Hebrew Nuggets, Lesson 7: Abba (Part 3)

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Abba is an Aramaic word meaning "the father." This word was borrowed by Hebrew speakers and used in the sense of "Daddy." In lesson seven, the word Abba is used to teach another Hebrew letter.

Revised: 23-Aug-2015
In the last lesson we learned the first letter of the word אבא (’a·BA’)—the ’A·lef, a silent letter. Together with the pa·TAḤ—pronounced as the “a” in “father”—it makes up the first syllable, the אַ (a) of אַבא. There is only one more new letter in this word: bet, the first letter of the second syllable. The second syllable, BA’, begins with bet, the “b” sound of the word ’a·BA’.

Hebrew NuggetsThe second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is בּ (bet). When there is a dot in the middle of the letter, as here in the word אבּא, it is pronounced like the “b” in “boy.” When there is no dot (ב), it is pronounced as a “v”—in which case it is called vet.

Pronunciation and Spelling

The Greeks had no “v” sound. Consequently, they transcribed the Hebrew vet with one β (beta)—the Greek letter which represents the “b” sound. Then, in order to distinguish the vet from the bet, they were obliged to transcribe the bet using two betas. It is doubtful, however, that the vet was ever pronounced in ancient Hebrew as a “b” sound. It seems likely that this spelling was simply a result of the absence in Greek of a letter with a “v” sound.

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We have learned the second letter of the word אבא. In Lesson Eight we will present the next sound of that word. To read the next lesson, click here. For the transliteration system used in this series, click here.
This article originally appeared in issue 7 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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