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[selfstudyhebrew] Re: When is vav written for a vowel?

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  • jason@hareplay.com
    Angela, There are actually three different vowel letters. A vowel letter is called a *mater lectionis* in Latin or אם קריאה [ em kri ah] in Hebrew. This
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 1, 2004
      Angela,

      There are actually three different vowel letters. A vowel letter is called a
      *mater lectionis* in Latin or אם קריאה ['em kri'ah] in Hebrew. This
      translates as a "mother of reading" since it is the purpose of a vowel
      letter to indicate the vowel present when it is long.

      The three mothers of reading are VAV (ו), YOD (י) and HEH (ה).

      The VAV (ו) generally stands for the long vowels u and o (מלכות malkhut =
      "kingship, dominion"; שלום shalom = "peace, wellbeing").

      The YUD (י) generally stands for either long e or i (עליהם `aleihem = "upon
      them"; שים sim = "put, place!"), but it is also used quite frequently for a
      short e in plural forms (אלוהיך 'elohekha = "your G-d").

      The HEH (ה) is most often used for a long a at the end of a word (מלכה
      malkah = "queen"). But, it can also serve for other vowels, for example,
      long o (כה ko = "thus"). You should expect, though, that it represents the
      long a of *father*.

      After a while, you will start to recognize in which context the matres
      lectionis (pl. "mothers of reading") are used. For a more complete
      discussion, cf. Weingreen §1 or Seow* §II.3 (and §II.4 for a discussion of
      full vs. plene spelling).

      All the best,
      Jason Hare

      Joplin Hebrew Reading
      yonah@...
      http://www.jhronline.com

      * C.L. Seow. / A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew /. 2nd Ed. Abingdon; Nashville,
      TN. 1995.
    • stevenhalbert
      To add a bit to what Jason wrote: A vav, yud, or heh can often provide a strong hint about what vowel may be present when you are reading unpointed Hebrew text
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 2, 2004
        To add a bit to what Jason wrote:

        A vav, yud, or heh can often provide a strong hint about what vowel
        may be present when you are reading unpointed Hebrew text (i.e.
        Hebrew text written with only consonants and no vowel symbols).

        However, I'd distinguish between that and full/deficient spellings;
        the only common case where words are frequently written both ways is
        the use of a vav to represent either an "oh" or "oo" sound. Those
        can each be written in pointed Hebrew two distinct ways: the "oh" can
        either be written as a vav with a dot over it, or simply as an
        elevated dot, while the "oo" can be written either as a vav with a
        dot in it (shuruk) or as three diagonal dots under the consonant
        (kubutz). When the words are written without the standard vowel
        signs, the first spelling of each type results in an apparent "vav"
        in the word, while the second does not. The standard dictionary
        spelling is usually the full form, with the vav written in as part of
        the cholam vowel, but its omission in biblical text is not unusual.

        The "heh" as vowel indicator for a kamatz at the end of a word (as in
        Jason's example of malkah, queen) is part of the standard spelling,
        and is almost never omitted. The only time I've ever seen it omitted
        is in rare instances in biblical text, and those instances generate
        discussion among the commentators to explain why the spelling has
        changed in that particular place.

        Similarly, it's very rare for a yud to be omitted; it happens
        occasionally in biblical text and generates commentary when it does.
        However, the yud in such cases really is part of the root spelling,
        not an extra indicator. (To take Jason's example of "elo-hecha" --
        that form comes from taking the plural construct noun form "elo-hei" -
        - aleph/segol, lamed/cholam, heh/tzere, yud -- and adding a
        possessive ending to it; so the yud there is part of the root, not a
        device to indicate vowel patterns.)

        As you get used to reading unpointed text, you'll come to recognize
        patterns, and the vav as "oh", yud as "ee" or "ay" and final heh
        as "ah" will be common signposts to help your pronunciation -- but
        they're signposts because the spelling tips you off to the likely
        vowel pattern, not because someone has inserted an extra letter as a
        spelling hint.

        Kol tuv,

        Steve Albert

        --- In selfstudyhebrew@yahoogroups.com, <jason@h...> wrote:
        > Angela,
        >
        > There are actually three different vowel letters. A vowel letter is
        called a
        > *mater lectionis* in Latin or אם קריא×" ['em kri'ah] in
        Hebrew. This
        > translates as a "mother of reading" since it is the purpose of a
        vowel
        > letter to indicate the vowel present when it is long.
        >
        > The three mothers of reading are VAV (ו), YOD (י) and HEH (×").
        >
        > The VAV (ו) generally stands for the long vowels u and o
        (מלכות malkhut =
        > "kingship, dominion"; שלום shalom = "peace, wellbeing").
        >
        > The YUD (י) generally stands for either long e or i (עלי×"ם
        `aleihem = "upon
        > them"; שים sim = "put, place!"), but it is also used quite
        frequently for a
        > short e in plural forms (אלו×"יך 'elohekha = "your G-d").
        >
        > The HEH (×") is most often used for a long a at the end of a word
        (מלכ×"
        > malkah = "queen"). But, it can also serve for other vowels, for
        example,
        > long o (כ×" ko = "thus"). You should expect, though, that it
        represents the
        > long a of *father*.
        >
        > After a while, you will start to recognize in which context the
        matres
        > lectionis (pl. "mothers of reading") are used. For a more complete
        > discussion, cf. Weingreen §1 or Seow* §II.3 (and §II.4 for a
        discussion of
        > full vs. plene spelling).
        >
        > All the best,
        > Jason Hare
        >
        > Joplin Hebrew Reading
        > yonah@j...
        > http://www.jhronline.com
        >
        > * C.L. Seow. / A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew /. 2nd Ed. Abingdon;
        Nashville,
        > TN. 1995.
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