TIBERIAN HEBREW is the canonical pronunciation of the
Though the written vowels and accents came into use only c. 750 CE,
the oral tradition they reflect is many centuries older, with ancient
roots. Although not in common use today, the Tiberian pronunciation of
* 1 Sources
* 2 Phonology
* 2.1 Consonants * 2.2 Vowels * 2.3 Stress * 2.4 Phonotactics
* 3 Orthography * 4 Notes
* 5 References
* 5.1 Bibliography
Page from Aleppo Codex, Deuteronomy
The phonology of Tiberian
Aleppo Codex of the
In the last two, it is evident that the chain of transmission is breaking down or that their interpretations are influenced by local tradition.
* Ancient manuscripts that preserve similar dialects of
LABIAL DENTAL DENTI-ALVEOLAR PALATAL VELAR UVULAR PHARYNGEAL GLOTTAL
STOP VOICELESS p
FRICATIVE VOICELESS f θ s sˤ ʃ x
VOICED v ð z
The following are the most salient characteristics of the Tiberian
* Waw ו conjunctive was read, before the labial vowels (בומ״ף) and shva (אְ), as אוּ /ʔu/, rather than וֻ /wu/ (as is the case in some eastern reading traditions). * The threefold pronunciation of Resh ר. Even though there is no agreement as to how it was pronounced, the rules of distribution of such pronunciation is given in הורית הקורא Horayath haQoré:
A) "Normal" Resh /ʀ/ pronounced thus (according to Eldar, as a uvular sound ) in all other instances (except for the circumstances described below): אוֹר B) The "peculiar" resh before or after Lamed or Nun, any of the three being vocalized with simple sheva and Resh after Zayin ז, Daleth ד, Samekh ס, Sin שׂ, Taw ת, Tzadi צ, Teth ט, any of them punctuated with simple sheva: יִשְׂרָאֵל , עָרְלָה . Because of the proximity of a dental consonant , it is likely that Resh was then pronounced as an alveolar trill , as it still is in Sephardi Hebrew . C) There is still another pronunciation, affected by the addition of a dagesh in the Resh in certain words in the Bible, which indicates it was doubled : הַרְּאִיתֶם . As can be seen, this pronunciation has to do with the progressive increase in length of this consonant (הָרְאִיתֶם). It was preserved only by the population of Ma'azya (מעזיה), which is in Tiberias.
* A possible threefold pronunciation of Taw ת. There are three words in the Torah, Prophets and Writings of which is said that "the Taw is pronounced harder than usual". It is said that this pronunciation was halfway between the soft Taw ת /θ/ and the hard Taw תּ /t/: וַיְשִׂימֶהָ תֵּל
This vowel chart gives a general idea of the vowel space of Tiberian Hebrew. It is not meant to be a precise mapping of the tongue positions, which would be impossible to do anyway since there are no native speakers of Tiberian Hebrew. Figurines holding Tiberian vowel diacritics . Limestone and basalt artwork at the shore in Tiberias.
CLOSE i u
CLOSE-MID e o
OPEN-MID ɛ ɔ
REDUCED ă ɔ̆ (ɛ̆)1
The vowel qualities /a e i ɔ o u/ have phonemic status: אָשָׁם הוּא אָשֹׁם אָשַׁם (Lev. 5:19) and אָשֵׁם 'guilty', אִם 'when' and אֵם 'mother'. /ɛ/ has phonemic value in final stressed position רְעֶה רְעִי רָעָה, מִקְנֶה מְקַנֵּה, קָנֶה קָנָה קָנֹה, but in other positions, it may reflect loss of the opposition /a/: /i/. By the Tiberian period, all short vowels in stressed syllables had lengthened, making vowel length allophonic. Vowels in open or stressed syllables had allophonic length (such as /a/ in יְרַחֵם, which was previously short).
The Tiberian tradition possesses three reduced (ultrashort, hatuf) vowels /ă ɔ̆ ɛ̆/ of which /ɛ̆/ has questionable phonemicity. /ă/, under a non-guttural letter, was pronounced as an ultrashort copy of the following vowel before a guttural (וּבָקְעָה ) and as preceding /j/, (תְדַמְּיוּנִי ). However, it was always pronounced as under gutturals: חֲיִי .
As described above, vowel length was dependent on syllable structure.
Open syllables must take long or ultrashort vowels; stressed closed
syllables take long vowels; unstressed closed syllables take short
LETTER א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ/ך ל מ/ם נ/ן ס ע פ/ף צ/ץ ק ר ש ת
TRANSLITERATION ʾ b/v g/gh d/dh h w z ḥ ṭ y k/kh l m n s ʿ p/f ṣ q r š, ś t/th
NIQQUD WITH ב בַ בֶ בֵ בִ בָ בֹ בֻ בוּ
NAME pathaḥ seghol ṣere ḥireq qamaṣ ḥolam qubuṣ shuruq
PRONUNCIATION /a/ /ɛ/ /e/ /i/ /ɔ/ /o/ /u/
NIQQUD WITH ב בַא בַה בֶא בֶה בֶי בֵא בֵה בֵי בִי בִא בָא בָה בֹא בֹה בוֹ בוּא בוּה
NAME pathaḥ male seghol male ṣere male ḥireq male qamaṣ male ḥolam male shuruq male
PRONUNCIATION /a/ /ɛ/ /e/ /i/ /ɔ/ /o/ /u/
NIQQUD WITH א אְ אֲ אֱ אֳ
NAME shwa ḥaṭaf pathaḥ ḥaṭaf seghol ḥaṭaf qamaṣ
PRONUNCIATION /ă/, ⌀ /ă/ /ɛ̆/ /ɔ̆/
NIQQUD בּ בֿ הּ שׁ שׂ
NAME daghesh rafe mapiq shin dot sin dot
PRONUNCIATION Gemination of a consonant /Cː/, or the stop pronunciation of the בגדכפ״ת consonants Fricative pronunciation of the בגדכפ״ת consonants (its use is optional) /h/, being the last letter of a word /ʃ/ /s/
The simple sheva sign changes its pronunciation depending on its position in the word (mobile/vocal or quiescent/zero ), as well as due to its proximity to certain consonants.
In the examples given below, it has been preferred to show one found precisely in the Bible which represents each phenomenon in a graphic manner (i.e. a chateph vowel ), although these rules still apply when there is only simple sheva (depending on the manuscript or edition used).
When the simple sheva appears in any of the following positions, it is regarded as mobile (na):
* At the beginning of a word. This includes the sheva (originally the first of the word) following the attached particles bi-,ki-,li- and u- and preceded by metheg (the vertical line placed to the left of the vowel sign, which stands for either secondary stress, or its lengthening). Examples: וּזֲהַב /ˌʔuːzăˈhaːv/ Genesis 2:12; בִּסֲבָךְ /ˈbiːsăvɔx/ Psalms 74:5. But is not pronounced if there is no metheg; that is, they form a closed syllable. * The sheva following these three vowels /e/, /ɔ/, /o/, except for known types of closed syllables (and preceded or not, by metheg). Examples: נֵלֲכָה-נָּא /ˌneːlăxɔˈnːɔː/ Exodus 3:18; אֵלֲכָה נָּא /ˈʔeːlăxɔː ˈnɔː/ Exodus 4:18. * The second of two adjacent shevas, when both appear under different consonants. Examples: אֶכְתֲּבֶנּוּ /ʔɛxtăˈvɛːnːuː/ Jeremiah 31:33; וָאֶשְׁקֲלָה-לֹּו /wɔːʔɛʃqălɔˈlːoː/ Jeremiah 32:9 (except for at the end of a word, אָמַרְתְּ /ʔɔːˈmaːrt/). * The sheva under the first of two identical consonants, preceded by metheg. Examples: בְּחַצֲצֹן /băˌћaːsˤăˈsˤoːn/ Gen. 14:7; צָלֲלוּ /sˤɔːlăˈluː/ Exodus: 15:10. * The sheva under a consonant with dagesh forte or lene. Examples: סֻבֳּלוֹ /suɓbɔ̆ˈloː/ Isaiah 9:3; אֶשְׁתֳּלֶנּוּ /ʔɛʃtăˈlɛːnːuː/ Ezekiel 17:23. * The sheva under a consonant which expects gemination, but is not marked thus, for example, the one found under ר. And sometimes even מ when preceded by the article. Examples: מְבָרֲכֶיךָ /măvɔːʀăˈxɛːxɔː/ Genesis 12:3; הַמֲדַבְּרִים /haːmăðaɓbăˈʀiːm/ 2 Chronicles 33:18. * In case a quiescent sheva was followed either by a guttural or yodh , it would turn into mobile according to the rules given below, if preceded by a metheg. Ancient manuscripts support this view. Examples: נִבֳהָל /niːvɔ̆ˈhɔːl/ Proverbs 28:22; שִׁבֲעַת /ʃiːvăˈʕaːθ/ Job 1:3. * Any sheva with the sign metheg attached to it, would change an ultrashort vowel to a short, or normal length vowel. For this, only ancient, reliable manuscripts can give us a clear picture, since, with time, later vocalizers added to the number of methegs found in the Bible.
The gutturals (אהח"ע), and yodh (י), affect the pronunciation of the sheva preceding them. The allophones of the phoneme /ă/ follow these two rules:
* It would change its sound to imitate that of the following
guttural. וּקֳהָת /ˌʔuːqɔ̆ˈhɔːθ/ Numbers 3:17;
וְנִזְרֳעָה /wănizrɔ̆ˈʕɔː/ Numbers 5:28.
* It would be pronounced as ḥireq before consonantal yodh.
Examples: יִרְמִיָהוּ /jiʀmĭˈjɔːhuː/ Jeremiah 21:1;
עִנִייָן /ʕiːnĭˈjɔːn/ in
It must be said that, even though there are no special signs apart
/ɛ̆/, /ă/, /ɔ̆/ to denote the full range of furtive vowels, these
remaining four (/u/, /i/, /e/, /o/) are represented by simple sheva
(chateph chireq (אְִ) in the
Aleppo Codex is a scribal oddity, and
certainly not regular in
All other cases should be treated as zero vowel (quiescent, nah),
including the double final sheva (double initial sheva does not exist
Depending on the school of pronunciation (and relying on musical grounds, perhaps), the metheg sign served to change some closed syllables into open ones, and therefore, changing the vowel from short to long, and the quiescent sheva, into a mobile one.
That is referenced specifically by medieval grammarians:
If one argues that the dalet of 'Mordecai' (and other letters in other words) has hatef qames, tell him, 'but this sign is only a device used by some scribes to warn that the consonants should be pronounced fully, and not slurred over'. — Abu al-Faraj Harun , Hidāyat al-Qāri (Horayat Ha-Qore), quoted in Yeivin (1980 :283–284)
The names of the vowel diacritics are iconic and show some variation:
The names of the vowels are mostly taken from the form and action of
the mouth in producing the various sounds, as פַּתַ֫ח
opening; צֵרֵ֫י a wide parting (of the mouth), also
שֶׁ֫בֶר) breaking, parting (cf. the Arab, kasr);
חִ֫ירֶק (also חִרֶק) narrow opening;
ח֫וֹלֶם closing, according to others fullness, i.e. of the
mouth (also מְלֹא פּוּם fullness of the mouth).
קָ֫מֶץ also denotes a slighter, as שׁוּרֶק and
קִבּוּץ (also קבוץ פּוּם) a firmer, compression
or contraction of the mouth. Segôl (סְגוֹל bunch of grapes)
takes its name from its form. So שָׁלֹשׁ נְקֻדּוֹת
(three points) is another name for Qibbúṣ. Moreover the names were
mostly so formed (but only later), that the sound of each vowel is
heard in the first syllable (קָמֶץ for קֹמֶץ,
פַּתַח for פֶּתַח, צֵרִי for
צְרִי); in order to carry this out consistently some even
write Sägôl, Qomeṣ-ḥatûf, Qûbbûṣ. —
Wilhelm Gesenius ,
* ^ In fact, all stressed vowels were first lengthened in pause,
see Janssens (1982 :58–59), as can be seen by forms like Tiberian
כַּף /kaf/ < */kaf/, pausal כָּף /kɔf/ < */kɔːf/ < */kaːf/
< */kaf/. The shift in Tiberian
* ^ Tiberian
* Bar-Asher, M. (1998). Scripta Hierosolymitana Volume XXXVII
Studies in Mishnaic Hebrew.
* Blau, Joshua (2010).
Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew.
Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-57506-129-5 .
* Dotan, A. (1967). The Diqduqe Hatte'amim of Aharon ben Moshe ben
* Eldar, I. (1994). The Art of Correct Reading of the Bible.
* Ginsburg, C.D. (1897). Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical
Edition of the
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