Hebrew punctuation is similar to that of English and other Western languages, Modern Hebrew having imported additional punctuation marks from these languages in order to avoid the ambiguities sometimes occasioned by the relative paucity of such symbols in Biblical Hebrew.
- 1 Punctuation
- 2 Hebrew points (vowels)
- 3 Hebrew cantillation marks
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
With most printed Hebrew texts from the early 1970s and before, opening quotation marks are low (as in German), and closing ones are high, often going above the letters themselves (as opposed to the gershayim, which is level with the top of letters). An example of this system is „ישראל“.
However, this distinction in Hebrew between opening and closing quotation marks has completely disappeared, and today, quotations are punctuated as they are in English (such as "ישראל"), with both quotation marks high. This is due to the advent of the Hebrew keyboard layout, which lacks the opening quotation mark ⟨„⟩, as well as to the lack in Hebrew of "smart quotes" as found in Microsoft Word for many other languages.
| "…" || "…" ||merkhaʾot — מֵרְכָאוֹת (plural of merkha — מֵרְכָא); a similar punctuation mark unique to Hebrew is called gershayim — גרשיים|
Period, question mark, exclamation mark, comma
Periods (full stops), question marks, exclamation marks, and commas are used as in English.
In Arabic, which is also written from right to left, the question mark ⟨؟⟩ is mirrored right-to-left from the English question mark. (Some browsers may display the character in the previous sentence as a forward question mark due to font or text directionality issues.) Hebrew is also written right-to-left, but uses a question mark that appears on the page in the same orientation as the English ⟨?⟩.
Colon and sof pasuq
Stemming from Biblical Hebrew, a sof pasuq ⟨ ׃ ⟩ is the equivalent of a period, and is used in some writings such as prayer books. Since a sof pasuq is absent from the Hebrew keyboard layout, and looks very similar to the colon ⟨:⟩, a colon is often substituted for it.
|׃||U+05C3||HEBREW PUNCTUATION SOF PASUQ|
Vertical bar and paseq
Also coming from Biblical Hebrew, a paseq ⟨׀⟩ is used as a word separator. Also not on a standard Hebrew keyboard, a vertical bar ⟨|⟩ is often used instead. The vertical bar, a standard key on any keyboard, is used in English for such applications as mathematics and computing.
|׀||U+05C0||HEBREW PUNCTUATION PASEQ|
Hyphen and maqaf
|Hebrew maqaf||Standard English hyphen|
|Notice how the maqaf aligns with the top horizontal strokes whereas the standard English hyphen is in the middle of the letters.|
The maqaf ⟨מַקָּף) ⟨־⟩ is the Hebrew hyphen ⟨-⟩, and has virtually the same purpose for connecting two words as in English. It is different from the hyphen in its positioning (a hyphen is in the middle in terms of height, the maqaf is at the top) and it has a biblical origin, unlike many other Modern Hebrew punctuation symbols, which have simply been imported from European languages.
The maqaf is well-used in Hebrew typography; most books and newspapers use it and have the hyphens higher than one would find in English. In online writing, however, it is rarely used because it was absent from the Hebrew keyboard layout on Microsoft Windows until Windows 8. As a result, a standard English hyphen ⟨-⟩ is most often used in online writings. This situation can be compared to that of users writing in Latin alphabets using the easily available hyphen-minus ⟨-⟩ over hyphen ⟨‐⟩, minus ⟨−⟩, en dash ⟨–⟩, and em dash ⟨—⟩.
|־||U+05be||HEBREW PUNCTUATION MAQAF|
Brackets or parentheses, ⟨(⟩ and ⟨)⟩ are the same in Hebrew as in English. Since Hebrew is written from right to left, ⟨)⟩ becomes an opening bracket, and ⟨(⟩ a closing bracket, the opposite from English, which is written left to right.
Israeli currency sign
|With sheqel sign||With abbreviation|
The sheqel sign (₪) is the currency sign for the Israeli currency (the Israeli new shekel), in the way $, £, and € exist for other currencies. The sheqel sign, like the dollar sign ⟨$⟩, is usually placed to the left of the number (so ₪12,000, rather than 12,000₪), but since Hebrew is written from right to left, the symbol is actually written after the number. It is either not separated from the preceding number, or is separated only by a thin space.
Unlike the dollar sign, the new sheqel sign is not used that often when handwriting monetary amounts, and is generally replaced by the abbreviation ש״ח (standing for sheqel ẖadash, lit. "new sheqel").
Apostrophe and quotation marks
|Geresh||Apostrophe used as a geresh|
|Gershayim||Quotation marks used as gershayim|
|Notice how the geresh and gershayim align with the top horizontal strokes whereas the standard English characters are above the letters.|
The geresh ⟨׳⟩, is the Hebrew equivalent of a period in abbreviations (e.g. abbrev.), in addition to being attached to Hebrew letters to indicate the soft g [dʒ] and ch [tʃ] sounds in foreign names such as Charles (צ׳ארלס) and Jake (ג׳ייק). The gershayim ⟨״⟩, is a Hebrew symbol indicating that a sequence of characters is an acronym, and is placed before the last character of the word. Owing to a Hebrew keyboard's having neither a geresh nor gershayim, they are usually replaced online with, respectively, the visually similar apostrophe ⟨'⟩ and quotation mark ⟨"⟩. The quotation mark and apostrophe are higher than the geresh and gershayim: where the latter are placed level with the top of Hebrew letters, the apostrophe and quotation marks are above them.
Some Hebrew-specific fonts (fonts designed primarily for Hebrew letters), such as David, Narkisim and FrankRuehl, do not feature the apostrophe and quotation marks as such but use the geresh and gershayim to substitute for them.
|׳||U+05f3||HEBREW PUNCTUATION GERESH|
|״||U+05f4||HEBREW PUNCTUATION GERSHAYIM|
Mathematical expressions are written in Israel using the same symbols as in English, including Western numerals, which are written left to right. The only variant that exists is an alternative plus sign, which is a plus sign which looks like an inverted capital T. Unicode has this symbol at position U+FB29 "Hebrew letter alternative plus sign" (﬩). However, most books for adults use the international symbol "+".
|6 + [(1 × 2) ÷ 2] = 7||6||﬩||[(1 × 2) ÷ 2] = 7|
Reversed nun (also called inverted nun, nun hafukha, or nun menuzerret) is a rare character found in two Biblical Hebrew texts. Although in Judaic literature it is known as nun hafukha ("reversed nun"), it does not function as any sort of letter in the text. It is not part of a word, and it is not read aloud in any way. It is simply a mark that is written, and is therefore a punctuation mark, not a letter. Also, it is surrounded by space.
While it depends on the particular manuscript or printed edition, it is found in nine places: twice in the Book of Numbers (prior to and after Numbers 10:34-36), and seven times in Psalm 107. It is uncertain today what it was intended to signify.
In many manuscripts, it does not even resemble a transformed nun at all, and when it does, it sometimes appears reversed (as mentioned above), sometimes inverted, and sometimes turned through 180°. Other times it appears to look like the letter Z.
|׆||U+05C6||HEBREW PUNCTUATION NUN HAFUKHA|
Hebrew points (vowels)
|With vowel points||Without vowel points|
These signs (points, neqqudot) indicate voweling or some other aspects of the pronunciation of a letter or word. While in Modern Hebrew they are not generally used outside poetry and children's books, a vowel point or other diacritic is occasionally added to resolve ambiguity.
|ֱ ||U+05B1||HATEF SEGOL|
|ֲ ||U+05B2||HATEF PATAH|
|ֳ ||U+05B3||HATEF QAMATS|
|ֹ ||U+05B9||HOLAM (HASER)|
|ּ ||U+05BC||DAGESH, MAPIQ, OR SHURUQ|
|ׁ ||U+05C1||SHIN DOT|
|ׂ ||U+05C2||SIN DOT|
|ׄ ||U+05C4||MARK UPPER DOT|
|ׅ ||U+05C5||MARK LOWER DOT|
Hebrew cantillation marks
|בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃ וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃|
|בראש֖ית בר֣א אלה֑ים א֥ת השמ֖ים וא֥ת האֽרץ׃ והא֗רץ הית֥ה ת֙הו֙ וב֔הו וח֖שך על־פנ֣י תה֑ום ור֣וח אלה֔ים מרח֖פת על־פנ֥י המֽים׃ וי֥אמר אלה֖ים יה֣י א֑ור וֽיהי־אֽור׃ וי֧רא אלה֛ים את־הא֖ור כי־ט֑וב ויבד֣ל אלה֔ים ב֥ין הא֖ור וב֥ין החֽשך׃ ויקר֨א אלה֤ים׀ לאור֙ י֔ום ולח֖שך ק֣רא ל֑ילה וֽיהי־ע֥רב וֽיהי־ב֖קר י֥ום אחֽד׃|
|בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים׃ ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי־אור׃ וירא אלהים את־האור כי־טוב ויבדל אלהים בין האור ובין החשך׃ ויקרא אלהים׀ לאור יום ולחשך קרא לילה ויהי־ערב ויהי־בקר יום אחד׃|
The cantillation marks (Hebrew: טעמים teʿamim) have a very specialized use. They are only found in printed Hebrew texts of Tanakh to be used as a guide for chanting the text, either from the printed text or, in the case of the public reading of the Torah, to be memorized along with vowel marks as the Sefer Torah includes only the letters of the text without cantillation or vowel marks. Outside the Tanakh, the cantillation marks are not used in modern spoken or written Hebrew at all. The cantillation marks provide a structure to sentences of Tanakh similar to that provided by punctuation marks.
- Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003. p. 143. ISBN 1-59240-087-6.
- Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §16
- Unicode U+FB29 reference page
- Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set: International Organization for Standardization