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Hebrew 101
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Lessons 202
Lesson 1

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Lesson 2 שִׁעוּר

More Hebrew Letters

  • Let's look on some non-trivial letters now. They would be somewhat unusual (right, like those we've seen before were trivial, huh.)

      Letter Name Pronounced as
    1 shin sh
    2 sin s
    3 hei h
    4 khet kh or ch in chutzpah

    Hey, wait a minute. Aren't two of them the same? And besides, we've seen one "s" already, didn't we? That was (samekh), right? Ok, ok, let's calm down and take a closer look.

  • The letters  (Shin) and (Sin) - are for "sh" and "s", respectively. In non-vocalized writing ("no points and dashes") these two letters are writtene exactly the same way. In the alphabeth they are considered to be one letter. (There is some hypotetical explanation, involving referrals to ancient dialects mentioned somewhere in Tanakh, but I'd advise to not even bother understanding it. Try just to memorize the fact.) You may compare it to English "th" which has different pronunciation in "this" and "thumb". There are very few words in Hebrew that could be confused because of Shin and Sin. Most words are well known (we'll discuss it below, in this lesson.)

  • Samekh and Sin in modern Hebrew are pronounced exactly the same way. They probably were different few thousand years ago, but we've lost any track of it.
    Now, to make it a little easier:  

    • Let's just remember two letters: (Shin) for "Sh" and (samekh) for "S".

    • Also, let's remember that we have that "ridiculous" letter , which is written same way as "Sh", and is read as "S".

    • Let's not bother explaining it, unless you're going to write a PhD research in historical linguistics or something.

    The good news is, the letter "Sin" is found 10 times rarely than "Shin".

    There are some commonly used words with Sin, but they are really-really well known to everybody, and you never got confused.

If you're not confused enough today, let's move on. ;)

  • (khet) was once a guttural sound, specific to Semitic languages; Jews from Arab countries preserved that pronunciation. Today most Israelis pronounce it like Ch in Yiddish word chutzpah

  • (hei) is more or less same as h in English.

  • Diacritic (vocalization) marks.
      Vocalization Name Pronounced as:

    X  (a dot below the letter)

    khiriq i in give, ee in feet
    2 X (a dot above the letter on the left) cholam o in more
    3 X
    qubbootz u in put, oo in book

  • Some vowels are still written as letters, or, to be precise, a combination of a letter and a diacritic mark:
      Vocalization Name Pronounced as:

    chiriq maleh i in give, ee in feet
    5 X холам мале о
    6 X шурук у

    Historically, in ancient Hebrew there was a variety of long, short, and ulta-short vowels. With the time (when Hebrew was lost as spoken language) they evolved and long vowels became almost undistinguishable from the short ones, (or turned into dipthongs (i.e., two vowel pronunciation, like "oi" and "ei".) So, we'll see about three or four variations for each vowel in Hebrew, and learn about the role they play in Hebrew morphology (i.e., structuring Hebrew words.)

Word math: Word = Root + Model.

It might be that any langage has some unique features to put more attention on, but it's certainly true about Hebrew. You'd better do a good homework about the interaction of roots and models. Instead of adding suffixes, affixes, or even prepositions to a word (re-connect, inter-connect, etc) we apply a model on a root. (Hebrew has suffixes, affixes and all this stuff too, but they roots and models are the real first-class citizens in Hebrew morphology.

  • Root

    A root is compound of several consonant letters. In most cases those are three letters, sometimes four, rarely two. Five letter roots are usually found in foreign words (like "synchronize" -> S-N-CH-R-N.) One-letter roots found in some words in the language, and we leave to the scientists the discussion about them.


    3-letter roots:
    [k-t-v] root with a common meaning of "writing"
    [p-sh-t] root with a common meaning of "simple"
    [sh-m-r] root which means "keep, guard, save"
    4-letter roots: буквами:

    4-letter roots are commonly found in foreign words and in so called "square roots" (nothing to do with the math though):

    [b-z-b-z] ("square" root) means "spending without a purpose"
    [t-r-p-d] (foreign root) anything related to "torpedo"
    5-letter root:

    As we said, 5-letter roots are not commonly found in Hebrew, and most oftenly originated in foreign languages, and I only could recall one such root.

     -   [s-n-ch-r-n]  -  

    similar to "synchron-" in English, for words like "synchronization", "synchronize", "synchronized", etc; and if I remember another 5-letter root example, I'll try to bring it in. :)

  • Model

    Model gives live and color to the root. When root means "related-to-some-subject in general", the model makes it specific word, gives it a definite grammatic function, a noun, a verb, etc.

    Model is a template to be applied on the root (or the root is applied on the model, same thing), and voila - we have a word. Three-letter roots we've just met, here you go:

    [_] [_] [_]
      meaning: passive tense
    Translation   Word   Root   Model
     =   +  [_] [_] [_]
    simple (simplified)  
     =   +  [_] [_] [_]
    kept, preserved  
     =   +  [_] [_] [_]

That's pretty simple, isn't it? This is the way Hebrew morphology looks like, well, in general.


Here are just some words to learn. I'd suggest you to just accumulate words and memorize how they are written, like when you're learning any foreign language. We'll change the way we learn words very soon, when we feel more comfortable with Hebrew morphology and gain more powerful tools for memorizing (in fact, creating) Hebrew words.

Hebrew Pronunciation Translation

Daveed David (name)

--"-- This is simply the same way of writing the same exact name. (Quite unusual, isn't it?) Both spellings are found in the Tanakh. The spelling without the might be referring the time when no letters were used for vowels at all.

One may write the name both ways, although the first one is probably more popular.

amar (he) said

lomar to say

lemor, leimor to say (another form, more ancient, commonly used in Tanakh, but rarely in modern language.)

sak sack, bag -- don't ask me why :) but it's obviously the same word

tzodeq right, correct

lomed (he) is learning

gir (pronounced "gheer", not "jeer") chalk

shir (sheer) song

mesheq economy, household

nesheq weapon

gar (he) lived; (he) lives

khay living, existing; fresh (when speaking about food: meat, vegetables, bread)

zar stranger, foreign, alien (well, but not the one from UFO)

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