Tiberian Hebrew

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Tiberian Hebrew is the extinct canonical pronunciation of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh and related documents in the Roman Empire. This traditional medieval pronunciation was committed to writing by Masoretic scholars based in the Jewish community of Tiberias , in the form of the Tiberian vocalization. This written form employed diacritics added to the Hebrew letters: vowel signs and consonant diacritics (nequdot) and the so-called accents (two related systems of cantillation signs or te'amim), which together with the marginal notes (masora magna and masora parva) make up the Tiberian apparatus. (Though the written vowels and accents only came into use ca. 750 CE, the oral tradition they reflect is many centuries older, with ancient roots.)


The usual Hebrew Grammar Books do not teach Tiberian Hebrew as described by the early grammarians. The prevalent view in some of these grammars is the use of David Qimchi's system of division of the graphic signs into "short" and "long" vowels. The values assigned to the Tiberian vowel signs reveals a Sephardi tradition of pronunciation (the dual quality of qames (אָ) as , ; the pronunciation of simple sheva (אְ) as ).

The phonology of Tiberian Hebrew can be gleaned by the collation of various sources:

  • The Aleppo Codex of the Bible (and other ancient manuscripts of the Tanakh, cited in the margins of early codices), which actually preserves direct evidence of the application of these rules in the Hebrew......
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