Hebrew Consonants -

The Begedkephat Letters

Six Hebrew letters you have studied, namely, Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Pey, and Tav may appear with or without a dot placed within them. This dot is called a "Dagesh Kal" (or Dagesh Lene). For example:

Dagesh Kal in Vet makes Bet

Collectively these letters are sometimes called "Begedkephat letters" as an acronym for the names of letters:

BeGeD KePHaT Letters

If one of these six letters has a Dagesh Kal mark it will have a hard pronunciation, otherwise it has a softer pronunciation.

However, in modern Hebrew, only three letters change their sound when there is no dot inside: Bet, Kaf, and Pey (the other three letters are pronounced exactly the same as their non-dotted cousins). Consequently you only need to remember to pronounce these three letters differently when they do not have the Dagesh Kal mark:

The three you must learnBet / VetKaf / KhafPey / Fey

Notes:

  • In the table above, the Hebrew is read right to left (i.e., בּ/ב) whereas the English is read left to right (i.e., Bet/Vet).
  • Use the acronym BaKPak to remember the three letters that change their sound.
  • If you have already studied Section 1.1, you already know these letters and how to write them. The letter Vet, for example, is simply the letter Bet without the dot (i.e., Dagesh Kal) inside. The presence or the absence of the dot only affects the way you will pronounce the word.
  • Ashkenazi Jews (those Jews of Eastern European descent) tend to pronounce the Aleph-Bet differently that Sephardic Jews (those Jews of Spain, Northern Africa, and Israel). For example, Ashkenazi pronunciation of Tav - without the Dagesh Kal - is pronounced as a "s" sound. In this book we will use the Sephardic pronunciation since it is the one used in the land of Israel.
  • Remember: Only three letters change their sound when there is a dot inside: the other three Begedkephat letters are pronounced exactly the same as their non-dotted cousins:
Summary

Advanced Grammatical Information
The Dagesh Kal only appears in these six letters (Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Pey, and Tav) and will only appear:

  1. At the beginning of a word or
  2. After a Sheva Nach (silent sheva)

In other words, it will only appear if it opens a syllable.

Most commentaries are of the opinion that the Dagesh Kal is different then the Dagesh Chazak. While the Dagesh Chazak tells us of a missing letter the Dagesh Kal does not. The Dagesh Kal is just another pronunciation of a letter. Its purpose is to form a new sound and not to notify us of any missing letters.

Finally, these Begedkephat letters may also have a Dagesh Chazak, though the Dagesh Chazak will appear identical to the Dagesh Kal.

The rule of thumb is this: if the Begedkephat letter has a vowel preceding it, the dagesh is Chazak instead of Kal.

In other words, if there is no vowel preceding it (e.g., the letter starts a syllable or word), then the dagesh is Kal and not Chazak. This should be clearer after you have finished
Unit 3.

Return to Unit One


 


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