Vulgate H's in Names
August 24, 2012 1:41 PM   Subscribe

In the Latin Vulgate, what is the story of the extra H's in proper names?

In numerous names as they appear in the Vulgate, there seems to be an 'h' prefaced to what, in the hebrew, is an Alef (glottal stop), e.g., 'Helkana' for 'Elkana'. This also happens in mid-word, e.g., 'Israhel' for 'Israel'. Why would this have been the case? Would you pronounce the 'H' when reading/discussing the text nowadays?
posted by Paquda to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some help possibly in this 1926 grammar of Vulgate Latin ( They discuss the transliteration of aleph in paragraph 11), and in paragraph 60 they note that manuscripts vary as to the h both at word-beginning and internally, though they choose to use Israhel.

One uninformed guess as to why you might use h: h is generally a sound on the way out in Latin from an early date, and it is occasionally used simply to mark hiatus (like a diaeresis mark), e.g. ahenus beside aenus (Sihler 1995: 159). You might use it in Israhel to show that the a and e are not the diphthong ae but are two different vowels. Obviously that doesn't explain your first example.

I have no idea how contemporary Vulgate readers might pronounce the sound.
posted by dd42 at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2012

Israhel, I think, was intended to force the rah as opposed to Israyel, as in contemporary American pronunciation. Numerous instantaneous of awkward transliteration were, similarly, meant to preserve Hebrew pronunciation -- to the extent possible. It didn't really work. Everything ends up with a Latin-esque pronunciation when you read the Vulgate, in my experience. Worse: Church Latin.
posted by driley at 12:53 AM on August 25, 2012

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