|Other diacritics||cantillation, geresh,|
|Gen. 1:9, "And God said,|
Let the waters be collected".
Letters in black, niqqud in red,
cantillation in blue
|Shva · Hiriq · Zeire · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot|
In Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikud (Hebrew: נִקּוּד, Modern: nīqqūd, Tiberian: nīqqūḏ, "dotting, pointing" or Hebrew: נְקֻדּוֹת, Modern: nəqudōt, Tiberian: nequdōṯ, "dots") is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems were developed in the Early Middle Ages. The most widespread system, and the only one still used to a significant degree today, was created by the Masoretes of Tiberias in the second half of the first millennium AD in the Land of Israel (see Masoretic Text, Tiberian Hebrew). Text written with niqqud is called ktiv menuqad.
Niqqud marks are small compared to the letters, so they can be added without retranscribing texts whose writers did not anticipate them.
In modern Israeli orthography, niqqud is seldom used, except in specialised texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants to Israel. For purposes of disambiguation, a system of spelling without niqqud, known in Hebrew as ktiv maleh (כְּתִיב מָלֵא, literally "full spelling") has developed. This was formally standardised in the Rules for Spelling without Niqqud (כְּלָלֵי הַכְּתִיב חֲסַר הַנִּקּוּד) enacted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in 1996, and updated in 2017.
One reason for the lesser use of niqqud is that it no longer reflects the current pronunciation. In modern Hebrew, tzere is pronounced the same as segol, although they were distinct in Tiberian Hebrew, and pataḥ the same as qamatz. To the younger generation of native Hebrew speakers, these distinctions seem arbitrary and meaningless; on the other hand, Hebrew language purists have rejected out of hand the idea of changing the basics of niqqud and fitting them to the current pronunciation – with the result that in practice niqqud is increasingly going out of use.
According to Ghil'ad Zuckermann, the lack of nikúd in what he calls "Israeli" (Modern Hebrew) often results in "mispronunciations".: 49 For example, the Israeli lexical item מתאבנים is often pronounced as mitabním (literally "becoming fossilized (masculine plural)") instead of metaavním "appetizers", the latter deriving from תאבון teavón "appetite", the former deriving from אבן éven "stone".: 49 Another example is the toponym מעלה אדומים, which is often pronounced as maalé edomím instead of maalé adumím, the latter appearing in the Hebrew Bible (Joshua 15:7 and 18:17).: 49 The hypercorrect yotvetá is used instead of yotváta for the toponym יטבתה, mentioned in Deuteronomy 10:7.: 49 The surname of American actress Farrah Fawcett (פארה פוסט) is often pronounced fost instead of fóset by many Israelis.: 49
This table uses the consonant letters ב, ח or ש, where appropriate, to demonstrate where the niqqud is placed in relation to the consonant it is pronounced after. Any other letters shown are actually part of the vowel. Note that there is some variation among different traditions in exactly how some vowel points are pronounced. The table below shows how most Israelis would pronounce them, but the classic Ashkenazi pronunciation, for example, differs in several respects.
Note concerning IPA: the transcription symbols are linked to the articles about the sounds they represent. The diacritic ˘ (breve) indicates a short vowel; the triangular colon symbol ː indicates that the vowel is long.
|Symbol||Common name||Alternate names||Type||Scientific name||Hebrew||IPA||Transliteration||Comments|
|בְ||Sh'va||sheva||Israeli||švaʾ||שְׁוָא||[e̞] or Ø||ə, e, ’, or nothing||In modern Hebrew, shva represents either /e/ or Ø, regardless of its traditional classification as shva naḥ (Hebrew: שווא נח) or shva na (Hebrew: שווא נע), see the following table for examples:
|חֱ||Reduced segol||hataf segol||Israeli||ẖataf seggōl||חֲטַף סֶגּוֹל||[e̞]||e or é|
|Tiberian||ḥăṭep̄ səgōl||חֲטֶף סְגוֹל||[ɛ̆]||ĕ|
|חֲ||Reduced patach||hataf patah||Israeli||ẖataf pataẖ||חֲטַף פַּתַח||[a]||a or á|
|Tiberian||ḥăṭep̄ páṯaḥ||חֲטֶף פַּתַח||[ă]||ă|
|חֳ||Reduced kamatz||hataf kamats||Israeli||ẖataf qamaṣ||חֲטַף קָמָץ||[o̞]||ŏ|
|Tiberian||ḥăṭep̄ qāmeṣ||חֲטֶף קָמָץ||[ɔ̆]||ŏ|
|בִ||Hiriq||hiriq||Israeli||ẖīrīq||חִירִיק||[i]||ī||Usually promoted to Hiriq Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.|
|Tiberian||ḥīreq||חִירֶק||[i] or [iː]||ī|
|בִי||Hiriq malei||hiriq yod||Israeli||ẖīrīq maleʾ||חִירִיק מָלֵא||[i]||ī|
|Tiberian||ḥīreq mālēʾ||חִירֶק מָלֵא||[iː]||ī|
|בֵי, בֵה, בֵא||Zeire malei||tsere yod, tzeirei yod||Israeli||ṣērē maleʾ||צֵירֵי מָלֵא||[e̞]||ē||More commonly ei (IPA [ei̯]).|
|Tiberian||ṣērē mālēʾ||צֵרֵי מָלֵא||[eː]||ē|
|Tiberian||səḡōl||סְגוֹל||[ɛ] or [ɛː]||e or é|
|בֶי, בֶה, בֶא||Segol malei||segol yod||Israeli||seggōl maleʾ||סֶגּוֹל מָלֵא||[e̞]||e||With succeeding yod, it is more commonly ei (IPA [ei̯])|
|Tiberian||səḡōl mālēʾ||סְגוֹל מָלֵא||[ɛː]||ệ|
|בַ||Patach||patah||Israeli||pataẖ||פַּתַח||[a]||a||A patach on a letters ח, ע, ה at the end of a word is sounded before the letter, and not after. Thus, נֹחַ (Noah) is pronounced /ˈno.ax/. This only occurs at the ends of words and only with patach and ח, ע, and הּ (that is, ה with a dot (mappiq) in it). This is sometimes called a patach ganuv (פַּתַח גָּנוּב), or "stolen" patach (more formally, "furtive patach"), since the sound "steals" an imaginary epenthetic consonant to make the extra syllable.|
|Tiberian||páṯaḥ||פַּתַח||[a] or [aː]||a or á|
|בַה, בַא||Patach malei||patah he||Israeli||pataẖ maleʾ||פַּתַח מָלֵא||[a]||a|
|Tiberian||páṯaḥ mālēʾ||פַּתַח מָלֵא||[aː]||a|
|בָ||Kamatz gadol||kamats||Israeli||qamaṣ gadōl||קָמַץ גָּדוֹל||[a]||a|
|Tiberian||qāmeṣ gāḏōl||קָמֶץ גָּדוֹל||[ɔː]||ā|
|בָה, בָא||Kamatz malei||kamats he||Israeli||qamaṣ maleʾ||קָמַץ מָלֵא||[a]||a|
|Tiberian||qāmeṣ mālēʾ||קָמֶץ מָלֵא||[ɔː]||â|
|בָ||Kamatz katan||kamats hatuf||Israeli||qamaṣ qatan||קָמַץ קָטָן||[o̞]||o||Usually promoted to Holam Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. Also, not to be confused with Hataf Kamatz.|
|Tiberian||qāmeṣ qāṭān||קָמֶץ קָטָן||[ɔ]|
|בֹ||Holam||holam||Israeli||ẖolam||חוֹלָם||[o̞]||o||Usually promoted to Holam Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. The holam is written above the consonant on the left corner, or slightly to the left of (i.e., after) it at the top.|
|בוֹ, בֹה, בֹא||Holam malei||holam male||Israeli||ẖōlam mālēʾ||חוֹלָם מָלֵא||[o̞]||ō||The holam is written in the normal position relative to the main consonant (above and slightly to the left), which places it directly over the vav.|
|Tiberian||ḥōlem mālēʾ||חֹלֶם מָלֵא||[oː]||ō|
|בֻ||Kubutz||kubuts (shuruk - Ashkenazi)||Israeli||qubūṣ||קֻבּוּץ||[u]||u||Usually promoted to Shuruk in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.|
|Tiberian||qībūṣ||קִבּוּץ||[u] or [uː]||u or ú|
|בוּ, בוּה, בוּא||Shuruk||shuruk (melopum - Ashkenazi)||Israeli||šūrūq||שׁוּרוּק||[u]||ū||The shuruk is written after the consonant it applies to (the consonant after which the vowel /u/ is pronounced). The dot in the shuruk is identical to a dagesh, thus shuruq and vav with a dagesh are indistinguishable. (see below).|
|בּ||Dagesh||dagesh||Israeli||dageš||דָּגֵשׁ||varied||varied||Not a vowel, "dagesh" refers to two distinct grammatical entities:
For most letters the dagesh is written within the glyph, near the middle if possible, but the exact position varies from letter to letter (some letters do not have an open area in the middle, and in these cases it is written usually beside the letter, as with yod).
The guttural consonants (אהחע) and resh (ר) are not marked with a dagesh, although the letter he (ה) (and rarely א) may appear with a mappiq (which is written the same way as dagesh) at the end of a word to indicate that the letter does not signify a vowel but is consonantal.
To the resulting form, there can still be added a niqqud diacritic designating a vowel.
|בֿ||Rafe||rafe||Israeli||rafe||רָפֵה||Ø||a˺, e˺, i˺, o˺, or u˺||No longer used in Hebrew. Still seen in Yiddish (especially following the YIVO standard) to distinguish various letter pairs. Some ancient manuscripts have a dagesh or a rafe on nearly every letter. It is also used to indicate that a letter like ה or א is silent. In the particularly strange case of the Ten Commandments, which have two different traditions for their cantillations which many texts write together, there are cases of a single letter with both a dagesh and a rafe, if it is hard in one reading and soft in the other.|
|Tiberian||rāfa||[◌̆]||ă, ĕ, ĭ, or ŭ||Niqqud, but not a vowel. Used as an "anti-dagesh", to show that a בגדכפת letter is soft and not hard, or (sometimes) that a consonant is single and not double, or that a letter like ה or א is completely silent|
|שׁ||Shin dot||shin dot||Israeli and Tiberian||šin dot||שִׁי"ן, שִׁי״ן יְמָנִית, "right Shin"||[ʃ]||š/sh||Niqqud, but not a vowel (except when inadequate typefaces merge the holam of a letter before the shin with the shin dot). The dot for shin is written over the right (first) branch of the letter. It is usually transcribed "sh".|
|שׂ||Sin dot||sin dot||Israeli||śin dot||שִׂי"ן, שִׁי״ן שְׂמָאלִית, "left Shin"||[s]||ś/s||Niqqud, but not a vowel (except when inadequate typefaces merge the holam of the sin with the sin dot). The dot for sin is written over the left (third) branch of the letter|
|Tiberian||Some linguistic evidence indicates that it was originally IPA [ɬ].|
Both consonants and niqqud can be typed from virtual graphical keyboards available on the World Wide Web, or by methods integrated into particular operating systems.
|Niqqud||Right Alt (=AltGr) + Hebrew-keyboard key:||Explanation
(usually the first Hebrew letter of the niqqud's name)
|אָ||AltGr + ק for קָמץ (kamatz)||first Hebrew letter of the niqqud's name|
|אַ||AltGr + פ for פַתח (patach)|
|בְ||AltGr + ש for שְׁווא (sheva)|
|בּ וּ הּ||AltGr + ד for דּגש (dagesh)|
|אִ||AltGr + ח for חִירִיק (hiriq)|
|אֶ||AltGr + ס for סֶגול (segol)|
|אֵ||AltGr + צ for צֵירֵי (tsere)|
|אֹ||AltGr + ו for חׂולם (holam)||the vav key (like the 'o' vowel), since the het key is already used for hiriq|
|אֻ||AltGr + \ for קֻבּוּץ (kubuts)||because the line \ visually resembles ֻ|
|אֲ||AltGr + [ for reduced patach פַתח||the key to the right of פ|
|אֳ||AltGr + ר for reduced kamats קָמץ||the key to the right of ק|
|אֱ||AltGr + ב for reduced segol סֶגול||the key to the right of ס|
|שׁ||AltGr + W for the Shin dot||the key above ש, right-side, since the dot is placed above ש, right-side|
|שׂ||AltGr + Q for the Sin dot||the key above ש, left-side, since the dot is placed above ש, left-side|
|אֿ||AltGr + ] for רפֿה (rafe)|
In GTK+ Linux systems, niqqud can be entered by holding down AltGR and pressing the same keys as for Windows, above, or by pressing ctrl+shift+u followed by the appropriate 4 digit Unicode.
Using the Hebrew keyboard layout in Mac OS X, the typist can enter niqqud by pressing the Option key together with a number on the top row of the keyboard. Other combinations such as sofit and hataf can also be entered by pressing either the Shift key and a number, or by pressing the Shift key, Option key, and a number at the same time.
SIL International have developed another standard, which is based on Tiro, but adds the Niqqud along the home keys. Linux comes with "Israel — Biblical Hebrew (Tiro)" as a standard layout. With this layout, niqqud can be typed without pressing the Caps Lock key.
The notable exception is the newspaper שער למתחיל Sha'ar LaMatchil 'Gate for the Beginner', intended for children and students of Hebrew, which is printed in 'easy Hebrew' with a limited vocabulary and partial vocalization applied to scriptio plena.
Supposedly, the teachers who taught my generation knew Hebrew perfectly. They had a thorough knowledge of all the Hebrew classics as well as of modern Hebrew literature. But Hebrew was not their natural language. They had gained their knowledge of Hebrew from books, by tremendous effort. But they did not dream nor curse and did not read in Hebrew. And they subjected us, who grew up with Hebrew as our mother tongue, to a terrible torture. They demanded that we master perfectly all the niceties and nuances of a language purism which meant nothing to us. I remember when I was asked to write words with nikkud on the blackboard and made a hash of it, the teacher said "You are a total ignoramus".