The Guttural Letters

The guttural letters are:

א  ה  ח  ע

The letter ר is a semi-guttural.

Why are they called guttural letters?

  • They are letters that were originally pronounced deep in the throat.

The guttural letters share 4 characteristics:

  1.  Gutturals take a composite shewa, not a simple shewa.
    • The composite shewa looks like a shewa with a vowel:
      • The hatef-patah אֲ
      • The hatef-seghol אֱ
      • The hatef-qammes-hatuf אֳ
  2. Gutturals reject the Dagesh Forte.
    • This is the only characteristic ר – being a semi-guttural – shares with the other gutturals.
  3. Gutturals prefer a ‘patah’ (the short ‘a’ vowel) under them or before them.  Compare the two words:
    • בֶּגֶד – a segholate noun with two segholates
    • נַעַר – also a segholate noun, but the ‘ayin’ changes the ‘seghol’ vowels to ‘patah’
  4. The gutturals ה ח ע receive a ‘furtive patah’ when:
    • they end a word, and
    • if the vowel preceding them is not a ‘patah’ (short ‘a’) or a ‘qammes’ (long ‘a’)
    • For an example of a ‘furtive patah’ see Genesis 1:2 in your printed Hebrew bibles-the word רוּחַ.  The ‘patah’ is off-centered to the right – this is the ‘furtive patah.’
      • The fonts used in Accordance and for word processors do not account for the ‘furtive patah’ for reasons unknown to me.
      • I have not checked BibleWorks or Logos.
      • If you know of a font that does produce the ‘furtive patah’ I’m all ears!

Adapted from:

Fuller and Choi, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew, pg. 22.


Published by Richard C. McDonald

I am married to Nancy McDonald and we have two boys, Noah and Stephen. I am a high school history teacher at Whitefield Academy in Louisville, KY. I am also an adjunct instructor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. I am a fan of LSU, and college football in general. My family and I are members at Sojourn Church-JTown in Louisville, KY.

One thought on “The Guttural Letters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: