Hebrew alphabet

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Hebrew alphabet
Type Abjad (sometimes used as an alphabet)[citation needed]
Spoken languages Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic (see Jewish languages)
Time period 3rd century BCE to present
Parent systems
Sister systems Nabataean
Unicode range U+0590 to U+05FF,
U+FB1D to U+FB40
ISO 15924 Hebr
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
Note: This article contains special characters.

The Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet) (Alef Beis) (Hebrew: אָלֶף-בֵּית עִבְרִי‎,[1] alephbet ivri) consists of 22 letters used for writing the Hebrew language and, in mildly adapted forms, for writing several languages of the Jewish diaspora, most famously Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic (for a full and detailed list, see Jewish languages). Five of these letters have a different form when appearing as the last letter in a word. Hebrew is written from right to left.

The Hebrew word for "alphabet" is אלפבית (alephbet), named after the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph, Bet). The Hebrew alphabet is an abjad, having letters only for consonants, but means were later devised to indicate vowels by separate vowel points or niqqud. In rabbinic Hebrew, the consonant letters אהוי are used as matres lectionis to represent vowels.

The number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, their order, their names, and their phonetic values are virtually identical to those of the Aramaic alphabet, as both Hebrews and Arameans borrowed the Phoenician alphabet for their uses during the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.

According to contemporary scholars[2], the modern script used for writing Hebrew (usually called the Jewish script by scholars, and also traditionally known as the square script, block script, or Assyrian script — not to be confused with the Eastern variant of the Syriac alphabet) evolved during the 3rd century BCE from the Aramaic script, which had been used by Jews for writing Hebrew since the 6th century BCE, retaining the old script only for the Name of God. Prior to that, Hebrew was written using the old Hebrew script, which evolved during the 10th century BCE from the Phoenician script; the Samaritans still write Hebrew in a variant of this script for religious works (see Samaritan alphabet). For other opinions, see below.


[edit] History

Aleppo Codex: 10th century CE Hebrew Bible with Masoretic pointing. Text of Joshua 1:1

According to contemporary scholars, the original Hebrew script developed alongside others in the region during the course of the late second and first millennia BCE; it is closely related to the Phoenician script, which itself probably gave rise to the use of alphabetic writing in Greece (Greek). It is sometimes claimed that around the 10th century BCE [3] a distinct Hebrew variant, the original "Hebrew script", emerged, which was widely used in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah until they fell in the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, respectively. It is not straightforward, however, to distinguish Israelite/Judahite scripts from others which were in use in the immediate area, most notably by the Moabites and Ammonites.

Following the Babylonian exile, Jews gradually stopped using the Hebrew script, and instead adopted the Aramaic script (another offshoot of the same family of scripts). This script, as used for writing Hebrew, later evolved into the Jewish, or "square" script, that is still used today. Closely related scripts were in use all over the Middle East for several hundred years, but following the rise of Christianity (and later, the rise of Islam), they gave way to the Roman and Arabic alphabets, respectively.

The Hebrew alphabet was later adapted in order to write down the languages of the Jewish diaspora (Karaim, Judæo-Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, etc.). The Hebrew alphabet was retained as the alphabet used for writing down the Hebrew language during its rebirth in the 18th to 19th century.

[edit] Description

In its traditional usage in Hebrew (as opposed to Yiddish and to some extent modern Israeli Hebrew), the Hebrew alphabet is an abjad: vowels are normally not indicated. Where they are, it is because a weak consonant such as א aleph, ה hey, ו vav, or י yod has combined with a previous vowel and become silent, or by imitation of such cases in the spelling of other forms. When used to write Yiddish, all vowels are indicated, using certain letters, either with or without niqqud-diacritics (e.g., respectively: "אָ", "יִ" or "י", "ע", see Yiddish orthography), except for Hebrew words, which in Yiddish are written in their Hebrew spelling.

To preserve the proper vowel sounds, scholars developed several different sets of vocalisation and diacritical symbols called niqqud (ניקוד, literally "applying points"). One of these, the Tiberian system, eventually prevailed. Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, and his family for several generations, are credited for refining and maintaining the system. These points are normally used only for special purposes, such as Biblical books intended for study, in poetry or when teaching the language to children. The Tiberian system also includes a set of cantillation marks used to indicate how scriptural passages should be chanted, used in synagogue recitations of scripture (although these marks do not appear in the scrolls), called "trope". In everyday writing of modern Hebrew, niqqud are absent; however, patterns of how words are derived from Hebrew roots (called shoreshim, or triliteral roots) allow Hebrew speakers to determine the vowel-structure of a given word from its consonants based on the word's context and part of speech.

Both the old Hebrew script and the modern Hebrew script have only one case, but some letters have special final forms, called sofit (Heb. סופית, meaning in this case "final" or "ending") form, used only at the end of a word, somewhat as in the Arabic and Mandaic alphabets.[4] As can be seen in the tables given here, only five letters have a sofit form: ך → כ (kaph and khaph), ם → מ (mem), נ → ן (nun), ף → פ (pe and phe), ץ → צ (tsadi or tsade).[5]These are shown below the normal form, in the following table.

Alef Bet Gimel Dalet He Vav Zayin Het Tet Yod Kaf
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
Lamed Mem Nun Samekh Ayin Pe Tsadi Qof Resh Shin Tav
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
ם ן ף ץ

Note: The chart reads from right to left.

[edit] Pronunciation of letter names

See Hebrew phonology and Yiddish phonology for phonetic guides to the phonemic transcriptions.

letter Name of letter Established pronunciation
in English
standard Israeli
colloquial Israeli
pronunciation (if differing)
Yiddish / Ashkenazi
MW[6] Unicode
א Aleph Alef /ˈɑːlɛf/, /ˈɑːlɨf/ /ˈalef/   /ˈalɛf/
בּ Beth Bet /bɛθ/, /beɪt/ /bet/   /bɛɪs/
ב /vɛɪs/
ג Gimel Gimel /ˈgɪməl/ /ˈgimel/   /ˈgimːɛl/
ד Daleth Dalet /ˈdɑːlɨθ/, /ˈdɑːlɛt/ /ˈdalet/ /ˈdaled/ /ˈdalɛd/
ה He He /heɪ/ /he/ /hej/ /hɛɪ/
ו Waw Vav /vɑːv/ /vav/   /vov/, /vof/
ז Zayin Zayin /ˈzaɪ.ɨn/ /ˈzajin/ /ˈzain/ /ˈzajin/
ח Heth Het /hɛθ/, /xeɪt/ /ħet/ /χet/ / χɛs/
ט Teth Tet /tɛθ/, /teɪt/ /tet/   /tɛs/
י Yod Yod /jɔːd/ /jod/ /jud/ /jud/
כּ Kaph Kaf /kɑːf/ /kaf/   /kof/
כ /χof/
ך   Final Kaf   /kaf sofit/   /laŋɛ χof/
ל Lamed Lamed /ˈlɑːmɛd/ /ˈlamed/   /ˈlomɛd/
מ Mem Mem /mɛm/ /mem/   /mɛm/
ם   Final Mem   /mem sofit/   /ʃlos mɛm/
נ Nun Nun /nuːn/ /nun/   /nun/
ן   Final Nun   /nun sofit/   /laŋɛ nun/
ס Samekh Samekh /ˈsɑːmɛk/ /ˈsameχ/   /ˈsomɛχ/
ע Ayin Ayin /ˈaɪ.ɨn/ /ˈʕajin/ /ain/ /ˈajin/, /ˈojin/
פּ Pe Pe /peɪ/ /pe/ /pej/ /pɛɪ/
פ /fɛɪ/
ף   Final Pe   /pe sofit/ /pej sofit/ /laŋɛ fɛɪ/
צ Sadhe Tsadi /ˈsɑːdə/, /ˈsɑːdi/ /ˈtsadi/ /ˈtsadik/ /ˈtsodi/, /ˈtsodik/, /ˈtsadɛk/
ץ   Final Tsadi   /ˈtsadi sofit/ /ˈtsadik sofit/ /laŋɛ ˈtsadɛk/
ק Qoph Qof /kɔːf/ /kof/ /kuf/ /kuf/
ר Resh Resh /rɛʃ/, /reɪʃ/ /reʃ/ /rejʃ/ /rɛɪʃ/
ש Shin Shin /ʃiːn/, /ʃɪn/ /ʃin/   /ʃin, sin/
תּ Tav Tav /tɑːf/, /tɔːv/ /tav/ /taf/ /tov/, /tof/
ת /sov/, /sof/

[edit] Orthographic variants

The following table displays orthographic variants of each letter. For the five letters that have a different final form used at the end of words, the final forms are displayed beneath the regular form. For additional ancestral scripts, see History of the Hebrew alphabet → Ancestral scripts and script variants.

Modern Hebrew Ancestral
Serif Sans-
Cursive Rashi Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew Aramaic
Alef א א א Image:Hebrew letter Alef Rashi.png Aleph Aleph
Bet ב ב ב Image:Hebrew letter Bet Rashi.png Beth Bet
Gimel ג ג ג Image:Hebrew letter Gimel Rashi.png Gimel Gimel
Dalet ד ד ד Image:Hebrew letter Daled Rashi.png Daleth Daled
He ה ה ה Image:Hebrew letter He Rashi.png He Heh
Vav ו ו ו Image:Hebrew letter Vav Rashi.png Waw Vav
Zayin ז ז ז Image:Hebrew letter Zayin Rashi.png Zayin Zayin
Het ח ח ח Image:Hebrew letter Het Rashi.png Heth Khet
Tet ט ט ט Image:Hebrew letter Tet Rashi.png Teth Tet
Yod י י י Image:Hebrew letter Yud Rashi.png Yodh Yud
Kaf כ כ כ Image:Hebrew letter Kaf-nonfinal Rashi.png Kaph Khof
Final Kaf ך ך ך Image:Hebrew letter Kaf-final Rashi.png
Lamed ל ל ל Image:Hebrew letter Lamed Rashi.png Lamedh Lamed
Mem מ מ מ Image:Hebrew letter Mem-nonfinal Rashi.png Mem ‎Mem
Final Mem ם ם ם Image:Hebrew letter Mem-final Rashi.png
Nun נ נ נ Image:Hebrew letter Nun-nonfinal Rashi.png Nun Nun
Final Nun ן ן ן Image:Hebrew letter Nun-final Rashi.png
Samekh ס ס ס Image:Hebrew letter Samekh Rashi.png Samekh Samekh
Ayin ע ע ע Image:Hebrew letter Ayin Rashi.png Ayin Ayin
Pe פ פ פ Image:Hebrew letter Pe-nonfinal Rashi.png Pe Pey
Final Pe ף ף ף Image:Hebrew letter Pe-final Rashi.png
Tsadi צ צ צ Image:Hebrew letter Tsadik-nonfinal Rashi.png Sade Tzadi ,
Final Tsadi ץ ץ ץ Image:Hebrew letter Tsadik-final Rashi.png
Qof ק ק ק Image:Hebrew letter Kuf Rashi.png Qoph Quf
Resh ר ר ר Image:Hebrew letter Resh Rashi.png Res Resh
Shin ש ש ש Image:Hebrew letter Shin Rashi.png Sin Shin
Tav ת ת ת Image:Hebrew letter Taf Rashi.png Taw Tof

[edit] Yiddish symbols

Symbol Explanation
װ ױ ײ ײַ These are intended for Yiddish. They are not used in Hebrew[7]. See: Yiddish orthography.
בֿ The rafe (רפה) niqqud is no longer used in Hebrew. It is still seen in Yiddish. In masoretic manuscripts, the soft fricative consonants are indicated by a small line on top of the letter. Its use has been largely discontinued in printed texts.

[edit] Numeric values of letters

Hebrew letters are also used to denote numbers, nowadays used only in specific contexts, e.g. denoting dates in the Hebrew calendar, denoting grades of school in Israel, other listings (e.g. שלב א׳, שלב ב׳ – "phase a, phase b"), commonly in Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) in a practice known as gematria, and often in religious contexts.

letter numeric value letter numeric value letter numeric value
א 1 י 10 ק 100
ב 2 כ 20 ר 200
ג 3 ל 30 ש 300
ד 4 מ 40 ת 400
ה 5 נ 50 ך 500
ו 6 ס 60 ם 600
ז 7 ע 70 ן 700
ח 8 פ 80 ף 800
ט 9 צ 90 ץ 900

[edit] Transliterations and Transcriptions of Hebrew Letters

Main articles: Romanization of Hebrew, Hebrew phonology

The following table lists transliterations and transcriptions of Hebrew letters used in Modern Hebrew. For Hebrew vowel diacritics, see niqqud; for the phonology of Biblical Hebrew, see Biblical Hebrew; for the Yiddish language, see Yiddish orthography and Yiddish phonology.


  • For some letters, the Academy of the Hebrew Language offers a precise transliteration which differs from the regular standard it has set. When omitted, no such precise alternative exists and the regular standard applies.
  • The IPA phonemic transcription is specified whenever it uses a different symbol than the one used for the regular standard Israeli transliteration.
  • The IPA phonetic transcription is specified whenever it differs from IPA phonemic transcription.

Note: SBL's transliteration system, recommended in its Handbook of Style[8], differs slightly from the 2006 precise transliteration system of the Academy of the Hebrew Language; for "ו" SBL uses "v" (≠ AHL "w"), for "צ" SBL uses "" (≠ AHL ""), and for בג״ד כפ״ת with no dagesh, SBL uses the same symbols as for with dagesh (i.e. "b", "g", "d", "k", "f", "t").

Hebrew letter Standard
IPA phonemic
IPA phonetic
consonantal, in
initial word
none(1) [ʔ]
consonantal, in
non initial word
' ʾ /ʔ/
בּ b
ב v
גּ g g
ג׳ not available(2) /ʤ/
דּ d d
v w
וּ u
וֹ o [o̞] or [ɔ̝]
ז z
ז׳ not available(2) /ʒ/
ח (3) /x/ or /χ/ [χ]
ט t
y /j/
part of hirik male
(/i/ vowel)
part of tsere male
(/e/ vowel or
/ei/ diphthong)
e é /e/ or /ej/
כּ, ךּ(4) k
כ, ך kh /x/ or /χ/ [χ]
ל l
מ, ם m
נ, ן n
ס s
in initial or final
word positions
none(1) ʿ only in initial
word position
in medial
word positions
' ʿ /ʔ/
פּ(5) p
פ, ף f
צ, ץ ts /ʦ/
צ׳, ץ׳ not available(2) /ʧ/
ק k q
ר r [ʀ] or [ʁ]
שׁ sh š /ʃ/
שׂ s ś
תּ t t

(1)In transliterations of modern Israeli Hebrew, initial and final ע (in regular transliteration), silent or initial א, and silent ה are not transliterated. To the eye of readers orientating themselves on Latin (or similar) alphabets, these letters might seem to be transliterated as vowel letters; however, these are in fact transliterations of the vowel diacritics – niqqud (or are representations of the spoken vowels). E.g., in אִם ("if", [ʔim]), אֵם ("mother", [ʔe̞m]) and אֹם ("nut", [ʔo̞m]), the letter א always represents the same consonant: [ʔ] (glottal stop), whereas the vowels /i/, /e/ and /o/ respectively represent the spoken vowel, whether it is orthographically denoted by diacritics or not. Since the Academy of the Hebrew Language ascertains that א in initial position is not transliterated, the symbol for the glottal stop  ʾ  is omitted from the transliteration, and only the subsequent vowels are transliterated (whether or not their corresponding vowel diacritics appeared in the text being transliterated), resulting in "im", "em" and "om", respectively.

(2) The Academy of the Hebrew Language offers no guidelines for the transliteration of ׳ג, ׳ז and ׳צ / ׳ץ (respectively /ʤ/, /ʒ/ and /ʧ/), perhaps because all Hebrew words in which these sounds appear are either slang or loanwords. The diacritic geresh – "׳" – is used with some other letters as well (ד׳, ח׳, ט׳, ע׳, ר׳, ת׳, see geresh), but only to transliterate from other languages to Hebrew – never to spell Hebrew words; therefore they were not included in this table (correctly translating a Hebrew text with these letters would require using the spelling in the language from which the transliteration to Hebrew was originally made). The non-standard (i.e., inconsistently with the guidelines specified by the Academy of the Hebrew Language) "ו׳" and "וו" are sometimes used to represent /w/, which like /ʤ/, /ʒ/ and /ʧ/ appears in Hebrew slang and loanwords. However, the guidelines of the Academy of the Hebrew Language specify that /w/ and /v/ be indistinguishably represented by "ו" (vav); see Hebrew Vav for the orthographic variants of vav.

(3)The Sound /χ/ (as "ch" in loch) is often transcribed "ch", inconsistently with the guidelines specified by the Academy of the Hebrew Language: "cham"; "schach".

(4)"ךּ" (final kaf with dagesh) is rare but exists, e.g. last word in Deuteronomy 7 1 (דברים פרק ז׳ פסוק א׳) in the word "מִמֶּךָּ"[10]

(5)When representing /p/, pe is always written in its regular, not final, form "פ", even when in final word position, which occurs with loanwords (e.g. שׁוֹפּ /ʃop/ "shop"), foreign names (e.g. פִילִיפּ /ˈfilip/ "Philip") and some slang (e.g. חָרַפּ /χaˈrap/ "slept deeply").

[edit] Pronunciation

The descriptions that follow are based on the pronunciation of modern standard Israeli Hebrew. For a concise summary, see the article International Phonetic Alphabet for Hebrew. For further information on regional and historical variations in pronunciation, see Hebrew phonology.

Letters א בּ ב ג גּ ג׳ ד דּ ד׳ ה ו וּ וֹ וו , ו׳
ז ז׳ ח ט י
IPA [ʔ], [b] [v] [g] [ʤ] [d] [ð] [h~ʔ], [v] [u] [o̞] [w] [z] [ʒ] [χ]~[ħ] [t] [j]
Letters ִי כּ ךּ ך כ ל ם מ ן נ ס ע פּ פ ף ץ צ ץ׳ צ׳ ק ר שׁ שׂ תּ ת ת׳
IPA [i] [k] [χ] [l] [m] [n] [s] [ʔ]~[ʕ], [p] [f] [ʦ] [tʃ] [k] [ʁ] [ʃ] [s] [t] [θ]

[edit] Shin and sin

Shin and sin are represented by the same letter, ש, but are two separate phonemes. They are not mutually allophonic. When vowel diacritics are used, the two phonemes are differentiated with a shin-dot or sin-dot; the shin-dot is above the upper-right side of the letter, and the sin-dot is above the upper-left side of the letter.

Symbol Name Transliteration IPA Example
שׂ (left dot) sin s /s/ sour
שׁ (right dot) shin sh /ʃ/ shop

[edit] Dagesh

Historically, the consonants ב bet,beis, ג gimel, ד dalet, כ kaf,kof, פ pe,pey, and ת tav each had two sounds: one hard (plosive), and one soft (fricative), depending on the position of the letter and other factors. When vowel diacritics are used, the hard sounds are indicated by a central dot called dagesh (דגש), while the soft sounds lack a dagesh. In modern Hebrew, however, the dagesh only changes the pronunciation of ב bet, כ kaf, פ pe, and ת tav (tav only changes in Ashkenazi (sof) and Yemenite pronunciations).

With dagesh Without dagesh
Symbol Name Transliteration IPA Example Symbol Name Transliteration IPA Example
בּ bet b /b/ bun ב vet v /v/ van
[12]כּ ךּ kaph k /k/ kangaroo כ ך khaph kh/ch/k /χ/ loch
פּ pe p /p/ pass פ ף phe ph/f /f/ find
תּ tav t /t/ talent ת sav* s /s/ sorry

* Only in Ashkenazi pronunciations. In Israeli Hebrew, it is always a tav, with a /t/ sound.
** The letters gimmel (ג) and dalet (ד) also have dagesh (dotted) forms, but these do not differ phonetically from the forms without the dagesh in most of the Modern Hebrew dialects. Israeli Hebrew also exhibits no phonetic distinction between tav (ת) with or without a dagesh.

[edit] Identical pronunciation

In Israel's general population, many consonants have the same pronunciation. They are:

Letters Transliteration Pronunciation (IPA)
- /ʔ/
vet (without dagesh)
v /v/
khaph (without dagesh)
kh/ch/h /χ/
t /t/
kaph (with dagesh)
k /k/
sin (with left dot)
s /s/
and תשׂ
ts/tz /ts/

* Varyingly

[edit] Ancient Hebrew pronunciation

Some of the variations in sound mentioned above are due to a systematic feature of Ancient Hebrew. The six consonants /b g d k p t/ were pronounced differently depending on their position. These letters were also called BeGeDKePHeT (pronounced /ˌbeɪgɛdˈkɛfɛt/) letters. (The full details are very complex; this summary omits some points.) They were pronounced as stops [b g d k p t] at the beginning of a syllable, or when doubled. They were pronounced as fricatives [v ɣ ð x f θ] when preceded by a vowel (commonly indicated with a macron, [ḇ ḡ ḏ ḵ p̄ ṯ]). The stop and double pronunciations were indicated by the dagesh. In Modern Hebrew the sounds [ḏ] and [ḡ] have reverted to [d] and [g] respectively, and [ṯ] has become [t], so only the remaining three consonants /b k p/ show variation. ר "reish" may have also been a "doubled" letter, making the list BeGeD KePoReS" and also rendering Hebrew one of the only languages to possess two 'r' sounds. (Sefer Yetzirah, 4:1, this depends on the antiquity of this book.)

[edit] Vowels

[edit] Matres lectionis

א aleph, ה he, ו vav and י yod are letters that can sometimes indicate a vowel instead of a consonant (which would be, repectively, /ʔ/, /h/, /v/ and /j/). When they do, ו and י are considered to constitute part of the vowel designation in combination with a niqqud symbol – a vowel diacritic (whether or not the diacritic is marked), whereas א and ה are considered to be mute, their role being purely indicative of the non-marked vowel.

Letter Name
of letter
when letter
Name of
vowel designation
א aleph /ʔ/ ê, ệ, ậ, â, ô
ה he /h/ ê, ệ, ậ, â, ô
ו vav /v/ וֹ ḥolám malé ô
וּ shurúq û
י yud /j/ יִ ḥiríq malé î
יֵ tseré malé ê, ệ

[edit] Vowel points

Niqqud is the system of dots the help determine vowels and consonants. In Hebrew, all forms of niqqud are often omitted in writing, except for children's books, prayer books, poetry, foreign words, and words which would be ambiguous to pronounce. Israeli Hebrew has five vowel phonemes, /i e a o u/, but many more written symbols for them:

Name Symbol Israeli Hebrew
IPA Transliteration English
Hiriq [i] i see
Zeire [ɛ] and [ɛi] e and ei men,
Segol [ɛ], ([ɛi] with
succeeding yod)
e, (ei with
succeeding yod)
Patach [a] a car
Kamatz [a], <car>(or [ɔ]) a, (or o)</car> car
Holam סׁ [ɔ] o cone
Shuruk [u] u tube
Kubutz [u] u tube

Note Ⅰ: The symbol "O" represents whatever Hebrew letter is used.
Note Ⅰ: The zeire is pronounced correctly as ei in modern Hebrew.
Note Ⅱ: The dagesh, mappiq, and shuruk have different functions, even though they look the same.
Note Ⅲ: The letter ו (vav) is used since it can only be represented by that letter.

[edit] Sh'va

By adding two vertical dots (called Sh'va) underneath the letter, the vowel is made very short.

Name Symbol Israeli Hebrew
IPA Transliteration English
Sh'va [ɛ] or Ø apostrophe, e,
or nothing
Reduced Segol [ɛ] e men
Reduced Patach [a] a cup
Reduced Kamatz [ɔ] o cone

[edit] Comparison table

Vowel comparison table
Vowel Length
(phonetically not manifested in Israeli Hebrew)
IPA Transliteration English
Long Short Very Short
ָ ַ ֲ [a] a spa
ֵ ֶ ֱ [ɛ] e temp
וֹ ָ ֳ [ɔ] o cone
וּ ֻ n/a [u] u tube
יִ ִ [i] i ski
Note I: By adding two vertical dots (sh'va) ְ
the vowel is made very short.
Note II: The short o and long a have the same niqqud.
Note III: The short o is usually promoted to a long o
in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation
Note IV: The short u is usually promoted to a long u
in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation

[edit] Gershayim

The symbol ״ is called a gershayim and is a punctuation mark used in the Hebrew language to denote acronyms. It is written before the last letter in the acronym. Gershayim is also the name of a note of cantillation in the reading of the Torah, printed above the accented letter.

[edit] Sounds represented with diacritic geresh

The sounds [ʧ], [ʤ], [ʒ], written "צ׳", "ג׳", "ז׳", and [w], non-standardly sometimes transliterated וו or ו׳[7], are often found in slang and loanwords that are part of the everyday Hebrew colloquial vocabulary. The apostrophe-looking symbol after the Hebrew letter modifies the pronunciation of the letter and is called a geresh. (As mentioned above, while still done, using ו׳ to represent [w] is non-standard; standard spelling rules allow no usage of ו׳ whatsoever.[11])

Hebrew slang and loanwords
Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Gimel with a geresh ג׳ [ʤ] j or g Jachnun [ˈʤaχnun] גָ׳חְנוּן
Zayin with a geresh ז׳ [ʒ] varies Collage [koˈlaʒ] קוֹלָאז׳
Tsadi with a geresh צ׳ [ʧ] ch Chupár (treat) [ʧuˈpar] צ׳וּפָּר
Vav with a geresh
or double Vav
וו or ו׳(non standard)[11] [w] w Awánta (boastfulness) [aˈwanta] עָוָנְטָה

The pronunciation of the following letters can also be modified with the geresh diacritic, the represented sounds are however foreign to Hebrew phonology, i.e., these symbols only represent sounds in foreign words or names when transliterated with the Hebrew alphabet, and never loanwords.

Transliteration of non-native sounds
Name Symbol IPA Arabic letter Example Comment
Dalet with a geresh ד׳ [ð] Ḏāl (ذ)
Voiced th
Dhu al-Hijjah (ذو الحجة)‎ ד׳ו אל-חיג׳ה * Also used for English voiced th
* Often a simple ד is written.
Tav with a geresh ת׳ [θ] Ṯāʾ (ﺙ)
Voiceless th
Thurston ת׳רסטון
et with a geresh ח׳ [χ] Ḫāʼ (خ) Sheikh (شيخ)‎ שייח׳ * Unlike the other sounds in this table, the sound [χ] represented by ח׳ is indeed a native sound in Hebrew; the geresh is however used only when transliteration must distinguish between [χ] and [ħ], in which case ח׳ transliterates the former and ח the latter, whereas in everyday usage ח without geresh is pronounced [ħ] only dialectically but [χ] commonly.
Ayin with a geresh ע׳ [ʁ] Ġayn (غ) Ghajar ע׳ג׳ר
Tet with a geresh ט׳ [ðˁ] Ẓāʼ (ظ) Tanzim (تنظيم)‎ תנט׳ים * In scientific and professional writing
* Transliterated as a regular ז in colloquial writing (תנזים)
Tsadi with a geresh צ׳ [dˁ] Ḍād (ض) Ramaān רמצ׳אן * In scientific and professional writing
* Transliterated as a regular ד in colloquial writing (רמדאן)

A geresh is also used to denote initialisms and to denote a Hebrew numeral. Geresh also is the name of one of the notes of cantillation in the reading of the Torah, but its appearance and function is different.

[edit] Unicode and HTML

The Unicode Hebrew block extends from U+0590 to U+05FF and from U+FB1D to U+FB40. It includes letters, ligatures, combining diacritical marks (niqqud and cantillation marks) and punctuation. The Numeric Character References is included for HTML. These can be used in many markup languages, and they are often used in Wiki to create the Hebrew glyphs compatible with the majority of web browsers.

[edit] See also

Hebrew alphabet
א    ב    ג    ד    ה    ו
ז    ח    ט    י    כך
ל    מם    נן    ס    ע    פף
צץ    ק    ר    ש    ת
History · Transliteration
Niqqud · Dagesh · Gematria
Cantillation · Numeration

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Aleph-bet" is commonly written in Israeli Hebrew without the maqaph (מקף, hyphen), אלפבית עברי, as opposed to with the hyphen, אלף־בית עברי
  2. ^ A History of the Hebrew Language. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1993. ISBN 0-521-55634-1. 
  3. ^ Ancient Scripts.com:Old Hebrew
  4. ^ The Arabic letters have, in principle (as six of the primary letters can have only two variants), four forms, according to their place in the word. The same goes with the Mandaic ones, except for three of the 22 letters, which have only one form. For more information, see Arabic alphabet and Mandaic alphabet.
  5. ^ כ״ף, בי״ת and פ״א can only be read b, k and p, respectively, at the beginning of a word, while they will have the sole value of v, kh and ph in a sofit (final) position. In medial positions, both pronunciations are possible, but a dagesh may be inserted (in dictionaries or learning books) to know which pronunciation applies: = b and ב = v, = k and כ = kh, =p and פ = ph.
  6. ^ a b Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  7. ^ a b However, וו (two separate vavs), used in Ktiv male, is to be distinguished from the Yiddish ligature װ (also two vavs but together as one character).
  8. ^ See online overview at Biblical Hebrew Resources
  9. ^ a b c d Transliteration guidelines by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, November 2006
  10. ^ a b תנ״ך מנוקד, דברים פרק ז׳
  11. ^ a b c "Transliteration Rules" (PDF). http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il/PDF/taatiq2007.pdf.  issued by the Academy of the Hebrew Language states that both [v] and [w] be indistinguishably represented in Hebrew using the letter Vav. Sometimes the Vav is indeed doubled, however not to denote [w] as opposed to [v] but rather, when spelling without niqqud, to denote the phoneme /v/ at a non-initial and non-final position in the word, whereas a single Vav at a non-initial and non-final position in the word in spelling without niqqud denotes one of the phonemes /u/ or /o/. To pronounce foreign words and loanwords containing the sound [w], Hebrew readers must therefore rely on former knowledge and context, see also pronunciation of Hebrew Vav.
  12. ^ "ךּ" is rare but exists, e.g. last word in Deuteronomy 7 1 (דברים פרק ז׳ פסוק א׳) in the word "מִמֶּךָּ" – see תנ״ך מנוקד, דברים פרק ז׳

[edit] Bibliography

Roots of the Hebrew Alphabet

[edit] External links


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