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Thread: Where Did The WAW Come From?

  1. #1
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    Default Where Did The WAW Come From?

    An Israeli friend of mine visted me yesterday and we spent a good deal of time in front of the computer where we compared notes about we do here compared to what they do there, etc., and of course I showed him BibleWorks. Anyway, to make a long storty short, I mentioned of the cuff that "some" Anglo's call it a "waw" instead of a vav, and he immediately asked, what's a "waw", for the fact is, neither I nor he have ever heard ANYBODY pronounce a vav as a waw in ANY form of legitimate spoken Hebrew.

    Perhaps we've both missed something, but seeing as how he lives there and is a native...

    In any case, I explained to him that Anglo's sometimes pronounce it as "waw" and he, of course, like me, just shook his head.

    So does anybody know where the "waw" actually came from? I know what it's supposed to represent, but what I mean is, does anybody know where it actually originated? Or in other words, who started calling it a "waw" instead of a "vav"?

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    I don't know where, but going to school with people who don't know German, it's easy to see how waw becomes "wow" because they don't pronounce it with a German tongue.
    Michael Hanel
    PhD candidate Classics Univ. of Cincinnati
    MDiv Concordia Seminary
    MA Classics Washington University
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    I was always taught that the variance was determined by development in the accents/pronunciation over time as the Jewish people were dispersed, and the exact pronunciation depended upon which group one learned their Hebrew from.

    Gesenius' grammar (6b) suggests the same thing:

    "The pronunciation of Hebrew by the modern German Jews, which partly resembles the Syriac . . . differs considerably from that of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, which approaches nearer the Arablic. The pronunciation of Hebrew by Christians follows the latter . . . in almost all cases".
    For what it is worth, Wikipedia says:

    In most Semitic languages it represents the sound [w], and in some (such as Hebrew and Arabic) also the long vowel [], depending on context.
    In Modern Hebrew, the consonantal pronunciation is [v] or [β], a pattern shared by certain non-Semitic languages using the Arabic alphabet such as Persian and Urdu.
    It appears that the suggestion of this particular author (before revisions a man named Dan Pelleg) is that "w" is the more ancient pronunciation while "v" is the more modern.


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    I was actually thinking that Yiddish might have had something to do with because of the German flavor, but regardless of where it came from, I do think it is strange that some people continue to employ it since, as far as I know, no Hebrew speaker would ever use it, especially in a biblical sense.

    Now that I've said that, I'm sure somebody will come out of the woodwork and point out the one exception!

    But at least I'm in good company... no Israeli I know has ever heard of it either. Notice I said, no Israel "I know", not no Israeli period.

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    Gentlemen, it is, as one poster suggested, influenced by the German scholars. There is no "v" sound in German. Hence, "vav" became "waw." Neither Hebrew nor Yiddish have a "w" sound; the letter is "vav" in both languages and makes the "v" sound. (That despite the fact that Yiddish is heavily influenced by German.)

    I can't believe I missed this thread till now, but, alas, I have been away much of late.

    Irving

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    Quote Originally Posted by ISalzman View Post
    There is no "v" sound in German.
    Actually, the "w" in German is pronounced as a "v", such as if you say, "I want something" in German it would be spelled "Ich will etwas", but it would sound "Ich Vill etwas".

    I don't know about Yiddish hardly at all. My friend tells me there's whole neighborhoods over there that still speak Yiddish instead of Hebrew.

    But precisely because there is no "w" sound in Hebrew is why he raised the question. One of a number of questions he raised regarding Anglo Hebrew scholarship, actually.

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    Actually, you may have made me figure it out Irving...

    The Germans pronounce the "w" as a "v" and so when they spelled it they may have written it with a "w" because they knew it was pronounced as a "v". But then the British and the Americans came along, and when they saw it spelled with a "w", and not knowing that the Germans pronounced it as a "v", they instead pronounced it the Anglo way, i.e., as a "w", and hence the "waw".

    Now that, as they say, is a darn good yarn!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adelphos View Post
    Actually, you may have made me figure it out Irving...

    The Germans pronounce the "w" as a "v" and so when they spelled it they may have written it with a "w" because they knew it was pronounced as a "v". But then the British and the Americans came along, and when they saw it spelled with a "w", and not knowing that the Germans pronounced it as a "v", they instead pronounced it the Anglo way, i.e., as a "w", and hence the "waw".

    Now that, as they say, is a darn good yarn!
    I'll have to work on my communication skills, but I thought that's what I said in my 1st reply to you
    Michael Hanel
    PhD candidate Classics Univ. of Cincinnati
    MDiv Concordia Seminary
    MA Classics Washington University
    Unofficial BibleWorks Blog
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hanel View Post
    I'll have to work on my communication skills, but I thought that's what I said in my 1st reply to you
    Either that, or I'lll have to work on my comprehension skills.

    Actually, I thought you were on to something when you made your first reply, but I didn't know how you were applying it.

    I think we're proabably all agreed that the Germans have something to do with it, and that the Brits and the Americano's probably ran with what the Germans produced without knowing the whole scheme.

    And if you were in fact asserting what I just posited, which I see now can be deduced from your statement, then I think that is probably the most plausible explanation.

    And to tell you the truth, the pronunciation of "waw", as utterly insignificant and irrelevant an issue as it is, has nevertheless irritated me for years. I've had to bite my tongue numerous times whenever I've heard it or read it.

    So when my friend was likewise confused about it, well, that gave me all the license I needed to start a new thread!

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    Well I don't have an Israeli or Yiddish background, but I'm fairly well versed in German and I know that a lot of terminology in Hebrew grammars is pulled from German grammars (e.g. the Piel being referred to as the D-stem (Doppelstamm). And I also know that most kids in classes,when they came to "waw," didn't understand that it came from German as well and just called it "wow" rather than "vav".
    Michael Hanel
    PhD candidate Classics Univ. of Cincinnati
    MDiv Concordia Seminary
    MA Classics Washington University
    Unofficial BibleWorks Blog
    LibraryThing!

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