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 ?
uses very few matres lectionis (consonants that mark vowel sounds), whereas all biblical texts, even those considered archaic, exhibit degrees of plene spelling that, while varying in their fullness, are unknown in extra-biblical Hebrew sources prior to the Second Temple Period.
It has been shown that, generally, words that might be written with matres lectionis when they occur without an affix are more likely to be written defectively when an affix is added.
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.
Since Rossell 1953 and Juusola 1999 did not treat the Moussaieff bowl texts, one cannot simply refer to them for the use of the vowel letters as matres lectionis (p.
Eventually, this practice was continued only for the final consonantal position (the so-called alif maqsura) and medial matres lectionis were read as though they were in fact "ya" consonants.
Crucial to understanding the grammar of epigraphic Hebrew is the analysis of the use and absence of matres lectionis.