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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 /e/ (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 usage of "ə" for shva is questionable: transliterating modern Hebrew Shva
Shva
Nach with ə or ' 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 either (see Tiberian vocalization
Tiberian vocalization
→ Mobile Shwa = Shwa na'). A shva sign in combination with the vowel diacritics patáẖ, segól and kamáts katán produces a "ẖatáf": a diacritic for a "tnuʿá ẖatufá" (a "fleeting" or "furtive" vowel).

Contents

1 Pronunciation in modern Hebrew 2 Traditional classification

2.1 Shva
Shva
Na 2.2 Shva
Shva
Naḥ 2.3 Shva
Shva
Meraḥef 2.4 Shva
Shva
Ga'ya

3 T'nua hatufa

3.1 Comparison table

4 Unicode encoding 5 See also 6 Notes 7 Bibliography 8 References

Pronunciation in modern Hebrew[edit] In Modern Hebrew, shva is either pronounced /e/ or is mute (Ø), regardless of its traditional classification as shva nacḥ (שְׁוָ א
א
נָח‬) or shva na (שְׁוָ א
א
נָע‬), see following table for examples. The Israeli standard for its transliteration[1] 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:[2]

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 /ʃaχeˈḥu/ 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 י (/j/), ל (/l/), מ (/m/), נ (/n/) or ר (/r/)[*]: נְמָלִים /nemaˈlim/ ants גְּמָלִים /ɡmaˈlim/ camels

מְנִיָּה /meniˈja/ counting בְּנִיָּה /bniˈja/ building

3. When under the first letter of a word, if the second letter is א (/ʔ/), ה
ה
(/h/) or ע (/ʕ/ or /ʔ/): תְּאָרִים /teaˈrim/ titles מִתְאָרִים /mitʔaˈrim/ outlines

תְּמָרִים /tmaˈrim/ dates

4. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter represents one of the prefix-morphemes

ב
ב
(/be/) = amongst others "in", ו
ו
(/ve/) = "and", כ (/ke/) = amongst others "as" or "approximately", ל (/le/) = amongst others "to", dative marker and verb prefix in infinitive, ת (/te/) as future tense verb prefix:

בְּרֵיחָהּ /berejˈχa/ in her scent בְּרֵיכָה /brejˈχa/ pool

בְּחִישָׁה /beχiˈʃa/ in sensing בְּחִישָׁה /bχiˈʃa/ stirring

וְרוֹדִים /veroˈdim/ and (they) tyrannize וְרוּדִים /vruˈdim/ pink (m.p.)

כְּרָזָה /keraˈza/ as a thin person כְּרָזָה /kraˈza/ poster

לְפָּרִיז /lepaˈriz/ to Paris

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
ב
/be/, ו
ו
/ve/, כ /ke/, ל /le/ or ת /te/) or one of the morphemes מ /mi/ ("from") or ש
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

מִצְעָדִים /mitsʔaˈdim/ parades

מִרְוָחִים /mirevaˈχim/ from blanks מִרְוָחִים /mirvaˈχim/ intervals

standard: מֵרְוָחִים –/merevaˈχim/

לְאֲרָיוֹ ת 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 פְּזוּ ר דַּעַת /iʃ pzur ˈda.at/ an absentminded man

Counterexamples

*^ One exception to rule 2 seems to be מְלַא י /mlaj/ "inventory"; 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 מְלִי ת (/meˈlit/, not /*mlit/) "filling (in cuisine)". According to the "New User-Friendly Hebrew-English Dictionary" (Arie Comey, Naomi Tsur ; Achiasaf, 2006), the word word מְלַא י is pronounced with an /e/: [me'lai]. **^ Exceptions to rule 6 include פְּסַנְתְּרָן (/psantˈran/, not */psanteˈran/ – "pianist"), אַנְגְּלִי ת (/aŋˈɡlit/, not */aŋɡeˈlit/ – "English"), נַשְׁפְּרִיץ[1] (/naʃˈprit͡s/, not */naʃpeˈrit͡s/ – "we will sprinkle"), several inflections of quinqueliteral roots – e.g.: סִנְכְּרֵן[2] (/sinˈkren/, not */sinkeˈren/ – "he synchronized"); חִנְטְרֵשׁ[3] (/χinˈtreʃ/, not */χinteˈreʃ/ – "he did stupid things"); הִתְפְלַרְטֵט[4] (/hitflarˈtet/, not */hitfelartet/ – "he had a flirt") – as well as other, more recent loanwords, e.g. מַנְטְרַ ה
ה
(/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
Modern Hebrew
phonology no longer conform to the traditional classification, e.g. while the (first) shva nach in the word סִפְרֵ י תורה‬ (trans. "books of the Law") is correctly pronounced in Modern Hebrew
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
Shva
(/zman/). In religious contexts, however, scrupulous readers of the prayers and scriptures do still differentiate properly between Shva
Shva
Nach and Shva
Shva
Na (e.g. zĕman). Traditional classification[edit] In traditional Hebrew grammar, shvas are in most cases classified as either "shva na" (Heb. שוו א
א
נע) or as "shva naḥ" (Heb. שוו א
א
נח); in a few cases as "shva meraḥef" (Heb. שווא מרחף), and when discussing Tiberian pronunciation (ca. from the 8th until the 15th century) some shvas are classified as "shva ga'ya" (Heb. שוו א
א
געיה). A shva is categorized according to several attributes of its grammatical context. The three categories of shva relevant to standard grammar of Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew
are "shva na", "shva naḥ" and "shva meraḥef"; the following table summarizes four distinguishing attributes which determine these categories:

Does the shva supersede a vowel or no vowel in the word's non inflected form? Is the preceding letter pointed with a "short" or a "long" niqqud-variant? Is the following letter, when בג״ד כפ״ת, pointed with a dagesh qal or not? Is the letter which is pointed with shva assigned to the preceding or to the following syllable?

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:

na עֵרְבוֹנוֹת /erØvoˈnot/ (deposits) עֵרָבוֹן /eraˈvon/ (deposit) עֵ—רְבוֹ—נוֹת vowel long without following

naḥ עֶלְבּוֹנוֹת /elØboˈnot/ (insults) עֶלְבּוֹן /elØˈbon/ (insult) עֶלְ—בּוֹ—נוֹת no vowel short with preceding

meraḥef יֶאֶרְכוּ /je.erØˈχu/ (they will last) יֶאֱרַךְ /je.eˈraχ/ (it will last) יֶ—אֶרְ—כוּ vowel short without preceding

Shva
Shva
Na[edit] 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
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[1] 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. Generally, shva na is sometimes transliterated "ə". Concerning Modern Hebrew
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:

when marked under the first letter of a word, as in מְרַחֵף‬, לְפָנָי‬, and שְׁמַע‬, when marked under the first of two identical letters, when it's the second of two shvas marked under two consecutive letters (except when marked under the last letter of a word), as in רַעְמְסֵס‬ (Exo. 12:37) and וישְׁמְעו‬ (Gen. 3:8), when the letter before the one under which it is marked is marked with a "long" niqqud-variant,[↑], such as the long vowel of either yod or ḥiríq, as in יְחִֽידְֿךָ‬ (Gen. 22:2) (yeḥīdhəkha), or the long vowel of waw or ḥolam, as in the words הוֹלְכִֿים‬, יוֹדְֿעִים‬ and מוֹכְֿרִים‬ (hōləkhīm, yōdəʻīm and mōkhərīm) and שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים‬ (Deut. 16:18), "shōfəṭīm wa-shōṭərīm." when marked under a letter with a dagesh ḥazaq (historically an indicator of gemination), as מִפְּנֵיכֶם‬ (Lev. 18:24) and מִקְּדָֿשׁ‬ (Exo. 15:17).[3]:31

For a more detailed account, see Tiberian vocalization
Tiberian vocalization
→ Vowels. Shva
Shva
Naḥ[edit] 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
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[1] specify that shva naḥ should not be represented in transliteration. Shva
Shva
Meraḥef[edit] " Shva
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. מַלְכֵ י ("kings of") is commonly pronounced in accordance with the standard form, /malˈχej/ (with no dagesh qal in the letter kaf), whereas כַּלְבֵ י ("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
Shva
Ga'ya[edit]

The word /vənā'šūḇā/ in Ekhah (Lamentations) 5:21. The ga'ja in the word (marked in red) renders the shva stressed. In the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic tradition, the pronunciation is ['vanā'šūḇā].

" Shva
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")[3]:22-23, or "meteg", e.g. the shva under the letter bet in the word בְּהוֹנוֹ ת ("toes") would normally be classified a shva na and be transliterated "e": "behonót" (or according to the precise standard,[1] "ĕ": "bĕhonót"), however, if marked with the ga'ya cantillation mark, , this shva is classified as shva ga'ya, and the transliteration reflecting its historical pronunciation would be "bohonót". For more on the strict application of the Shva
Shva
Ga'ya, see Main article: Yemenite Hebrew
Yemenite Hebrew
§ Strict Application of Mobile Shewā . T'nua hatufa[edit] Within niqqud, vowel diacritics are sorted into three groups: "big", "small" and "fleeting" or "furtive" ("T'nuot g'dolot" – "גדולות", "T'nuot k'tanot" – "קטנות" and "T'nuot chatufot" "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
Tiberian vocalization
→ Vowels; spoken Israeli Hebrew
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 /he.eˈmid/, should standardly be syllabified into only two syllables, "הֶ—עֱמִיד" ("he'emid").

Name Symbol Israeli Hebrew

IPA Transliteration English approximate

Reduced Segol ("ẖatáf segól")

[e̞] e men

Reduced Patach ("ẖatáf patáẖ")

[ä] a cup

Reduced Kamatz ("ẖatáf kamáts")

[o̞] o clock

Reduced Hiriq ("ẖatáf ẖiríq") – not in current use, appears rarely[4] in the Aleppo Codex[5]

[i] i it

Comparison table[edit]

Vowel
Vowel
comparison table

Vowel
Vowel
Length (phonetically not manifested in Israeli Hebrew) IPA Transliteration English approximate Notes

Long Short Very Short phonemic phonetic

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

סוּ‬ סֻ‬ n/a /u/ [u] u doom

סִי‬ סִ‬ /i/ [i] i ski

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

Unicode encoding[edit]

Glyph Unicode Name

ְ 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.[6] See also[edit]

Niqqud Schwa Tiberian vocalization Arabic diacritic sukūn

Notes[edit] ↑^ Long and short niqqud-variants represent identical spoken vowels in Modern Hebrew; the orthographic distinction is, however, still observed in standard spelling. Bibliography[edit]

 Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §10

References[edit]

^ a b c d Transliteration
Transliteration
guidelines from 2006 (p. 4) ^ "Characterization and Evaluation of Speech-Reading Support Systems for Hard-of-Hearing Students in the Class" by Becky Schocken; Faculty of Management, Tel-Aviv University, Department of Management and Economics, The Open University of Israel ^ a b Maḥberet Kitrei Ha-Torah (ed. Yoav Pinhas Halevi), chapter 5, Benei Barak 1990 (Hebrew) ^ I Kings
I Kings
17:11 "לקחי־נא"; Psalms
Psalms
14:1 "השחיתו","התעיבו"; Psalms
Psalms
53:2 "השחיתו", "והתעיבו" ^ hagigim.com ^ http://scriptsource.org/cms/scripts/page.php?item_id=entry_detail&uid=qek84cbq5u

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