|IPA||Modern Hebrew: /e/ ([e̞]), Ø|
|Biblical Hebrew: /a/|
|Transliteration||e, ' (apostrophe), nothing|
|English example||men, menorah|
The word shva in Hebrew. The first vowel (marked with red) is itself a shva.
Shva or, in Biblical Hebrew, shĕwa (Hebrew: שְׁוָא) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign written as two vertical dots ( ְ ) beneath a letter. It indicates either the phoneme /ə/ (shva na', mobile shva) or the complete absence of a vowel (/Ø/) (shva nach, resting shva).
It is transliterated as ⟨e⟩, ⟨ĕ⟩, ⟨ə⟩, ⟨'⟩ (apostrophe), or nothing. Note that use of ⟨ə⟩ for shva is questionable: transliterating Modern Hebrew shva nach with ⟨ə⟩ is misleading, since it is never actually pronounced [ə] – the vowel [ə] does not exist in Modern Hebrew. Moreover, the vowel [ə] is probably not characteristic of earlier pronunciations such as Tiberian vocalization.
A shva sign in combination with the vowel diacritics patáẖ, segól and kamáts katán produces a ẖatáf: a diacritic for a tnuʿá ẖatufá (a 'reduced vowel' – lit. 'abducted').
In Modern Hebrew, shva is either pronounced /e/ or is mute (Ø), regardless of its traditional classification as shva nach (שְׁוָא נָח) or shva na (שְׁוָא נָע), see following table for examples. The Israeli standard for its transliteration is ⟨e⟩ only for a pronounced shva na (i.e., one which is pronounced /e/), and no representation in transliteration if the shva is mute.
In Modern Hebrew, a shva is pronounced /e/ under the following conditions:
|Condition for /e/ pronunciation of shva in Israeli Hebrew||Examples||Examples for silent shva (since condition does not apply)|
|In Hebrew||IPA||translation||In Hebrew||IPA||translation|
|1. When under the first of two letters, both representing the same consonant or consonants with identical place and manner of articulation:||שָׁכְחוּ||/ʃaχeˈχu/||they forgot||מָכְרוּ||/maχˈru/||they sold|
|שָׁדַדְתְּ||/ʃaˈdadet/||you (f.) robbed||שָׁלַלְתְּ||/ʃaˈlalt/||you (feminine) negated|
|2. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter is a sonorant in modern pronunciation, i.e. י (/j/), ל (/l/), מ (/m/), נ (/n/) or ר (/r/)[*]:||נְמָלִים||/nemaˈlim/||ants||גְּמָלִים||/ɡmaˈlim/||camels|
|3. When under the first letter of a word, if the second letter is a glottal consonant, i.e. א (/ʔ/), ה (/h/) or ע (/ʕ/ or /ʔ/):||תְּאָרִים||/teaˈrim/||titles||מִתְאָרִים||/mitʔaˈrim/||outlines|
|4. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter represents one of the prefix-morphemes||בְּרֵיחָהּ||/berejˈχa/||in her scent||בְּרֵיכָה||/brejˈχa/||pool|
|וְרוֹדִים||/veroˈdim/||and (they) tyrannize||וְרוּדִים||/vruˈdim/||pink (m.p.)|
|כְּרָזָה||/keraˈza/||as a thin person||כְּרָזָה||/kraˈza/||poster|
|תְּבַלּוּ||/tevaˈlu/||you (m. p.) will have a good time||תְּבַלּוּל||/tvaˈlul/||cataract|
|5. (In non standard language usage) if one of the morphemes mentioned above (ב /be/, ו /ve/, כ /ke/, ל /le/ or ת /te/) or one of the morphemes מ /mi/ ("from") or ש /ʃe/ ("that") is added as a prefix to a word, which without this prefix begins with a letter marked with a shva pronounced /e/ under the above conditions, this shva will retain its /e/-pronunciation also with the prefix:||מִצְּעָדִים||/mitseaˈdim/||from steps||מִצְּמָדִים||/mitsmaˈdim/||from pairs|
|standard: מֵרְוָחִים –/merevaˈχim/|
|לַאֲרָיוֹת וְלְנְמֵרִים יֵשׁ פַּרְוָה||/learaˈjot velenemerim…/||Lions and tigers have fur|
|standard: וְלִנְמֵרִים /…velinmeˈrim…/|
|וְכְּיְלָדִים שִׂחַקְנוּ בַּחוּץ||/vekejelaˈdim…/||And as children we played outside|
|standard: וְכִילָדִים – /veχilaˈdim…/|
|6. (Usually – see #Counterexamples[**]) when under a medial letter, before whose pronunciation a consonant was pronounced:||אִשְׁפְּזוּ||/iʃpeˈzu/||they hospitalized||אִישׁ פְּזוּר דַּעַת||/iʃ pzur ˈda.at/||an absentminded man|
^ One exception to rule 2 seems to be מְלַאי /mlaj/ 'inventory' (although according to the New User-Friendly Hebrew-English Dictionary (Arie Comey, Naomi Tsur; Achiasaf, 2006), the word is instead pronounced /meˈlai/); the absence of a vowel after the מ (/m/) might be attributable to the high sonority of the subsequent liquid ל (/l/), however compare with מְלִית (/meˈlit/, not /*mlit/) 'filling' (in cuisine).
^ Exceptions to rule 6 include פְּסַנְתְּרָן (/psantˈran/, not */psanteˈran/ – 'pianist'), אַנְגְּלִית (/aŋˈɡlit/, not */aŋɡeˈlit/ – 'English'), נַשְׁפְּרִיץ (/naʃˈprit͡s/, not */naʃpeˈrit͡s/ – 'we will sprinkle'), several inflections of quinqueliteral roots – e.g.: סִנְכְּרֵן (/sinˈkren/, not */sinkeˈren/ – 'he synchronized'); חִנְטְרֵשׁ (/χinˈtreʃ/, not */χinteˈreʃ/ – 'he did stupid things'); הִתְפְלַרְטֵט (/hitflarˈtet/, not */hitfelartet/ – 'he had a flirt') – as well as other, more recent loanwords, e.g. מַנְטְרַה (/ˈmantra/, not */mantera/ – 'mantra').
In earlier forms of Hebrew, shva na and nach were phonologically and phonetically distinguishable, but the two variants resulting from Modern Hebrew phonology no longer conform to the traditional classification, e.g. while the (first) shva nach in the phrase סִפְרֵי תורה ('books of the Law') is correctly pronounced in Modern Hebrew /sifrei torah/ with the פ (or /f/ sound) being mute, the shva na in זְמַן ('time') in Modern Hebrew is often pronounced as a mute Shva (/zman/). In religious contexts, however, scrupulous readers of the prayers and scriptures do still differentiate properly between Shva Nach and Shva Na (e.g. zĕman).
In traditional Hebrew grammar, a shva is categorized according to several attributes of its grammatical context. The three categories of shva relevant to standard grammar of Modern Hebrew are shva na (שווא נע), shva naḥ (שווא נח) and the less common shva meraḥef (שווא מרחף). When discussing Tiberian pronunciation (ca. from the 8th until the 15th century) some shvas are classified as shva ga'ya (שווא געיה). The following table summarizes four distinguishing attributes which determine these categories:
To help illustrate the first criterion (existence or non-existence of a vowel in the word's non inflected form), the location of the shva (i.e., the place within the word where the lack of vowel is indicated by it) is marked within the phonemic transcription with an orange linguistic zero: Ø; if existing, the corresponding vowel in the basic (non inflected) form of the example is also marked in orange.
|type of shva||example||non inflected form of example||standard syllabification||attributes:|
|supersedes in non inflected form:||preceding letter's niqqud:||following letter with / without dagesh qal:||assigned to syllable:|
|meraḥef||יֶאֶרְכוּ||/je.erØˈχu/||(they will last)||יֶאֱרַךְ||/je.eˈraχ/||(it will last)||יֶ—אֶרְ—כוּ||vowel||short||without||preceding|
In most cases, traditional Hebrew grammar considers shva na, or the mobile shva, to be an entity that supersedes a vowel that exists in the basic form of a word but not after this word underwent inflection or declension. Additionally, any shva marked under an initial letter is classified shva na.
Merely identifying a given shva as being a shva na offers no indication as to its pronunciation in Modern Hebrew; it is however relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a בג״ד כפ״ת letter following a letter marked with a shva na may not be marked with a dagesh qal (Modern Hebrew phonology sometimes disagrees with this linguistic prescription, as in זִפְּזְפּוּ – 'they zapped' – in which the second pe is pointed with a dagesh qal although preceded by a shva na), or: the vowel preceding a letter marked with a shva na must be represented by the "long" niqqud-variant for that vowel: qamats and not pataḥ, tsere and not segol etc.[↑]. Furthermore, in standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva na is marked is grouped with the following syllable.
The Academy of the Hebrew Language's transliteration guidelines specify that shva na should be transliterated only if pronounced in Modern Hebrew, in which case ⟨e⟩ be used for general purposes and ⟨ĕ⟩ for precise transliteration. Shva na is sometimes transliterated ⟨ə⟩. Concerning Modern Hebrew pronunciation, however, this symbol is misleading, since it is commonly used in linguistics to denote the vowel schwa, which does not exist in Modern Hebrew.
A shva na can be identified as such by means of the following criteria:
For a more detailed account, see Tiberian vocalization § Vowel diacritics
Traditional Hebrew grammar defines shva naḥ, or shva quiescens, as indicating the absence of a vowel. In Modern Hebrew, some shvas classified as shva naḥ are nonetheless pronounced /e/ (e.g. the shva under the second dalet in the word שָׁדַדְתְּ – /ʃaˈdadet/ – "you (f.) robbed"; see table above).
In all but a small number of cases, a shva not conforming to the criteria listed above is classified shva naḥ. This offers no conclusive indication as to its pronunciation in Modern Hebrew; it is however relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a בג״ד כפ״ת letter following a letter marked with a shva nacḥ must be marked with a dagesh qal (Modern Hebrew phonology sometimes disagrees with this linguistic prescription, as in לְפַסְפֵס – "to miss" – in which the second pe lacks a dagesh qal although preceded by a shva naḥ), or: the vowel preceding a letter marked with a shva naḥ must be represented by the "short" niqqud-variant for that vowel: pataḥ and not qamats, segol and not tsere etc.[↑]. Furthermore, in standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva naḥ is marked is grouped with the preceding syllable.
The Academy of the Hebrew Language's transliteration guidelines specify that shva naḥ should not be represented in transliteration.
"Shva meraḥef" is the grammatical designation of a shva which does not comply with all criteria characterizing a shva na (specifically, one marked under a letter following a letter marked with a "short", not a "long", niqqud-variant[↑]), but which does, like a shva na, supersede a vowel (or a shva na) that exists in the basic form of a word but not after this word underwent inflection or declension.
The classification of a shva as shva meraḥef is relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a בג״ד כפ״ת letter following a letter marked with a shva meraḥef should not be marked with a dagesh qal, although the vowel preceding this letter could be represented by the short niqqud-variant for that vowel.[↑] This reflects sometimes, but not always, pronunciation in Modern Hebrew, e.g. מַלְכֵי ('kings of') is commonly pronounced in accordance with the standard form, /malˈχej/ (with no dagesh qal in the letter kaf), whereas כַּלְבֵי ('dogs of'), whose standard pronunciation is /kalˈvej/, is commonly pronounced /kalˈbej/ (as if there were a dagesh qal in the letter bet). In standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva meraḥef is marked is grouped with the preceding syllable.
Shva ga'ya designates a shva marked under a letter that is also marked with the cantillation mark ga'ya (גַּעְיָה lit. 'bleating' or 'bellowing'),: 22–23 or meteg, e.g. the shva under the letter bet in the word בְּהוֹנוֹת ('toes') would normally be classified a shva na and be transliterated ⟨e⟩: behonót (or according to the precise standard, ⟨ĕ⟩: bĕhonót), however, if marked with the ga'ya cantillation mark, , this shva is classified as shva ga'ya, and the transliteration believed to reflect its historical pronunciation would be bohonót. This "strict application" is found in Yemenite Hebrew.
Within niqqud, vowel diacritics are sorted into three groups: big, small and fleeting or furtive (t'nuot g'dolot תנועות גדולות, t'nuot k'tanot תנועות קטנות and t'nuot chatufot תנועות חטופות), sometimes also referred to as long, short and very short or ultrashort. This grouping might have correlated to different vowel lengths in earlier forms of Hebrew (see Tiberian vocalization → Vowels; spoken Israeli Hebrew however does not distinguish between different vowel lengths, thus this orthographic differentiation is not manifest in speech).
The vowel diacritics classified as chatufot ('fleeting') all share the common feature of being a digraph of a small vowel diacritic (Patach, Segol or Kamatz Katan) plus a shva sign. Similarly, their names are derived from the respective small vowel diacritic's name plus the adjunct chataf: chataf patach, chataf segol and chataf kamatz.
As with a shva na, standard (prescribed) syllabification determines that letters pointed with a fleeting vowel diacritic be considered part of the subsequent syllable, even if in modern Hebrew pronunciation this diacritic represents a full-fledged syllable, thus e.g. the phonologically trisyllabic word הֶעֱמִיד ('he placed upright'), pronounced Hebrew pronunciation: [/he.eˈmid/], should standardly be syllabified into only two syllables, הֶ—עֱמִיד (he'emid).
("ẖatáf ẖiríq") – not in current use, appears rarely in the Aleppo Codex
|Vowel comparison table|
(phonetically not manifested in Israeli Hebrew)
|סָ||סַ||סֲ||/a/||[ä]||a||spa||see open central unrounded vowel|
|סֵ||סֶ||סֱ||/e/||[e̞]||e||temp||see mid front unrounded vowel|
|סוֹ||סָ||סֳ||/o/||[o̞]||o||cone||see mid back rounded vowel|
|Note I:||By adding two vertical dots (shva) ְ the vowel is made very short.|
|Note II:||The short o and long a have the same niqqud.|
|Note III:||The short o is usually promoted to a long o in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation|
|Note IV:||The short u is usually promoted to a long u in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation|
|U+05B0||HEBREW POINT SHEVA|
|U+05B1||HEBREW POINT HATAF SEGOL|
|U+05B2||HEBREW POINT HATAF PATAH|
|U+05B3||HEBREW POINT HATAF QAMATS|
As of 2016, a separate Unicode symbol for the sheva na has been proposed but not implemented.
↑ Long and short niqqud-variants represent identical spoken vowels in Modern Hebrew; the orthographic distinction is, however, still observed in standard spelling.