The Hebrew Vowel system
The Hebrew language has five basic vowels which have a long and a short form. While the long and the short forms are significant in Biblical Hebrew—the difference in pronunciation is not noted in Modern Hebrew.
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Hebrew vowels can be classified in two ways. Classification by SOUND results in an association with the English vowels sounds a/e/i/o/u. The second classification style is to differentiate the vowels according to LENGTH. This leaves us with LONG and SHORT vowels.
The long vowels which use the yud and vav as vowels can never be shortened. The ability of the other vowels to change (either to lengthen or shorten) is subject to various grammatical rules. It helps therefore to be aware of the duistinction between long and short vowels as well as their sound classification.
The Hebrew vowels are indicated according to the table below. Click on the vowels in the Chart below to learn more about each vowel type.
The sh'va [ ְ ], two vertical dots below a consonant, may also be a vowel. Depending upon its position a sh'va may be silent (sh'va nach) or carry a short, slurred ‘eh’ sound (sh'va na).
When the consonants א , ה , ע , and ח require a sheva, a patah, segol or kamats hatuf is added to the sheva to form a combination or reduced vowel.
When the consonants ה, ח, or ע occur at the end of a word with a pataḥ beneath them the patah is pronounced before the final consonant. e.g. "ah"
The kamats and the kamats ḥatuf have the same nikkud but are pronounced very differently.
Combinations of vowels produce Hebrew diphthongs. The most common diphthings are...
Click on the chart to find out more.
Lesson 8: Consonants and vowels. HERE.