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Tiberian vocalization

Tiberian vocalization


The Tiberian vocalization or Tiberian pointing or Tiberian niqqud (Hebrew:

יִנָרְבַט דוקינ) is a system of diacritics (niqqud) devised by the Masoretes of Tiberia to add to the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible to produce the Masoretic Text. [1] This system soon became used to vocalize other Hebrew texts as well.

soon became used to vocalize other Hebrew texts as well. Closeup of Aleppo Codex, Joshua 1:1

Closeup of Aleppo Codex, Joshua 1:1

The Tiberian vocalization marks vowels, stress, and makes finer distinctions of

consonant quality and length, and also serves as punctuation. While the Tiberian system was devised for Tiberian Hebrew, it has become the dominant system for vocalizing all forms of Hebrew, having long since eclipsed the Babylonian and Palestinian vocalization systems.

Consonant diacritics

The sin dot distinguishes between the two values of ש. A dagesh indicates a consonant is geminate or unspirantized, while a raphe indicates spirantization. The mappiq indicates that ה is consonantal rather than silent in syllable-coda position.

Vowel diacritics

The seven cardinal vowel qualities of Tiberian Hebrew are indicated straightforwardly by distinct diacritics:

niqqud with א


















The diacritics qubutz and shuruq both represent /u/, but shuruq is used when the text uses full spelling (with waw as a mater lectionis). Each of these vowel phonemes could be allophonically lengthened; occasionally this length is marked with metheg. (In this function metheg also can indirectly indicate when a following shva is vocal.)

The ultrashort vowels are slightly more complicated. There were two graphemes corresponding to the vowel /ă/,

In addition, one of these

attested by alternations in manuscripts like הָעְמשאו~הָעֳמשאו ,ךירְרא~ךירֲרא graphemes could also be silent:

Tiberian vocalization


niqqud with א











Shva was used both to indicate lack of a vowel (quiescent šwa, shva nah) and as another symbol to represent the phoneme /ă/ (mobile šwa, shva na), the latter also represented by hataf patah. The phoneme /ă/ had a number of allophones; /ă/ had to be written with shva rather than hataf patah when not pronounced as [ă]. Before a laryngeal-pharyngeal, mobile šwa was pronounced as an ultrashort copy of the following vowel, e.g. הָעְקָבּו [uvɔqɔ̆ʕɔ], and as [ĭ] preceding /j/, e.g. יִנּ֫ויְּמֵדְת /θăðammĭjuni/. Use of ḥataf vowels was considered mandatory under gutturals but optional under other letters, and varies considerably among manuscripts. This is referenced specifically by medieval grammarians:

If one argues that the dalet of 'Modecai' (and other letters in other words) has hatef qames, tell him, 'but this sign is only a device used by some scribes to warn that the consonants should be pronounced fully, and not slurred over'.

Abu al-Faraj Harun, Hidāyat al-Qāri (Horayat Ha-Qore), quoted in Yeivin (1980:283284)

The names of the vowel diacritics are iconic and show some variation:

The names of the vowels are mostly taken from the form and action of the mouth in producing the various sounds, as חַ֫תַּפ opening; יֵ֫רֵצ a wide parting (of the mouth), also רֶבֶׁ֫ש) breaking, parting (cf. the Arab, kasr); קֶריִ֫ח (also קֶרִח) narrow opening; םֶלֹו֫ח closing, according to others fullness, i.e. of the mouth (also אֹלְמ םּוּפ fullness of the mouth). ץֶמָ֫ק also denotes a slighter, as קֶרּוׁש and ץּוּבִק (also םּוּפ ץובק) a firmer, compression or contraction of the mouth. Segôl (לֹוגְס bunch of grapes) takes its name from its form. So ׁשֹלָׁש תֹוּדֻקְנ (three points) is another name for Qibbúṣ. Moreover the names were mostly so formed (but only later), that the sound of each vowel is heard in the first syllable (ץֶמָק for ץֶמֹק, חַתַּפ for חַתֶּפ, יִרֵצ for יִרְצ); in order to carry this out consistently some even write Sägôl, Qomeṣ-ḥatûf, Qûbbûṣ.


Cantillation signs mark stress and punctuation: metheg may mark secondary stress; maqqaf conjoins words into one stress unit, which normally takes only one cantillation mark on the final word in the unit.


[1] The portions of the Hebrew Bible which are in Biblical Aramaic use the same system of vocalization.


• Blau, Joshua (2010). Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-57506-129-5.

• Sáenz-Badillos, Angel (1993). A History of the Hebrew Language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55634-1.

• Yeivin, Israel (1980). Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. Scholars Press. ISBN 0-89130-373-1.

Article Sources and Contributors


Article Sources and Contributors

Tiberian vocalization Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=587423669 Contributors: AjaxSmack, Albmont, Aldozamudio, Amire80, Amos ben Avraham, Andycjp, Angr, Basemetal, Benjamin Jiperus, Bloger, Cassowary, Charles Matthews, Chesdovi, Chuckstar, Ciacchi, Cuchullain, Cush, Dan Pelleg, Dia^, Dougweller, Dovi, Eliyak, Epson291, Ewawer, Fano Ksenaki, FilipeS, Finn Bjørklid, FlorinCB, Freestylefrappe, Geekdiva, Gilgamesh, HIZKIAH, Haldrik, Hayjohn, IZAK, Iridescent, Ish ishwar, Jayjg, Jnothman, Johnpacklambert, Keeves, Keyed In, Kungfuadam, Kwamikagami, Leandrod, Leszek Jańczuk, Magicalsaumy, Mahmudmasri, Menchi, Michael Hardy, Mild Bill Hiccup, Mitchell Powell, Mo-Al, Mogism, Mustafaa, Norm, Odedee, Padent, PinchasC, Rikipedia J, Sam Hocevar, Sardanaphalus, Saugart, Sburke, Shai H., Signalhead, Sirmylesnagopaleentheda, Stephensuleeman, TRBP, TShilo12, Tropylium, Urpunkt, Welsh, Yortas, 120 anonymous edits

Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors

File:Aleppo Codex Joshua 1 1.jpg Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Aleppo_Codex_Joshua_1_1.jpg License: Public Domain Contributors: see ; scanned by http://www.aleppocodex.org


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