12 Languages

12.9 Hebrew

12.9.1 Alphabet

The Hebrew alphabet consists exclusively of consonantal letters. Vowels may be indicated by dots or small strokes (‘points’) above, below, or inside them, but Hebrew is generally written and printed without vowels. Hebrew written without vowels is described in English as ‘unpointed’ or ‘unvocalized’.

Each letter has a numerical value. Letters are therefore often used in Hebrew books—especially in liturgical texts and older works—to indicate the numbers of volumes, parts, chapters, and pages. Letters are also used to indicate the day of the week, the date in the month, and the year according to the Jewish calendar.

The consonantal letters are principally found in two different forms: a cursive script, and the block (‘square’) letters used in printing.

Table 12.6 Hebrew alphabet

Consonants

Block*

Cursive*

Name

Simplified transcription

Numerical value

Scholarly transcription

א

א

alef

—†

1

ʾ

בּ

בּ

beit

b

2

b

ב

ב

veit

v

ג

ג

gimmel

g

3

g/ʿ

ד

ד

dalet

d

4

d/ḏ

ה

ה

h

5

h

ו

ו

vav

v

6

w

ז

ז

zayin

z

7

z

ח

ח

chet

ch, ḥ

8

ט

ט

tet

t

9

י

י

yod

y, i‡

10

y

כּ

כּ

kaf

k

20

k

ךכ

ךכ

khaf, khaf sofit

kh

ל

ל

lamed

1

30

l

םמ

םמ

mem, mem sofit

m

40

m

ןנ

ןנ

nun, nun sofit

n

50

n

ס

ס

samekh

s

60

s

ע

ע

ʿayin

—†

70

ʿ

ף

ף

p

80

p

ףפ

ףפ

fé, fé sofit

f

p

ץצ

ץצ

tsadi, tsadi sofit

ts

90

ק

ק

kof

k

100

q

ר

ר

resh

r

200

r

שׁ

שׁ

shin

sh

300

š

שׂ

שׂ

sin

s

ś

ת

ת

tav

t

400

t/ṯ

* Where two forms are given, the second is that used in final position.

† The letters alef and ʿayin are not transliterated in the simplified system. Where they occur in intervocalic position an apostrophe is used to indicate that the vowels are to be pronounced separately.

‡ Transliterated ‘y’ as a consonant, ‘i’ as a vowel.

Vowels

Form

Name

ָ

kamats

ַ

patah

ֶ

segol

ֵ

tseré

ִ

hirik

ְ

sheva

ֻ

kubutz

ֲ

hataf patah

ֱ

hataf segol

וֹ

holam

וּ

shuruk

12.9.2 Transliteration

Different systems of transliterated Hebrew may require the following diacritics: ś (and sometimes the acute is also used on vowels to indicate stress); ā, ē, ī, ō, ū; ê, î, ô, û; ă, ĕ, ŏ (in some systems represented by superiors, a e o); ḥ, ṣ, ṭ, ẓ (in older system also for q); š; ḇ, ḏ, ʿ, ḵ, ʿ, ṯ (less strictly bh, dh, gh, kh, ph, th). Special characters are schwa ə, aleph ʾ, ʿayin ʿ; in loose transliteration from modern Hebrew the latter two may be replaced by an apostrophe or omitted altogether.

12.9.3 Word division

In Hebrew script, words are short enough not to need dividing; transliterated words should be so divided that the new line begins with a single consonant. In loose transliteration, ts and combinations with h may or may not represent single consonants; when in doubt avoid dividing.


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