Speaking pure Hebrew without vowels

Here is a Jewish view of the Torah Scrolls.

“In looking at the scrolls themselves, the first thing we notice is that they are written in Hebrew without vowels and one’s Hebrew has to be very good in order to read them. The absence of vowels in the text is, I suspect, to safeguard the purity of this gift of God because in its original form Hebrew was a language spoken without vowels.”

With regard to the last clause, “in its original form Hebrew was a language spoken without vowels”:

I would imagine that any language spoken without vowels would not be a language at all, because all spoken languages, by definition, require the speaking of both consonants and vowels, even the p(u)r(e)st of all languages. Try it it yourself; try saying “pr drvl.”

The reason why the original Torah was not written with vowels was because the original writer/s (Moses, and/or others) and readers could understand the txt wtht vwls. So why write more than is necessary especially when the Hebrew vowels had to be written underneath the consonants, which botches up the neat linearity of its consonantal structure. The Gematrists might disagree and attach a more Kabbalistic reason for the absence of vowels, indeed for the absence of spaces between groups of letters in the Torah, which is the usual way words are written in other languages.

All languages begin spoken. So we have speaking before writing, where writing represents speaking. Well that’s the linguistic way of seeing it.

3 thoughts on “Speaking pure Hebrew without vowels

  1. You’re right; the absence of written vowelization in the Hebrew scriptures testifies to the existence of an oral tradition. Without the guidance of the oral tradtion, the meaning, even the pronunciation, of the Bible would be in great doubt.

    • I wondered where the Jew, Jacques Derrida, got his view of Writing as the backbone of speaking (in his “Of Grammatology); from the Zohar of course.
      The problem remains. I take it that Hebrew predates the Torah (as Babylon, the city) predates Babel (bilbool “confusion”).

      You are saying then that the oral Torah is required to understand the Hebrew that predates both the written and oral Torah. Conclusion: Hebrew prior to the oral Torah AND written was spoken in consonants. Consonants are all about teeth, lips, tongue and other buccal bits; vowels are about voice boxes. Now I get it; the oral Torah gives voice to the written Torah’s mouth.

      I’m Tongue-ti(r)ed.

  2. I have a Hebrew grammar book from 1818 that asserts that Aleph, Ayin, Vav, and He were the vowels, and that for all words lacking those a short a or e sound was used between consonants. In this system, Aleph = A, Ayin (renamed Oyin) = O, Vav = U, and He = E, all of these being only the Long vowels. The short vowels are supplied out of nowhere between consonants.

    Based on this system, he says the vowel points are completely unnecessary. “Elements of Hebrew Grammar….two modes, with or without points” 4th edition by Charles Wilson. The 1st edition was published in 1794. Its also available on google books: here.

    This might sound stupid at first, but I’ve gone through regular Hebrew Gammar books before and have always had trouble with the verbs, Hiphal and Hithpael and all that, until I read this book. Those verb changes make a lot more sense when you ignore how the vowel points are changing along with and only pay attention to the consonant changes.

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