(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 23:50:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Source For Articulation Of Hebrew Consonants

Michael Hamm in Bais Medrash Volume 1 Number 86 asks for sources about
letters that sound alike.  A classic source is of course th Radack's or Ibn
Ezra's books on grammar.  But if you want some more accessible sources you
can simply browse thru the Metzudoth on Neviim Acharonim...they bring up
groups of similar letters frequently.  For example Metzudath Tzion on
Is9:4 explains SAON to mean the same as SHAON (The principle used was that
SAMECH and SHIN sound alike) Similarly on Is 10:13 Metzudath Tzion says
that ShoShaThi means the same as ShoSaTi (Because the SHIN and SAMECH
interchange).  Almost all Rishonim--Rashi, Radack, Ibn Ezra--use this
principle. It was also a favorite of Rav Hirsch.

The official list of similar letters is as follows: To explain this list
try saying the sound "B" or "M" or "P". In each case you must close your
two lips. Hence these letters are called the LIBIAL letters (LIBIAL from LIPS)


=====    =======         ===================
LIBIAL   Beth,Mem,Pay    The 2 LIPS are placed together (Try saying B,m,P)
DENTAL   Dalet,Tav.Tet   Tongue is placed against the back of TEETH
GUTURAL  Aleph,Hey,Cheth
         Ayin(Resh?)     Sound comes from the throat
PALATAL  Gimel,Caph,Kuf  Tongue is placed on the PALATE of the mouth
SILIBANT Zayin,Samech,   They are all formed by a HISSING sound
         Sin, Shin,Tzade

The letters Lamed, Mem, Nun, Resh sometimes get dual classifications.

The way the above table is used is that you are justified in doing the

If you see a root whose meaning you do not know and when exchanging one of
the letters for a similar sounding letter than the resulting root has a
known meaning AND it fits well into the verse then you are justified in
suggesting that that is the meaning

As I suggested earlier the best way to learn this principle is, in my
opinion, not to go thru technical grammar books, but rather to use the
Metzudoth regularly.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA;