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Ktiv male

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Ktiv male

Main article: Hebrew spelling

Ktiv hasar niqqud (Hebrew pronunciation: [ktiv ħaˈsaʁ niˈkud]; Hebrew: כתיב חסר ניקוד‎, literally "spelling lacking niqqud"), (colloquially known as ktiv male (IPA: [ktiv maˈle]; Hebrew: כתיב מלא‎), literally "full spelling") are the rules for writing Hebrew without vowel pointers (niqqud), often replacing them with matres lectionis (ו and י). To avoid confusion, consonantal ו (]) and י (]) are doubled in the middle of words. In general use, niqqud are seldom used, except in specialized texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants.

Comparison example

From a "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe (translated by Eliyahu Tsifer)

Ktiv male With niqqud

וילון של משי ארגמן, ספק רשרוש, מסך מוכמן,
הפחידוני, ביעתוני, חששות אימה וסלוד,
פעמי לבי מקבת, במאוץ וגם בשבת,
האושפיז בשוט ושבט, את דלתי הזיז במנוד,
את דלתי הזיז הניע, קטב לשכתי ישוד,
אלמוני הוא האורח, אלמוני הוא ולא עוד!

שלוותי פרשה כנפיים, היסוסי אפסו אפיים,
אדון וגברת, בכנות אפציר אסגוד,
כן עובדה היא, שעת גלוש, וברוך ידך תקוש,
מדורי אזי נלוש, עת הנדת שדוד,
לרווחה דלתי פרשתי, כי נועדתי לשרוד,
ושור! הבט! רק שחור, לא עוד!

וִילוֹן שֶׁל מֶשִׁי אַרְגָּמָן, סָפֵק רִשְׁרוּשׁ, מָסָךְ מֻכְמָן,
הִפְחִידֻנִּי, בִּעֲתֻנִי, חֲשָׁשוֹת אֵימָה וּסְלוֹד,
פַּעֲמֵי לִבִּי מַקֶּבֶת, בִּמְאוֹץ וְגַם בְּשֶׁבֶת,
הָאֻשְׁפִּיז בְּשׁוֹט וָשֵׁבֶט, אֶת דַּלְתִּי הֵזִיז בִּמְנֹד,
אֶת דַלְתִּי הֵזִיז הֵנִיעַ, קֶטֶב לִשְׁכַּתִּי יָשׁוֹד,
אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא הָאוֹרֵחַ, אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא וְלֹא עוֹד!

שַׁלְוַתִּי פַּרְשָׂה כְּנָפַיִם, הִסּוּסַי אָפְסוּ אַפַּיִם,
אָדוֹן וּגְבֶרֶת, בְּכֵנוּת אָפְצִיר אֶסְגֹּד,
כֵּן עֻבְדָּה הִיא, שְׁעַת גְּלֹש, וּבְרוֹךְ יָדְךָ תַּקֹּשׁ,
מְדוֹרִי אֲזַי נַלֹּשׁ, עֵת הֵנַדְתָּ שָׁדֹד,
לִרְוָחָה דַּלְתִּי פָּרַשְׂתִּי, כִּי נוֹעַדְתִּי לִשְׂרֹד,
וְשּׁוּר! הַבֵּט! רַק שְׁחוֹר, לֹא עוֹד!

Historical examination

Ktiv haser

Ktiv haser (כתיב חסר) is writing whose consonants match those generally used in voweled text, but without the actual niqqud. For example, the words 'שֻׁלְחָן'and 'דִּבֵּר' written in ktiv haser are 'שלחן'and 'דבר'. In vowelled text, the niqqud indicate the correct vowels, but when the niqqud is missing, the text is difficult to read, and the reader must make use of the context of each word to know the correct reading.

A typical example of a Hebrew text written in ktiv haser is the Torah, read in synagogues (simply called the Torah reading). For assistance readers often use a Tikkun, a book in which the text of the Torah appears in two side-by-side versions, one identical to the text which appears in the Torah, and one with niqqud and cantillation.

Ktiv male

Because of the difficulty of reading unvowelled text, the Vaad HaLashon introduced the Rules for the Spelling-Without-Niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד), which in reality dictates ktiv male. This system mostly involved the addition of ו and י to mark the different vowels. Later on, these rules were adopted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which continued to revise them, and they were mostly accepted by the public, mainly for official writing.

Ktiv haser became obsolete, and ktiv male has already been dominant for decades in unvowelled texts: all of the newspapers and books published in Hebrew are written in ktiv male – this is the norm. Additionally, it is common for children's books or texts for those with special needs to contain niqqud, but ktiv haser without niqqud is rare.

Despite the Academy's standardization of the rules for ktiv male, there is a substantial lack of unity in writing, partly because of a lack of grammatical knowledge, partly because of the historical layers of the language, and partly because of a number of linguistic categories in which the Academy's decisions are not popular. As a result, every book publisher and newspaper editor makes their own judgement.

Rules for the spelling without niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד)

As is the norm for linguistic rules, the rules for spelling without niqqud are not entirely static. Changes occur from time to time, based on amassed experience. For example: originally the rules for spelling without niqqud dictated that "אשה" ("woman") should be written without a י (to distinguish it from "אישה" – "her husband"), but currently this exception has been removed, and now the Academy prefers "אישה". The last substantial change to the rules for the spelling without niqqud was made in 1993 updated in 1996. The following is the essence of the current rules:[1]

  • Every letter which appears in vowelled text also appears in unvowelled text.
  • After a letter vowelled with a kubuts (the vowel /u/) the letter ו appears, for example: קופסה‎, הופל‎, כולם.
  • After a letter vowelled with a holam haser (the vowel /o/) the letter ו appears, for example: בוקר‎, ישמור.
  • After a letter vowelled with a hirik haser (the vowel /i/) the letter י appears, for example: דיבור‎, יישוב‎, תעשייה. The letter י does not appear in the following situations:
    • Before a shva nah, for example: הרגיש‎, מנהג‎, דמיון (but "קילשון", because the lamed has a dagesh, and thus the shva under it is a shva na);
    • Words whose base forms do not contain the vowel /i/, for example: לבי ‎(לב)‎, אתך ‎(את)‎, עתים ‎(עת);
    • After affix letters, like in מביתו, מיד, הילד, and also in the words: עם‎, הנה ‎(=הִנֵּה, and also inflected: עמי etc., הנו etc.), אם‎, מן;
    • Before יו (/ju/ or /jo/), e.g.: דיון‎, קיום‎, בריות‎, נטיות.
  • After a letter vowelled with a tsere (the vowel /e/) the letter י generally does not appear, for example ממד ‎(=מֵמַד‎), אזור ‎(=אֵזוֹר‎), but there are situations when י does appear, for example תיבה‎, הישג, and in words in which tsere replaces hirik due to the presence of a guttural letter (אהחע"ר‎), for example: תיאבון ‎(שיגעון‎), תיאבד ‎(תימצא).
  • Consonantal ו (the consonant /v/) is doubled in the middle of a word, for example תקווה‎, זווית. The letter is not doubled at the beginning or the end of a word, for example: ורוד‎, ותיק‎, צו. Initial ו is doubled when an affix letter is added, except for the affix ו- (meaning "and-"). Thus from the word "ורוד" is derived "הוורוד", but "וורוד" (that is, וּוֶרד).
  • Consonantal י (the consonant /j/) is doubled in the middle of a word, for example: בניין‎, הייתה. The letter is not doubled at the beginning of a word or after affix letters, for example: ילד‎, יצא ‎(=יֵצֵא‎), הילד.
Despite this, consonantal י is not doubled in the middle of a word when it is before or after mater lectionis, for example: פרויקט‎, מסוים‎, ראיה ‎(=ראָיָה‎), הפניה‎, בעיה.

These are the most basic rules. For every one of them there are exceptions, described in the handbook "כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד" that the Academy publishes in Hebrew.


  • When a reader is likely to err in the reading of a word, the use of partial vowelling is recommended, for example: מִנהל (to distinguish it from מנַהל).
  • While the rules above apply to the writing of native Hebrew words, they are not used for spelling given names, which are frequently written in ktiv haser rather than ktiv male, e.g.: שלמה‎, יעקב‎, כהן‎.

See also


External links

  • (Hebrew)Academy of the Hebrew Language rules
  • The Ivrix Project – Spell Checker
ar:تسطير عبري#كتيب ملئ
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