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He is the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician , Aramaic, Hebrew , Syriac and Arabic . Its sound value is a voiceless glottal fricative ( ).

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Epsilon, Etruscan , Latin E and Cyrillic Ye. He, like all Phoenician letters, represented a consonant, but the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic equivalents have all come to represent vowel sounds.

Origins

In Proto-West Semitic there were still three voiceless fricatives, uvular glottal and pharyngeal . In the Wadi el-Hol script, these appear to be expressed by derivatives of V28 "thread",A28 hillul "jubilation", compare South Arabian , , , Ge'ez , , , and O6 "court". In the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, and are merged into Heth "fence", while is replaced by He "window".

Hebrew Hei

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Hebrew
Rashi
Script
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ה ה ה

Pronunciation

In modern Hebrew, the letter represents a voiceless glottal fricative. may also be dropped, although this pronunciation is seen as substandard.

Also, in many variant Hebrew pronunciations the letter may represent a glottal stop. In word-final position, He is used to indicate an a-vowel, usually that of qamatz (ָ ), and in this sense functions like Aleph, Vav and Yud as a mater lectionis, indicating the presence of a long vowel.

Hei, along with Aleph, Ayin, Resh, and Heth, cannot receive a dagesh. Nonetheless, it does receive a marking identical to the dagesh, to form Hei-mappiq (הּ). Although indistinguishable for most modern speakers or readers of Hebrew, the mapiq is placed in a word-final Hei to indicate that the letter is not merely a mater lectionis, but that the consonant should be aspirated in that position. It is generally used in Hebrew to indicate the third-person feminine singular genitive marker. Today such a pronunciation only occurs in religious contexts, and then often only by careful readers of the scriptures.

Significance of Hei

In gematria, Hei symbolizes the number five, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 5000 (i.e. התשנ״ד in numbers would be the date 5754).

Attached to words, Hei may have three possible meanings:
  • A preposition meaning "the", "that", or "who" (as in "A boy who reads"). For example, yeled - a boy, Hayeled - the boy.
  • A prefix indicating that the sentence is a question. (For example, Yadata - You knew, Hayadata? - Did you know?)
  • A suffix after place names indicating movement towards the given noun. (For example, Yerushalayim - Jerusalemmarker, Yerushalaym'ah - towards Jerusalem.)


Hei, representing five in gematria, is often found on amulets, symbolizing the five fingers of a hand, a very common talismanic symbol.

In Judaism

Hei is often used to represent the name of God, as He stands for Hashem, which means The Name and is a way of saying 'God' without actually saying the name of God. In print, Hashem is usually written as Hei with a chupchik (apostrophe): 'ה.

At the seder, during Yachatz there is a tradition to break the matzah into the shape of the letter Hei.

Syriac He

In the Syriac alphabet, the fifth letter is — He ( ). It is pronounced as a [h. At the end of a word with a point above it, it represents the third-person feminine singular suffix. Without the point, it stands for the masculine equivalent. Standing alone with a horizontal line above it, it is the abbreviation for either hānau ( ), meaning 'this is' or 'that is', or halelûya ( ). As a numeral, He represents the number five.

Arabic hāʾ

The letter is named hāʾ, and is written is several ways depending on its position in the word:

Hāʾ is used as a suffix (with the harakat dictated by ʾIʿrab) indicating possession, indicating that the noun marked with the suffix belongs to a specific masculine possessor; for example, كتاب kitāb ("book") becomes كتابه kitābuhu ("his book") with the addition of final hāʾ; the possessor is implied in the suffix. A longer example, هو يقرأ كتابه, (huwa yaqraʼu kitābahu, "he reads his book") more clearly indicates the possessor.

The hāʾ suffix appended to a verb represents a masculine object (e.g. يقرأه, yaqraʾuhu, "he reads it").

The feminine form of this construction is in both cases ـها -hā.


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