schwas were vocal
Masoretes worked to accurately preserve the synchronic phonetics. They created
plenty of signs to mark minute differences in articulation. If the two types of
schwa were pronounced differently, Masoretes would have denoted them with
different signs. At the Masoretes’ time, all schwas were pronounced similarly.
was that sound? The Masoretes marked absence of dagesh with rofeh, and,
theoretically, they could have denoted absence of sound with schwa. The attested
phenomenon of vocal schwa argues against that scenario: vocalization of silent
schwa is unlikely. On the contrary, even vocal schwa tends to lose its sound.
Masoretes also differentiated schwa from the shortest vowels, like segol and
hatefs. Specifically, hatefs cover all range of the very short vowels. That
Masoretes differentiated schwa from hatefs suggests that the schwa was not a
schwa was plausibly pronounced as apostrophe or [u]. Earlier, schwas were more
distinct (Rebekkah, Esebon in the LXX).
Hebrew words had CV structure. Each consonant is followed by vowel or the trace
of vowel’s reduction, schwa. All schwas are reduced vowels. Only long [a]-based
vowels are reduced to schwa: kamatz, tzere (ae), and holam (au).
schwas lose their sound to accented vowel, and become silent (hit’lA.bbesh –
Pro-pre-tonic schwas do not lose their sound to faraway accented vowel, and long
remained vocal. Germanized pronunciation, accustomed to consonantal clusters in
unaccented syllables, made pro-pre-tonic schwas silent (d’varO - dvarO). The
schwas semi-stressed for syntactical reasons (b(E)milOn), remained vocal. Schwas
also remained vocal to avoid unpleasant clusters: Jetro – Iothor, Calneh
schwa in 2fs FT (tict’vi) remained vocal to avoid long cluster (*tictvi).
Pre-tonic position being unnatural for vocal schwa, its sound practically
elongated into full vowel (tictevi).
epenthesis (h’t’labesh – hitlabesh; c’t’vei – citvei; n’c’tev
– nictav) appropriated the second schwa’s breath for hirek, and additionally
silenced the schwas.
schwa under final tav in 2fs verb suffix might be a reduction of the unstressed
final vowel a (catAvta – catavt’). That schwa might be added specifically
for chanting because the tav-cluster (catavt) is impossible to sing.
The schwa under khaf final might reflect an epenthetic sound. The five sophit consonants are written differently because they sounded differently from their non-final counterparts. By the time of the Masoretes, only khaf sophit retained that peculiar pronunciation [c’].
Vocal schwa after prepositions is distinct for the syntactical reason. Vocal schwa clearly distinguishes preposition from the word.
Every non-final consonant is followed by vowel or schwa. All schwas were vocal. Pre-tonic schwas became silent.
Accented syllables pull the adjacent consonants, and squeeze the pre-tonic