Hebrew is a Semitic language, related to Aramaic and more distantly to
Arabic. The Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet) consists of 22 letters, all of
which represent, primarily, consonants. Four of these – Aleph, He,
Waw and Yod – serve also as vowel letters [matres lectionis].
Throughout history, two systems of Hebrew spelling have evolved: vocalized
spelling and unvocalized spelling, with many variations within each system.
In vocalized spelling, called also ‘defective’ or ‘grammatical’ spelling, all
of the vowels are indicated by diacritical vowel points (niqqud), and
some of them also by vowel letters. In unvocalized spelling, called also
‘plene’ spelling, the vowel points are omitted, but some of them are
substituted by additional vowel letters (Waw and Yod). The
latter is the spelling system commonly used in Israel today.
Rules regulating unvocalized spelling were first issued by the Hebrew
Language Council and later by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, most
recently in 1993. However, some of these rules are often disputed, and many
writers and publishers do not fully apply them. Moreover, since the very
existence of two spelling systems within the same language is quite
confusing, it is gradually being realized that the whole subject should be
reconsidered. A concrete proposal for a modest reform was raised recently by
Mordechay Mishor in a special session of the Academy of the Hebrew Language
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