Ktiv hasar niqqud (Hebrew pronunciation: [ktiv χaˈsaʁ niˈkud]; Hebrew: כתיב חסר ניקוד, literally "spelling lacking niqqud"), colloquially known as ktiv maleh (IPA: [ktiv maˈle]; כתיב מלא‎, literally "full spelling"), are the rules for writing Hebrew without vowel points (niqqud), often replacing them with matres lectionis (ו‎ and י‎). To avoid confusion, consonantal ו‎ ([v]) and י‎ ([j]) are doubled in the middle of words. In general use, niqqud are seldom used, except in specialized texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants.

Comparison example

From a Hebrew translation of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe (translated by Eliyahu Tsifer):

Ktiv male With niqqud

וילון של משי ארגמן, ספק רשרוש, מסך מוכמן,
הפחידוני, ביעתוני, חששות אימה וסלוד,
פעמי לבי מקבת, במאוץ וגם בשבת,
האושפיז בשוט ושבט, את דלתי הזיז במנוד,
את דלתי הזיז הניע, קטב לשכתי ישוד,
אלמוני הוא האורח, אלמוני הוא ולא עוד!

שלוותי פרשה כנפיים, היסוסיי אפסו אפיים,
אדון וגברת, בכנות אפציר אסגוד,
כן עובדה היא, שעת גלוש, וברוך ידך תקוש,
מדורי אזי נלוש, עת הנדת שדוד,
לרווחה דלתי פרשתי, כי נועדתי לשרוד,
ושור! הבט! רק שחור, לא עוד!

וִילוֹן שֶׁל מֶשִׁי אַרְגָּמָן, סָפֵק רִשְׁרוּשׁ, מָסָךְ מֻכְמָן,
הִפְחִידֻנִּי, בִּעֲתֻנִי, חֲשָׁשוֹת אֵימָה וּסְלוֹד,
פַּעֲמֵי לִבִּי מַקֶּבֶת, בִּמְאוֹץ וְגַם בְּשֶׁבֶת,
הָאֻשְׁפִּיז בְּשׁוֹט וָשֵׁבֶט, אֶת דַּלְתִּי הֵזִיז בִּמְנֹד,
אֶת דַלְתִּי הֵזִיז הֵנִיעַ, קֶטֶב לִשְׁכַּתִּי יָשׁוֹד,
אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא הָאוֹרֵחַ, אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא וְלֹא עוֹד!

שַׁלְוַתִּי פַּרְשָׂה כְּנָפַיִם, הִסּוּסַי אָפְסוּ אַפַּיִם,
אָדוֹן וּגְבֶרֶת, בְּכֵנוּת אָפְצִיר אֶסְגֹּד,
כֵּן עֻבְדָּה הִיא, שְׁעַת גְּלֹש, וּבְרוֹךְ יָדְךָ תַּקֹּשׁ,
מְדוֹרִי אֲזַי נַלֹּשׁ, עֵת הֵנַדְתָּ שָׁדֹד,
לִרְוָחָה דַּלְתִּי פָּרַשְׂתִּי, כִּי נוֹעַדְתִּי לִשְׂרֹד,
וְשּׁוּר! הַבֵּט! רַק שְׁחוֹר, לֹא עוֹד!

Historical examination

Further information: Hebrew spelling

Ktiv haser

Ktiv haser (כתיב חסר‎) is writing whose consonants match those generally used in voweled text, but without the actual niqqud. For example, the words שֻׁלְחָן‎ and דִּבֵּר‎ written in ktiv haser are שלחן‎ and דבר‎. In vowelled text, the niqqud indicate the correct vowels, but when the niqqud is missing, the text is difficult to read, and the reader must make use of the context of each word to know the correct reading.

A typical example of a Hebrew text written in ktiv haser is the Torah, read in synagogues (simply called the Torah reading). For assistance readers often use a Tikkun, a book in which the text of the Torah appears in two side-by-side versions, one identical to the text which appears in the Torah, and one with niqqud and cantillation.

Ktiv male

Because of the difficulty of reading unvowelled text, the Va'ad ha-lashon introduced the Rules for the Spelling-Without-Niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד‎), which in reality dictates ktiv male. This system mostly involved the addition of ו‎ and י‎ to mark the different vowels. Later on, these rules were adopted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which continued to revise them, and they were mostly accepted by the public, mainly for official writing.

Ktiv haser became obsolete in Modern Hebrew, and ktiv male has already been dominant for decades in unvowelled texts: all of the newspapers and books published in Hebrew are written in ktiv male. Additionally, it is common for children's books or texts for those with special needs to contain niqqud, but ktiv haser without niqqud is rare.

Despite the Academy's standardization of the rules for ktiv male, there is a substantial lack of unity in writing, partly because of a lack of grammatical knowledge, partly because of the historical layers of the language, and partly because of a number of linguistic categories in which the Academy's decisions are not popular. As a result, book publishers and newspaper editors make their own judgments.

Rules for spelling without niqqud

As is the norm for linguistic rules, the rules for spelling without niqqud are not entirely static. Changes occur from time to time, based on amassed experience. For example, originally the rules for spelling without niqqud dictated that אשהisha ("woman") should be written without a yod י‎ (to distinguish it from אישהishah – "her husband"), but currently the exception has been removed, and now, the Academy prefers אישה‎. The last substantial change to the rules for spelling without niqqud was made in 1993 updated in 1996. The following is the summary of the current rules:[1]

These are the most basic rules. Each one has exceptions which is described in the handbook "כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד‎" (spelling rules without niqqud) that the Academy publishes in Hebrew.


See also