Hebrew Helps: 4-5
Help 4: In general, the Hebrew vowel system is quite different than the English one. One significant thing to take note of when “reading” Hebrew is the difference between short and long vowels (more on that important difference in the future). Here, I will refer to the writing of vowels as “vowel points”. In Hebrew, I use a sort of “Inverted L Shape” to remember my 13 “vowel points”. I use an “Inverted L Shape” because it has 3 points to it and in Hebrew, vowels are typically written in 3 different ways: 1) Under the consonant, 2) To the Left of the consonant [or, under and to the left], and 3) Above the consonant. Below is an image that I developed which aids me in memorizing my Hebrew “vowel points”. Some things to note about the “vowel points” are: A) All of the “vowel points” that site atop a letter are “long vowels”. B) All of the “vowel points” that sit to “under and to the left” of the letter are “long vowels”. C) With the exception of “Qames” and “Sere”, which are “long”, everything that sits “under” the consonant is a “short” vowel. D) With the “long vowels” where the “vowel point” is under/left, there is always a 2nd letter that is either a “yod” or a “waw” (vav). E) Note that when both the “segol” and “hireq”, which are short, adopt a “yod”, they become “long”. F) Remember that there are 13 “vowel points”. I remember these as 4-5-4 (4 “long at top”, 5 “short at bottom” and 4 “long at bottom/left”). Here’s the image that I use (the samekh is simply used as a placeholder so that we have an example consonant to work with): = ō (holem) = o (holem-vav) = ā (qames) = ē (sere) = a (patah) = e (segol) = I (hireq) = o (qames-hatuf) = u (qibbus) L o n g = = = = ê (sere-yod) ey (segol-yod) i (hireq-yod) u (shureq) L o n g
Note that in Hebrew, there is also a “Shewa” which is two vertical dots placed under the consonant. I do not include this in the “vowel” list but as it is common, it must be learned. You may include or remember it with the “Inverted L” to the left. It looks like this:

S h o r t

© 2009, T. Michael W. Halcomb

Help 5: In biblical Hebrew, we notice some trends when it comes to vowels and whether or not they lengthen or shorten. The rules can be divided into 2 categories: “short” and “long”.

“Short” When reducing: When lengthening 1. May reduce to shewa 1. patah may go to qames 2. hireq may go to sere 3. qames-hatuf may go to holem

“Long” 1. Vowels with “vav” or “yod” never reduce to a short vowel 2. Historic long vowels can be written without the “vav” or “yod” (more on this later) 3. qames, sere and holem may be lengthened from short vowels (see above table)

© 2009, T. Michael W. Halcomb

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