Hebrew syllables can be classified as either:
- Open or Closed
- Long or Short (or Reduced)
Open or Closed
A syllable is called “open” when it does not end with a “stopping” sound; otherwise it is “closed” (thus “ma” is an open syllable but “mat” is a closed syllable). We will indicate the status of open syllables with an (O) and a closed syllables with a (C).
Long or Short (or Reduced)
Hebrew vowels can be either long, short, or reduced. (Some grammars divide between “unchangeably long” vowels (full vowels) and regular long vowels. Thus Cholem Vav would be an unchangeably long vowel whereas a Cholem would be called a regular long vowel.) Reduced vowels are really a type of sheva, and may be considered as either part of the following syllable or as a syllable on their own. In some cases it is perhaps easier to divide the word’s syllables with the vocal sheva as its own syllable - though in actual practice you should consider the sheva (and its chateph cousins) as part of the following syllable).
Divide and Conquer
Here are a few examples of how you might analyse a
Hebrew word and classify its syllables.