Monday, July 13, 2009
When a Rav is a Raf.
I always find possible pronunciation cues that are found in transliterations from one language to another interesting. Now to draw too much from this, but I did spot something interesting. This bit is from a book called "Kabbalah Disrobed" (by Christian von Rosenroth, 1648). This book is a Latin translation of parts of the Zohar.
As you can see, it is one of those שלשלת הקבלה lists. What I find interesting is that he transliterates רב as Raf, while in other uses of the letter ב we find bh or bb or b, such as Akibha, Abbaja, Ukba, Rabina. Barring the question of how f sounded to this writer, this suggests to me that for the familiar term, namely רב, he used a familiar pronunciation. For the names, he simply transcribed the letters according to whether it had a dagesh or not.
It's probably a German thing. Here's a bit from a 1772 book from Olav Gerhard Tychsen (who was involved in the early/ late burial dispute of the time):
And to show that such transliteration was by no means universal, here is a sample from a book by Jacob Trigland:
I have, incidentally, seen mid-19th century American synagogue literature (contracts and the like) which spelled it Rauf.
Edit: As above, see below: