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). Note that this long "I" vowel is sound you hear American southerners make when they say the words like "pie" or "bye", i.e. without the diphthong glide at the end. It is a pure vowel. 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.

Two Vowel Assignments