|IPA||Modern Hebrew: /e/ , Ø|
|Biblical Hebrew: // - // - // - /?/|
|Transliteration||e, ' (apostrophe), nothing|
|English example||men, menorah|
Shva or, in Biblical Hebrew, sh?wa (Hebrew: ) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign written as two vertical dots ( ? ) beneath a letter. It indicates either the phoneme /?/ (shva na', mobile shva) or the complete absence of a vowel (Ø) (shva nach, resting shva).
It is transliterated as "e", "?", "?", "'" (apostrophe), or nothing. Note that usage of "?" for shva is questionable: transliterating modern Hebrew Shva Nach with ? or ' is misleading, since it is never actually pronounced [?] - the vowel [?] does not exist in modern Hebrew - moreover, the vowel [?] is probably not characteristic of earlier pronunciations either (see Tiberian vocalization -> Mobile Shwa = Shwa na').
In Modern Hebrew, shva is either pronounced /e/ or is mute (Ø), regardless of its traditional classification as shva nac? ( ) or shva na ( ), see following table for examples. The Israeli standard for its transliteration is /e/ only for a pronounced shva na (i.e., one which is pronounced /e/) and no representation in transliteration if the shva is mute.
In Modern Hebrew, a shva is pronounced /e/ under the following conditions:
|Condition for /e/ pronunciation of shva in Israeli Hebrew||Examples||Examples for silent shva (since condition does not apply)|
|In Hebrew||IPA||translation||In Hebrew||IPA||translation|
|1. When under the first of two letters, both representing the same consonant or consonants with identical place and manner of articulation:||/?a?e'?u/||they forgot||?||/ma?'ru/||they sold|
|?||/?a'dadet/||you (f.) robbed||?||/?a'lalt/||you (feminine) negated|
|2. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter is ? (/j/), ? (/l/), ? (/m/), ? (/n/) or ? (/r/)[*]:||/nema'lim/||ants||/?ma'lim/||camels|
|3. When under the first letter of a word, if the second letter is ? (/?/), ? (/h/) or ? (/?/ or /?/):||/tea'rim/||titles||?||/mit?a'rim/||outlines|
|4. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter represents one of the prefix-morphemes||?||/berej'?a/||in her scent||/brej'?a/||pool|
|/vero'dim/||and (they) tyrannize||/vru'dim/||pink (m.p.)|
|/kera'za/||as a thin person||/kra'za/||poster|
|/teva'lu/||you (m. p.) will have a good time||?||/tva'lul/||cataract|
|5. (In non standard language usage) if one of the morphemes mentioned above (? /be/, ? /ve/, ? /ke/, ? /le/ or ? /te/) or one of the morphemes ? /mi/ ("from") or ? /?e/ ("that") is added as a prefix to a word, which without this prefix begins with a letter marked with a shva pronounced /e/ under the above conditions, this shva will retain its /e/-pronunciation also with the prefix:||/mitsea'dim/||from steps||/mitsma'dim/||from pairs|
|standard: ? -/mereva'?im/|
|? ?||/leara'jot velenemerim.../||Lions and tigers have fur|
|? ? ?||/vekejela'dim.../||And as children we played outside|
|standard: - /ve?ila'dim.../|
|6. (Usually - see Counterexamples[**]) when under a medial letter, before whose pronunciation a consonant was pronounced:||/i?pe'zu/||they hospitalized||?||/i? pzur 'da.at/||an absentminded man|
^ One exception to rule 2 seems to be /mlaj/ 'inventory'; the absence of a vowel after the ? (/m/) might be attributable to the high sonority of the subsequent liquid ? (/l/), however compare with (/me'lit/, not /*mlit/) 'filling' (in cuisine). According to the New User-Friendly Hebrew-English Dictionary (Arie Comey, Naomi Tsur; Achiasaf, 2006), the word ('stock') is pronounced with an /e/: [me'lai].
^ Exceptions to rule 6 include ? (/psant'ran/, not */psante'ran/ - 'pianist'), (/a?'?lit/, not */ae'lit/ - 'English'),  (/na?'prit?s/, not */na?pe'rit?s/ - 'we will sprinkle'), several inflections of quinqueliteral roots - e.g.: ? (/sin'kren/, not */sinke'ren/ - "he synchronized"); ? (/?in'tre?/, not */?inte're?/ - 'he did stupid things'); ? (/hitflar'tet/, not */hitfelartet/ - 'he had a flirt') - as well as other, more recent loanwords, e.g. (/'mantra/, not */mantera/ - 'mantra').
In earlier forms of Hebrew, shva na and nach were phonologically and phonetically distinguishable, but the two variants resulting from Modern Hebrew phonology no longer conform to the traditional classification, e.g. while the (first) shva nach in the phrase ? ? ('books of the Law') is correctly pronounced in Modern Hebrew /sifrei torah/ with the "?" (or /f/ sound) being mute, the shva na in ('time') in Modern Hebrew is often pronounced as a mute Shva (/zman/). In religious contexts, however, scrupulous readers of the prayers and scriptures do still differentiate properly between Shva Nach and Shva Na (e.g. z?man).
In traditional Hebrew grammar, shvas are in most cases classified as either "shva na" (Heb. ? ) or as "shva na?" (Heb. ? ); in a few cases as "shva mera?ef" (Heb. ? ?), and when discussing Tiberian pronunciation (ca. from the 8th until the 15th century) some shvas are classified as "shva ga'ya" (Heb. ? ?).
A shva is categorized according to several attributes of its grammatical context. The three categories of shva relevant to standard grammar of Modern Hebrew are "shva na", "shva na?" and "shva mera?ef"; the following table summarizes four distinguishing attributes which determine these categories:
To help illustrate the first criterion (existence or non-existence of a vowel in the word's non inflected form), the "location" of the shva, i.e., the place within the word where the lack of vowel is indicated by it, is marked within the phonemic transcription with an orange linguistic zero: Ø; if existing, the corresponding vowel in the basic (non inflected) form of the example is also marked in orange.
|type of shva||example||non inflected form of example||standard syllabification||attributes:|
|supersedes in non inflected form:||preceding letter's niqqud:||following letter with / without dagesh qal:||assigned to syllable:|
|mera?ef||/je.erØ'?u/||(they will last)||/je.e'ra?/||(it will last)||--?--||vowel||short||without||preceding|
In most cases, traditional Hebrew grammar considers shva na, or the mobile shva, to be an entity that supersedes a vowel that exists in the basic form of a word but not after this word underwent inflection or declension. Additionally, any shva marked under an initial letter is classified shva na.
Merely identifying a given shva as being a "shva na" offers no indication as to its pronunciation in Modern Hebrew; it is however relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a ? ? letter following a letter marked with a shva na may not be marked with a dagesh qal (Modern Hebrew phonology sometimes disagrees with this linguistic prescription, as in - 'they zapped" - in which the second pe is pointed with a dagesh qal although preceded by a shva na), or: the vowel preceding a letter marked with a shva na must be represented by the "long" niqqud-variant for that vowel: qamats and not pata?, tsere and not segol etc.[?]. Furthermore, in standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva na is marked is grouped with the following syllable.
The Academy of the Hebrew Language's transliteration guidelines specify that shva na should be transliterated only if pronounced in Modern Hebrew, in which case "e" be used for general purposes and "?" for precise transliteration. Generally, shva na is sometimes transliterated "?". Concerning Modern Hebrew pronunciation, however, this symbol is misleading, since it is commonly used in linguistics to denote the vowel Schwa, which does not exist in Modern Hebrew.
A shva na can be identified as such by means of the following criteria:
For a more detailed account, see Tiberian vocalization -> Vowels.
Traditional Hebrew grammar defines shva na?, or shva quiescens, as indicating the absence of a vowel. In Modern Hebrew, some shvas classified as shva na? are nonetheless pronounced /e/ (e.g. the shva under the second dalet in the word ? - /?a'dadet/ - "you (f.) robbed"; see table above).
In all but a small number of cases, a shva not conforming to the criteria listed above is classified shva na?. This offers no conclusive indication as to its pronunciation in Modern Hebrew; it is however relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a ? ? letter following a letter marked with a shva nac? must be marked with a dagesh qal (Modern Hebrew phonology sometimes disagrees with this linguistic prescription, as in - "to miss" - in which the second pe lacks a dagesh qal although preceded by a shva na?), or: the vowel preceding a letter marked with a shva na? must be represented by the "short" niqqud-variant for that vowel: pata? and not qamats, segol and not tsere etc.[?]. Furthermore, in standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva na? is marked is grouped with the preceding syllable.
"Shva mera?ef" is the grammatical designation of a shva which does not comply with all criteria characterizing a shva na (specifically, one marked under a letter following a letter marked with a "short", not a "long", niqqud-variant[?]), but which does, like a shva na, supersede a vowel (or a shva na) that exists in the basic form of a word but not after this word underwent inflection or declension.
The classification of a shva as "shva mera?ef" is relevant to the application of standard niqqud, e.g.: a ? ? letter following a letter marked with a shva mera?ef should not be marked with a dagesh qal, although the vowel preceding this letter could be represented by the "short" niqqud-variant for that vowel.[?] This reflects sometimes, but not always, pronunciation in Modern Hebrew, e.g. ? ("kings of") is commonly pronounced in accordance with the standard form, /mal'?ej/ (with no dagesh qal in the letter kaf), whereas ("dogs of"), whose standard pronunciation is /kal'vej/, is commonly pronounced /kal'bej/ (as if there were a dagesh qal in the letter bet). In standard syllabification, the letter under which a shva mera?ef is marked is grouped with the preceding syllable.
"Shva Ga'ya" designates a shva marked under a letter that is also marked with the cantillation mark "ga'ya" ( lit. "bleating" or "bellowing"):22-23, or "meteg", e.g. the shva under the letter bet in the word ? ("toes") would normally be classified a shva na and be transliterated "e": "behonót" (or according to the precise standard, "?": "b?honót"), however, if marked with the ga'ya cantillation mark, , this shva is classified as shva ga'ya, and the transliteration reflecting its historical pronunciation would be "bohonót". For more on the strict application of the Shva Ga'ya, see
Within niqqud, vowel diacritics are sorted into three groups: "big", "small" and "fleeting" or "furtive" ("T'nuot g'dolot" - "", "T'nuot k'tanot" - "" and "T'nuot chatufot" ""), sometimes also referred to as "long", "short" and "very short" or "ultrashort". This grouping might have correlated to different vowel lengths in earlier forms of Hebrew (see Tiberian vocalization -> Vowels; spoken Israeli Hebrew however does not distinguish between different vowel lengths, thus this orthographic differentiation is not manifest in speech).
The vowel diacritics classified as "chatufot" ("fleeting") all share the common feature of being a digraph of a "small vowel" diacritic (Patach, Segol or Kamatz Katan) plus a shva sign. Similarly, their names are derived from the respective "small vowel" diacritic's name plus the adjunct "chataf": "chataf patach", "chataf segol" and "chataf kamatz".
As with a shva na, standard (prescribed) syllabification determines that letters pointed with a "fleeting vowel" diacritic be considered part of the subsequent syllable, even if in modern Hebrew pronunciation this diacritic represents a full-fledged syllable, thus e.g. the phonologically trisyllabic word "" ("he placed upright"), pronounced /he.e'mid/, should standardly be syllabified into only two syllables, "--" ("he'emid").
("?atáf ?iríq") - not in current use, appears rarely in the Aleppo Codex
|Vowel comparison table|
(phonetically not manifested in Israeli Hebrew)
|/a/||a||spa||see open central unrounded vowel|
|/e/||e||temp||see mid front unrounded vowel|
|/o/||o||cone||see mid back rounded vowel|
|Note I:||By adding two vertical dots (shva) ? the vowel is made very short.|
|Note II:||The short o and long a have the same niqqud.|
|Note III:||The short o is usually promoted to a long o in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation|
|Note IV:||The short u is usually promoted to a long u in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation|
|?||U+05B0||HEBREW POINT SHEVA|
|?||U+05B1||HEBREW POINT HATAF SEGOL|
|?||U+05B2||HEBREW POINT HATAF PATAH|
|?||U+05B3||HEBREW POINT HATAF QAMATS|
As of 2016, a separate Unicode symbol for the sheva na has been proposed but not implemented.
?^ Long and short niqqud-variants represent identical spoken vowels in Modern Hebrew; the orthographic distinction is, however, still observed in standard spelling.