Courses

Vowels

The vowel symbols were developed some while after the language had ceased to be a living language. Various systems were developed, with the system developed by the scribes in Tiberias called Masoretes becoming dominent. The vowels are a series of dashes and dots placed above and below the consonents.

For the purposes of learning the vowels, they are being associated here with the consonent samek s. Please keep in mind that the vowels, in reality, can be associated with any consonent.

Vowel NameVowelPronunciation
qamets sf a as in father
patah sa a as in cat
hiriq si i as in pin
sere s' e as in they
segol se e as in met
holem so o as in hole
qibbuts su u as in brute
shewa s; a half vowel like the second and fourth i in indivisible or the a in infant

Additionally, there are several special combinations of vowels and consonents called diphthongs, as follows:

Vowel NameVowelPronunciation
holem wOs o as in hole
shureq w%s u as in brute
hiriq yod ysi i as in machine
hiriq sere ys' e as in they
hatef patah sj a half vowel like the second and fourth i in indivisible or the a in infant
hatef segol sv a half vowel like the second and fourth i in indivisible or the a in infant
hatef qamets s/ a half vowel like the second and fourth i in indivisible or the a in infant
qamets hatuph sf o as in hole

Notice that $w is pronounced as a single sound -- "o" -- the vav w is no longer treated as a consonent. It is just the vowel and nothing else. The same goes for w% , which is just a "u", and all the combinations of vowels with consonents.

Usually the qamets represents the vowel "a". Under certain conditions the same sign represents the vowel "o". When qamets stands for "o" it is called qamets hatuph. This is very rare and so you should initially assume that any qamets you see is an "a" unless you are told otherwise.

One other, admittedly confusing aspect of the shewa needs to be pointed out. Although the Masoretes used it to represent a half vowel, sometimes they used it just as a place holder, when there was no vowel at all. In those cases, the shewa is silent. We will explain how to tell the difference in later lessons.


Reading

Please read pages 29-39 in Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step.

Exercises

1. Memorize the vowel signs.

2. Do the Exercises on pages 37-39.