a seven-year-old encounters for the first time “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, they’ll get the gist of it, even if they might have to be told what doth is, and would have to guess what methinks means. That hardly makes Shakespearean English alien to the modern one.

    A typological study comparing Modern and Biblical Hebrews to Arabic and to several European languages found the two Hebrews clearly closest to each other, then to Arabic, then to the European cluster.

  49. Owlmirror says

    You can restrict Google Books to return results by century, and setting the results to 19th century shows something interesting in the 1800s: It looks like someone translated the Book of Common prayer into Hebrew, and the phrase they chose for “Christmas” was:
    “יום הולדת את המשיח”=”the birthday of the Christ”.
    In a Jewish context, I would interpret that last word as “Messiah/Moshiach”, but the intention is obvious.

    Other phrases in this section about “מזמורי תהלים”=”songs of psalms” (masses?) on special days:

    “יום א של ימי התענית” == “First day of the days of fasting” (Lent)
    “יום השישי הטוב” == “Good Friday”
    “חג תקומת המשיח”==”Festival of the rising of the Christ”; Easter
    “יום עלות המשיח לשמים”==”Day of the ascension of the Christ to Heaven” (literally, “the sky”, but the intention is again obvious)

    I find myself wondering why they didn’t use the more obvious “יום תחית המשיח” (“festival of the resurrection of the Christ”).

  50. יום הולדת את המשיח reads yōm hulledet ’et hammāšīax, if you don’t read the Hebrew script. They kept the ’et from Genesis.

    The translation borrowed liberally from Hebrew liturgy, often to good effect. Some passages, like the Lord’s Prayer, read very smoothly. Others are quite clunky, like the exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    The ascension follows the language of Elijah’s. If the sky was good enough for Elijah, it’s good enough for Jesus.

    mizmorei tehilim must mean Psalms set to music.

  51. Owlmirror says

    However, other hits on the first couple of pages are more obviously from Jewish Hebrew sources. Frex, here’s a collection from 1827 of Hebrew example speeches for people to give – the first is on the speaker’s Bar Mitzvah:

    “זה יום הולדת אותי שנת השלש עשרה שנה שהחיה ד ‘ אותי עד כה” = “This is my birthday; the thirteenth year of the years that God gave life to me until now” (I’m not certain about that awkward phrasing, sorry)

    There’s also one for the birthday of the speaker’s father:

    “יום הולדת אדוני אבי תפארת ראשי וששון לבי”= “[…] the birthday of my lord, my father, the glory of my head and the joy of my heart”

    While most speakers of Modern Hebrew are secular, it seems clear to me that the phrase “yom huledet” first found currency among religious speakers of Hebrew, and went from there to Hebrew language revivalists, as Y says.

  52. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m not sure if the gemination in the formation of the feminine in Akkadian is cognate to the Hebrew process.

    Akkadian doesn’t geminate to form the feminine. Šarratum “queen” (not “princess” as I sloppily wrote before) is the feminine corresponding to šarrum “king.” The double r is part of the stem.

    What has happened is that in the period between LXX and the Massoretes, Vrr became V:r. The language had changed. Cases of resh with dagesh are either survivals (sound laws are not exceptionless) or due to the analogy of forms with consonants still capable of gemination.

  53. David Marjanović says

    Another way to put that is that sound changes are exceptionless, but analogy can kick in immediately. Here (pdf) is a detailed argument for Ockham’s BFS.

    Two comments on the paper: basically everything said about Yiddish holds for Bavarian-Austrian; an illustrative example of grammatical analogy just outside the scope of the paper, but interesting for comparison, is the elimination of umlaut from the singular of nouns along with its phonological trigger during OHG times, so that the paradigm (nom-gen-dat-acc) of “lamb” changed from early OHG lamb, lembires, lembire, lamb to late OHG and MHG lamb, lambes, lambe, lamb (modern Lamm, Lammes, obsolete Lamme, Lamm), which shows that analogy can mimic grammatically conditioned exceptions to sound change and that the lack of umlaut in the singular Gast “guest” in even the earliest sources is unlikely to be a grammatically conditioned exception.

  54. And Google Books lists the language of the Hebrew BCP as English.

  55. David Eddyshaw says

    Interesting paper, DM (I will pass over the irresponsible decision to link to TV Tropes. I escaped – this time.)

    I don’t think it’s just a matter of competing unfalsifiable frameworks to be resolved Occamly, though. There are plenty of documented cases of sound changes spreading piecemeal through the lexicon rather than all occurring in one swell foop.

    Incidentally, Kusaal has quite a number of clear examples of analogy blocking regular sound changes in real time (as it were), because the systematic deletion of final short vowels in most contexts would lead to significant ambiguity otherwise. For example, word-internal md -> mn (and subsequently -> mm for most contemporary speakers.) This happens without exception in noun flexion, although the situation is mostly avoided by systematic replacement of noun class suffixes that would trigger the change with suffixes properly belonging to different noun classes. Verbs, however, have only one conjugation, so a replacement strategy is not possible. The imperfective suffix is da, as in

    zab(ɛ) “fight”, imperfective zabid(a), where the i is epenthetic: bd is not a permitted word-internal consonant cluster, and this sort of epenthesis is exceptionless.

    Wʋm(m) “hear” has the imperfective wʋm(ma), from *wʋmda, which coincides completely with the perfective when the final vowel is deleted and the final consonant cluster simplified:

    Fʋ wʋm Nasaalɛɛ? “Do you understand English?”
    Ayee, m pʋ wʋmma. “No, I don’t understand it.”

    In the case of the first sentence, the aspect is clear from the context (it’s obviously not “Have you understood English?”) It’s also in fact clear from tone sandhi, which is different after perfectives and imperfectives. However, in cases where this is not so, Kusaal uses the “irregular” wʋmid to disambiguate, as in the Bible translation at Philippians 1:30:

    ka nan kpɛn wʋmid “and (you) are still hearing”

    where kpɛn wʋm would have to be interpreted as “immediately heard.”

  56. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d misremembered credo ut intelligam as being Tertullian; but he, of course, is actually responsible for certum est, quia impossibile, which is much more Zen. (Credo quia absurdum seems to be Thomas Browne’s fault.)


  57. @Owlmirror,
    — “זה יום הולדת אותי שנת השלש עשרה שנה שהחיה ד ‘ אותי עד כה” = “This is my birthday; the thirteenth year of the years that God gave life to me until now”.” It’s an ambiguous sentence, because it’s not clear whether שלש עשרה ‘thirteen’ goes with the שנת ‘year of’ before it or the שנה ‘year(s)’ after it. Something like ‘this is my birthday, year thirteen years that God had me living so far’.

    @David Eddyshaw,
    — Masoretic רּ. Supposedly some manuscripts in the Babylonian pointing tradition preserved resh-dagesh regularly. The main reference for it (Yeivin) is entombed in one of those locked buildings called libraries.
    — Akkadian: is the geminate r part of the stem, or is it from the formation of the quotation form given, with a root šar- cognate with the Hebrew śar?
    — Masoretes, not Massoretes; the latter would be, perhaps, someones concerned with sawing…

  58. David Eddyshaw says

    The -rr- is indeed quite definitely part of the stem. The Hebrew sar “chief, ruler” is indeed cognate. The BH plural sa:ri:m owes its qametz to the same historical Vrr -> V:r process. Original Semitic long /a:/ has become /o:/ in Canaanite; Biblical Hebrew /a:/ is the result of secondary lengthening of short /a/, as here, in open penults or in stressed originally open final syllables of nouns, or of monophthongisation (as in qa:m “arise.”)

    The patach of the citation form of sar (as opposed to the qametz of ya:d “hand”) is due to the original gemination of the resh (cf ʿam “people.”)

    Masoretes, as you say. Though sawing is a worthy profession, too.

  59. There’s doubtless been contamination from French massorète.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    Sorry, was rushing and got interrupted, so I didn’t explain that very well.

    The BH grammars distinguish vowels long “by nature” from vowels long “by position.” The long-by-nature vowels mostly go back to Protosemitic long vowels or diphthongs, and they don’t vary at all depending on where the word stress falls. The long-by-position vowels are secondarily lengthened from original short vowels, either under the word stress or in open syllables immediately preceding the stress; in other positions, they become schwa (or hatephs next to “gutturals.”)

    The long-by-nature vowels are /o:/, continuing Protosemitic /a:/ and /aw/, /e:/ continuing /ay/, and /i:/ /u:/. They are often (though not invariably) written with matres lectionis in the Biblical text.

    The long-by-position vowels are /a:/ (from original short /a/) and /e:/ (from short /i/); this /e:/ was evidently indistinguishable in the pronunciation of the Mas(s)oretes from long-by-nature /e:/. There is a gap for long-by-position /o:/ (from short /u/); in positions parallel to long-by-position /a:/ /e:/ you find instead a short vowel with a following geminated consonant. Long-by-position vowels are rarely written with matres lectionis in the Bible, though this does begin to happen in the later books.

    There are long-by-nature /a:/ vowels in the Tiberian pointing (i.e. vowels that are not subject to becoming schwa: cf the construct plural of sar, which is not *səre: but sa:re:.) These never represent Protosemitic /a:/, which had long ago become /o:/; they are always of secondary origin, produced by changes like Vrr -> V:r (and similarly with other “gutturals”) or monophthongisation, as with the hollow-verb perfectives like qa:m. (There are a few long-by-nature /e:/ and /o:/ vowels also resulting from the VCC -> V:C rules, too.)

    The way BH is usually taught implies that the long-by-nature and long-by-position vowels were in some way different synchronically for the Masoretes. It is quite clear that this was not so; the reason that they pattern differently is the astonishing fidelity of the preservation of the oral reading of every individual word of the text up to the Masoretes’ time. Note, though, that what they preserved was the system and the relationships between sounds, not the exact individual sounds; in particular, as the individual sounds changed over the centuries in the pronunciation of the Masoretes’ own speech, their pronunciation of the Bible text changed right along with it. They would have no way of knowing that this was happening, any more than an untaught modern English speaker can tell that he pronounces the /t/ in “top” quite differently from the /t/ in “stop.”

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve simplified by assuming the traditional understanding of vowel length in the Tiberian tradition: Geoffrey Khan, among others, has shown pretty conclusively that eventually the system did not distinguish vowel length at all, only quality. The consensus now seems to be that that the oral tradition of the actual Tiberian pronunciation (itself long since lost) never did distinguish length, but I myself think this is very hard to square with the prosodic evidence of the Tiberian pointing, which seems much more easily accounted for by supposing that at the stage the stress marking was fixed, the tradition distinguished vowel length pretty much exactly as implied by the transliterations into Greek letters in the LXX and Origen (this is the only point at which my views are at all novel or controversial; they may well not be novel either, come to that, though I haven’t had much luck in finding anything to the point in the literature.)

    It makes no difference to the points in my previous post, anyhow.

  62. DE, wow.

    Masoretic רּ. Supposedly some manuscripts in the Babylonian pointing tradition preserved resh-dagesh regularly.

    Supposedly (that is to say, after a cursory reading of one paper), Babylonians treated resh along the beged kefet lines. Which means that it was dagesh lene which signified changes between uvular and alveolar /r/ or something. Tiberian resh was supposed to change it’s exact quality based on something nobody can understand, presumably because Eli ben-Yehuda himself didn’t quite figured it out.

  63. David Marjanović says

    — Masoretes, not Massoretes; the latter would be, perhaps, someones concerned with sawing…

    Eh, Sägen “saws”, Segen “blessing”, same diff.

    (Homophones except along the Rhine.)

    There are plenty of documented cases of sound changes spreading piecemeal through the lexicon rather than all occurring in one swell foop.

    Is that so, or are these cases where a sound changes appears in a very restricted environment and then spreads to successively less restricted environments in a stepwise but perfectly Neogrammarian series?

    However, in cases where this is not so, Kusaal uses the “irregular” wʋmid to disambiguate

    So, the i is imported from the -bid- verbs by analogy? That doesn’t look like the prevention of a sound change to me (that would be *md or *mn), but like wholesale replacement.

    They would have no way of knowing that this was happening

    Well, theoretically, they could have invented phonetics and phonology, as had been done in India 500 years earlier…

    any more than an untaught modern English speaker can tell that he pronounces the /t/ in “top” quite differently from the /t/ in “stop.”

    Bad example, because many (most?) flat-out have a /d/ in stop and will write it that way before they become fluent readers.

    That reminds me: I was a tiny voracious reader at my first encounter with apartheid (a few years before it finally ended), and marveled at the phonetic spelling of this obvious cognate of German -heit. I have /d/ in -heit thanks to a Central Bavarian lenition process that has turned postvocalic word-final */t/ into /d/ and is (for morphemes that happen to exist in the dialects) carried over into Austrian Standard German. Only much later did I learn that Dutch & Afrikaans have syllable-final fortition instead, and therefore have a /t/ in -heid that is just as fortis as my own /t/.

  64. John Cowan says

    certum est, quia impossibile

    Per RationalWiki, the argument Tertullian is making is not from faith but from Aristotelian reason, and can be paraphrased as “People at the time would not have believed something so intrinsically unlikely unless it were in fact true.” The full passage is:

    Crucifixus est dei filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est.
    Et mortuus est dei filius; credibile prorsus est, quia ineptum est.
    Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile.

    A more modern version is Jefferson’s alleged remark on a report from Yale University on the six meteorites that fell near Weston, Connecticut in 1807, namely that it was easier to believe that two Yankee professors could lie than to admit that stones could fall from heaven. In fact, we first hear of this statement from a speech given by a son of one of those two Yankee professors almost 70 years later. Daniel Salmon, who discovered another Weston meteorite near his house, sent it along to Jefferson, who responded:

    We certainly are not to deny whatever we cannot account for. A thousand phenomena present themselves daily which we cannot explain, but where facts are suggested, bearing no analogy with the laws of nature as yet known to us, their verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty [cf. “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”]. A cautious mind will weigh well the opposition of the phenomenon to everything hitherto observed, the strength of the testimony by which it is supported, and the errors and misconceptions to which even our senses are liable.

    It may be very difficult to explain how the stone you possess came into the position in which it was found. But is it easier to explain how it got into the clouds from whence it is supposed to have fallen? The actual fact however is the thing to be established, and this I hope will be done by those whose situations and qualifications enable them to do it. I salute you with respect.

    Impeccable by modern scientific standards. However, meteoritics was already better established than Jefferson perhaps knew (though Silliman, the principal researcher of the Weston stones, certainly knew it): the 1794 Siena fall had been close enough to the town that many of the university’s scholars had witnessed it personally, and the 3000 stones that fell near L’Aigle in Normandy in 1803 were more than enough to remove all doubt. Not all accepted the theory of origin of meteorites from translunar space, first stated in 1794 a few months before the Siena fall.

    The whole story is told in this essay (in form a book review, but having little to say about the book).

  65. Kahle, Masoreten des Ostens, p. 1, gives a passage with Sarah’s name in it in Babylonian pointing. It’s pointed equivalent to the Tiberian, with qamatz (a.k.a. mikpatz puma) on both consonants.

    (Why no Babylonian pointing in Unicode? It’s been proposed in 2004.)

    D.O., what paper is that you were reading?

  66. David Eddyshaw says


    Maybe it’s just that the Babylonian Jews. unlike the Galileans, had /rr/ in their own Aramaic dialect (perhaps they hadn’t succumbed to the fashionable r grasseyé of those fancy Westerners.)

    Syriac, which is quite closely related to Babylonian Jewish Aramaic, doesn’t have these VCC -> V:C rules; however, “quite closely related” is by no means the same as “exactly like” even as far as the phonology goes, and moreover the vocalisation tradition of Syriac is older than the Tiberian system and its relatives anyway. (I still remember the mental double-take involved when I first realised that the younger language was written with an older vowel system.)

    I do dimly recall something about dagesh being (apparently) used for other purposes than marking gemination and/or non-fricativisation in some traditions, though, but I can’t think where I was reading about it.

  67. Are you thinking about the mapiq? Looks like a dagesh, but marks a final ה as consonantal and not a mater lectionis.

  68. David Eddyshaw says

    No, I was thinking about dagesh, but in non-Tiberian traditions. Can’t think where I was reading it, though. (Maybe it was the same paper as D.O. came across …)

    I only just now thought to look at Biblical Aramaic in the Tiberian pointing. Unsurprisingly it matches Tiberian Hebrew pretty well, and in particular both aleph and resh always occur with preceding vowel lengthening instead of gemination. The pattern with he, chet and ayin is also the same, with the usual thing being “dagesh forte implicitum”, i.e. no dagesh, but the preceding vowel remaining short: presumably this reflects the loss of gemination being later than with aleph and resh. Interestingly, this is borne out by the consonantal text, which frequently uses nun before consonants as a gemination marker, a known convention of Imperial Aramaic; this nun appears often before he, chet and ayin, but not before aleph or resh. So the peculiar pronunciation of resh presumably goes back at least to the period when the consonantal text was written.

    Mandaic seems to be like Syriac in not doing anything odd with r and gemination, though the script makes it hard to be sure. It’s said to be closer to Babylonian Jewish Aramaic than Syriac is, but it’s done a grand job of losing most of the “gutturals” altogether (it uses ayin and aleph as vowel letters.)

  69. D.O., what paper is that you were reading?

    E. J. Revell The Nature of Resh in Tiberian Hebrew AJS Review Vol. 6, 1981.
    I don’t know how open JSTOR access is. I can download pdf and then pass it along in some way or another, I s’pose.

  70. David Eddyshaw says

    That doesn’t look like the prevention of a sound change to me (that would be *md or *mn), but like wholesale replacement.

    Reasonable point. However, word-internal consonant clusters are extremely restricted in Kusaal, and non-compliant clusters are automatically broken up by vowel epenthesis, so *wʋmd would inevitably be realised as wʋmid in any case. I don’t think there’s any way of ruling your analysis out, but Kusaal also shows a fairly common pattern of consonant cluster assimilations which are invariably carried through in derivation being resisted in flexion: Vdis, for example (with the usual automatic epenthetic vowel breaking up ds) never occurs in stems, where Vds -> V’Vs instead; but the plural of nwadig “moon, month” (*wãdga) is nwadis (*wãdsɛ.)

    Just to make life even more complicated, there are also verbs with stems in -mm-, like zam “cheat”, which are absolutely indistinguishable from single-m-stems in the perfective, but always make imperfectives in -mmid(a), as in zammid; and the perfectly respectable single-m verb wʋm “hear” not only has the regular gerund wʋm “hearing” (from *wʋmbɔ) but also a lawbreaking gerund wʋmmʋg(ɔ) with apparently identical meaning, formed just like zammʋg(ɔ) “cheating.” Grammar is hard.

  71. David Eddyshaw says

    Thanks D.O.! Interesting. It wasn’t the paper I’d seen, though. I’ll keep trying to remember …

    Re your paper: I feel a lot better about finding this all hard to understand given the implication that even Saadya Gaon may not have understood it …

    I wonder if the whole thing ultimately arose from a garbled account of a Galilean situation where some speakers had an alveolar realisation of /r/ and others had a uvular? There seems to be some reason to think that the uvular /r/ may have been a western Aramaic thing given that the evidence for it is compelling in Tiberian and absent in Syriac and Mandaic. And that would account for the fact that people in Babylonia seem to have been completely mystified by it all.

  72. I do dimly recall something about dagesh being (apparently) used for other purposes

    The PDF D.O. linked to contains a longish section on the use of dagesh to distinguish homophones.

  73. David Marjanović says

    and the perfectly respectable single-m verb wʋm “hear” not only has the regular gerund wʋm “hearing” (from *wʋmbɔ) but also a lawbreaking gerund wʋmmʋg(ɔ) with apparently identical meaning, formed just like zammʋg(ɔ) “cheating.” Grammar is hard.

    Hey, if you want synchronic free variation in verb forms formed from analogies upon analogies, be my guest. The conditional wäre “(if I) were” is the completely regular /va/ in my dialect (regular both dia-* and synchronically: simple past war /vɒɐ̯/), except when it gets the weak-verb conditional suffix added for no particular reason and becomes /varɐd/. The conditional täte “did” is likewise the regular /tad/, except when it’s analogized to /varɐd/ for no particular reason and becomes /tarɐd/. The highly irregular stünde “stood” and ginge “walked, would be possible” show up either fully regularized (/ʃtɛɐd/, /gɛɐd/) or partially regularized (/ʃtandɐd/, /gangɐd/**). The merely strong sähe “saw” only appears in a kind of overregularized form, as /sɛɐd/, which is odd because the -h- is not only present in the indicative, but preserves the full Verner as /x/ and /g/… though I’m not sure I’ve never heard /saɐd/, and */sa/, with word-final loss of short /x/, would probably be the regular cognate of sähe, so if you first slap the regular suffix on and then regularize the stem vowel, /sɛɐd/ should be explicable.

    * Hildebrandslied ƿarı. The /r/ blocks “primary umlaut” to /e/ (which is by and large still /e/), so “secondary umlaut” to [æ] kicks in, and then a chain shift turns [a] into /ɒ/ and [æ] into /a/.
    ** Assuming [ŋː] is not a phoneme. …Actually, this late at night, I think every [ŋː] is /ng/ and every syllabic [ŋ̩] is /gn̩/…

    the evidence for it is compelling in Tiberian

    Assuming it’s not in the paper (which I’ll read later), what is that evidence?

    (Other than its degemination being shared with other back consonants, which in turn mystifies me – I have no clue what’s hard about [ʀː] or [ħː] or [ʜː] or perhaps especially [ʔː].)

  74. So-called uvular consonants: a public service announcement.

    From Sidney Wood, The Articulation of Uvular Consonants: Swedish. Lund University, Centre for Languages & Literature, Dept. of Linguistics & Phonetics Working Papers 52 (2006), 145–148:

    This study begins by questioning the classical account of uvular consonant production (e.g. Jones, 1964), that the tongue dorsum is raised towards the uvula, and that the uvula vibrates for a rolled [ʀ]. Firstly, it is not clear how a vibrating uvula would produce the acoustic energy of a typical rolled [ʀ]. A likely process exploits a Bernoulli force in the constricted passage to chop the voiced sound into pulses when air pressure and tissue elasticity are suitably balanced, which requires that intermittent occlusion is possible between pulses. Unfortunately, there are free air passages either side of the uvula that should prevent this from happening. Secondly, these same passages should likewise prevent complete occlusion for a uvular stop, and they should also prevent a Reynolds number becoming sufficiently small for the turbulence of uvular fricatives.


    The upper pharynx is a more suitable place than the uvula for producing “uvular” stops, fricatives and trills. The soft smooth elastic surfaces of the posterior part of the tongue and the opposing posterior pharyngeal wall allow perfect occlusion, or the creation of apertures narrow enough for the generation of turbulence.

    That study was based on X-Ray cinematography of native speakers producing Swedish [ʀ] and West Greenlandic [q], [ʀ], [χ]. Getting back to the subject at hand, a study by Laufer and Baer, of speakers of Hebrew and Arabic dialects having /q/ as a distinct phoneme, concluded that /q/ is a pharyngealized velar stop.

  75. The handful of Hebrew randos who travel to Egypt in times of famine always end up interacting with the king and his highest officials.

    Thus starting a trope that lives on in science fiction (e.g. Star Trek) to this day.

  76. David Eddyshaw says

    other than its degemination being shared with other back consonants

    “But, apart from that, Mrs Lincoln: how did you enjoy the play?”

    The other way that /r/ patterns with the “gutturals” is that a preceding short /e/ becomes /a/ before syllable-closing /r/. Now, that’s interesting, in fact, because that phenomenon is found in Syriac too. Hmmm …

    Thus starting a trope that lives on in science fiction (e.g. Star Trek) to this day.

    If a damn great starship turned up in orbit around my planet I’d pass responsibility for dealing with it up the chain pretty quick too. “We come in peace! We have a Prime Directive and everything!” Oh, yeah?

  77. A standard plot device on Star Trek was that the landing team goes incognito to explore, and then gets captured by rebel factions who just coincidentally lead the planetary resistance and have direct contact to the planetary rulers (both the « Nazi » planet and the « Roman » planet episodes follow that scheme). Also a trope in Star Wars and Dr Who.

  78. David Eddyshaw says

    that phenomenon is found in Syriac too

    Mind you erC -> arC has also happened in English, a language not famed for having a uvular /r/.

  79. David Marjanović says

    That study was based on X-Ray cinematography of native speakers producing Swedish [ʀ] and West Greenlandic [q], [ʀ], [χ].

    Wait… Greenlandic has a [ʀ]? I thought it had a [ʁ] that is just spelled r for Danish reasons?

    Anyway, I have a few things to say about uvulars:

    1) Of course you can’t articulate a stop by raising the tongue just far enough that it touches the tip of the uvula. Was that ever the claim? I thought it’s the whole area around the uvula that is supposed to be the articulator on the dorsal side.

    2) On the ventral side it’s definitely necessary to distinguish two places of articulation. Most uvular consonants are dorso-uvular: the part of the tongue used to articulate velars is not raised straight up, but pulled back so it meets or approaches the end of the palate around the uvula. [ʀ], on the other hand, is more like radico-uvular: the part of the tongue that lies directly opposite the uvula is raised straight up. This is a fundamental difference that isn’t in the IPA chart. (Hey, it isn’t phonemic anywhere.)

    That’s also why [ʀ] doesn’t have the backing effects on surrounding vowels that the other uvulars have. In Greenlandic and many other three-vowel languages, /ʁi/ comes out as [ʁe] (and is, in Greenlandic, even spelled re despite the lack of /e/). In Lakȟóta, which distinguishes five vowel qualities, /ʁi/ comes out as [ʀi].

    …My attempts to produce a radico-uvular plosive, by starting with [ʀ] and raising the tongue further, end up acoustically within the range of [k]. Attempts at a fricative sound like a squeezed version of [x] rather than [χ]; I think the tongue touches the tip of the uvula, and the air goes around the sides, where there isn’t a lot of space. Approximants, interestingly, seem to be almost inaudible.

    3) The practical thing about uvulars is that they’re made so close to the jaw joint that I can articulate them with my jaws maximally open. (Velars are difficult that way, coronals are impossible except maybe for a linguolabial approximant.) So I walked up to the mirror, performed a [ʀ], opened wide, and watched. Yep, I can see the upper end of my uvula vibrate. I can also see the retraction for [q] that does not happen for [k] or [ʀ] – and by [q] I don’t mean [qˁ]. …No, I’m not accidentally performing velar trills. I think I can, but that takes a powerful effort, sounds accordingly distinctive, and hurts.

    4) Many lects popularly supposed to have [ʀ] really have an approximant [ʁ], at least most of the time in most environments. That’s mainstream in France (in voiced environments*) and northern Germany, for example. I tend not to notice. But there’s an easy trick to check your own pronunciation: if you can hold your breath and produce an ejective version (voiceless of course), that’s a trill; ejective approximants are inaudible.

    * In voiceless environments, the voiceless fricative described above results pretty often.

    erC -> arC has also happened in English

    Apical alveolar [r] has well-known lowering effects. Bavarian-Austrian has merged /e/ and /ɛ/ before /r/ as [ɛɐ̯] (the /r/ remains as a consonant after this diphthong if another vowel follows afterwards), but [r] remains widespread enough to have become a symbol of Bavarian ethnic identity in Germany. Proto-Germanic turned */ɪr/ into *[er], which Gothic then merged with */ɛr/ as [ɛr] while it was also turning */ʊr/ into [ɔr]. OHG turned /aɪ̯r/ into [ɛːr] and /aʊ̯r/ into [ɔːr] soon after it began to be written.

  80. Apical alveolar [r] has well-known lowering effects.

    /ɛː/, /ɛ/ (in stressed syllables), /øː/ (with a few exceptions) and /œ/ are lowered to [æː], [æ], [œ̞ː] and [œ̞], respectively, when preceding /r/.[13][14][15]

    ära /²ɛːra/ → [²æːra] (‘honor’)
    ärt /ˈɛrt/ → [ˈæʈː] (‘pea’)
    öra /²øːra/ → [²œːra] (‘ear’)
    dörr /ˈdœr/ → [ˈdœrː] (‘door’)


  81. David Eddyshaw says

    So it seems reasonable not to count the lowering of /e/ before syllable-closing /r/ in Syriac as evidence for a uvular /r/. The ungeminability of /r/ in (some) Aramaic is evidently a separate thing in any case, as shown by its restricted dialect distribution.

    Of course it doesn’t follow that the fact that /r/ couldn’t be geminated in those dialects means that it must have been phonetically similar to the “guttural” consonants. And in fact it seems to pattern, not so much with chet, he and ayin, which must have preserved gemination late (as witness the Biblical Aramaic spellings with nun, and the fact that the preceding short vowel is usually not lengthened in the Tiberian system), but with aleph, which is nobody’s idea of a uvular. And AFAIK there is no evidence for confusion between resh and ayin or resh and fricativised gimel (you wouldn’t expect the Biblical consonantal text to reflect what would have to be quite a recent phenomenon, of course, but you might have thought that some confusion would have appeared in Palestinian Jewish Aramaic.)

    I’m beginning to think uvular Tiberian /r/ is a beautiful hypothesis slain by ugly facts, and that lumping /r/ in with the “gutturals” is just a handy shortcut for learners that has got out of hand.

    Is there a lot of evidence for a change of alveolar /r/ to uvular anywhere else but western Europe (where it seems to have originated once and then spread across neighbouring languages)? It doesn’t strike me as a particularly natural change.

  82. David Eddyshaw says

    Just noticed that Y said Geoffrey Khan thinks it was uvular, though. He may well have based that on renderings into Arabic script. I’ll see if I can find out. Freely downloadable …

  83. David Eddyshaw says
  84. David Eddyshaw says

    He doesn’t mention any actual transcriptions into Arabic letters, though, just contemporary descriptions of how the sound was articulated, which seem to be open to interpretation to some extent.

    I liked the description of the intrepid Masorete actually doing some fieldwork in contemporary Tiberian Aramaic to try to get to the bottom of it all. That’s the spirit.

    Interesting that Baghdadi Jewish Arabic had a uvular /r/! (Answers my question about non-European uvular /r/ too.)

  85. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s just occurred to me that I have made an egregious (from the Latin for “stonking”) logical error in talking about /r/ in Syriac: there is indeed no sign of the VC: -> V:C phenomenon when C is /r/; however, there’s no sign of it with the “guttural” consonants either. Ergo, even if /r/ had been realised as a uvular in Syriac, it wouldn’t have behaved differently from other consonants with respect to gemination, and the fact that it doesn’t show any such peculiarities cannot be used as evidence that it wasn’t uvular.

    Apologies for any confusion. I will now embark on a period of quiet reflection.

  86. >The handful of Hebrew randos who travel to Egypt

    The handful of Spanish randos who travel to Tenochtitlan …

    I suspect that’s the more important factor behind the trope surviving into modern science fiction.

  87. I don’t know how seriously I can take a paper that claims that turbulent flow occurs at low Reynolds number.

  88. John Cowan says

    Well, in Brazil the original /r/ has mostly devoiced and gutturalized, emerging as [x~χ~h] depending on regionalect, syllable position, and other factors. There are even places where it’s [ɹ̃], nasalized American /r/! (European Portuguese has [ʁ] in the usual European way.)

    The Northumbrian burr may be too old to reflect French influence (it is first reported on in 1724).

    In Ill Bethisad, the use of [ʀ] is an American sprachbund effect, affecting English, Scots, Brithenig (Brito-Romance), Irish, Swedish (Delaware), Icelandic (Manitoba), French, Spanish, Montreiano[*], Russian, Japanese, etc. etc. (but not indigenous languages as far as I know, nor the Beothuk-influenced Ladino of Mueva Sefarad). Home-country varieties of these languages retain /r/, including the English of the Federated Kingdoms, and their speakers look down on Americans for talking like dogs.

    [*] The language of Montrei, a country centered on the Salinas Valley. “Âi dos cosas mais importánt en Montrei, la coseça i eu ambént.”

  89. David Marjanović says

    Is there a lot of evidence for a change of alveolar /r/ to uvular anywhere else but western Europe (where it seems to have originated once and then spread across neighbouring languages)? It doesn’t strike me as a particularly natural change.

    The attempt to blame the [ʀ] of Sesotho on French missionaries strikes me as silly. There’s also a small area of Carinthia that used [ʀ] well before it was cool.

    There are people who are physically incapable of articulating [r]. Many of them resort to [ʀ], which, depending on what you do with the rest of your tongue, can sound very similar. Occasionally, it seems, that catches on…

    Southwest European sound systems with a short apical /r/ and a long laminal /rː/, but no other long consonants, seem to increase the distinction between these two pretty often by turning /rː/ into [ʀ]: other than Portuguese, part of Occitan has done it. On Wikipedia somewhere there’s a minimal pair /gari/ “healed” (French guéri) vs. /gaʀi/ “oak” ( < the landscape type garrigue).

    I don’t know how seriously I can take a paper that claims that turbulent flow occurs at low Reynolds number.

    Good catch!

  90. David Eddyshaw says

    Now I think of it, some Welsh speakers have uvular /r/ (the phenomenon is called tafod tew “thick tongue” in Welsh, and is neither prestigious nor French.)

  91. David Marjanović says

    Oops, > in the other direction, of course.

  92. Life at Low Reynolds Number,” by Edward M. Purcell, is an incredibly famous paper in fluid mechanics (not that anybody who works regularly in fluid mechanics could make the mistake from that abstract). Professional training for physicists has very little fluid physics in it nowadays. At MIT, there was not a single fluid physics course taught by the Department of Physics (although some classes were cross-listed in physics.) Most of the graduate courses in fluid mechanics were in Mathematics or Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. But down the road at Harvard, Purcell was a polymath physicist. He won the Nobel Prize for developing solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, but he was also the first person to build a radio telescope that could pick up the radio waves from neutral hydrogen clouds. So it was natural that he had a particular interest in fluids as well.

  93. /gaʀi/ “oak” ( < the landscape type garrigue).

    and yet the Garry oak (Quercus garryana, the northernmost ranging oak of the American West, all the way to BC), “was named by botanist and explorer David Douglas for Nicholas Garry of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who helped him during his travels” (per here.)

  94. @David Marjanović: Of course you can’t articulate a stop by raising the tongue just far enough that it touches the tip of the uvula. Was that ever the claim? I thought it’s the whole area around the uvula that is supposed to be the articulator on the dorsal side.

    Trask’s Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology says, for uvular, “Articulated with a constriction between the back of the tongue and the uvula”. Laver says “at the uvula”. Ladefoged and Maddieson don’t go into details.

    It’s hard to define a “place of articulation” when the contact is made over a large area. In the videos at the SAIL site, you can see that [q] and [ʀ] pronounced with contact between the entire length of the soft palate and the dorsum. The uvula is kind of incidental.

    Gordon’s [q] has a narrower length of constriction along the back of the soft palate. Gordon’s and Keating’s [q]’s have more pharyngeal constriction than Esling’s. I wonder if the pharyngeal constriction would occur if the consonant was sandwiched between front vowels.

  95. Lars Mathiesen says

    As a Physics undergraduate I had a one semester quarter-load course in planetary science, I think that was the only place I encountered fluid dynamics. The lecturer wrote the equations on the blackboard and said, “reality is much more complicated, and in this short time we don’t have time to show the formulations that actually work.”

  96. Owlmirror says

    There are many PDFs available of “Life at Low Reynolds Number” linked to from Google Scholar. Some of them are page images from the publication; some of them were printed from an HTML page, and some of them are scans from a book, which have a quote on the last page that I thought was striking, from Françoise Gilot & Carlton Lake’s Life with Picasso, attributed to having been spoken to Gilot by Picasso himself.

    So how do you go about teaching them something new? By mixing what they know with what they don’t know. Then, when they see vaguely in their fog something they recognize, they think, ‘Ah, I know that.’ And then it’s just one more step to, ‘Ah, I know the whole thing.’ And their mind thrusts forward into the unknown and they begin to recognize what they didn’t know before and they increase their powers of understanding.

    I was curious, and searched out the book itself, which Google Books kindly permits preview of.

    The sentences before what I quote give a little more context:

    The great majority of people have no spirit of creation or invention. As Hegel says, they can know only what they already know.


    However, the sentences following are funny, I think.

    That sounded very reasonable to me, I told him. “Of course it’s reasonable,” he said. “It’s purest Hegel.”

    I told him these applications of Hegel were very impressive. How much of him had he read?

    “None,” he said. “I told you there weren’t many people who wanted to take the trouble to go that far. And I don’t either. I picked up my information on the subject from Kahnweiler.”

  97. Owlmirror says

    Looking into the history of “Life with Picasso” a bit more, there does seem to be the implication that these conversations with Picasso were remembered (rather than recorded) by Gilot, and edited by Lake. So the quote might be better considered a creation of all three persons.

  98. David Marjanović says

    Gordon’s [q] has a narrower length of constriction along the back of the soft palate. Gordon’s and Keating’s [q]’s have more pharyngeal constriction than Esling’s.

    Esling confirms what I’ve claimed: retraction for [q], straight vertical raising for [ʀ]. Keating’s [q] is not acoustically identifiable because the quality of the recording is forgettable, and he hasn’t recorded [ʀ]. Similar things hold for Byrd (2005). Gordon has even more impressive retraction for [q] than Esling; for [ʀ] he starts with retraction, because the preceding vowel is a far-back [ɒ̙], but then transitions to raising. Byrd (2015) has very little retraction for [q], and indeed my auditory impression is that she has outsourced it to the preceding [ɑ]. Her attempt to produce [ʀ] failed; I hear [aʁ̩a] with a syllabic fricative (and central vowels).

    Where does the tradition of using [ɑ] as the embedding vowel come from? Why not [ə], the true default vowel?

  99. Owlmirror: Thanks very much for the Picasso quote, which is both thought-provoking and hilarious! If only more people were as honest about what they’ve read and what they’ve picked up from their equivalent of Kahnweiler.

  100. Stu Clayton says

    So how do you go about teaching them something new? By mixing what they know with what they don’t know. Then, when they see vaguely in their fog something they recognize, they think, ‘Ah, I know that.’ And then it’s just one more step to, ‘Ah, I know the whole thing.’ And their mind thrusts forward into the unknown and they begin to recognize what they didn’t know before and they increase their powers of understanding.

    An old familiar truth, no doubt. My experience confirms this – except for that last clause “and they increase their powers of understanding”. There’s too much thrusting going on for that to happen so quickly. Zen practice illustrates what is needed now: a chastening stick applied to the head.

  101. AJP Crown says

    If only more people were as honest…

    ‘We’re all animals, more or less,’ Picasso explained, but she belonged to the plant kingdom:


  102. I first posted a comment based on the assumption that you were trying to explain to me that Picasso was not a nice man (aka virtue signaling), but I thought I’d better let you tell me what the point of that link was before I object.

  103. AJP Crown says

    Glad you did. Picasso wasn’t nice? Yeah, whatever. Not a feminist? Shocking. Lots of people aren’t nice without being nearly as interesting as Picasso and I do really LOATHE the censure or shaming of figures from the past because they aren’t perceived to conform to today’s standard. About honesty, “to tell a story by means of the most common object” (versus Matisse’s painting exotic antique Venetian chairs, in the story that follows the Kahnweiler one): his life’s work was about honesty both in the subject matter & technique of his work – intellectual truthfulness might be more precise, I doubt he was always “honest” when it came to his own popular image; the Kahnweiler story fits in with collaging bits and pieces together in the contemporary Surrealist way rather than in being scrupulous with the facts.

  104. PlasticPaddy says

    “The Duke of Wellington presented petitions from Fortrose, and Ross, for the Abolition of Slavery, but with due regard to the honour and interests of all parties concerned. He concurrred in the view expressed in these petitions…”
    Even a person who goes on record as pro-abolition is not safe (or at least his statue isn’t).

  105. AJP Crown says

    You mean the Glasgow equestrian statue? Or has there been rumbling about others? I wouldn’t want to preserve the Bristol slave-owner’s statue in situ, should there be any doubt, but removing Baden Powell from the Poole promenade on the grounds that he may or may not have met Hitler merely plays into the hands of nitwits all over. The duke was about as right wing as they come, I didn’t know he was against slavery. I was wondering about a later sentence that ends with,

    …rev. Mr. Brydges, Chaplain to the Governor, who had been convicted of having improperly Hogged his female slaves.

    I think Hogged must be a digitally introduced typo for flogged.

  106. January First-of-May says

    censure or shaming of figures from the past because they aren’t perceived to conform to today’s standard

    Well, to be fair, in some cases it turns out that the figures were popular in the past specifically for something that is today only considered important in negative ways; thus the regular calls to rename the Voykovskaya station of the Moscow Metro, which is named for Pyotr Voykov, chiefly known as the guy who ordered the murder of Nicholas II and his family.

    (My personal favorite alternative is Volkovskaya, on the account of the minimality of the change. There is already a nearby street named for him, so it wouldn’t be too ridiculous.)

  107. AJP Crown says

    Yes, and that’s a good idea: exchanging an л and an й should be pretty easy.

    The removal and subsequent erasure of the Berlin wall was the weirdest thing. Not to say they ought to have kept it, but there were all these monuments and signs pointing to events that had happened next to something that didn’t exist any longer. You could still trace it using West Berlin signs (not much in the East).

  108. Stu Clayton says

    I think Hogged must be a digitally introduced typo for flogged.

    A German slang word for “dry-humping” (in dogs) is höggeln. Ralf says that, Sparky is good at it. Otherwise it means “wet-humping” (in humans). An urban dictionary contributor claims that “hog” is the “male member”, for example when the latter unintentionally escapes through the barn door of boxer shorts.

  109. @David Marjanović: (Keating is she…)

  110. Where does the tradition of using [ɑ] as the embedding vowel come from? Why not [ə], the true default vowel?

    I would guess that it started in the continent, where orthographic a corresponds to something like an [a] where the the tongue is in a resting position. Speakers of English (American anyhow) pronounce non-native <a> as [ɑ]. Ladefoged (I think it’s his voice) uses a very carefully neutral [a] here (but no videos).

    ed.: More IPA videos.

  111. AJP Crown says

    There was a little Tory man called Hogg who stood on a table to give a talk at my school. I just remember his tiny, very shiny black lace-up boots.

  112. David Marjanović says

    The removal and subsequent erasure of the Berlin wall was the weirdest thing.

    There are many reminders – plaques, lines of cobblestones –, but they’re, let’s say, unobtrusive. You have to look for them.

    Keating is she…

    Oh yes… I wasn’t properly awake yet. 🙂

    (Six impossible phonetic articulations before breakfast!)

    Ladefoged (I think it’s his voice) uses a very carefully neutral [a] here (but no videos).

    That attempt at [ʀ], BTW, starts out as far back as the other uvulars. By the time it sounds right, the recording is over, and the trailing vowel is cut off…


    Interesting. I had no idea of it – and, sure, it could be related.

  113. AJP Crown says

    There are many reminders – plaques, lines of cobblestones –, but they’re, let’s say, unobtrusive.

    They were always unobtrusive, and even less visible when they were next to a twelve-foot wall. But my point is that they form a different, new kind of memorial because a) the plaques, statues and cobbles mark an invisible physical presence (and a wall not a war) and b) it’s a 26 mile long line rather than say a memorial arch, which is a point, so there’s a time factor involved in experiencing it (roads run along it).

  114. Owlmirror says

    The link that D.O. posted @June 10, 2020 at 1:00 am, to “Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1”, is actually only part of the book. I went exploring, and found that the Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures page has the full book, and Volume 2 of the series, and a couple more books that might be of interest:

      Studies in Semitic Vocalisation and Reading Traditions
      Aaron Hornkohl and Geoffrey Khan (eds.)

      Studies in Rabbinic Hebrew
      Shai Heijmans (ed.)

    There are also 5 more books forthcoming:

      Jewish-Muslim Intellectual History Entangled: Textual Materials from the Firkovitch Collection, Saint Petersburg
      Camilla Adang, Bruno Chiesa, Omar Hamdan, Wilferd Madelung, Sabine Schmidtke and Jan Thiele (eds)

      Studies in the Grammar and Lexicon of Neo-Aramaic
      Geoffrey Khan and Paul M. Noorlander (eds)

      Diversity and Rabbinization: Jewish Texts and Societies between 400 and 1000 CE.
      Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (eds)

      A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic
      Esther-Miriam Wagner (ed.)

      Hexapla Hebrew
      Benjamin Kantor

    Just in case anyone is interested in downloading all of the books available, & keeping an eye out for the others.

  115. Thanks!

  116. Owlmirror says

    I also recently found something related to the conversation above about gemination, in case anyone is interested and has access:

    Gemination of /R/ in Samaritan Hebrew: A Note on Phonological Diversity in Second Temple Period Hebrew

  117. David Eddyshaw says

    Hexapla Hebrew looks like something I would certainly get, even to the point of actually paying for it.

  118. David Marjanović says

    in case anyone […] has access

    Well, it has a DOI, so… arr.

    6. Conclusion

    The main aim of this study was to establish whether Samaritan Hebrew /rr/ is an ancient trait in the pronunciation tradition or rather the result of secondary analogies. As I hope to have shown in the preceding sections, it is a little bit of both. It is true that many instances of geminated /r/ resulted from developments that affected Samaritan Biblical Hebrew after it split off from its Jewish sibling, and should be dated to the second century CE at the very earliest. These developments include the phonological rule */ˀr/ > /rr/, the gemination of the first radical in niphal perfects and participles (which is partly paralleled in vestigial Rabbinic Hebrew forms), and the blurring of the distinction between roots mediae geminatae and mediae infirmae, as well as—supposedly—far reaching changes in nominal patterns. On the other hand, while cases of morphological gemination of /r/, for example, in piel forms or in the definite article, certainly appear to be retentions from common Biblical Hebrew before the split, they could in principle also be learned reconstructions. This is different, however, with lexical gemination (especially in cases such as פר, where the root is not self-evident) and proper nouns. In these instances, the gemination is unpredictable and could not have been restored by analogy. Hence, it is safe to assume that—apart from the aforementioned secondary developments—gemination of /r/ is an original trait of Biblical Hebrew that was preserved in the Samaritan pronunciation tradition. Despite its overall innovative character, Samaritan Hebrew is thus typologically older than the Tiberian and other Jewish traditions with respect to the gemination of /r/. For while /rr/ was degeminated in the Jewish traditions sometime between the third century BCE and the middle of the third century CE, it was retained in the Hebrew of the Samaritans throughout the Second Temple period and until today.

    …or, the importance of heretics for the understanding of sacred languages.

  119. John Cowan says

    I heard yesterday from Mark Shoulson, WHO OUGHT TO BE HERE, BECAUSE, that he had been shown three verses of the Aleppo Codex that contain what appears to be a hataf-hiriq, a Hebrew vowel mark for ultrashort /i/ hitherto unknown to science. Obvs I can’t ask him which verses today; I’ll try to remember to do so tomorrow. Here’s my attempt to get Unicode to generate one, using samekh as the base vowel (as is conventional): סְִ.

  120. While JC’s friend is unavailable, all-knowing Wikipedia says:
    I Kings 17:11 “לקחי־נא”; Psalms 14:1 “השחיתו”,”התעיבו”; Psalms 53:2 “השחיתו”, “והתעיבו”
    It doesn’t say why, though.
    I also hasten to add that it should be Psalms 53:1 with the same “the fool said in his heart” intro and that all three have meteg in the WLC* version (meaning someone could have miscopied one way or the other).

    * Westminster-Leningrad there’s so much fun in imagining that such city exists in reality.

  121. David Eddyshaw says

    Westminster-Leningrad there’s so much fun in imagining that such city exists in reality

    It does. Tory Party funding relies on it.


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