asher63 (asher63) wrote,

HTAN: Letters Bet through Zayin



The name of the letter Bet means 'house' (the word is 'bayit' in Hebrew) and it has the sound of the letter B; but it is sometimes pronounced V.

Bet is the first of several letters that sometimes need to be written with a dot called a Dagesh in the middle, which can change the sound of the letter. I've written it with Dagesh in this example.

When Bet comes at the beginning of a word, it always takes a Dagesh and is pronounced B; we'll refer to this as its "hard" sound.  At the end of a word, Bet never takes a Dagesh, and is pronounced V - we'll call this its "soft" sound.  (In these cases, the letter name is called Vet instead of Bet.)  In the middle of a word, Bet may or may not take a Dagesh, according to the rules of grammar - we'll learn these later on.

When writing the printed Bet, make sure that the bottom crossbar extends a little bit on the right.



The name of Gimel comes from the word for 'camel' and it's pronounced like G.

In loan-words from languages such as English and Arabic, a Gimel with a Geresh (tick mark)    [ג׳] makes the sound of J.



The name of Dalet comes from the word for door or gate (delet in Hebrew) and it has the sound of D.

When writing the printed Dalet, make sure the top crossbar extends a little bit on the right.  For the printed and cursive Dalet, the vertical line should come all the way down but should not "hang below the line".



The name of the leter Heh doesn't mean anything in Hebrew, but it might come from an ancient, pre-Hebrew word meaning 'window'.  The letter Heh has the sound of H, although at the end of a word it's usually silent.

In grammar, the letter Heh will sometimes convert into other letters in certain grammatical forms; we'll learn about that later on.

A special use of Heh is as a shorthand for the Divine name (written as Heh followed by a little tick mark called a Geresh); in this situation it's usually read as "ha-Shem" (literally, "the Name").

The Heh is one of just two letters formed with two separate strokes.  When writing Heh, be sure to leave that little open space in the top-left corner.



The name of Vav means 'hook'.  In modern times it is usually pronounced as a V, but in ancient times it probably had the sound of W.

Vav can also function as a vowel.  If you add a dot at the top [וֹ], you have the O vowel, and with a dot in the middle [וּ] it's the U vowel.  If you say these sounds aloud, you will notice that they are close to the sound of W.

When writing the Vav, make sure that the line comes all the way down, but does not "hang below the line".



The letter Zayin has the sound of Z.  The name comes from the word for 'weapon' or 'sword'; in modern Israeli Hebrew slang, "zayin" can have certain vulgar sexual connotations, but used as a letter name it's perfectly proper.  (The usual word for 'sword' is [cherev]; for weapons generically, it's [neshek].)

When writing the printed Zayin, be sure to let the little diagonal crosspiece hang over both sides, so that it doesn't look like a Vav; but be careful not to draw the crosspiece too long, to avoid confusing it with a Dalet.  The cursive Zayin looks very much like a backwards Gimel.

With a Geresh [ז׳], it makes the sound of 'zh' as in Jabotinsky (pronounced Zhabotinsky).
Tags: hebrew, htan

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