“Vav” Or “Waw”?
There are scholars who teach that because Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic languages the Hebrew letter ו vav must have been pronounced [w] in ancient Hebrew, as it was in Arabic, instead of [v]. Although, it is true that both languages are closely related they are not identical and letters from one do not vocalize the same way in the other.
It is also true that vav is vocalized by the Jews in most Arabic-speaking communities as the semivowel [w]; but in some communities of Syria and Egypt, as well as in northwest Morocco, it is vocalized as [v] and in the communities of northeast Morocco the vocalization [w] has the variant [v].
In the Aramaic-speaking communities the same letter is vocalized as [w] while in the Persian-speaking communities the realization is identical to that of soft ב [v]. In all Ashkenazi communities Jews vocalize vav as [v]. Therefore, we can notice that all realizations of vav as [w] come from Arabic influence.
So, can we be sure as to how to vocalize the Hebrew letter vav? What does the Hebrew text of the Tanak say regarding this matter?
There is a peculiar occurrence of a Hebrew word which can spelled in two different ways. This is the word גּו gav, and means “back” as of a human being; it is a noun masculine. It comes from the verb גּאה ga’ah, to rise up, grow up, to be lifted up, be raised up, be exalted, as one becomes or appears high or tall by rising his back. גּו gav has total of eight occurrences in the Tanak in 1Ki_14:9, Pro_10:13, Pro_19:29, Pro_26:3, Isa_38:17, Isa_50:6, Eze_23:35, Neh_9:26.
גּו corresponds to another Hebrew word גּב gav with the same meaning. Actually, this is the same word but spelled with letter bet instead of vav. It is a noun masculine or feminine with occurrence only in Dan_7:6. Both spellings of the word gav are interchangeable since they have the same meaning. From the spellings of gav we see that the vocalizations of vav and bet are also interchangeable.
Hence, we may conclude that letter vav is vocalized in Hebrew only as [v] since letter bet always vocalizes as either [b] or soft [v], but never [w].
It is not in the scope of this article to prove that all languages are corrupted but one: Hebrew. After the confusion of the languages at the tower of Bavel, Hebrew has been preserved as the pure language of Creation. But, before Bavel the entire mankind at that time spoke one language, Hebrew which when traced back leads to the language spoken by Adam. This is the language of Creation; this is the language spoken by the Creator when He literally spoke out the words and the things came into existence.
How do we know that Hebrew was the language of Creation and all other languages had been corrupted? The answer is simple. All Biblical names starting with Adam through the line of Shem son of Noach have meanings in Hebrew. All other names after the confusion of the languages at Bavel through the lines of Yaphet and Ham sons of Noach have no meanings in Hebrew.
The cousin languages of Hebrew such as Arabic, Aramaic, Acadian and others are corrupted versions of Hebrew, not the other way around as some scholars teach. Therefore, the correct pronunciation of the Hebrew letter vav is [v], not [w] as in Arabic. The influence of the Arabic language into Hebrew brought in by the Arabic speaking Jewish communities has made the confusion that the Hebrew letter vav is vocalised as [w].
For the importance of the correct vocalization of ו vav in the Creator’s distinctive Name read article The Hebrew Yehovah vs. the Roman Yahweh.