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כָּל גֶּיא יִנָּשֵׂא

(In Isaiah 40:4, and therefore also the Haftarah for Nachamu, just after Tisha B'Av.)

It's a segol under the gimmel so I'd say "geh" ... but then there's a yud, but it's not vowelized. Is the yud truly silent, and therefore geh; or is it pronounced with the yud, and therefore "gay"?

(Yes I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with the word "gay" in English ...)

  • According to the "Chabad Baal Koreh" it is pronounced "gey". – Dani Jul 29 at 0:54
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    @Dani that's mistaken (or perhaps based on a different chassidic dialect of Hebrew vowels than the OP speaks; I haven't listened). It's just a plain segol with no pronounced yud, like in word עיניך from shema. – Double AA Jul 29 at 1:08
  • Drives me nuts when people pronounce the second yud in words like that. ("One man's i hachi is another's in hachi nami, which is our daas shotim.) – Shalom Jul 29 at 1:10
  • There's a video of a Teimani chacham going through the options ... but it assumes a Teimani system of pronunciation and thus leaves me befuddled. – Shalom Jul 29 at 1:11
  • @Shalom it's interesting you say that because this was actually a big debate in Yemen, some hundreds of years ago – Double AA Jul 29 at 1:15
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While I'm loathe to get involved with transliterations here, "geh" looks much closer to accurate to me than "gay".

The general rule in Tanakh is a letter is only pronounced if it has a vowel mark. The exception to that rule is if it is a sheva nach on the last letter of the word, where it is usually omitted as obvious.

In your case we have a use of a י as a mater lectionis to represent the segol vowel, like in other words עיניך אליך לפניך עליה תראינה. The י is not pronounced in any way. If it were pronounced, like in the word לילה, there would be a sheva mark under the י.

This is the only place in Tanakh where the segol vowel is written plene not as part of a suffix, so it does throw people off and many don't notice the difference with the more common conjugation גַּיְא or גֵּיא. (There are some variant manuscripts that do include a sheva under the י here, but they are a minority. The Aleppo Codex and related manuscripts do not include a sheva there.)

See this article by Adam Bin-Nun about an extensive debate in Yemen 100 years ago how to properly pronounce this word.

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  • According to the theory you’re advancing here, would that mean there is no difference in pronunciation of a chirik whether or not it is written with a yod? – Joel K Jul 29 at 15:36
  • @JoelK To the extent that such a difference would derive from a pronunciation of the letter yud as a consonant, that's entirely correct. To the extent that the mater lectionis י marks that the preceding chirik dot is a different vowel mark than you may have otherwise expected, there could be a difference, at least as far as this rule is concerned. – Double AA Jul 29 at 16:01
  • Other places letters without vowels aren't pronounced are the one ש in יששכר and ketiv forms generally speaking. – Double AA Jul 29 at 16:04

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