Two Vowel Assignments

The personal name הושע (commonly pronounced Hosea) is represented in Akkadian cuneiform in the 8th century BCE as A-u-s-i-’i, with a long vowel [I] as the terminal syllable (see H. Tadmor, The Annals of Tiglath-Pileser III King of Assyria [Jerusalem, 1994]: 140-141).

The grapheme ה [h] at the beginning of this name was lost to the Assyrian scribe’s ear when he heard this name, just like the h in “hour” is lost in English. The Assyrian scribe was transliterating the name into Akkadian, but the long vowel [o] does not have its own sign in Akkadian so this vowel was represented in Akkadian by [u] contracting the diphthong [au], just as in as A-u-s-i-’i above. Hence the first syllable in this name is /Ho/ because the letter וֹ [w] is a matres lectionis O-vowel whenever it is not the first letter of a word.

The divine name of the Creator YHWH was repeatedly transcribed in 8th century BCE Akkadian inscriptions as Ia-u, i.e. Ya'o!

Another example is how Assyrians transliterated the name of the kingdom of YHWDH (Judah). They wrote Ia-u-dah in their own script. This proves the grapheme ה [h] is SILENT both in the name of the Creator YHWH and in the name YHWDH, i.e. Ya'ohdah. The vowels in both are long O (written) and short a (unwritten).

Thus the late Tiberian Masoretic vocalization הוֹשֵׁעַ as "Hoshea" is demonstrably incorrect. The correct pronunciation of הושע is "Hoshai" and the semi-consonant ע [gh] is always to be treated as a long vowel [I] in the medial or word-final position. This letter is only a fricative consonant when its the first letter of a word. Otherwise it is always a long I-vowel. It is never a short a-vowel or any other vowel before the Hellenistic period. The very late Masoretic vocalization system is therefore repudiated and a strict and consistent application of matres lectionis is to be reimposed.

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