How would you fix the hebrew alphabet?

Clearly, hebrew alphabet is very confusing and ambigious, ever for native speakers (אוכל can be "food" (Óhel) or "eat" (Ohél) in present male or "eat" (Ohál) in future first person male).

How would you simplify it?

EDIT: I know what's causing this problem, I am a native speaker. I'm wondering how it can be fixed. Nikud is not a practical solution since it has too many signs (segol and tzere, kamatz and patach, etc.) and is also very hard to type. I am wondering if there is a solution that can work easily with a keyboard (I don't mind someone inventing a new keyboard layout).

November 4, 2018


I am solidly at the beginner level of Hebrew, so I can't offer a clear solution, but I do have some familiarity with languages in general and the development of writing. The modern Hebrew aleph-bet is Assyrian, adopted during the Babylonian exile. Before that, paleo-Hebrew was used. The nikkud were introduced after the Romans destroyed the nation of Israel and created the diaspora. They were invented because Hebrew more and more became only a religious language, and the rabbis were concerned that if they didn't start writing in the vowels, no one would be able to read the Torah in a few generations. What I've been told is that the vowels were never written before because the vowels are your ruach, and that is holy. You don't write it just like you never write the names of God. They are the part of the word that have life. When you read, you breathe life into the word.

When the Greeks came upon the written word, they did not know God, and they modified the aleph bet to their own needs and preferences. So aleph became alpha, which became the Latin "a." Yod became iota, Latin "i." Ayin --> e. etc.

Since millions of people use the aleph bet without significant confusion and millions more use Arabic, which also does not write vowels, I'm not sure that it's necessary. It's probably been honed to its most efficient form already. I wonder if the desire to write vowels stems more from wanting to be more like Europeans and Americans than from an actual need.

But in English, vowels are ridiculous. The letter A, for example can represent any vowel, or no sound at all. There are only 5 vowel-letters, but 13+ vowel-sounds, so the only way to know how to pronounce a word's vowels is by sheer memorization. Look at the word "pronounce." There are 4 vowels. The first O can sound like the U in dumb or the AU in gauche. The second O is like the A in cat. The final e is silent, and silent rhymes with blatant. So in essence, English does fine without true vowel letters, too.

November 5, 2018

I remember reading somewhere that there was a lot of discussion in Israel about this.

One proposal was to write everything with nikkud, but this was very unpopular because it's much harder to write.

Another proposal would add 2 or 3 new letters to the alphabet and then reserve one letter for each vowel sound (like Yiddish), but this idea faced religious opposition. Religious Jewish communities refused to accept any changes to the alphabet.

In the current spelling rules, most places where I, O, U appear are marked with an extra letter, but A, E are not. I think that is already a compromise.

November 5, 2018

The only possible way to fix ambiguity in Hebrew (if there is no context) is using nikkud. Unfortunately, it's working much harder writing things and we as native speakers find it useless as we already understand what the text it talking about by its context. In fact, I find reading texts with nikkud kinda harder because I'm not used to read with all these dots and lines everywhere, even though I know exactly how to pronounce it.

November 5, 2018

The solution to this problem was found by the Greeks about 2500 years ago. It goes like this - take the silent or rarely used consonants and decide they are vowels. Done.

Hebrew went half way there with matres lectionis. Letter alef, he, waw and iod are already used as vowels except the rules are even more inconsistent than in English vowels. You could either make the use of matres lectionis more regular (one letter - one sound), or borrow some other system, like Greek or Latin. ancient Romans are dead so you don't even need to pay for the licence.

December 17, 2018
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