Chapter IV.1. Drafts


Most of the letters pronounce just like the first sound of their name. Of course, since Ayin and Aleph start with “a” and there are no vowel letters in Hebrew, they must be pronounced in some other way. In fact, in modern Hebrew they are not pronounced at all! A special case is when one of these letters appears between a consonant and a following vowel – then it sounds like a very short pause (called glottal stop), like in English “uh-oh” except that here it’s between two vowels, which doesn’t hapen in Hebrew. We’ll indicate such pauses in Latin with an apostrophe. For example, “pit’om” means “suddenly”.

The next challenge is letters Bet, Kaf and Pey. You may guess that they are pronounced as “b”, “k” and “p”. But in fact, they are only pronounced in this way when they have a dot inside that’s called “Dagesh”: בּ, כּ, פּ (note that how commas look weird with RTL Hebrew). That’s the dot that makes Kaf sometimes look like Pey, and when it’s inside Pey it can be just a bit hard to see. Without these dots, these letters pronounced “v”, “kh” (the same pronunciation as Khet) and “f” respectively. Unfortunately, just like with Shin, Sin and vowels, the Dagesh is omitted in regular texts, which means you have to figure out whether it’s assumed to be there or not. These rules can help:

Note that these are Hebrew rules, and as such don’t apply to foreign words, even if they’re actually a part of modern Hebrew. For example, the name “Philippe” breaks both of these rules, with no Dagesh at the beginning and with a Dagesh at the end. The only rule that’s unbreakable is that there can be no Dagesh in a sofit – hence “Philippe” ends with a regular Pey, not sofit, which is impossible in native Hebrew words.

Summary of this chapter: