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Waw to Vav: Greek and Aramaic Contact as an Explanation for the Development of the Labio-dental [v] from the Labio-velar [w] in Biblical Hebrew

Benjamin Kantor, Geoffrey Khan

Pages 27 - 55


Summary: In ancient times, the Hebrew consonant ו waw was originally pronounced as a labio-velar [w]. According to the medieval grammarians, however, the regular realization of this consonant in Tiberian Hebrew was as a labio-dental [v]. Therefore, at some point in the history of Hebrew, the pronunciation of ו waw changed from [w] to [v]. In this paper, we will argue (i) that this development (i. e., [w] → [v]) occurred during the Roman and/or Byzantine period(s) as a result of language contact with Greek and (ii) that pronouncing Hebrew waw as [v] is characteristic of the Palestinian origins of the Tiberian tradition.


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