No Vowels In Hebrew And Arabic

I have been reading a lot of secular study about the Koran and the Bible and Torah and I often see, the meanings of the text can be somewhat changed because then the Hebrews and Arabs didn’t use vowels in their writing.

Why not? I mean how hard is it to write a vowel? Were other languages like this? And I read that Arabic now uses marks over consenants to indicate vowels but does Hebrew?


Herbrew has vowels, but they are considered “training wheels.” Experts don’t need them.

But how do I know whether the law forbids me from dealing in bts (beets) or bts (boots) or bts (baits) or bts (obits) or bts (bats), etc?

Arabic, like Hebrew and other Semitic, tends to consists of word roots that are three letter consonants, and the vowels change depending on the inflection.

Wikipedia is a good place to start. Semitic Languages.

Even in English it’s not too hard to read without vowels. From the OP:

’ hv bn rdng ’ lt f sclr std abt th Krn nd th Bbl nd Trh

Doesn’t the amount of vowels in spoken English minus the available vowel letters equal a greater number than the total amount of vowels in Arabic? If so, get to the letter drawing board! And no ligatures; æ is cheating.

That’s actually really hard for me to read. If I hadn’t read the OP, I wouldn’t be able to make much sense of it at all.

Not that this implies anything about Hebrew or Arabic; I’m just saying I don’t think such a system would work well for English.

Forget vowels - Arabic clearly doesn’t even possess enough squiggles! (Seriously, I tried to Rosetta Arabic once and gave up because more and different squiggles are clearly required.)

Yes, Hebrew uses vowel marks. When there’s the possibility of misinterpretation, the vowels are used. They’re often used in poetry and kid’s books. My dictionaries, Talmud, and prayerbook have them. The Dead Sea scrolls as pictured on the cover of the books I have do not.

Hebrew is very regular compared to English. The changes in the consonant stem tell you very clarly the part of speech, and the vowels are usually easy to infer.

Of course we got vowels. Three of them. That’s what the little dots are.

But as you note, the vowel marks were added somewhat later by scribes, and do not form part of the original hebrew texts.


Not necessarily - a lot of the dots in Arabic are part of the consonants, right? They differentiate between consonants with the same basic shape.

e.g. ب‎ is a b sound, whereas ت is a t; and ج is a g whereas خ‎ is an h (roughly).

In addition to the points already made, a couple vowels in Hebrew are actually written. The yud (the Hebrew equivalent to a y) is a written vowel, and so is the vav - although since it can make three different sounds (v, oo, and oh), that’s not always particularly helpful.

My Hebrew is pretty shitty, but after a couple years of studying it, even I could figure out what vowel sounds were supposed to go where most of the time. It helps that Hebrew words are generally much shorter than English words, so there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes.

Further to this, the Aleph often acts as a “ah” sound, esp. at the beginning of words. The heh at the end of a word is almost always silent, and designates that the previous consonant has either an “ah” or an “eh” sound following it… basically, Hebrew is not vowel-less but merely “semi-voweled,” to coin a term.
And yes, sometimes it’s mildly confusing, but far less than would happen if there were no vowels at all, and less still than would happen in an Indo-European language (because of the use of three-letter, identifiable roots, and because of how words are built)

Geez, I can’t believe I forgot aleph. Also, ayn.

This seems like a really strange way to describe things. It would seem to me the heh is not silent, but has either an “ah” or and “eh” sound.

The letter heh is, properly speaking, the equivalent of English (aspirated) Aitch… in the rare cases it isn’t silent at the end of the word, it sounds like “hah,” not like “ah.”
In most words, the final heh simply acts as a visual (and grammatical!) cue that the preceding letter takes a vowel rather than a schwa.

m n r lngg stln r vwlz

Made my day.

A less confusing way to look at Hebrew is to realize that although only the consonents are written down, you can never have 2 consonants adjacent to each other–there there is always one vowel pronounced between each 2 consonants.
The rules of grammar tell which which consonant has to be pronounced between the 2 letters you see written down.

So a word may have be written with 3 letters --but those 3 represent 5 sounds. You alternate between the sound of a consonant and the sound of a vowel, Consonant,…vowel…,consonant,… vowel,… consonate.

The rules of grammar are rigid, like a mathematical formula, so you always know which vowel to add.