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I come from Christianity.SE, where I asked almost the same question. Isaac Moses assured me that the question would not be disrespectful and could be asked here.


God's name is written as the Tetragrammaton יהוה‎ (YHWH) in the Torah. The name is not vocalized in the manuscripts and I know it's considered ineffable by Jews and thus not said aloud. For that reason, the original pronunciation hasn't been preserved (as far as I know).

Christians commonly suggest the pronunciations Yahweh and Jehovah (which should of course be pronounced like "Yehovah"). Long ago I heard it claimed that the vocalization Jehovah is based on a misunderstanding, but I don't remember the reasoning.

What is the probable original vocalization?

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The misunderstanding you refer to might be that thw vowels of word adonai were combined with the consonants of the Tetragrammaton, that produced the word you mention. –  jona21 Sep 2 '11 at 10:44
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@Jona, That plus the "j" in German would sound like a "y", but when English speakers read it, they pronounce it like, well, a "j". –  Ray Sep 2 '11 at 13:06
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@Jona21: The vowels found in many printed books today are those of the word "l'olam". –  Chanoch Aug 28 '12 at 12:52
    
"Jehovah" was a term invented, or at least first used, by the Spanish monk Raymundus Martini in his book Pugeo Fidei in the year 1270 A.D. –  user3418 Oct 24 '13 at 15:17
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3 Answers

Once I read an article that suggested a word that sounded like if only consisted of vowels. I'm not familiar with the standart pronounciation notation, so I can only write it in "pseudo code" based on English: ee[eagle]-aa[artist]-uu[without first j sound]-ehh[enter]

Unfortunately I can't remember the author and the title of the article, so it is just a note, not a real answer.

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jona21, welcome to judaism.stackexchange.com, and thanks for the information. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. It might help if you could give any bibliographic information you do remember about the article, such as the name of the periodical it appeared in. –  msh210 Sep 2 '11 at 14:34
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Based on the verse in the Torah which says "I will be that which I will be" (אהיה אשר אהיה), it can be assumed that YKVK is a combination of the words 'Will be, is, was' (יהיה Yihiyeh, Hoveh הווה, haya היה) The best guess, as to its pronunciation would be taking each of the vowels from those words and transplanting it onto the letters in the name that correspond with that. I will leave it up to the discretion of the read to see how that works, in case I am correct.

Josephus writes, that the name was composed of 4 vowels and no consonant sounds.

How it was pronounced back then may also have no relation to how we would pronounce it today. How we pronounce letters today has likely shaped and morphed over time, based on the surrounding cultures that Jews found themselves. Thus Jews from Morocco or Yemen pronounce Hebrew very differently than Jews from Iraq or Iran, who pronounce things very differently than Jews from Germany or Europe, and there is a divide as well there between Eastern and western Europe. The difference in pronunciations shows itself mostly in vowels.

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I don't know why the "best guess" is that the pronunciation is a combination of those words. And a citation to Josephus would be nice. +1 for the last paragraph: good point. –  msh210 Sep 4 '11 at 15:14
    
Because Moshe asks Gd what his name is, and that is what he answers. And the Torah uses the Elokim before the answer, and YKVK as the source of the answer, and then goes back to using Elokim. –  avi Sep 4 '11 at 15:23
    
it has an invisible dagesh :) Thats for spotting that. –  avi Sep 13 '11 at 18:28
    
@SethJ, hove has no dagesh in the vav, much as boche ("cries") has no dagesh in the chaf (even when spelled without a vav). –  msh210 Sep 14 '11 at 4:54
    
And since Avi has corrected his spelling, I'm deleting my earlier comment. –  Seth J Sep 14 '11 at 14:09
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In this recent blog post, Rabbi Ari Enkin paraphrases Israel Rubin in "The How & Why of Jewish Prayer" explaining that the correct pronunciation of the Tetrargrammaton was lost during the Second Temple Period.

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Is it really lost in a sense that no body really knows it? –  Jim Thio Oct 9 '13 at 12:39
    
I've heard Jews stop using God's name after the writing of septuagint. So we can still recover this very important name from septuagint. But then again, the greek may not be the best transliterator. –  Jim Thio Oct 9 '13 at 12:39
    
@JimThio, nobody is really worried about it. When Eliyahu comes back to proclaim the arrival of Mashiah, he ought to be able to teach us the correct pronunciation; he's heard it in use. –  Seth J Oct 24 '13 at 15:22
    
Eliyahu comes back? Man that guy has been gone for like 2500 years.... Is this reincarnation thingy? –  Jim Thio Oct 24 '13 at 17:20
    
It's not lost the shomoronim still say it n if a teimoni would read it l, he would say it right as well. –  MoriDoweedhYaa3gob Oct 24 '13 at 18:18
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