Unit Two Summary -

The Least you should know...

After studying Unit Two, you should have mastered the following material:

Hebrew Nikkudot (by type)
We can classify the Hebrew vowels according to the basic sound they make
(A, E, I, O, and U). The following table summarizes the vowel types:

Nikkudot by Type

Vowel Types
Each type of vowel (A, E, I, O, and U) can function as a long vowel (L), a short vowel (S), a reduced vowel (R), or an unchangeably long vowel (UL). (Note: Some grammars transliterate each of the same-type vowels differently (e.g., "a" with a bar over it for Qamets, "a" with a circumflex over it for a Patach, and so on); since our goal is to read the Hebrew text - not to convert the Hebrew into English characters, I simplified the transliteration scheme accordingly.)

Long vowels can change to other, shorter sounds in a given word. For example, a Qamets can be shortened to a Patach when certain changes are made to the word's morphology. Reduced vowels only appear under guttural letters and replace the function of the vocal sheva for those letters. Grammatically, chateph forms behave just like the sheva.

Hebrew Nikkudot (by class)
An alternate way of classifying the vowels is according to their class (Long, Short, Reduced, or Unchangeably Long). The following table summarizes the vowel classes:

Nikkudot by Class

Note that there are no reduced forms for the I or U type vowels and that unchangeably long vowels are always "mixed vowels" or "full vowels."

The Sheva
This nikkud mark is the toughest for the beginner to get right.  And with good reason: it's somewhat more difficult than the other vowel marks.

The vocal sheva (sheva na, or moving sheva) represents the sound of a letter without a vowel. When it opens a syllable it sounds almost as if you were trying to pronounce the letter by itself (usually I will transliterate a vocal sheva with an "e" (or sometimes with an apostrophe); we will not transliterate the silent sheva (sheva nach, or resting sheva) at all. A sheva at the end of a word is always considered silent.

There are four cases when the Sheva is vocal (na):

  1. When it begins a word (or syllable)
  2. When it is the second of two shevas in a row
  3. When it appears under a letter with a Dagesh Forte
  4. When it follows a syllable that contains a long vowel.

Correlatively, there are four cases when the Sheva is silent (nach):

  1. When it ends a word (or syllable)
  2. When it is the first of two shevas in a row
  3. When it closes a syllable
  4. When it follows a syllable that contains a short vowel.

Some grammars do not treat the vocal sheva as a separate syllable, but include its sound with the following syllable (as a sort of slurred vocalization before the next syllable). Normally I will treat the vocal sheva as a separate syllable in transliterations (using either an apostrophe character or an "e").

Hebrew Diphthongs
A diphthong is a cluster or combination of vowels acting as a unit and producing a unique sound. From the point of view of word division, a diphthong represents a distinct syllable in Hebrew. Note also that diphthongs are considered long vowels.

Hebrew Dipthongs

The Complete Hebrew Vowel List
You can click here to view the complete Hebrew vowel list in Table Format.

Other Learning Resources
You may also download Hebrew vowel flashcards or the entire Vowel Chart as a PDF file:

Nu, What's Next?
If this material is now clear, you may go ahead to Unit Three and begin learning about Hebrew syllables. You may also perform a self-check by working through Unit Two exercises.

<< Return


Hebrew for Christians
Copyright John J. Parsons
All rights reserved.