# Pointing Hebrew Text: Basic Rules

## Basic Rules in the System of Pointing by Avraham Even-Shoshan from HaMillon Heḥadash

### The Problem of Pointing (§14)

The pointing that is used in our publications is the Tiberian[1] The Massoretic Recension (commonly abbreviated, MT) is the Hebrew text of the T’nakh as generally used in Jewish Circles. It is also widely used in translations of the T’nakh, by Jews and non-Jews alike. It was primarily developed, copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jewish scribes known as the Massoretes, active between the Seventh and Tenth Centuries, C.E., working mainly in Tiberias. Hence the system they devised is referred to as the Tiberian system. The Massoretes compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides in the form of diacritical markings on the consonants of the Biblical text in an attempt to fix the pronunciation, paragraph and verse divisions and cant illation of the T’nakh for the worldwide Jewish community. Though the consonants differ little from the text generally accepted in the early Second Century, it has numerous differences of both minor and major significance when compared to extant Fourth Century versions of the Septuagint, a translation into Greek (around 150, B.C.E.). [The division into chapters was created later, in the Middle Ages, when Jewish-Christian disputations required a common frame of reference.]  pointing, that was instituted by the Naqdanim (“pointers”) in accordance with the mode of pronunciation that was current in their day. One can readily hypothesize that the originators of pointing had a clear distinction between the pronunciation of a short Roman “a” and a long Roman “a,” and for this reason, they devised the pataḥ and qamats symbols. Similarly, they, no doubt, distinguished between a long Roman “e” and a short Roman “e” – and fashioned two symbols for them, the tsereh and the segol. On the basis of this precise distinction between syllables, the entire structure of pointing was established, in all of its rich detail, and this serves as the basis of the Hebrew language to this day.

If the pronunciation of Hebrew that we use today (“the S’phardi Pronunciation”) had preserved the distinctions in the articulation of all of the vowels, we would not experience any difficulty in understanding the system of pointing in practice; and for Hebrew speakers (correct and exact Hebrew!) there would be no uncertainty about when to employ a qamats and when a pataḥ, and where to place a tsereh and where a segol or a sh’va.

Indeed, for speakers of Hebrew in the “Ashkenazi” or “Yemenite” pronunciation in which the differences in the articulation of all of the vowels have been preserved, it is quite easy to learn the practice of the system of pointing. This is not the case for us, speakers of Hebrew in our “S’phardi” pronunciation, in which there is no difference between the articulation of a qamats and a pataḥ (which are both pronounced like a short Roman “a”) and similarly between a short qamats and a ḥolam (which are both pronounced like a Roman “o” and almost none between a tsereh and a segol (both being articulated approximately like a short Roman “e”).

A person who wishes to point accurately according to our “S’phardi” official pronunciation must know several basic rules in the System of Pointing, that, even if there is not sufficient information to resolve all of the issues of pointing, still there is enough to spare the pointer from making gross errors.

From the abundance of rules and sub-rules and “exceptions to these rules” that are part of traditional Hebrew grammar, we have provided below a short selection of the basic rules from which there is sufficient information to assist in dealing with doubts and problems in matters of practical pointing.

### The Rule of Syllables and Vowels (§15)

 Every open syllable that is not accented – its vowel is always long.[2] That is not followed by a silent sh’va or a dagesh forte.  Every closed syllable that is not accented – is vowel is always short.[3] That is followed by a silent sh’va or a dagesh forte.

Note: This basic rule, that we have called “The Rule of Syllables and Vowels” applies only, and without exception, in the case of an unaccented syllable!

If the syllable is accented, it is possible that the opposite of the rule will apply.

 An open, accented syllable, will likely have a short vowel. A closed, accented syllable will likely have a long vowel.

Examples:

a)

מַלְ-כָּה,
חֶפְ-צִי,
רִבְ-קָה,
אָמְ-נָה,
אֻרְ-וָה

(In each of these, the first syllable is closed by a silent sh’va, and it is not accented; thus the vowel is short! The second syllable is open and its vowel is long!)

b)

כַּ-מָּה,
סִ-בָּה,
שֶׁ-מֶּשׁ,
רָ-נִּי,
גִּ-לָּה

(in each of these, the first syllable is closed by the dagesh forte in the consonant following and it is unaccented; thus the vowel is short! The second syllable is open and its vowel is long.)

c)

מַ-יִם,
שֶׁ-מֶשׁ,
יִ-פֶן

(in each of these, the first syllable is open and accented; thus, the vowel is likely to be short! The second syllable is closed in accordance with the rule.)

d)

שָׁ-מָּה,
הֵ-נָּה,
סֹ-בּוּ

(in all three of these the first syllable is closed by the dagesh forte in the consonant following) and accented, thus the vowel is likely to be long; the second syllable is open in accordance with the rule.)

e)

כַּ-דּוּר,
שֻׁלְ-חָן,
עָ-שִׁיר

(the first syllable in all three of these follows the rule; in the first two, the vowels are short in closed syllables. In the third, there is a long vowel in an open syllable! The second syllable in all three is closed while there is a long vowel – because it is accented!)

The rule of syllables and vowels is, as stated, one of the basic rules in the system of pointing. Most of the other rules are nothing but implications that arise from it. If we knew with certainty the nature of the syllables in every word, whether they are open or closed, we would not have any difficulty in determining the correct pointing of the word.

In order to simplify the determination of the nature of every syllable, we can avail ourselves of the following additional rules.

### The Indicators of Silent and Vocalized Sh’vaim (§16)

The recognition of the type sh’va that occurs in great abundance in the vocabulary of the Hebrew language can be of help in determining the nature of the syllables and various issues with pointing.

The following are the four indicators of the type of sh’va:

a) A sh’va at the start of a word is a vocalized sh’va; a sh’va at the end of a word is a silent sh’va (this rule is implied by the definition itself of a vocalized sh’va and a silent one!) For example:

שְׁמַע,
בְּנִי (vocalized!),
קָם,
אֶת (silent!).

b) In the case of two sh’va-im in the middle of a word, the first is silent and the second is vocalized. For example:

יִקְרְאוּ = יִקֱ-רְאוּ,
כַּסְפְּכֶם = כַּסְ-פְּכֶם

c) A sh’va after a short vowel is silent; after a long vowel, vocalized (this rule derives directly from “The Rule of Syllables and Vowels” – §15). For example:

שִׁמְשׁוֹן = שִׁמְ-שׁוֹן,
שׁוֹמְרִים = שׁוֹ-מְרִים

d) A sh’va under a consonant with a dagesh forte is always vocalized. For example:

שַׁלְמִי = שַׁ-לְמִי,
סִפְרוּ = סִ-פְּרוּ

If one would know how to determine the type of the sh’va, it would not be difficult to resolve several issues that arise in points. Here is an example.

In the word “ארְצְכֶם”, the aleph is not pointed – what is its vowel, a pataḥ or a qamats?

According to rule b) above, the consonant resh is pointed with a silent sh’va and the syllabification, then, is אר-צְכֶם; The first syllable is closed and is not accented, so according to the Rule of Syllables and Vowels, the vowel must be short. Thus, the proper pointing of the aleph is אַרְ-צְכֶם.

### The Rule of Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) (§17)

The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) — as this acronym is usually pronounced — as is well-known, have two modes of pronunciation – soft and hard (in our pronunciation today, the distinction remains only for Bet-Kaph-Peh). When they occur with a dagesh )that is a dagesh lene!), they are hard consonants, without a dagesh, soft. When are they soft and when with a dagesh?

The sages of pointing established a clear rule:

 The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) are pointed with a dagesh lene when they occur at the start of a word, and in the middle of a word only when following a silent sh’va.

The great importance of this rule that is called “The Rule of Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת)” is that it can determine the type of the sh’va that occurs before these letter, for it is clear that, if they are pronounced as hard, no doubt will remain that we have before us a silent sh’va!

Thus, for example: in the words לִשְׁבֹּר, מַלְכָּה, קָרְבָּן, חֶרְפָּה, the sh’va that is in the middle of the words must be a silent sh’va, according to the Rule of Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת), for if this were not the case, we would be pronouncing the words wordsלִשְׁבֹר, מַלְכָה, קָרְבָן, חֶרְפָה! Since the sh’va is silent, it is clear that the first syllables are closed: words לִשְׁ-בֹּר, מַלְ-כָּה, קָרְ-בָּן, חֶרְ-פָּה, and their vowels are, per the rule, short!

In the verbs הָלְכָה, כּוֹתְבִים, the sh’va in the middle is vocalized (the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav {בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת} are soft here!). The first syllables are open and, per the rule, the vowels are long:

הָ-לְכָה, כּוֹ-תְבִים [no dagesh in the lamed or the tav].

The Rule of Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) is important, not only as an aid to determining the type of sh’va in the middle of the word: it has great importance, primarily, for its own sake – by means of this rule a person who wishes to speak correct Hebrew will know when to pronounce the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) as soft; namely:

a) The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) following a vocalized sh’va are always soft, for example: כֶּלֶב — וְכֶלֶב, פֶתַע — לְפֶתַע (a sh’va at the start of a word is obviously vocalized!)

b) The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) following an open syllable with a long vowel – are always soft, for example: שָׁבַרְתִּי (the bet is soft after a long qamats; the tav has a dagesh following the silent sh’va!)

Note:

a. The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת), apparently, as if they had a dagesh, not according to the rule (in the middle of a word, but not following a silent sh’va!) as in the words חִבָּה, סַפָּה, דִּבֵּר, סִפֵּר. . Take note, then: this dagesh is not a dagesh lene but a dagesh forte that closes, per the rule, the syllable following the short vowel ,(חַ-כָּה similar to חַ-לָּה ).

And despite this:

b. There are numerous other words where one should pronounced the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) as soft and, apparently, again not in accordance with the rule (in the middle of a word, following a silent sh’va!), like the words, מַלְ-כֵי, עַנְ-פֵי, עֶרְ-כֵי, עִזְ-בוּ, בִּדְ-פוּס, בִּזְ-כוּת .

The accepted reason for this is that the sh’va in all of these words is not a “real” silent sh’va, but a “hovering sh’va,” as, indeed, each of these words should have its original form: מְלְכֵי (from מְלָכִים), עֲנְפֵי (from עֲנָפִים), עֲרְכֵי (from עְרָכִים), עֲזְבוּ (from עֲזוֹב) בְּדְפוּס, בְּזְכוּת, and since two sh’va-im may not come at the start of a word, the first sh’va becomes a helping vowel (“a short vowel”) while the second sh’va (“hovering”) does not result in a change of the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) that remain soft!

c. The consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) can become soft also at the start of a word that is connected by means of a hyphen to another word and that does not end with a silent sh’va but with one of the matres lectionis, aleph hey, vav, yod, because the rule with respect to words connected by a hyphen is like the rule of a single word. Therefore, this is how to pronounce and point: אַחֲרֵי-כֵן, אַף-עַל-פִּי-כֵן, לֹא-כַךְ; we find the same condition in Scripture: וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, זַרְעוֹ-בוֹ.

However, in the pointing in Scripture the dagesh is omitted from the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) in instances like these where there are two words not joined by a hyphen, but are only connected thematically to one another (for example: “אֵלֶה תוֹלְדוֹת, הֵמָּה בַדֶּרֶךְ”). However, in spoken language, even in contemporary pointed prose, there is a tendency to omit this detail and to place a dagesh in the consonants Bet-Gimel-Dalet Kaph-Peh-Tav (בֶּגֶ”ד-כֶּפֶ”ת) at the start of a word following unpronounced aleph, heh, vav, yod. We have followed this practice even in this dictionary (only in the cases of bet and dalet where the dagesh does not change the pronunciation in our day – have we omitted, for the most part the dagesh following aleph, heh, vav, yod.

### The Rule of Guttural Consonants (§18)

The guttural consonants, aleph, heh, ḥet, ‘ayin and also the consonant resh (that it is sometimes pronounced by many as a guttural!) may never accept a dagesh forte. Therefore, if, according to the Rule of Syllables and Vowels (§15), these consonants are to be pointed with a dagesh forte to close the syllable with a short vowel, then one of the following occurs:

a. The short vowel becomes a long vowel (pataḥ to qamats, ḥiriq to tsereh, etc.). The change is called “compensation for a dagesh.”

Thus, for example, parallel to the word אִלֵּם (mute) [with a dagesh lene in the lamed], we should say, for חִרֵשׁ “deaf,” but the correct word is חֵרֵשׁ, and, similarly, parallel to the verb מְגַדַּל (grows, v.t.) [with a dagesh lene in the gimmel] (in the pi-‘el conjugation), we should point the verb as “מְבַאֵר, מְבַרֵךְ” both with a pataḥ under the vav]; however by virture of the fact that the consonants aleph and resh may not have a dagesh, the pointing is מְבָאֵר, מְבָרֵךְ and in similar cases.

b. Or the vowel remains as is with no closure (especially before heh, ḥet, ‘ayin), מַהֵר, מִחוֹט, בִּעֵר.

* * *

The rules of pointing that have been set forth in this chapter – they are basic rules, the principles of pointing. The rules of pointing all words, nouns of various sorts, verbs, etc. derive from these principles.

## The Pointing of the Auxiliary Consonants

The auxiliary consonants are found frequently in Hebrew. There is hardly a word, whether spoken or written that is not dependent on an auxiliary consonant. It is necessary, therefore, to describe the rules for pointing them to avoid frequent errors.

### The Pointing of the Definite Article (§19)

The basic pointing of the definite article is with a pataḥ (a short syllable!), and a dagesh forte occurs in the consonant that follows. For example: הַסֵּפֶר, הַשֵּׁבֶט, הַגּשֶׁם.

Only five consonants are liable to cause departures from this basic rule: aleph, heh, ḥet, ‘ayin, resh that cannot have a dagesh (§18). Therefore, the occurrence of the definite article before one of these consonants requires a change in its pointing, mainly, in accordance with the explanation in §18. These are the departures:

a) The definite article

before aleph and resh,
before an ‘ayin that is not qamats-pointed and
before a heh and an ‘ayin that are qamats-pointed and accented

is qamats-pointed (a long syllable). For example:

הָאִישׁ,
הָרִאשׁוֹן,
הָהָר,
הָעָם.

b) Before heh and ḥet that are not qamats-pointed – the definite article remains pointed with a pataḥ without “compensation for a” dagesh: הַחוּט, הַהֹולֵךְ, הַהוּא. (Exception: הָהֵם).

c) Before a ḥet pointed with a strong qamats or a ḥataph-qamats, and similarly before qamats-pointed, unaccented hey and ‘ayin, the definite article is pointed with a segol. For example

הֶחָכָם,
הֶחֳדָשִׁים,
הֶהָרִים,
הֶעָּשִׁיר;

however, הַחָכְמָה, הֶהָערְמָה (the ḥet and the ‘ayin have a qamats qatan!)

d) In addition, it is appropriate to keep in mind that, when the definite article occurs before a yod that is pointed with a sh’va and a mem on the model of maph’el or m’phu’al, the dagesh forte is omitted in these letters. For example:

הַיְלָדִים,
הַמְדַבְּרִים,
הַמְשׁוּמָר. (Exceptions: הַיְּהוּדִים, הַיְּוָנִים).

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Definite Article
Basic pointing Before aleph, resh (heh, ‘ayin) Before non-qamats-pointed heh, ḥet Before qamats and ḥataph-pataḥ-pointed ḥet Before unaccented, qamats-pointed heh, ‘ayin
הַ הָ הַ הֶ הֶ

### The Pointing of the Interrogative Heh (§20)

The basic pointing of the interrogative heh is with a ḥataph-pataḥ, for example: הֲשָׁמַעְתָּ? הֲרָאִיתָ?

Instances that require departures from the rule:

a) The interrogative heh may not be pointed with a ḥataph-patah if it comes before a consonant already pointed with sh’va (as a ḥataph-patah is nothing but a vocalized sh’va, and two sh’va-im may not occur consecutively in Hebrew at the start of a word. In this instance the interrogative heh will be pointed with a pataḥ in most cases without a dagesh forte in the consonant that follows!), for example הַיְדַעְתֶּם? הַשְׁמַעְתֶּם? הַרְאוּבֵן הַמְדַבֵּר?

b) Before the consonants aleph, hey, ḥet and ‘ayin, the ḥataph falls off, also for phonetic reasons, and the interrogative heh is pointed with only a pataḥ,
for example:

הַאִם?
הַעוֹלִים הָאֲנָשִׁים?
הַהוֹלֵךְ הוּא?

c) Before the consonants aleph, hey, ḥet and ‘ayin that are pointed with a qamats and are unaccented, the interrogative heh is pointed with a segol, for example:

הֶאָנֹכִי עָשִֹיתִי?
הֶהָיְתָה כָזֹאת?
הֶחָשַׁבְתָּ?
הֶעָשִֹיתִי?

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Interrogative Heh
Basic pointing Before aleph, heh, ḥet, ‘ayin that are not qamats-pointed and before a sh’va Before aleph, resh heh, ‘ayin, not accented
הֲ הַ הֶ

### The Pointing of the Conjunctive Vav (§21)

The basic pointing of the conjunctive vav in with a sh’va, for example:

אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב.
אָכַלְתִּי וְשָֹבַעְתִּי.

Instances that require departures from the rule:

a) The conjuctive vav may not be pointed with a sh’va if it occurs before a consonant already pointed with a sh’va (and two sh’va-im may not occur consecutively in Hebrew at the start of a word). In this instance, the vowel of the vav changes from a sh’va to a shuruq,[4] The original phonetic pronunciation of the vav was like the pronunciation of the English consonant ‘w’ that is very similar to the pronunciation of a shuruq.  for example:

דָּוִד וּשְׁלֹמֹה,
רִבְקָה וּדְבוֹרָה,
שְׁמַעְתֶּם וּרְאִיתֶם

b) The conjunctive vav before a yod that is pointed with a sh’va is pointed with a ḥiriq, and the sh’va with which the yod is pointed falls off, for example:

שִׁמְעוֹן וִיהוּדָה,
צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם (from יְהוּדָה, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם!)

c) The pointing of the conjunctive vav before one of the consonants bet, vav, mem, peh (related as to the source of their sound is changed to a shuruq, for example:

אַהֲרֺן וּמשֶׁה,
לֶחֶם וּבָשָֹר,
לְשׁוֹנֵנוּ וּפִינוּ.
[Of course, if the word itself starts with one of the consonants that takes a dagesh at the start of a syllable, the dagesh is omitted.]

d) The pointing of the conjunctive vav before a consonant that is pointed with a ḥataph is pointed with the same vowel as the ḥataph, for example:

עֲשִׁירָה וַעֲנִיָּה,
סִירָה וָאֳנִיָּה,
חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.

e) The pointing of the conjunctive vav before an accented syllable (at the end of a sentence and in the case of commonly paired words even in the middle of a sentence) is for the most part with a qamats gadol, for example:

בָּשָֹר־וָדָם,
קַיִץ וָחֹרֶף,
יוֹם וָלַיְלָה.

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Conjunctive Vav
Basic pointing Before a consonant pointed with a sh’va Before a yod pointed with a sh’va Before the consonants bet, vav, mem, peh Before a consonant pointed with a ḥataph Before an accented syllable
וְ וּ וִ(י)‏ וּ As the ḥataph is pointed וָ

### The Pointing of the Conversive Vav (§22)

The pointing of the vav that converts the tense from the past tense to the future follows rule of the pointing of the conjunctive vav in its basic form and in its departures, for example:

וְדִבֵּר (basic pointing),
וּרְאִיתֶם אִת הָאָרֶץ (departure a),
וִישַׁבְתֶּם לָבֶטַח (departure b),
וּבָאתָ אֶל הַתֵּבָה (departure c),
וַעֲשִֹיתֶם כֵּן (departure d),
מְלָכִים יִרְאוּ וָקָמוּ.
Summary Table for the Pointing of the Vav That Converts from Past Tense to Future
Basic pointing Before a consonant pointed with a sh’va Before a yod pointed with a sh’va Before the consonants bet, vav, mem, peh Before a consonant pointed with a ḥataph Before an accented syllable
וְ וּ וִ(י)‏ וּ As the ḥataph is pointed וָ

The basic pointing of the vav that converts the tense from the future tense to the past is with a pataḥ; therefore, there is a dagesh forte in the consonant that follows, for example:

וַיֹּאמֶר,
וַנֵּצֵא.

There are two departures:

a) Before the aleph of the consonants in the acronym (אֵיתָ”ן[5] The four consonants, ‘aleph, yod, nun and tav can appear before the verb stem to the future tense. Aleph, tav and yod represent first, second and third person singular, respectively, and nun, first person plural ) (that may not contain a dagesh!) the pointing of the conversive vav is with a qamats (similar to the definite article, §19), for example: וָאֹמַר, וָאֲדַבֵּר.

b) Before a yod that is pointed with a sh’va, the pointing of the vav still is with a pataḥ, but the yod does not receive a dagesh, for example:

וַיְדַבֵּר,
וַיְהִי.

Summary Table for the Pointing of the vav that converts from the future tense to the past tense
Basic pointing Before aleph, yod tav, and nun, not pointed with a qamats and before a sh’va Before a yod pointed with a sh’va
וַ וָ וַ(יְ)‏

### The Pointing of the Consonants Bet, Kaph and Lamed (§23)

The rules of the pointing of the auxiliary consonants bet, kaph and lamed are similar in almost every respect to the rules of pointing the conjunctive vav; namely:

The basic pointing of the consonants bet, kaph and lamed is with a sh’va, for example: בְּתֵל-אָבִיב, גִּבּוֹר כְּשִׁמְשׁוֹן, נָסַעְתִּי לְאֵילַת, בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ, כְּשֶׁבֶת, לְקַבֵּל.

Instances that require departures from the rule:

a) The pointing of the consonants bet, kaph and lamed before a consonant that is pointed with a sh’va (two sh’va-im may not come at the start of a word changes to a ḥiriq:

בִּרְחוֹבוֹת,
כִשְׁלֹמֹה,
לִצְפָת,
בִּרְאוֹתִי,
כִּשְׁמוֹע,
לִשְׁמוֹעַ.

b) Before a yod that is pointed with a sh’va, the pointing of the consonants bet, kaph and lamed, as is noted above, is pointed with a ḥiriq, and the sh’va with which the yod is pointed falls off, for example:

בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם,
לִילָדִים,
כִּיהוּדָה

(but “בְּיִשְֹרָאֵל” – according to the rule as the yod is not pointed with a sh’va!)

c) The pointing of the consonants bet, kaph and lamed before a consonant that is pointed with a ḥataph is pointed with the same vowel as the ḥataph, for example:

בַּעֲשֹוֹתִי,
כְּהֲרִימִי,
לֶאֱכֹל,
כָּל רֹאשׁ לָחֳלִי.

d) When one of the consonants bet, kaph and lamed occurs before a word that starts with a definite article, the latter usually falls off and the auxiliary consonant takes the pointing of the heh according to all its rules and departures (above §19), for example:

בַּבַּיִת (in place of בְּהַבַּיִת ),
בָּאָרֶץ (–בְּהָאָרֶץ),
לְרָחוֹק(–לְהָרָחוֹק),
בֶהָרִים (–בְּהָהָרִים).

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Consonants Bet, Kaph and Lamed
Basic pointing Before a consonant pointed with a sh’va Before a yod pointed with a sh’va[6] Note that there is no pointing for the yod.  Before a consonant pointed with a ḥataph Before the definite article
בְּ, כְּ, לְ בִּי, כִּי, לִי בִּ(י), כִּ(י), לִ(י)‏ As the ḥataph is pointed As the definite article is pointed

### The Pointing of the Auxiliary Consonant Mem (§24)

The auxiliary consonant Mem is nothing but a contraction of the word “min; therefore, its basic pointing is with a ḥiriq, and the consonant that follows has a dagesh forte (a dagesh that follows a short vowel and to compensate for the missing nun!)

There are two departures for the pointing of the mem:

a) The pointing of the auxiliary mem before a yod pointed with a sh’va is with a ḥiriq, but both the dagesh and the sh’va fall off from the yod, as is the case with the Consonants bet, kaph and lamed in instances like this, for example:

מִירוּשָׁלַיִם,
מִיהוּדָה.

b) For the pointing of the auxiliary mem before the consonants aleph, heh, ḥet, ‘ayin and resh that may not accept a dagesh, the ḥiriq (short vowel!) changes to a tsereh (long), for example:

מֵאֶפְרַיִם,
מֵהָהָר,
מֵחֲדָרִים,
מֵעִיר,
מֵרֹאשׁ.

Only for the words

מִחוּט,
מִחוּץ

does the ḥiriq remain.

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Auxiliary Mem
Basic pointing Before a yod pointed with a sh’va Before aleph, heh, ḥet, ‘ayin and resh
מִ מִ(י)‏ מֵ

### The Pointing of the Auxiliary Shin (§25)

The pointing of the auxiliary shin is always with a segol, and in the consonant following it, a dagesh forte, for example:

שֶׁכֵּן,
שֶׁשָׁמַרְתִּי,
שֶׁיְּדַבֵּר

In the pointing of the auxiliary shin, there are no departures — always a segol even before a guttural consonant that may not take a dagesh; in such a case, the consonant following will remain without a dagesh, for example:

שֶׁאֲנִי,
שֶׁעָשִֹיתִי,
שֶׁהֲרֵי.

### The Pointing of the Word “מַה” (§26)

Finally we will add the rules of the pointing of the word “מַה” about which many people err.

The basic pointing of the word “מַה” is with a pataḥ, and at the start of the word that follows, there is a dagesh forte (similar to the definite article!), for example:

מַה זֹּאת?
מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶךָ!
מַה יָּפִים הַלֵּילוֹת!

Departures from the above are similar to the departures in the pointing of the definite article; namely:

a) Before aleph, resh and an ‘ayin that is not pointed with a qamats, it is pointed with a qamats, for example:

מָה אֹמַר וּמָה אֲדַבֵּר?
מָה רָאִיתָ?
מָה עוֺשִֹים אֵלֶה?

b) Before ‘ayin and ḥet that are pointed with a qamats, and a heh that is pointed with a qamats and is part of the basic word without a prefix as well – the pointing is with a segol, for example:

מֶה עָשִׂיתָ?
מֶה חָשַׁבְתָּ?
מֶה הָיִיתָ אוֹמֵר?

[however, מָה הָרַעַשׁ? (here the heh/qamats is the definite article and not part of the basic word!)]

c) As a stand-alone word and at the end of a clause – the pointing of the word “mah” is with a qamats. This includes the word in combination like:

“מִפְּנֵי מָה?”,
“עַד מָה?”,
“בְּמִדַּת מָה?” etc.

Summary Table for the Pointing of the Word “Mah”
Basic pointing Before aleph, resh and ‘ayin that are not pointed with a qamats Before heh and ‘ayin that are pointed with a qamats and before a heh that is pointed with a qamats and is part of the stem As a stand-along word and at the end of a clause
מַה מָה מֶה מָה

English translation courtesy of Leonard Berkowitz. Section numbers outside the scope of this translation have been removed from the text.

### Source(s)

Download Even-Shoshan-Diqduq.pdf (PDF, 3.58MB)

Notes

1 The Massoretic Recension (commonly abbreviated, MT) is the Hebrew text of the T’nakh as generally used in Jewish Circles. It is also widely used in translations of the T’nakh, by Jews and non-Jews alike. It was primarily developed, copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jewish scribes known as the Massoretes, active between the Seventh and Tenth Centuries, C.E., working mainly in Tiberias. Hence the system they devised is referred to as the Tiberian system. The Massoretes compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides in the form of diacritical markings on the consonants of the Biblical text in an attempt to fix the pronunciation, paragraph and verse divisions and cant illation of the T’nakh for the worldwide Jewish community. Though the consonants differ little from the text generally accepted in the early Second Century, it has numerous differences of both minor and major significance when compared to extant Fourth Century versions of the Septuagint, a translation into Greek (around 150, B.C.E.). [The division into chapters was created later, in the Middle Ages, when Jewish-Christian disputations required a common frame of reference.] That is not followed by a silent sh’va or a dagesh forte. That is followed by a silent sh’va or a dagesh forte. The original phonetic pronunciation of the vav was like the pronunciation of the English consonant ‘w’ that is very similar to the pronunciation of a shuruq. The four consonants, ‘aleph, yod, nun and tav can appear before the verb stem to the future tense. `Aleph, tav and yod represent first, second and third person singular, respectively, and nun, first person plural Note that there is no pointing for the yod.
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