Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pinchas or Pinechas?

The title of the parsha is Pinchas. Pinchas is pronounced pi-ne-chas. That is, there is a sheva-na under the nun. This is because פינחס has a yud after the peh, which means that the chirik under the yud is a chirik maleh, which is a long vowel, and a sheva after an unstressed long vowel is a sheva na.

However, the standard way of writing it in the Talmud Bavli is פנחס, without the yud. (This would connote a pronunciation of "Pinchas" without a sheva na.) It occurs 81 times without the yud, and only 13 times with the yud. Of the 13 times, 2 are a Rav Pinechas, who cites Rava. The others are the Biblical Pinchas.

In Targum Onkelos, as well, we have Pinechas written with a yud, thus a chirik maleh.

However, in our texts, where Pinchas occurs in our parsha, that is, in the second pasuk, from which the parsha gets its name, the yud is small. And apparently the Zohar also makes note of the fact that the yud is small.

Perhaps we should interpret the small yud as if it is not present, just as midrashim do for the small aleph of Vayikra and the small kaf of velivkotah. That is, as a krei and ketiv, such that although the yud is written there, we should pronounce this Pinechas as Pinchas. (Or perhaps not, as I don't know of this listed as a krei and ketiv.)

Indeed, in Targum Yonatan, while the Pinechas in the previous parsha was written maleh yud, with a yud present, in this parsha, in translating the second pasuk, there is no yud present, such that in Targum at least it would be pronounced Pinchas.

Also noteworthy is the English name equivalent of Pinchas: Phineas (pronounced Fihn-ee-iss). I don't know the source the the "ee" sound. It is possible it is the sheva na, but I wonder if the guttural chet has something to do with it.


yitz said...

do the same laws of sheva na etc. apply in aramaic?? it is after all a different language.. i don't think yiddish (which is also written with hebrew letters) follows the same rules of nikud and pronunciation as hebrew for example..

i guess the question is, is the rules of pronunciation and nikud tied to the script or to the language ?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

This post highlights a problem with the nekkudot: they were somewhat artificially imposed--in the sense that while the way to read scripture correctly might be fixed, the way to read a language can't. A simple example is the name דוד, which is spelled as such in the earlier books but as דויד in the latter ones. According to the nikkud (ignoring the actual value of the consonants) the former is Dovid and the latter is Doveed. That might work, as I said, for reading scripture in a fixed way--but we can rest assured that the name is actually just דוד. Adding a י to aid in pronunciation, which is why it is maleh in the later books, doesn't change the actual name, as opposed to how it is to be read according to the rules.

yitz said...

@Mr. Fred

Why presume that it was always Dovid and not Doveed?

Why would they add a letter that obfuscated the correct pronunciation?

is it accepted that the reality is the written and the spoken is of lesser importance? I would have thought it the other way around. "Write it however you like, but we all know how it is pronounced" (take feminists' 'y' name spellings, or african american reinventions of names based on the way they're pronounced)

joshwaxman said...

true, it could be different phonological rules for Aramaic. But from what I recall from various Aramaic courses I took (Biblical and Galilean), the rule of sheva na vs. nach after long vowels still applies. But I may be recalling incorrectly.

We could also check sefer Daniel and Ezra to see what rules are in play by checking features such as presence of dagesh kal in beged kefet after what should be a sheva nach, and for presence of meteg, etc.

I have more to comment, but not the time at present. perhaps more later.

joshwaxman said...

oh, yes. Yiddish is a good example, but it is more a consistent *transliteration* of a Germanic language, while both Hebrew and Aramaic are Semitic languages, so we might expect a more consistent applied rule across the two of them.

more later.

joshwaxman said...

directed towards both commenters:
I think was Mississipi is saying is that the yud is an Em haKeria, assisting in reading, and assumptions about regularization of spelling and that presence of yud would indicate a changed vowel, is not certain, and, he would say, dubious.

thus, they are not adding a letter which would obfuscate the correct pronunciation but rather spell it maleh in order to make clearer that it is a chirik in Pinchas and his name is not *Panchas*. And masoretic rules are artificial, imposed systematically after the fact.

Certainly possible.

In terms of David, I should point out that some grammarians claim there is no distinction between the pronunciation of chirik maleh and chirik chaser, such that both spellings would indicate David. (And tzitzit.) As I've posted in the past, Dr. David Segal, an expert baal koreh in KGH, says this and also that unless there is a meteg, a chirik maleh does not necessarily indicate a sheva na either.

However, to bolster the point about Pinchas vs. Pinechas, I would point out that one is primarily Biblical pronunciation while the other is Rabbinic pronunciation. And we have precedent for such a shift. Biblical Nachum vs. Mishnaic Nachum (in vocalized texts). Biblical Nachum has a patach, while Mishnaic Nachum has a kametz.

joshwaxman said...

also, note my latest post..


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