Hebrew alphabet

Infobox Writing system
name=Hebrew alphabet
languages=Hebrew language Jewish language
time=3rd century BCE to present
typedesc=(sometimes used as an alphabet)Fact|date=October 2008
languages=Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic (see Jewish languages)
fam1=Egyptian hieroglyphs
fam3=Proto-Canaanite alphabet
fam4=Phoenician alphabet
fam5=Rashi alphabet
fam6=Aramaic alphabet
unicode=U+0590 to U+05FF,
U+FB1D to U+FB40

The Hebrew alphabet ( _he. אָלֶף-בֵּית עִבְרִי ["Aleph-bet" is commonly written in Israeli Hebrew without the "maqaph" (מקף, hyphen), אלפבית עברי, as opposed to with the hyphen, אלף־בית עברי] , "alephbet ’ivri") consists of 22 letters used for writing the Hebrew language. Five of these letters have a different form when appearing as the last letter in a word. The Hebrew letters are also used in mildly adapted forms for writing several languages of the Jewish diaspora, most famously Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic (for a full and detailed list, see Jewish languages). Hebrew is written from right to left.

The Hebrew word for "alphabet" is אלפבית ("alephbet" or "alfabet"), named after the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet is an abjad, having letters only for consonants, but means were later devised to indicate vowels by separate vowel points or "niqqud". In rabbinic Hebrew, the consonant letters אהוי are used as "matres lectionis" to represent vowels.

The number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, their order, their names, and their phonetic values are virtually identical to those of the Aramaic alphabet, as both Hebrews and Arameans borrowed the Phoenician alphabet for their uses during the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.

According to contemporary scholars [cite book|year=1993 |title=A History of the Hebrew Language |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge, England |isbn=0-521-55634-1] , the modern "script" used for writing Hebrew (usually called the Jewish script by scholars, and also traditionally known as the square script, block script, or Assyrian script — not to be confused with the Eastern variant of the Syriac alphabet) evolved during the 3rd century BCE from the Aramaic script, which had been used by Jews for writing Hebrew since the 6th century BCE, retaining the old script only for the Name of God. Prior to that, Hebrew was written using the old Hebrew script, which evolved during the 10th century BCE from the Phoenician script; the Samaritans still write Hebrew in a variant of this script for religious works (see Samaritan alphabet). For other opinions, see below.


According to contemporary scholars, the original Hebrew script developed alongside others in the region during the course of the late second and first millennia BCE; it is closely related to the Phoenician script, which itself probably gave rise to the use of alphabetic writing in Greece (Greek). It is sometimes claimed that around the 10th century BCE [http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/articles/2006/03/17/news/local/archaelogyfind0317. 10th century BCE script] ] Verify source|date=January 2008a distinct Hebrew variant, the paleo-Hebrew alphabet, emerged, which was widely used in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah until they fell in the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, respectively. It is not straightforward, however, to distinguish Israelite/Judahite scripts from others which were in use in the immediate area, most notably by the Moabites and Ammonites.

Following the Babylonian exile, Jews gradually stopped using the Hebrew script, and instead adopted the Aramaic script (another offshoot of the same family of scripts). This script, as used for writing Hebrew, later evolved into the Jewish, or "square" script, that is still used today. Closely related scripts were in use all over the Middle East for several hundred years, but following the rise of Christianity (and later, the rise of Islam), they gave way to the Roman and Arabic alphabets, respectively.

The Hebrew square script was later adapted to write down the languages of the Jewish diaspora (Karaim, Judæo-Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, etc.). The Hebrew alphabet was retained as the alphabet used for writing down the Hebrew language during its rebirth in the 18th to 19th century.

Letter table

The Hebrew alphabet consists of the following letters, five of which have a different form at the ends of words, known as the final form. These are shown in the table below the normal form.

hin and sin

"Shin" and "sin" are represented by the same letter, hebrew|ש, but are two separate phonemes. They are not mutually allophonic. When vowel diacritics are used, the two phonemes are differentiated with a "shin"-dot or "sin"-dot; the "shin"-dot is above the upper-right side of the letter, and the "sin"-dot is above the upper-left side of the letter.

* Varyingly

Matres lectionis

hebrew|א "aleph", hebrew|ה "he", hebrew|ו "vav" and hebrew|י "yod" are consonants that can sometimes fill the position of a vowel. The latter two in particular are more often vowels than they are consonants.


Comparison table

Using וו to represent IPA| [w] is, however, non-standard, while still done; standard spelling rules determine that in "ktiv male"—i.e. text without "niqqud"—a "double "vav"" (וו) is used to indicate a "vav" in a non-initial and non-final position denoting the consonant IPA| [v] , as opposed to a "vav" denoting the vowels IPA| [u] or IPA| [ɔ] , which is indicated by a single ו.cite web|url=http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il/PDF/taatiq2007.pdf|title=Transliteration Rules issued by the Academy of the Hebrew Language states that both [Voiced labiodental fricative|IPA| [v] ] and [Voiced labial-velar approximant|IPA| [w] ] be indistinguishably represented in Hebrew using the letter Vav. Sometimes the Vav is indeed doubled, however not to denote IPA| [w] as opposed to IPA| [v] but rather, when spelling without niqqud, to denote the phoneme /v/ at a non-initial and non-final position in the word, whereas a single Vav at a non-initial and non-final position in the word in spelling without niqqud denotes one of the phonemes /u/ or /o/. To pronounce foreign words and loanwords containing the sound [Voiced labial-velar approximant|IPA| [w] ] , Hebrew readers must therefore rely on former knowledge and context, see also pronunciation of Hebrew Vav.]

A "geresh" is also used to denote initialisms and to denote a Hebrew numeral. Geresh is the name of one of the notes of cantillation in the reading of the Torah, but its appearance is different from that of the modern printed geresh.

Unicode and HTML

The Unicode Hebrew block extends from U+0590 to U+05FF and from U+FB1D to U+FB40. It includes letters, ligatures, combining diacritical marks ("niqqud" and cantillation marks) and punctuation. The Numeric Character References is included for HTML. These can be used in many markup languages, and they are often used in Wiki to create the Hebrew glyphs compatible with the majority of web browsers.

ee also

*Hebrew punctuation
*Mater lectionis
*History of the Hebrew language
*Syriac alphabet
*Hebrew braille
*Cursive Hebrew
*Rashi script
*Ashuri alphabet
*Hebrew keyboard
*Romanization of Hebrew
*International Phonetic Alphabet for Hebrew
*Hebrew phonology
* Inverted nun



Roots of the Hebrew Alphabet
* [http://www.newjewishbooks.org/ITB Hoffman, Joel M. 2004. "In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language." New York: New York University Press.]
* [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521556341 Saenz-Badillos, Angel. 1993. "A History of the Hebrew Language." Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.]
* [http://www.adath-shalom.ca/history_of_hebrew.htm Steinberg, David. "History of the Hebrew Language."]
*Mathers table
* [http://qumran.com/alephbeth.htm "Aleph-Beth Quick Study Chart."] February 28 2005. Qumran Bet Community. Retrieved January 5 2006.

Biblical Hebrew References

* [http://biblescripture.net/Hebrew.html/Mansoor M. 1980, 24th printing, 2007. "Biblical Hebrew - Step by Step." Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
* [http://biblescripture.net/Hebrew.html/Lambdin TO. 1971. "Introduction to Biblical Hebrew." Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.]

External links

* [http://hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/unit_one.html Hebrew alphabet lesson]
* [http://www.levsoftware.com/alefbet.htm How to draw letters]
* [http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0590.pdf Official Unicode standards document for Hebrew]
* [http://www.kabalahyoga.com/YourName.aspx Transliterate your English name into Hebrew Letters] Keyboards
* [http://www.amhaaretz.org/translit/ Hebrew translit] - for typing Hebrew with an English keyboard (transliteration with niqqud)
* [http://www.mikledet.com Mikledet.com] - for typing Hebrew with an English keyboard (Hebrew layout and phonetic layout)
* [http://litetype.com/?lang=hebrew&style=moon LiteType.com] - Hebrew Virtual Keyboard with an UTF-8 Convertor

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