If you know a bit of Hebrew, you probably know the Hebrew equivalent of the English definite article, the. It's הַ (hah), and at times הָ (also "hah", but pronounced a bit differently by some speakers) or הֶ (heh).
What you may not have noticed is that almost always in the letter following the ה prefix is a dot of emphasis - a דָּגֵש (dah-GESH). Take the word, הַתִּקְוָה (hah-teek-VAH - the hope) for example - look at the dot in the ת. Some speakers will actually accentuate the ת sound.
Well, once upon a time in pre-Torah Hebrew (think Abraham), the Hebrew definite article likely had a consonant as part of its unit - probably either הַנ (hahn) or הַל (hahl). As Hebrew pronunciation developed, the n or l sound dropped, but was preserved partially by strengthening the pronunciation of the following consonant - which, in writing, is represented by the דגש (dot of emphasis).
|The Hebrew letter ה (heh) in four fonts (from right to left):|
Modern Hebrew block, Modern Hebrew handwriting,
Torah scroll writing, "Rashi" script
In Arabic, a sister language to Hebrew, this phenomenon is preserved quite well. Take, for example, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, القدس (ahl-KOODS). It means literally, the holy (never mind that Jerusalem is hardly referred to in Muslim holy writings... but politics are politics). The ال (ahl) particle corresponds to the Hebrew הַ (hah).
If you've got what to add to this post... feel free to comment