The second letter in the word יִשְׂרָאֵל (yis·ra·’EL, “Israel”) is שׂ (sin). It is the twenty-first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and represents the Hebrew “s” sound. In our system of transliteration, the sin is represented by “s.”
We have already introduced the sin. We mentioned it in Lesson 3 when we learned the שׁ (shin), the “sh” sound. The only difference between a shin and a sin is the placement of a tiny dot. When this dot is at the upper right-hand corner of the letter (שׁ), one knows that it is a shin and should be pronounced “sh.” When the dot is at the upper left-hand corner of the letter (שׂ), one knows that the letter is a sin and should be pronounced with an “s” sound. In unpointed Hebrew texts there are no vowel signs or shin/sin dots. In that case, one pronounces each ש either “sh” or “s” depending on the context in which it appears.
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. For the transliteration system used in this series, click here