The nikkud צירה originally represented probably some form of long /e/, maybe the diphtong /ei/, I'm not sure. In Ashkenazy pronounciation up to the 20th century it was /ei/, and it used to be a known mark of immigrants from eastern Europe to Israel in the first part of the 20th century when they talked Hebrew.
In recent decades צירה is invariably a simple /e/. Where the צירה is followed by a consonant Yod, as in "בני אדם" = /bney adam/ = "humans", we retain the consonant or diphtong. The only exception that jumps to my mind is the "בית" in construct form, /beyt/, which is often contracted to /bet/ but it's still normal to hear /beyt/.
Now כיף is a strange case in itself. It was borrowed from Arabic, where it's pronounced /kef/, and has always been pronounced /kef/ by Hebrew speakers as far as I know. Why was the spelling with the Yod chosen? My guess is that to distinguish it from כף = /kaf/ = spoon, and adopting the Arabic spelling that has Ya; I believe that indeed the Arabic reached /kef/ by contracting /keif/ or /kaif/.
@ Bezalel P: Honestly, I could not figure out how to read the nikkud/vowels, so I find it much easier to just remember the pronunciation of words without it. I had a terrible grammar book, but after giving up on trying to understand how the Nikkud are used, I decided that I don't need them at all.
as per this post in particular: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7388681/Hebrew-Time-9-Reading-without-vowels
My understanding was that nikud are vowel markings only, not the consonantal differentiations. Is that wrong? It doesn't make any sense to me to remove them - what exactly is the benefit to the learner (or anyone else)? Maybe someone behind that choice for Duolingo Hebrew could answer?
BezalelP, I learned to read Hebrew with vowels before I started Duolingo. If I had not, I would have been completely lost when I started. But, already knowing how to read Hebrew and how the vowel system works, gave me a strong foundation. I then had no difficulty whatsoever transferring over to the non-voweled writing.
Your course English-Hebrew – Ghislaine182838
I would like to bring to your attention a problem with this course that I have been taking for the last nine weeks. The individual question sections are well designed but as I do not have a Hebrew keyboard many of the answers to the requested translations rely on the “Use Word Bank” that provides the Hebrew symbol.
However, it is sometimes the case that towards the end of a section you require a English-Hebrew translation without providing a Hebrew keyboard. At the same time the question pages states that if you do not provide an answer “you lose all the points of the section.” A very annoying result after putting a lot of effort to answering all the earlier questions.
Can you not provide Hebrew symbol keyboard?
Because י is not the only vowel in this word, and its pronunciation depends on the nikkud of the previous letter. For example, the word בית with nikkud looks like this: בַּיִת with a Patach under the ב, and so the י's i sound will continue the a sound of the ב. In the word ביט (bit, as in digital storage unites), the ב' has a Hiriq and therefor the י will get the stronger i sound.
I think the interesting question, though, is the reverse one - given that the pronunciation is /kef/, why is it spelled כיף and not כף? The pronunciation clearly came before the spelling, when this word was borrowed from Arabic into Hebrew slang. Spelling was probably chosen only years later, when the word became so established in speaking that newspaper editors started to show it. Why did they choose to spell it with a yod? Maybe because in Arabic there is /y/ in the root? I doubt it, because I can hardly imagine these editors digging into Arabic, or giving that much attention to the question at all. An easier guess is that it's simply to avoid ambiguity with /kaf/, spoon.