The vocalization (nikud) is generally not used in modern printed Hebrew. It appears only rarely, namely when a word without nikud could be misunderstood, or in order to clarify the pronunciation of foreign names. It is also used in children’s books.
As everything written in this course is transliterated, it can be read also by beginners. So you can cope without learning all the nuances of the nikud.
nikud means setting of dots (from: nekuda – dot). It has the following effects:
- nikud vocalizes Hebrew consonants on the line with the vowels a, e, i, o, u.
- as dagesh (stress), i.e. a dot in the center of a letter, it changes a soft consonant into a hard one: from vet → bet (v/b), from chaf → kaf (ch/k), from fe → pe (f/p).
- a dot over the vav turns it into an o, a dot at its left side makes it an u.
- a dot on the left dent of the shin turns it into a sin
When a word begins with a vowel (eg ani – I) the vowel-carrier is mostly an alef, rarely an ayin.
|אְ||e short as in the French article „le“, often mute||shva|
|אֶ||e long as in „fair“||segol|
|אֵ||ay (as in “rain”), today mostly pronounced as a long e , |
therefore transliterated as e
|אִ||i as in „meet“ or short as in „hit“||chirik|
|אַ אָ||a as in „father“, or short as in „tough”||kamaz, patach|
|אֻ||u as in „mood“, or short as in „put“||kubuz|
|וּ||u - vav with a point left, pronounced as u||shuruk|
|וֹ||o - vav with a point on top|
as in “for”, or short as in “ton”
|אֹ||o - alef with a point - or only a point without vav - above the line between two consonants|
tzere, segol and shva (where shva is not mute) are transliterated as e. This simplification corresponds largely with today’s actual pronunciation. Look for instance at the vowel e in le-ako – to Acre, ha-shen – the tooth, eretz+yisra’el – the land Israel. There is hardly a difference in the pronunciation of the e, even though it is rendered with a different vowel in every one of these three applications.