Shva

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For other uses, see Shva (disambiguation).
Shva
Tilde Schwa.svg
IPA Modern Hebrew: /e/ ([]), Ø
Biblical Hebrew: /ɛ̆/ – /ɐ̆/ – /ɔ̆/ – /ĭ/
Transliteration e, ' (apostrophe), nothing
English example men, menorah
Example
Sheva.png
The word shva in Hebrew. The first vowel (marked with red) is itself a shva .
Other Niqqud
Shva · Hiriq · Zeire · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

Shva or, in Biblical Hebrew, Sh'wa (Hebrew: שְׁוָא) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign written as two vertical dots "ְ" underneath a letter. In Modern Hebrew, it indicates either the phoneme /e/ or the complete absence of a vowel (Ø), whereas in Hebrew prescriptive linguistics, four grammatical entities are differentiated: resting (naḥ / נָח), moving (na / נָע), floating (meraḥef / מְרַחֵף) and "bleating" or "bellowing" (ga'ya / גַּעְיָה). In earlier forms of Hebrew, these entities were phonologically and phonetically distinguishable, but the two variants resulting from Modern Hebrew phonology no longer conform to the traditional classification, e.g. the (first) Shva Nach in the word קִמַּטְתְּ (fem. "you crumpled") is pronounced in Modern Hebrew /e/ (/kiˈmatet/) instead of being mute, whereas the Shva Na in זְמַן ("time") in Modern Hebrew is mute (/zman/). In religious contexts, however, careful readers of the prayers and scriptures do still differentiate properly between Shva Nach and Shva Na.

It is transliterated as "e", "ĕ", "ə", "'" (apostrophe), or nothing. Note that usage of "ə" for shva is questionable: transliterating modern Hebrew shva 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 → 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).

Pronunciation in modern Hebrew[edit]

In Modern Hebrew, shva is either pronounced /e/ or is mute (Ø), regardless of its traditional classification as shva naḥ (שְׁוָא נָח) or shva na (שְׁוָא 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 /ʃaχeˈχu/ 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 (/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
  1. ב (/be/) = amongst others "in",
  2. ו (/ve/) = "and",
  3. כ (/ke/) = amongst others "as" or "approximately",
  4. ל (/le/) = amongst others "to", dative marker and verb prefix in infinitive,
  5. 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 /be/, ו /ve/, כ /ke/, ל /le/ or ת /te/) or one of the morphemes מ /mi/ ("from") or 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/
לְאֲרָיוֹת 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 פְּזוּר דַּעַת /iʃ pzur ˈda.at/ an absentminded man
Counterexamples

*^ One exception to rule 2 seems to be מְלַאי /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 מְלִית (/meˈlit/, not /*mlit/) "filling (in cuisine)".

**^ Exceptions to rule 6 include פְּסַנְתְּרָן (/psantˈran/, not */psanteˈran/ – "pianist"), אַנְגְּלִית (/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") – and several loanwords, e.g. מַנְטְרַה (/ˈmantra/, not */mantera/ – "mantra").

Traditional classification[edit]

In traditional Hebrew grammar, shvas are in most cases classified as either "shva na" (Heb. שווא נע) or as "shva naḥ" (Heb. שווא 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. שווא 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 are "shva na", "shva naḥ" and "shva meraḥef"; the following table summarizes four distinguishing attributes which determine these categories:

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 Na[edit]

In most cases, traditional Hebrew grammar considers shva na 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 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 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:

  1. when marked under the first letter of a word,
  2. when marked under the first of two identical letters,
  3. when it's the second of two shvas marked under two consecutive letters (except when marked under the last letter of a word),
  4. when the letter before the one under which it is marked is marked with a "long" niqqud-variant,[↑]
  5. when marked under a letter with a dagesh ḥazaq (historically an indicator of gemination).

For a more detailed account, see Tiberian vocalization → Vowels.

Shva Naḥ[edit]

Traditional Hebrew grammar defines shva naḥ 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 naḥ must be marked with a dagesh qal (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 Meraḥef[edit]

"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. מַלְכֵי ("kings of") is commonly pronounced in accordance with the standard form, /malˈχej/ (with no dagesh qal in the letter kaf), whereas כַּלְבֵי ("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 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 Ga'ya" designates a shva marked under a letter that is also marked with the cantillation mark "ga'ya", or "meteg", e.g. the shva under the letter bet in the word בְּהוֹנוֹת ("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, Shwa-gaja.jpg, this shva is classified as shva ga'ya, and the transliteration reflecting its historical pronunciation would be "bohonót".

T'nua Chatufa[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 → Vowels; spoken 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")
Hataf Segol.svg [] e men
Reduced Patach
("ẖatáf patáẖ")
Hataf Patah.svg [ä] a cup
Reduced Kamatz
("ẖatáf kamáts")
3 Hataf Qamaz.PNG [] o dork
Reduced Hiriq
("ẖatáf ẖiríq") – not in current use, appears rarely[3] in the Aleppo Codex[4]
Hataf hiriq.png [i] i it

Comparison table[edit]

Vowel comparison table
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/ [] e temp see mid front unrounded vowel
סוֹ סָ סֳ /o/ [] 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

Notes[edit]

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

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Transliteration guidelines from 2006 (p. 4)
  2. ^ "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
  3. ^ I Kings 17:11 "לקחי־נא"; Psalms 14:1 "השחיתו","התעיבו"; Psalms 53:2 "השחיתו", "והתעיבו"
  4. ^ hagigim.com