Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

By Jon D. Levenson | Go to book overview
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A Note on Transliteration from Hebrew

THIS IS A BOOK WRITTEN for both general and scholarly readers. Some of the general readers will have knowledge of Hebrew, and some will not. The former and perhaps even the latter will be interested on occasion in knowing the key Hebrew words that are the focus of discussions. Scholarly readers, or at least those in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies, will have the same interest. The goal, then, is to present Hebrew terms in a way that is accessible to both sets of readers. To do this, I have refrained from providing scientific transliteration, with all its diacritical marks that so confuse and frustrate the nonspecialist. I trust my fellow specialists will forgive my foray into accessible communication.

Alephs and ayins are used throughout the book. Neither consonant is pronounced in the Ashkenazic tradition or by large numbers of speakers of Modern Hebrew, perhaps most. For those with some knowledge of Hebrew, I simply note that aleph is rendered as but ayin as ‘. As for the consonant vav, which was once pronounced like the English w (hence, scholars sometimes call it waw), in this book it appears as a v, the way it is almost always pronounced in Modern Hebrew. That is also the way the letter bet sounds when it is aspirated and thus called vet, and so it, too, appears as v.

Two other consonants, also once distinguished, that today are generally pronounced identically, include kaf and qof. Here, following convention, the first is rendered as k and the second as q. Sometimes kaf is aspirated so that it sounds like the ch in the German Bach. When that is the case, many Jews (including many Israelis) today articulate it exactly as they do another letter, chet. To avoid confusion, I render chet as ch and the aspirated kaf (or khaf) as kh. The letters samekh and sin, similarly once but no longer distinguished in pronunciation, I render respectively, as s and as ś. Tet and tav, too, are now generally pronounced identically; the former appears with a

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