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Consonants

Hebrew Consonants

The Hebrew alphabet contains 22 consonants; the vowel pointing system, nikud, was added at a later date (AD 500-900). The pronunciation here represents the modern/Ashkenazi vocalization. In most cases there is a direct correspondence between Hebrew and Latin characters, however, the variations are noted in the transliterations below.

 

 

Symbol

Name

Pronounced

T/lit.

 

Symbol

Name

Pronounced

T/t.

א

Aleph

Guttural stop

´

 

ל

Lamed

(line)

l

Bet

b (boat)

b

 

מ

Mem

m (men)

m

ב

Vet

v (vote)

b

 

ן\נ

Nun

n (nun)

n

Gimmel

g (gull)

g

 

ס

Samex

s (sun)

s

ג

Gimmel

g (gull)

g

 

ע

Ayin

Guttural stop

`

Dalet

d (din)

d

 

Peh

p (pin)

p

ד

Dalet

d (din)

d

 

פ\ף

Feh

(fun)

p

ה

Heh

h (house)

h

 

צ

Tsadeh

ts (bats)

ו

Vav

v (vote)

w

 

ק

Qoph

k (kill)

q

ז

Zayin

z (zoo)

z

 

ר

Resh

r (run)

r

ח

Chet

ch (Bach)

H

 

Shin

sh (shot)

š

ט

Tet

t (tea)

 

Sin

s (sun)

ś

י

Yod

y (yes)

y

 

Tav

t (tea)

t

\ךּ

Kaph

k (kill)

k

 

ת

Tav

t (tea)

t

ךְ\כ

Kaph

ch (Bach)

k

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations

·         The transliteration symbols are used to represent uniquely each letter of the Hebrew alphabet

·         There are no capitals in Biblical Hebrew

·         Certain letters have a final form, but there is no difference in their pronunciation. In the table above they have been placed on the same line, but separated with a “ / ” (final form/initial-medial form)

·         The consonant א should not be confused with the English vowel “A”. Though it may occasionally quiesce at the end of certain words (e.g.  כִּסֵּא ), it bears a consonantal value. Aleph represents a guttural stop, the sound of the glottis opening when pronouncing “apple”

·         Six Hebrew consonants ( בּ גּ דּ כּ פּ תּ ) may appear with or without a dot, dagesh, inside of them. They are known as BeGaD KeFaT letters (LINK).

o   ג  (“g”) originally pronounced as a soft “g”, as in “gin”

o   ד  (d historically a dull “th” sound, as in “that”

o   ת  (t) originally pronounced “th” as in “cloth”, hence the word “Bethlehem”.

·         Of the 22 consonants, three sometimes represent vowels on certain occasions (  ה י ו)

·         ו  was original pronounced like English “w”

·         ח in Sephardic reading traditions is pronounced differently from the כ, and more like the ה with a forced constriction of the larynx.

·         ע within Sephardic reading tradition, and most probably historically, was pronounced with a deeper guttural sound than the א.

·         ר is traditionally a guttural sound that is rolled at the back of the throat

·         שׂ and שׁ are variants of the same letter, the diacritic point determines its pronunciation.

 


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