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Thread: Where Did The WAW Come From?

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  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
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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
    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"?
    This is a distiction based on ancient pronunciations verses modern pronunciations. Scholars can reconstruct ancient pronunciations by looking at ancient transliterations of a word. In the case of the vav, ancient transliterations of its consonantal form usually reflect a "w" sound or occasionally a "z" sound. Most often transliterations are found by looking at people or place names. One such example for the vav can be found in numbers 31:8, in the name Evi. The Greek LXX transliteration of this name has a strong "w" sound from the diphthong used in transliteration.

    I am not sure exactly when the consonantal sound changed but it was being transliterated with a "v" sound by the 11th century AD. Influences of Yiddish, as some have suggested, might be possible but I think it would be unlikely because Yiddish did not originate until the 10th century AD. I think it would be unlikely that Yiddish would have such wide influences that quickly.

    Note: My Hebrew teacher, who was both Israeli and Jewish, was well aware of this issue. This is not, as someone suggested, something only found in Evangelical scholarship. However, it is more prevalent in Evangelical schools because they often teach biblical pronunciations rather than modern pronunciations; this is something I have always thought was foolish because the modern pronunciations are so similar and do not affect the meaning of the words at all.
    Last edited by benelchi; 11-26-2011 at 02:35 PM.

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    I am well aware of the attempts to reconstruct the Hebrew, both textually and with regard to pronunciation, from the LXX, but doing that is foolish and an exercise in futility. I've explored that portion of the argument thoroughly, and though I have no intention of getting into it, the LXX can no more tell us about the Hebrew text than it can tell us about rocks on Mars.

    In fact, I have already demonstrated from Matthew 1:1 -- the first verse in the NT -- that the LXX is corrupt throuogh and through, that the Traditional Text followed the earlier pronouncition of the vav as a "V" in its spelling of the name David, and that that is only one instance of a gazillion instances that can be brought forward to show that the Traditional Hebrew Text of the OT and the Traditional Text of the NT is far older and superior to the LXX and the Critical Text.

    But I pass on further elaboration. Nobody who hasn't already seen it will be persuaded by anything I could say here.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adelphos View Post
    I am well aware of the attempts to reconstruct the Hebrew, both textually and with regard to pronunciation, from the LXX, but doing that is foolish and an exercise in futility. I've explored that portion of the argument thoroughly, and though I have no intention of getting into it, the LXX can no more tell us about the Hebrew text than it can tell us about rocks on Mars.

    In fact, I have already demonstrated from Matthew 1:1 -- the first verse in the NT -- that the LXX is corrupt throuogh and through, that the Traditional Text followed the earlier pronouncition of the vav as a "V" in its spelling of the name David, and that that is only one instance of a gazillion instances that can be brought forward to show that the Traditional Hebrew Text of the OT and the Traditional Text of the NT is far older and superior to the LXX and the Critical Text.

    But I pass on further elaboration. Nobody who hasn't already seen it will be persuaded by anything I could say here.
    I don't know how Mt. 1:1 supports in any way that the vav was pronounced as a 'v' in antiquity. The spelling of David (Δαυιδ) in Mat. 1:1 is identical to the spelling of David in the LXX and the spelling has the same diphthong'ed "w" sound one would expect in antiquity. Additionally, this is not an argument made only by evaluating the transliterations of the LXX but by looking at the transliterations in a number of different languages. I would be curious to see what evidence there was for a "v" pronunciation in antiquity. Especially in 2nd century BC or earlier literature. I would also be interested to see any scholarly support for such a pronunciation.

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