Wednesday, November 04, 2020

The Correct Pronunciation of Old Testament Hebrew Names

There is none.

There have been variations in the pronunciation of consonants, and especially the vowels across all of Jewish history. There are dialects even today. There has been an attempt at standardisation since Eliezer Ben Yehuda staked his claim on reviving Hebrew as a modern language over a century ago, settling on a Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi pronunciation. But across the span of Bible times, there were six major, and several more minor, dialectical variants of Hebrew. 

Native speakers of every language believe lots of things that aren't so about the history of their tongue, and the educated are much more susceptible to this than the less-literary speakers, because people with a little education love narratives and stories and knowing cool things that others don't. English abounds with myths. But language always changes.  Some things slow down the changes, such as literacy and printing.  Yet even with this it doesn't stop.

There is some tendency of Indo-European languages to accent syllables more strongly, and Hebrew is a Semitic language, so not hitting the syllables so hard is probably helpful.  But otherwise, just launch with confidence.  Habakkuk or Habakkuk?  Either.


james said...

"Break it into syllables and pronounce it with confidence."
(advice from my wife)

But there can be a correct pronunciation, as Judges 12 reminds us.

Assistant Village Idiot said...


Sam L. said...

I read somewhere, some years ago, that Jewish men drink coffee that He Brews. OK, I'm leaving now....but "I'll Be BACK".

Sam L. said...

And maybe sillier. If I can.