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  5. Explain א (Aleph)


Explain א (Aleph)

In the word אמא It sounds like ''Eima'' so the letter א what sound's does it make ? And is there a easy way to know, ? other than just learn with every word ?

June 21, 2016



With niqqud it's written as אִמָּא , so the alephs are silent, but the vowel dots aren't. But since niqqud system isn't used in the course (or used only in some cases), you will have to learn the pronunciation of every word through audio.


alef and ayin don't normally have any sounds on their own. if there were nikud, you could tell, but that's mostly in siddurim and Torah, which aren't written in modern hebrew anyway. it's a lot to take in at first, of course, but eventually you'll develop a sort of 'feel' for it.


Well, you just have to guess. In this case, it makes the "e" sound. With niqqud, you could find out what vowel א is making easier. Niqqud are for beginners and can help you find what sound the letters make.

  • 2160

I wonder why did not they make the course initially with niqqud?


I guess they didn't want people to get used to (and rely on) the "training wheels" of niqqud. It's a controversial decision, TBH.


Yeah. Better off without em.

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In current state DL Hebrew ist suited for beginners , who come here without any background, IMO.

No nikkud, No slow audio, No audio for separate words, Just minimum textual information


To be fair - the "no slow audio" and "no audio for separate words" weren't something the team could control. That is the same for all courses that use real recorded audio (rather than TTS) such as Irish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese etc. It's a limitation from Duolingo central.


It's still useful for reading a dictionary though.


Well, I guess a dictionary is to help beginners (some English dictionaries sound out the word, this is for people who have trouble pronouncing the words/don't know the vowels well)


@quadrin: Couldn't reply to your comment. (Guess there's a limit on nesting. Lame!)

A dictionary is useful even for native speakers. I sometimes use it for my native language (e. g., when reading a scientific article, or when stumbling upon an archaic word), as well as for English (for the same reasons), which I have been speaking on a near native level for a long time now.


Nikud isn't widely used in everyday writing. If you open a Hebrew newspaper or book (except for children's books), you won't find nikud anywhere. So it's better to learn without them. Also, most Israelis will know how to read the nikud but not how to use it correctly...


Its like the letter A, in the word Am it makes half the sound (close throat sound and the vowel) in the word Can it isnt pronounced, it just shows the way to pronounce. Same with Aliph, its not always pronounced but when it is usually its like the A (obviously unless it has nikkudim on it)


From what I've seen so far, alephs are usually silent, and they main task is to indicate presence of a vowel.

You can read אמא as SILENT – INSERT.VOWEL.HERE – M – INSERT.VOWEL.HERE – SILENT, or @m@ where @'s are unknown vowels. Which vowels they are, you must simply remember.

This way, an aleph can indicate if a vav or a yod are vowels or consonants. Since silent alephs should be surrounded with vowels, a word beginning with an aleph-vav sequence usually is pronounced with o- or u-, like אוהב: SILENT – V/O/U – MAYBE.INSERT.VOWEL.HERE – H – INSERT.VOWEL.HERE – V; you have to pick a vowel to stand next to the aleph, so you can guess that the word is read [o/u]h@v for some vowel @ (the correct answer is ohev).

But sometimes alephs are simply pronounced as a.

Please someone correct me if I'm wrong.


I think 'aleph is a glottal stop. Think of using the part you compress to make an h in English but make it using the technique of a p or k. So stop the air with you vocal cords. The sound is inaudible. It is like the pause in uh-oh. I know the glottal stop confused the ancient Greeks as well, they did not have it, so they took 'aleph as aleph and created the first vowel letters.


Correct, it technically signifies glottal stop. But in Modern Hebrew it's often become a placeholder for other vowels (especially for example A in loan words).


Is א always written in place of the vowel (other than at the beginning of a word) or is it ever left out? For example should shalom be שלום or שאלום or is it on a per word basis?

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