Matres Lectionis

Matres Lectionis

 

in consonantal writing, the consonants (w, j, and in some writing systems the laryngeals ’ or h) used to indicate the presence of vowels (primarily long vowels) in order to ensure the correct reading of a text which, if written without the indication of vowel sounds, would often be ambiguous.

The matres lectionis are found in Ugaritic, Moabite, and Phoenician writing, but are used widely only in the writing systems of Hebrew, Aramaic, Syrian, and Arabic. The letter j indicates the presence of ī, ē (and even ā); w indicates ū, ō the laryngeal’ and final h—the presence of ă and other long vowels. In later alphabets (Mandaean, Avestan), the matres lectionis regularly denote all vowels; that is, they are transformed into vowel letters. In the Greek language, the letters used to indicate vowels originated from the matres lectionis; for example, I from j; v from w; A from ’; E from h; O from ‘; H (ē) from h. The vowels of Latin, Cyrillic, and many other alphabets can be traced to the matres lectionis.

REFERENCES

Diringer, D. Alfavit. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Jensen, H. Die Schrift. Berlin, 1969.
References in periodicals archive ?
The earliest phase of Sabaic displays a very limited use of matres lectionis compared to other south Arabian languages.
95-97), which Stein reconstructs on the basis of plural terminations (marked by matres lectionis w [nominative] and y [non-nominative]), which regularly take the substantive bn.
Crucial to understanding the grammar of epigraphic Hebrew is the analysis of the use and absence of matres lectionis.