The Development of the Biblical Hebrew vowels

Including a Concise Historical Morphology


The development of the Biblical Hebrew Vowels investigates the sound changes affecting the Proto-Northwest-Semitic vocalic phonemes and their reflexes in Tiberian Biblical Hebrew. Contrary to many previous approaches, Benjamin Suchard shows that these developments can all be described as phonetically regular sound laws. This confirms that despite its unique transmission history, Hebrew behaves like other languages in this regard. Many Hebrew sound changes have traditionally been explained as reflecting non-phonetic conditioning. These include the Canaanite Shift of *ā to *ō, tonic and pre-tonic lengthening, diphthong contraction, Philippi’s Law, the Law of Attenuation, and the apocope of short, unstressed vowels. By reconsidering reconstructions and re-evaluating phonetic conditions, this work shows how the Biblical Hebrew forms regularly derive from their Proto-Northwest-Semitic precursors.

E-Book: List price

EUR €94.00USD $113.00

Biographical Note

Benjamin Suchard, Ph.D. (2016), Leiden University, has worked as a lecturer and postdoc at that university since completing his doctorate. He has published various articles on Hebrew and other Semitic languages, most notably Biblical Aramaic. This is his first monograph.

Table of contents

1 Introduction  1.1  Exceptionless Sound Laws  1.2  Biblical Hebrew  1.3  Proto-Northwest-Semitic  1.4  Some Previous Approaches to the Question  1.5  Assumptions and Methodology  1.6  Outline and Conventions
2 Proto-Northwest-Semitic Phonology and Morphology  2.1  Phonology  2.2  Morphology
3 The Canaanite Shift  3.1  Introduction  3.2  Previous Suggestions  3.3  Data  3.4  Analysis  3.5  Conclusion
4 Stress, Tonic, Pretonic, and Pausal Lengthening  4.1  Introduction  4.2  Stress  4.3  Tonic Lengthening  4.4  Pretonic Lengthening  4.5  Pausal Lengthening  4.6  Summary
5 Diphthongs and Triphthongs  5.1  Introduction  5.2  Diphthongs  5.3  Triphthongs  5.4  Summary
6 Philippi’s Law and Other Cases of Stressed *i > *a  6.1  Introduction  6.2  Previous Suggestions  6.3  Remaining Issues  6.4  Conclusion
7 The Law of Attenuation and Other Cases of Unstressed *a > *i  7.1  Introduction  7.2  Previous Suggestions  7.3  Remaining Issues  7.4  Conclusion
8 Word-Final Vowels  8.1  Introduction  8.2  Previous Suggestions  8.3  Word-Final Vowels on Pronominal Suffixes and Verbal Endings  8.4  Conclusion
9 General Conclusion  9.1  Combined Relative Chronology
Appendix: A Concise Historical Morphology of Biblical Hebrew References Index


Scholars and advanced students of Biblical Hebrew and Semitic languages in general, as well as historical linguists from other fields.