Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Qamats and qubbuts

I am in a quandary whenever Q day comes around at ABC Wednesday. So today I have no qualms about not using Q words in English.
Instead I give you qamats and qubbuts. These are two of the vowels used in Hebrew.

See them on the chart?

In Tiberias I was delighted to find a new (2008) sculpture, by David Fine, near the Sea of Galilee.

The vowels, in black basalt, are shown in playful positions!

Actually, in modern Israeli Hebrew, we don't write the vowels very often. You will see a pointed/vocalized/voweled text only for some poetry or young children's books or a printed Bible or a newspaper in easy Hebrew for new immigrants.
Otherwise we just have the consonants and we have to "guess" how the words in context should be pronounced. If we left out the vowels in English, this blog would be from the Jrslm Hls.

As the sign says, "The Tiberias vocalization of Hebrew was based on the traditional Tiberias vowel system. After this system became the authoritative pronunciation for reading the Bible, all other methods were abolished."
That was the short explanation.
Here are parts of the long story, if you prefer, quoted from Wikipedia (here and here):

After the Talmud, various regional literary dialects of Medieval Hebrew evolved. The most important is Tiberian Hebrew or Masoretic Hebrew, a local dialect of Tiberias in Galilee that became the standard for vocalizing the Hebrew Bible and thus still influences all other regional dialects of Hebrew. This Tiberian Hebrew from the 7th to 10th century CE is sometimes called "Biblical Hebrew" because it is used to pronounce the Hebrew Bible . . . .

Tiberian Hebrew incorporates the remarkable scholarship of the Masoretes (from masoret meaning "tradition"), who added vowel points and grammar points to the Hebrew letters to preserve much earlier features of Hebrew, for use in chanting the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretes inherited a biblical text whose letters were considered too sacred to be altered, so their markings were in the form of pointing in and around the letters. . . . The Aleppo Codex, a Hebrew Bible with the Masoretic pointing, was written in the 10th century likely in Tiberias and survives to this day. It is perhaps the most important Hebrew manuscript in existence.
. . .
The Masoretic Text (MT) is a Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). It defines not just the books of the Jewish canon, but also the precise letter-text of the biblical books in Judaism, as well as their vocalization and accentuation for both public reading and private study. The MT is also widely used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles, and in recent years also for Catholic Bibles.


  1. I love those sculptures, they're so playful.

    I will admit though that it took me a minute to work out what qamats and qubbuts might be, I never did get used to the q instead of the k in transliterations.

  2. Always learn something interesting/fascinating from your posts, Dina! Thanks for the lesson on "qamats and qubbuts"!

    Have a great day!


  3. qt nfrmtv n nglsh nds ts vwls

    i thnki noe cldou drenuastnd ngelshi wthi lttres errranged pvroivdde eth owlvse rea ltfe ni

  4. Thnk fr th ntrstng nfmtn. thght tht th vwls wr sd nw, bt nt n ld ds. n lrns s lng s n lvs. ;-)

  5. Robin, me too. Q just doesn't look right and it can be confusing. I'll stick with the old K transliteration any day. But when you need a Q word on ABC Wednesday . . .

    Sylvia, thanks! Good on ya for having the patience to read all that about Hebrew grammar.

    Gerald and Rune, you two are really into this! Did you work in cryptology ever? :)
    Your encoding in English makes the vowel-less Hebrew look easy in comparison.

  6. This reminds me of reading my 1st graders stories at the beginning of the year. Fun and interesting post, Dina.

  7. A most interesting post. The characters are QUITE beautiful

    RunE - ouch!

  8. Interesting information. The sculptures are delightful. Great Q post.

  9. What an interesting lesson, Dina! And the new art work is really nice!

    Here is a little something for you, hope you enjoy! :-)

  10. Hardly any written vowels? Wow, that must make it quite hard to read Hebrew. The sculptures are fantastic though, very funny!

  11. A fascinating lesson, Dina. I always learn so much from your blog. It's a charming sculpture, too.

    Gerald and RunE demonstrate this might not work well in English!

  12. Totally interesting. Love the sculptures and the information!

  13. Friends all, thanks for comments. I love to hear your reactions.

    JM, your link to the 360-degree panorama of the Holy Sepulchre is fantastic!! You never see the church empty and in such good light in real life. It is so beautiful here!
    I will spend many hours seeing what other sites the website offers.
    Thank you!

  14. I found this very interesting and loved the sculptures. Have a great week.

  15. Aha! I like those sculpture! What a fun way to teach (?) pronunciation. I wish i could hear them pronounced.

    Have a good day, Dina.

  16. great technique to play with letters. interesting sculpture

  17. beautiful Dina, that is wonderful art, it shows the playfulness of language...

  18. How strange! It must be difficult to guess at times.

  19. This was fun. I love those sculptures! And I had forgotton some of the vowel names...well, it's only been 35 years since I first learned them! With not much practice since then.

    I'm catching up on your recent posts and enjoying the sights and your narration very much. Brings back many good memories.


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