ו (vav/waw) - Pronunciation

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Hemza

Senior Member
French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
Hello,

I'm trying to learn Hebrew by myself (not so hard thanks to Arabic) but I have a problem: On some websites, the letter "ו" is transliterated as a "vav" and some others as a "waw". What's the right pronounciation? "wa" or "va"? Or are both correct?

Toda li 3olam (hope I'm not wrong)
 
  • tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    Depends on the word. ו can be pronounced as /v/, as /w/, as /u/ and as /o/. However, it's pronounced /w/ only in loanwords.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Thank you for your reply. Is it the same for Old Hebrew? Because I would like to keep Old Hebrew pronounciation.

    Example: I saw on some websites the number "4" written "arva3a" or "arba3a" (3=ע).Which one is the right one? Or are both acceptable?
     

    airelibre

    Senior Member
    English - London
    In Biblical Hebrew the pronunciation was mostly like w (or wa/u where appropriate) but nowadays I don't think Arabs pronounce it as w (correct me if I'm wrong) although by all means feel free to use the Arabic ח/ح and ע/ع if you want, since these are used by a lot of Arab Hebrew speakers.
     

    bazq

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Thank you for your reply. Is it the same for Old Hebrew? Because I would like to keep Old Hebrew pronounciation.

    Example: I saw on some websites the number "4" written "arva3a" or "arba3a" (3=ע).Which one is the right one? Or are both acceptable?
    The name of the number "4", and the cardinal number for feminine nouns, is arba3 (always b).
    arba3a is the cardinal number for male nouns, for example "four people" = "arba3a 'anashim".
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Just to clarify: The letter vav can be either a vowel or a consonant (just like Arabic waw). When it is a vowel, it is pronounced "u" or "o", and when it is a consonant is consonant, it is pronounced "v" in Modern Hebrew, but was probably "w" in Biblical Hebrew. It is unknown whether it was pronounced "w" or "v" by the Tiberian masoretes. In loanwords (especially from English and Arabic), it is pronounced "w" in Modern Hebrew.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Many thanks for being so accurate!! So if I understand correctly, it can either be a "و" (waw) as in "وعد" (promise) or "و" as a long vowel, as in "حوت" (whale)?

    I'll stick to the hypothetical Biblical Hebrew pronounciation as it's close to Arabic. Thanks again :).
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Many thanks for being so accurate!! So if I understand correctly, it can either be a "و" (waw) as in "وعد" (promise) or "و" as a long vowel, as in "حوت" (whale)?
    Yes, only in Modern Hebrew, long and short vowels are pronounced the same.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    In Biblical Hebrew the pronunciation was mostly like w (or wa/u where appropriate) but nowadays I don't think Arabs pronounce it as w (correct me if I'm wrong) although by all means feel free to use the Arabic ח/ح and ע/ع if you want, since these are used by a lot of Arab Hebrew speakers.
    We do pronounce it "waw". Or did you mean in modern Hebrew? I have no idea, I'm not Palestinian.

    Yes, I plan to pronounce the letters "ע" and "ח" :).

    One more question: the verb "to write" is pronounced (in Biblical Hebrew) with "v" or "w"? Because I saw "ani katavti" but it seems that in Biblical Hebrew, it it/was pronounced "waw" as you told me, but it sounds weird to my ears to say "ani katawti" for example. Is there an explanation?
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Letter "b" as in k-t-b is not pronounced "w" in modern Hebrew, only "b" or "v", depending on several rules. It may become "w" in certain neo-Aramaic dialects.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Ok, so what I've seen on the website was a mistake, it's not actually "v", it's "b" (in "k-t-b"). Thank you ^^. I prefer to adopt the Biblical Hebrew pronounciation, I think it shall be easier for me.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Outside of those neo-Aramaic dialects that origumi mentioned, ב is never and was never pronounced as "w". Even Yemenite Jews who pronounce ו (vav) as "w", pronounce the fricative ב as "v". If you're interested in why ב has two pronunciations (plosive and fricative), you can read about the begedkefet letters on Wikipedia.
     

    لنـا

    Senior Member
    Palestinian Arabic, Hebrew
    السلام عليكم حمزة،

    ו اول الكلمة تلفظ حتى لو كانت حرف عطف او حرف عادي وباخر الكلمة نفس الشيء. مثال: ורדים ْرَدِيم وليس وْرَاديم ، צו تْسَا وليس تساو(هناك حالات خاصة عند استعارة كلمة من لغة اجنبية)
    وبنصف الكلمة: اظن ان تسطيع ان تفرق بين اللفظين عن طريق ترديد الكلمة عدة مرات كما علمونا في المدرسة ولكن في الغالب تقرأ واو
    مثلا: מטוס تقرا ماطوس وليس مَطَْس
    רווח رياح وليس ريواح
     

    arielipi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    no no no, its root is כ-ת-ב where ב is either b or v sound.
    ו is either a vowel - u or o.
    or consonant, sound either v or w.
    usually two vavs denote a w sound.
     

    k8an

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    السلام عليكم حمزة،

    ו اول الكلمة تلفظ حتى لو كانت حرف عطف او حرف عادي وباخر الكلمة نفس الشيء. مثال: ורדים ْرَدِيم وليس وْرَاديم ، צו تْسَا وليس تساو(هناك حالات خاصة عند استعارة كلمة من لغة اجنبية)
    وبنصف الكلمة: اظن ان تسطيع ان تفرق بين اللفظين عن طريق ترديد الكلمة عدة مرات كما علمونا في المدرسة ولكن في الغالب تقرأ واو
    مثلا: מטוס تقرا ماطوس وليس مَطَْس
    רווח رياح وليس ريواح
    Good explanation!

    Hemza, this is a good one :)
     
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    arielipi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Regardless of where you personally stand, the "v" sound in the middle of a word is usually written with a double vav, just like the "y" sound in the same positions is usually written with a double yud. It has been this way at least since Mishnaic times.
    It has not, i also stand against two yods if theyre both the consonant.
    הייתי is ok, since one is vowel and one is consonant,
    ראיתי is ok.
    היה is ok but הייה isnt.
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    הייה is not normative, since doubling the yod doesn't occur when close to another matres lectionis (here, the ה).
    -ייה should always mark the ending -iya.

    So, are you "against" doubling in words like תייר , קיים , מאיים?
     

    arielipi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    well, some words are too imprinted on us to change, but theres a 'zliga' in this. in truth, tayar shouldve been one yod.
    fyi, there are people who write ייהיה or יהייה for יהיה.
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Ok, in short, you're not against doubling, you're against erroneous / superfluous/uneducated doubling. Your position is nothing particular : you're just against errors.
    Fine.
    Next.
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Originally Posted by arielipi usually two vavs denote a w sound.

    I am getting confused. I wasn't aware that Hebrew has a "w" sound at all except, perhaps, in loan words.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    I'm not anyone to fix rules, but I think that if in Old Hebrew or at least, once in history, it has been pronounced "w", it's not incorrect, right? I understand that in most words, it's rendered as "v" though. In Arabic, the sound "v" doesn't exist. May be, Aramaic can help about this if someone knows about it? :D

    Anyhow, many thanks to everyone for your participation
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I'm not anyone to fix rules, but I think that if in Old Hebrew or at least, once in history, it has been pronounced "w", it's not incorrect, right? I understand that in most words, it's rendered as "v" though. In Arabic, the sound "v" doesn't exist. May be, Aramaic can help about this if someone knows about it? :D

    Anyhow, many thanks to everyone for your participation
    Here is where the question of why you are learning the language becomes important. If you are learning Hebrew just to read the Bible, then you can pronounce either the historical or the modern way. But if you are learning Hebrew to be able to communicate with Israelis, then it will sound very strange if you use the historical pronunciation. Even traditional Ashkenazi Jews and Yemenite Jews, who each have their own traditional Hebrew pronunciations that they still use for liturgy, use the modern Israeli pronunciation in conversation.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Here is where the question of why you are learning the language becomes important. If you are learning Hebrew just to read the Bible, then you can pronounce either the historical or the modern way. But if you are learning Hebrew to be able to communicate with Israelis, then it will sound very strange if you use the historical pronunciation. Even traditional Ashkenazi Jews and Yemenite Jews, who each have their own traditional Hebrew pronunciations that they still use for liturgy, use the modern Israeli pronunciation in conversation.
    No, it's not for reading Bible (at least, not yet :D). It's just because I like it. No offense, but I don't like how modern Hebrew sounds, I hear too much "kh" and "k" sounds. Also, Biblical Hebrew pronounciation is closer to Arabic than modern Hebrew (comparing modern Hebrew with Arabic). I'm aware that it probably sounds very strange to Hebrew speakers today to hear biblical pronounciation but it's not to communicate with Israelis (not yet so I have time before being mocked :D) but I have a friend who is Algerian-Tunisian and he knows Hebrew so we've concluded a kind of agreement: I learn Hebrew and he helps me and he learns Arabic and I help him. Also, to help myself, I use videos on youtube of a woman who gives Hebrew lessons (in English).
     
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    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    No, it's not for reading Bible (at least, not yet :D). It's just because I like it. No offense, but I don't like how modern Hebrew sounds, I hear too much "kh" and "k" sounds. Also, Biblical Hebrew pronounciation is closer to Arabic than modern Hebrew (comparing modern Hebrew with Arabic). I'm aware that it probably sounds very strange to Hebrew speakers today to hear biblical pronounciation but it's not to communicate with Israelis (not yet so I have time before being mocked :D) but I have a friend who is Algerian-Tunisian and he knows Hebrew so we've concluded a kind of agreement: I learn Hebrew and he helps me and he learns Arabic and I help him. Also, to help myself, I use videos on youtube of a woman who gives Hebrew lessons (in English).
    In that case, it seems that you should go with how your friend pronounces it.
     

    k8an

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    No, it's not for reading Bible (at least, not yet :D). It's just because I like it. No offense, but I don't like how modern Hebrew sounds, I hear too much "kh" and "k" sounds. Also, Biblical Hebrew pronounciation is closer to Arabic than modern Hebrew (comparing modern Hebrew with Arabic). I'm aware that it probably sounds very strange to Hebrew speakers today to hear biblical pronounciation but it's not to communicate with Israelis (not yet so I have time before being mocked :D) but I have a friend who is Algerian-Tunisian and he knows Hebrew so we've concluded a kind of agreement: I learn Hebrew and he helps me and he learns Arabic and I help him. Also, to help myself, I use videos on youtube of a woman who gives Hebrew lessons (in English).
    Even for me, someone who has been speaking Hebrew since early childhood, Hebrew has too much "kh". I think this became really obvious when I started speaking Lebanese as a teenager - people always think Arabic sounds "harsh" but Hebrew is much harsher in my opinion. In any case, I think Hebrew has its own unique beauty and once you learn to speak it well you will see what I mean :) Speaking Hijazi and Moroccan should make it super easy for you to speak Hebrew.

    Anyway, to sum up, لنا gave very good explanations on the previous page. Basically, in most cases, pronouncing Hebrew with w instead of v sounds as strange as pronouncing و as v in Arabic instead of w. Quite bizarre - not recommended for learners at all :)
     

    لنـا

    Senior Member
    Palestinian Arabic, Hebrew
    Even for me, someone who has been speaking Hebrew since early childhood, Hebrew has too much "kh". I think this became really obvious when I started speaking Lebanese as a teenager - people always think Arabic sounds "harsh" but Hebrew is much harsher in my opinion. In any case, I think Hebrew has its own unique beauty and once you learn to speak it well you will see what I mean :) Speaking Hijazi and Moroccan should make it super easy for you to speak Hebrew.

    Anyway, to sum up, لنا gave very good explanations on the previous page. Basically, in most cases, pronouncing Hebrew with w instead of v sounds as strange as pronouncing و as v in Arabic instead of w. Quite bizarre - not recommended for learners at all :)
    That’s because Lebanese has a smooth and romantic sounds, unlike MSA, which still has its harsh sounds (as qaf, ssad, dhad, zal, za2….) that couldn’t be found in Hebrew as well.

    I understand Hamza’s aspect, however, I like Israeli Hebrew, especially their “r” and “ kh”, but I can’t imagine myself speak like them :p, Not because I don’t know how, but simply, I don’t like to!

    PS: thanks for the feedback, I'm glad you found it useful!
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    I don't like how modern Hebrew sounds, I hear too much "kh" and "k" sounds.
    It's amusing to hear it from an Arabic native, this is exactly what many Hebrew speakers would say about Arabic (and also about Dutch maybe, but this is irrelevant here).
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Many thanks to you all, you helped me a lot, I admit I've been really confused when some where debating about the pronounciation :D that's why I chose to not reply until everyone agree.

    @K8an: thanks, so I'll pronounce it "v" from now. Yes, Arabic helps a lot and me and my friend like to compare both languages and look for things in common. We both have French as our native language (even I speak Arabic better than he speaks Hebrew, he hasn't practiced it for 8 years). About Lebanese Arabic, we often say it sounds effeminate :D (even if it sounds beautiful) compared to Arabian dialects or Maghrebi ones but it's just a way to make fun of Lebanese, nothing offensive ^^.

    @لنا: Both of my dialects sound harsh ahahaha!! I watch a Palestinian woman's videos who gives Hebrew lessons and I like it because she gives the old pronounciation and the modern one like with "I'm sorry", "ani mitsta2ekh" and "ani mista3er" (the second sound more beautiful in my opinion but I respect others' opinions).

    @origumi: I guess we're influenced by our native language so we usually find others harsher than our native one :D. My French friends tell me Arabic sound horrible lol while I love how it sounds. On the other side, I have an Iranian friend and I told him Persian sound harsh while he finds it really normal lol. About Dutch (and German) I think a majority of people find it harsh ahahahah!!!

    Thanks again everyone, I'll stick to "v" pronounciation then, I was also thinking that "ani katawti" sounds too weird compared to "ani katavti" :D.
     
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    David S

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Before Modern Hebrew came about, was the waw pronunciation more popular than the vav one among non-Ashkenazi Jews? Or were there other communities that pronounced vav like vav?
     

    k8an

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    Before Modern Hebrew came about, was the waw pronunciation more popular than the vav one among non-Ashkenazi Jews? Or were there other communities that pronounced vav like vav?

    From what I know, only some (not all) Mizrahim pronounced it as waw. All Ashkenazim, Persians, Sfaradi and other Jews always pronounced it as vav. I'm not 109% sure of this but that's what I remember learning.
     
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    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    From what I know, only some (not all) Mizrahim pronounced it as waw. All Ashkenazim, Persians, Sfaradi and other Jews always pronounced it as vav. I'm not 109% sure of this but that's what I remember learning. In any case,
    Only the "true Mizrahim" pronounce it as "w". Most Mizrahim are actually a mix of the original Mizrahim and later Sfaradi immigrants dispersed by the Ottoman Empire. The only pure Mizrahi tradition I know of is that of the Yemenite Jews, and they surely do pronounce it as "w".
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Look here (first table)
    I disagree with two things in that table regarding vav:
    - The Tiberian pronunciation is unknown whether it was [v] or [w].
    - In Mishaic Hebrew, there is already some confusion between bet and vav, showing that they were pronounced the same (at least by some people) at the time.
     

    k8an

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    Just a note: I think we are really getting Hemza confused here. As a student of Hebrew, obviously using waw would make someone incomprehensible to most of us. I believe the information Hemza wanted to know is that we pronounce it as vav.

    If anybody is interested in historical pronunciation, maybe we should split this into two topics?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Just a note: I think we are really getting Hemza confused here. As a student of Hebrew, obviously using waw would make someone incomprehensible to most of us. I believe the information Hemza wanted to know is that we pronounce it as vav.

    If anybody is interested in historical pronunciation, maybe we should split this into two topics?
    It might be difficult at this point to go through all the posts and decide what to split. I think Hemza already got his answer.
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Hemza asked about modern pronunciation and biblical pronunciation (the latter being his preference / target). So the discussion here is spot on.
     

    Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    Hemza asked about modern pronunciation and biblical pronunciation (the latter being his preference / target). So the discussion here is spot on.
    Yes, exactly ;).

    About French "R", it's not the same sound as the Arabic/Hebrew "kh" even if I agree, it sounds close. But when I hear Hebrew (modern one) I compare it to Arabic words when I recognize them, like
    -"world": "olam" in modern Hebrew, "3olam/3alam" in Old Hebrew/Arabic ("3=ע")
    -"head": "rosh" (with a French R) in modern Hebrew while in Old Hebrew, it's pronounced almost like Arabic "rosh" vs "ra'ass" (with a resh).


    it sounds weird to my ears to hear "Rosh" (French "R") or "olam", like if there is something missing. Of course, I'm not any kind of authority to say to people how to talk but I prefer to adopt the old Hebrew pronounciation, it sounds more beautiful (that's just my opinion ^^).

    Ps: If I'm wrong about my examples, don't hesitate to correct me.
     
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