Hebrew 101

Hebrew has two kinds of stress: on the last syllable (milra‘) and on the penultimate syllable (the one preceding the last, mil‘el). The former is more frequent. Specific rules connect the location of the stress with the length of the vowels in the last syllable. However, due to the fact that Israeli Hebrew does not distinguish between long and short vowels, these rules are not evident in everyday speech. They usually cannot be inferred from written text either, since usually vowels are not marked. The rules that specify the vowel length are different for verbs and nouns, which influences the stress; thus the mil‘el-stressed ókhel (="food") and milra‘-stressed okhèl (="eats", masculine) differ only in the length of the vowels (and are written identically if vowels are not marked). Little ambiguity exists, however, due to nouns and verbs having incompatible roles in normal sentences. This is, however, also true in English, in, for example, the English word "conduct," in its nominal and verbal forms.

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