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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 24

§24. Changes of the Weak Letters ו‎ and י‎.

Philippi, Die Aussprache der semit. Konsonanten ו‎ und י‎ (mentioned above, §5b, note 1), a thorough investigation of their phonetic value as consonantal, i.e. non-syllabic, vowel-sounds, not palatal or labial fricatives; cf. also E. Sievers, Metrische Studien, i. 15.

ו‎ and י‎ are, as consonants, so weak, and approach so nearly to the corresponding vowels u and i, that under certain conditions they very readily merge into them. This fact is especially important in the formation of those weak stems, in which a ו‎ or י‎ occurs as one of the three radical consonants (§69 ff., § 85, § 93).

1. The cases in which ו‎ and י‎ lose their consonantal power, i.e. merge into a vowel, belong almost exclusively to the middle and end of words; at the beginning they remain as consonants.[1]

The instances may be classified under two heads:

(a) When either ו‎ or י‎ with quiescent Še stands at the end of a syllable immediately after a homogeneous vowel (u or i). It then merges in the homogeneous vowel, or more accurately it assumes its vowel-character (ו‎ as u, י‎ as i), and is then contracted with the preceding vowel into one vowel, necessarily long, but is mostly retained orthographically as a (quiescent) vowel letter. Thus הוּשַׁב‎ for huwšab; יִיקַץ‎ for yiyqaṣ; so also at the end of the word, e.g. עִבְרִי‎ a Hebrew, properly ʿibrîy, fem. עִבְרִיָּה‎, pl. עִבְרִיִּים‎ (and עִבְרִים‎); עָשׂוּ‎ Job 41:25 for עָשׂוּו‎ (cf. עֲשׂוּוֹת‎ 1 Samuel 25:18 Kethîbh). On the other hand, if the preceding vowel he heterogeneous, ו‎ and י‎ are retained as full consonants (on the pronunciation see §8m), e.g. שָׁלֵו‎ quiet, זִו‎ the month of May, גּוֹי‎ nation, גָּלוּי‎ revealed. But with a preceding ǎ the ו‎ and י‎ are mostly contracted into ô and ê (see below, f), and at the end of a word they are sometimes rejected (see below, g).

Complete syncope of ו‎ before î occurs in אִי‎ island for אֱוִי‎; עִי‎ ruins for עֲוִי‎; רִי‎ watering Job 37:11 for רְוִי‎; [כּי‎ burning Isaiah 3:24 for כְּוִי‎, cf. §§84ac, e, 93 y]. Thus an initial יְ‎ after the prefixes בְּ‎, וְ‎, כְּ‍‎, לְ‎, which would then be pronounced with ĭ (see §28a), and also almost always after םִ‎ (see §102b), coalesces with the ĭ to î, e.g. בִּֽיהוּרָה‎ in Judah (for בִּיְ׳‎), וִֽיהוּדָה‎ and Judah, כִּיאֹר‎ as the Nile, לִֽיהוּדָה‎ for Judah, מִידֵי‎ from the hands of.

(b) When ו‎ and י‎ without a vowel would stand at the end of the word after quiescent Še, they are either wholly rejected and only orthographically replaced by ה‎ (e.g. בֶּ֫כֶה‎ from bikhy, as well as the regularly formed בְּכִי‎ weeping; cf. §93x) or become again vowel letters. In the latter case י‎ becomes a homogeneous Ḥireq, and also attracts to itself the tone, whilst the preceding vowel becomes Še (e.g. פְּרִ֫י‎ from piry, properly pary); ו‎ is changed sometimes into a toneless u (e.g. תֹּ֫הוּ‎ from tuhw).

Rem. In Syriac, where the weak letters more readily become vowel sounds, a simple i may stand even at the beginning of words instead of יְ‎ or יִ‎. The LXX also, in accordance with this, write Ἰουδά for יְהוּדָה‎, Ἰσαάκ for יִצְחָק‎. Hence may be explained the Syriac usage in Hebrew of drawing back the vowel i to the preceding consonant, which properly had a simple vocal Še, e.g. (according to the reading of Ben-Naphtali[2]) וִיֽלֲלַת‎ Jeremiah 25:36 for וְיִֽלֲלַת‎ (so Baer), כִּֽיתְרוֹן‎ Ecclesiastes 2:13 for כְּיִתְרוֹן‎, cf. also the examples in §20h, note 2; even וִיחֵ֫לּוּ‎ Job 29:21 (in some editions) for וְיִ֫חֵלּוּ‎. According to Qimḥi (see §47b) יִקְטֹל‎ was pronounced as iqṭōl, and therefore the 1st peps. was pointed אֶקְטֹל‎ to avoid confusion. In fact the Babylonian punctuation always has ĭ for ä in the 1st pers.

2. With regard to the choice of the long vowel, in which ו‎ and י‎ quiesce after such vocalization and contraction, the following rules may be laid down:

(a) With a short homogeneous vowel ו‎ and י‎ are contracted into the corresponding long vowel (û or î), see above, b.

(b) With short ă they form the diphthongs ô and ê according to §7a, e.g. מֵיטִיב‎ from מַיְטִיב‎; יוֹשִׁיב‎ from יַוְשִׁיב‎, &c.[3]

Rem. The rejection of the half vowels ו‎ and י‎ (see above, b) occurs especially at the end of words after a heterogeneous vowel (ă), if according to the nature of the form the contraction appears impossible. So especially in verbs ל״ה‎, e.g. originally גָּלַי‎=גָּלַ(י)‎=גָּלָה‎, since ă after the rejection of the י‎ stands in an open syllable, and consequently must be lengthened to ā. The ה‎ is simply an orthographic sign of the long vowel. So also שָׁלָה‎ for šālaw. [4] On the origin of יִגְלֶה‎, see §75e; on קָם‎ as perf. and part. of קוּם‎, see §72b and g; on יֵלֵד‎, &c., from ולד‎, see §69b.—On the weakening of ו‎ and י‎ to א‎, see §93x.

  1. Or as consonantal vowels (see above), and are then transcribed by P. Haupt, Philippi, and others, as , , following the practice of Indogermanic philologists. וּ‎ for וְ‎ and, alone is a standing exception, see § 26. 1 and §104e. On י‎=i at the beginning of a word, cf. §47b, note. According to §19a, end, initial ו‎ in Hebrew almost always becomes י‎; always in verbs originally פ״ו‎, §69a. Apart from a few proper names, initial ו‎ occurs only in וָו‎ hook, וָלָד‎ child Genesis 11:30, 2 Samuel 6:23 Kethîbh [elsewhere יֶ֫לֶד‎], and the doubtful וָזָד‎ Proverbs 21:8.
  2. According to Abulwalid, Ben-Naphtali regarded the Yodh in all such cases as a vowel letter.
  3. Instances in which no contraction takes place after ă are, מַיְמִינִים‎ 1 Chronicles 12:2; אַיְסִירֵם‎ Hosea 7:12 (but cf. §70b); הַיְשַׁר‎ Psalms 5:9 Qe; the locatives בַּ֫יְתָה‎, מִצְרַ֫יְמָה‎, &c.—On the suffix ־ָ֫ יְכִי‎ for ־ָ֫ יִךְ‎ see §91l.—Sometimes both forms are found, as עַוְלָה‎ and עוֹלָה‎; cf. חַי‎ living, constr. state חֵי‎. Analogous is the contraction of מָ֫וֶת‎ (ground-form mawt) death, constr. מוֹת‎; עַ֫יִן‎ (ground-form ʿayn [ʿain]) eye, constr. עֵין‎.
  4. The Arabic, in such cases, often writes etymologically גַּלַי‎, but pronounces galā. So the LXX סִינַי‎ Σινᾶ, Vulg. Sina; cf. Nestle, ZAW. 1905, p. 362 f. But even in Arabic שלא‎ is written for שָׁלַו‎ and pronounced salā.
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