Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


A neglected phonetic law: The assimilation of pretonic yod to a following coronal in North-West Semitic1

Romain Garniera1 and Guillaume Jacquesa2

a1 Université de Limoges

a2 CNRS (Paris)


This paper shows the existence of a pretonic assimilation of *y to a following coronal consonant (including *y from proto-Semitic *y and *w) in North-West Semitic languages. This rule, which has been obscured by analogy in each of the North-West Semitic languages, explains three independent sets of facts: the formation of irregular maqtal-s in Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic; the irregular conjugations of several verbs in Hebrew; and the plural formation of the irregular noun “house” in Hebrew and Aramaic. This proposal also solves the long-standing problem of the etymology of the verb “to give” in North-West Semitic languages (NTN in Hebrew vs. YTN in Phoenician).


  • Gemination;
  • Assimilation;
  • Coronal consonant;
  • Hebrew;
  • Phoenician;
  • Aramaic


1 We wish to thank Nathan Hill, Benjamin Sass as well as two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and corrections.